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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Book Review- Shakedown

In the Weekly Standard, Michael Taube takes a look at Shakedown: How Own Democracy is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights, and the story of author Ezra Levant.
In February 2006, Levant was the publisher of a conservative magazine, the Western Standard. After some consideration, he decided to reprint the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed "to show our readers what all the fuss was about." It was a gutsy move. Whereas most Canadian publications decided against publishing them, Levant thought people should be free to look at these cartoons in print and judge for themselves.

This decision changed the course of his life, especially after a heated radio interview about the cartoons with Syed Soharwardy, a Calgary imam. Described in Shakedown as a "Pakistani-born, madrassah-trained preacher popular on the Saudi lecture circuit who is the president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada," Soharwardy launched a complaint with a human rights commission (HRC) in Alberta following a failed attempt to get Levant arrested by the Calgary police.

What's an HRC? It was originally supposed to deal with a relatively mundane issue: helping poor Canadians deal with landlords and employers who, they felt, were
infringing on their civil rights. Plaintiffs acquired the pro bono service of a government lawyer, and the ultimate goal was to settle through mediation or (in worst-case scenarios) set up a tribunal. As Levant writes, HRCs "were a beautiful idea--that failed."
We've been critical of Canada's Star Chamber in the past. Read more about the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

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