Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Book Review - Shakedown

Book Review: Shakedown - How our Government is undermining Democracy in the name of Human Rights. by Ezra LEVANT. 216pp McClelland & Stewart 2009 ISBN 978-0-7710-4618-6 Chapters/Indigo Online C$19.13

by Christopher JONES
Reviewed July 20, 2009

Ezra LEVANT appears an unlikely “Agent Provocateur” as one could ever find, yet on January 11, 2008 the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) gave him an unlikely Ukrainian Xmas gift. That was the day he was summoned to defend himself against charges of “discrimination” for publishing the news. That news was cartoons from a Danish broadsheet published in September 2005 that were deemed offensive to Islamic Fundamentalists. No other country in the world took any legal action against any media like this. No where else in the world was a “crime” perceived to have been committed. Yes, sensibilities were offended in Britain, France and the United States but “Freedom of Expression” is still a tradition in Western democracy's. Of course riots did break out against Danish “infidels” in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia,

Within days, LEVANT's “defense” against his “interrogation” by a bland, boring bureaucrat named Shirlene MCGOVERN became a viral sensation on YouTube and within weeks reached 600,000 hits. The painfully obvious point apparently lost on Shirlene was that her questions clearly indicated that Canadians are not free to express their opinions. If we were, Ezra would not have been sitting there responding to her. As Mark STEYN noted in the foreward to Shakedown:

Canadians do not enjoy the [unreserved] right to free speech. They enjoy instead the right to government-regulated, government-licensed, government-monitored, government-approved speech – which is not the same thing at all.” [Foreward, p. x]

The thrust behind Ezra's vociferous counter-attack on MCGOVERN was that his right to have an opinion - no matter how controversial - is a sacrosanct citizen's right in free democracy's like Canada. But, more obviously as a journalist of a media outlet – it was his lifeblood. Contentious and even offensive opinions MUST be defended against unwarranted incursions like hers. Any idea worth debating will be controversial – abortion, America, climate change or Islam. We shouldn't be coddled by a government “protecting” us from vigorous debate of such ideas. Again to quote STEYN “Anyone can be in favour of Barney the Dinosaur singing “Caring is sharing”. Ultimately, if you do not defend freedom of offensive speech, then you can not believe in freedom of any speech. Exercising our right to free speech is an essential responsibility of every citizen in a democracy and we can not let our responsibility be outsourced to a government agency.

Some see this book as defending Hate Speech. LEVANT disagrees and in fact argues the opposite. To some extent being a Jew gives him some moral authority on this matter. He supports Freedom of Speech and believes that the real enemy are those inept, immoral and unethical Commissions who are attempting to hijack our rights. In Shakedown, LEVANT exposes the Human Rights “Industry” as a rogue bureaucracy spearheading attacks on our freedoms of expression.

  • What was the original idea behind “Human Rights” Commissions?

  • How/Why and Where have they changed?

  • What are the risks to our legal system and social fabric?

  • What has been the consequences of these unbridled bureaucracy's and are they still needed?

These are some of the questions LEVANT weaves together in an entertaining narrative of his journey in uncovering the inner workings of the various “HRCs” - but he had a lot of help. Some of the “Alice in Wonderland” encounters he describes are surreal – like when CHRC investigator Richard WARMAN admitted he hacked into an unsuspecting women's internet access so he could hide his hateful postings on a Nazi discussion board in order to entrap others. Or the decision against a McDonalds Restaurant in BC that upheld a employee's “right not to wash her hands” while preparing food! Yuck. Or a bar in Ontario that was prohibited from stopping a cancer patient smoking his medical marijuana on the premise, despite the threat of losing its liquor licence. Honestly, you couldn't make some of this stuff up!

For those of us seeking to reform Family Law, it may be more relevant to ask “How does this effect us?

Because Shakedown explains how a good idea went bad. How the HRC have become overrun with ideologues and social activists. He unmasks the shocking lack of ethical guidelines, amateur personnel, no due process and failed constitutional safeguards that characterize HRC's across the country. He describes how these HRC have evolved into a special cottage “industry” that has been built up and how these bureaucracy's have become part of the problem because they “manufacture” discontent in order to justify their own continued existence churning out phoney HR files, cases and rulings. How they are infecting traditions in law enforcement and encroaching upon existing court jurisdictions. How they are bringing their tremendous power to bear on poor, inexperienced and often well meaning citizens for issues far removed from the original HRC mandate. LEVANT believes by revealing these outrageous abuses, ordinary Canadians will demand reform.

I have only one serious objection with Shakedown and that is its lack of any proper index (names, keywords or topics), bibliography or footnotes to support the numerous assertions made throughout the book. This is a shame because such academic habits keep political hyperbole properly anchored to the earth. Lack of these research aid's weakens the intellectual weight of the book and is all the more perplexing as LEVANT is never shy of providing many hyperlink references on his blog. Laziness is a poor excuse.


I highly recommend Shakedown to anyone involved in Divorce or Family Law as an object lesson on how our law enforcement and court system can be subverted against us – the hard working citizens of Canada. Beware. If we don't protect our rights - anything could happen. This is the template.

p.s Ezra LEVANT's Blog can be found at:

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