The sixth day of the trial of Ezra Levant was marked by the “clash of the titans.” Khurrum Awan’s lawyer cross-examined Ezra Levant. The trial’s importance about the free speech in Canada continues to be underestimated even by the so-called conservative commentators.
Jonathan Kay painted a very optimistic picture in his column:
Prior to 9/11, the government didn’t pry into the violent, extremist views of the people who ran the country’s Arab, Muslim, Sikh and Tamil organization. This was less than a decade ago, yet in Jason Kenney’s Canada it seems part of ancient history. The people who ran these groups — including Elmasry — are now marginal figures, completely ignored by Ottawa and the media. They have been replaced by respectable, mainstream, media-savvy organizations such as the Canadian Arab Institute.
I could’ve respected that opinion, if it came from an alien, who accidentally landed near the stacks of free Toronto Star newspapers at York University and spent a week there. However, when a prominent journalist makes this statement, one could only keep wondering what Kay is smoking.
This is not ancient history. There are plenty of Muslim organizations, which are far from respectable, but still influential. One of them is suing the Prime Minister for libel. We also have our own terrorists – both in Canada and (many more) overseas. I wonder how an expert on conspiracies could miss that?!
Christie Blatchford continued to praise the lovely Muslim students, who trashed Mclean’s. She even proposed a way that could’ve solved the problem:
What’s interesting to me is that I suspect the whole shebang could have been resolved — O! the trees that would have been saved, the billable hours! — had Maclean’s belonged to the Ontario Press Council.
This was the outfit, according to testimony from Naseem Mithoowani, one of the students and a lovely young woman, they had first considered taking their grievance to, but membership is voluntary, and the magazine didn’t belong.
A long time ago, for a number of years, I was a professional member of the council and found it instructive: Member newspapers are bound only to run corrections when the council finds there were mistakes or unfairness, but the process itself – the complainant testifying, being listened to – is inherently cathartic.
That fascinating council appears to be something like a Newspaper Comintern, where wise people like Christie can tell you what your mistakes are and how to be fair. It is frightening to think that she seriously considers the option that three Muslim extortionists could be taken seriously enough to make their case and force that strange body to tell Maclean’s what to do. There is nothing cathartic about that…
As of Mr. Shiller, after listening the whole day to his questions, it was difficult to find a strategy. He looked like a person, who wanted to use complex tools to destroy Ezra Levant’s credibility, but in most cases the attempts backfired. Probably because there were two lawyers against each other and unlike Awan’s, Levant’s strategy didn’t include the option to look stupid and ignorant.
If you don’t find consistency in the questions, maybe Mr. Brian Shiller could explain what he meant.
Mr. Shiller started by discussing the necessity to check all facts when somebody works as a journalist. The same should be applied to bloggers. Then he moved to the issue of the human rights commissions. He wondered why Ezra Levant called them censors and kangaroo courts – after all, they dispense justice.
He also mentioned that Ezra called the commissions stupid and held the opinion that “the kangaroos in British Columbia are illiterate.” Does that mean they can’t read? Ezra’s reply was that most of those qualifications shouldn’t be taken seriously. They rather describe the functional inability of the commissions to resolve conflict regarding human rights.
After that Mr. Shiller asked Ezra who Jennifer Lynch was. Ezra replied that the late Ms. Lynch was the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). Shiller added that she was also a chief of staff for Joe Clark and held a high position at RCMP. When he asked the next question, it became clear why he was adding those facts.
Ezra called her “chief censor” and wrote about her in his blog. He described his meeting with her – an odious woman, who looks much older than her official pictures. He hesitated to shake her hand. Mr. Shiller asked for an explanation of that description.
Ezra explained how some of her employees joined neo-Nazi organizations to provoke incriminating responses from them by spreading hate speech on forums, that was against all rules. It is hard to shake the hand of a person who condones such methods.
Shiller added that calling her an old odious woman doesn’t advance free speech. The statement is actually an insult. Levant explained that he wrote down his impression at the time. Not everything one says is for advancement of free speech. He didn’t see what was wrong with his impression.
Then Shiller brought up the conflict between Levant and the Mayor of Calgary Nenshi. Levant stated last week that he liked the Ismaili Islam, yet he called Nenshi an anti-Christian bigot. Ezra explained: Yes, I did so because he kicked out a Christian pastor from the City Hall. I said that the Ismaili Islam is beautiful, I have visited mosques. My argument was with the left-wing mayor of Calgary and has nothing to do with Islam. He asked me if I beat my wife.
Then Mr. Shiller jumped on the Vigna libel case: Justice Smith said about it – making fun of his accent was not a problem, but he found other libelous statements and ordered Levant to pay him $25,000. He had to remove parts of your blog in which you accused him of lying to the CHRC and claimed that he switched records.
Ezra Levant: The latter was not a false statement.
Shiller: Would you agree that reputation is important to everybody, like Vigna, Awan, Elmasry, so they can sue if it is damaged?
Ezra Levant: Yes.
Shiller: And you can sue when your feelings are hurt?
Ezra Levant: No, there is no tort for hurt feelings.
S: But you can claim that you have been embarrassed. And you can sue if anyone calls you a bigot. You can sue for hostility against Muslims?
Ezra’s lawyer, Iain McKinnon, objected that those were legal questions about grounds.
Judge: If he asks about legal grounds you can stand again.
Shiller: You sued 13 people for defamation. There was a suit in 2004 for money misuse. Another one was about being accused of fraud – that was in 2003.
McKinnon objected again – those past lawsuits are irrelevant.
Shiller: No, it’s important to cover them, because Ezra Levant mentions nuisance lawsuits and lawfare.
Ezra Levant: This was not a nuisance lawsuit – I was accused of stealing money and the accusation made it into Calgary Herald.
Then Mr. Shiller brought up more cases, in which Ezra was the accused. All of them have been won by Levant. The oldest issue was a letter Levant wrote in 1998 about wrongdoing of a certain Conservative senator. The party asked him to withdraw the letter and sign and apology, although he still stands by what he wrote.
Mr. Shiller actually wanted to find out the difference between the two types of lawsuits – Awan’s and Levant’s.
Ezra Levant: Awan was a bigot, he was a major figure in a bigoted organization, which included a person like Elmasry. His whole strategy was wrong – if Maclean’s didn’t obey his demands, he was willing to sue. In my case, the lawsuits were about being accused of stealing money – that was settled quickly.
Shiller: Is Awan anti-Semitic? What is your proof for that statement?
Ezra Levant: I don’t have his statements, but if you are a part of an anti-Semitic organization, you can’t claim that you are innocent. It’s like joining KKK and then claim that you joined because you liked the costumes, but didn’t share their ideas.
Shiller: So you can’t show any specific anti-Semitic statements.
(Typical – that was the strategy of denial of everything that Awan did with CIC).
Shiller brought up new aspects of the Awan case: You had a statement about him not being registered as a lawyer in Alberta. You also wondered if he was incompetent.
Ezra Levant: I stated that “the law society site didn’t list him.” I didn’t make my own statement.
Shiller: Wasn’t that your opinion – that he is not registered?
Ezra Levant: No.
After a break Mr. Shiller introduced the Toronto Star letter by Awan. He quoted statements about Ezra Levant accusing HRC of censorship about the cartoons. You called his letter embarrassing, yet it was altered by the editors of the newspaper.
Ezra Levant: I didn’t know at the time what happened.
Shiller: You didn’t investigate the issue. He told you it was altered.
Ezra Levant: Awan had a record of lying.
Shiler: Why didn’t you contact him to verify? As a journalist you are obligated to verify. Awan mentioned the letter in the libel notice, you could’ve corrected your post. So the error was brought to your attention in a timely manner.
Ezra Levant: He didn’t send me the e-mail proving it.
Shiller: But you could’ve investigated it.
Ezra Levant: But he didn’t contact me before the lawsuit.
Then the questions switched again to the role of Awan during the hearing at the British Columbia HRC tribunal: On page 25 in “Shakedown” is mentioned that Awan was called in B.C. to give evidence against Maclean’s. Was it important to get the facts straight? Fact-checking by the publisher?
Ezra Levant: Technically F. Joseph called him as a witness; de facto Awan was more than a witness, he was a junior lawyer, author of the claims. My book is a factual report, while my blog is interpretation. When I wrote about the Porter statement concerning the details about the money demand, I should’ve said it was an oral statement, not a document. It was my mistake.
Shiller: You didn’t see written demand.
Ezra Levant: Again, I would’ve written oral demand.
Then both discussed the records of Awan’s testimony about the money demand. Shiller claimed that Ezra falsely accused Awan of denial.
Then Shiller raised Awan’s co-counsel issue again.
Ezra Levant: That was based on my observations – Awan not only sat there, but did certain work. It is not controversial to say what I see. That case shows my issues with the human rights commissions – they don’t have proper procedures.
Shiller talked again about page 25 of Shakedown.
Ezra Levant: This book is not about him – he is simply mentioned there. At the time I could never imagine that one day the issue about where Awan sat at the hearing will be so important– at the time it wasn’t significant enough to mention. I meant by co-counsel that he was doing many things that a lawyer does, without being appointed to this position. In TV interviews he called himself a complainant.
Shiller: You didn’t produce those interviews as evidence. The same applies to your claims about him drafting the claims.
Ezra Levant: Awan can’t both take credit for the complaint and then deny it 6 years later.
Shiller: At the B.C. hearing, as you said on Friday, Awan was interchangeable with the other students. On day one he testified – do you agree? Then on day two he was also on the stand. After the testimony ended he left. Right?
Ezra Levant: I have to check the time but I observed him there. I don’t recall whether he left.
Shiller: Despite your claim that he was interchangeable, he spent most of the time testifying.
Again and again, the issue about where Awan sat came up.
Ezra Levant: There were pews behind the counsel table, which were filled with journalists. Awan wasn’t sitting with them.
Shiller: But you didn’t mention that in your writings.
Ezra Levant: Nobody thought that this inconsequential detail would come up on trial 6 years later. I am sure he sat at the counsel table.
Shiller: Faisal Joseph has been an officer of court for 30 years and Naseem is a lawyer – did they lie about where Awan sat?
Ezra Levant: I am not saying that, they may not recall correctly. Brian Hutchinson supported my recollection. It is hard to remember such things.
Shiller brought up again the correction about the Toronto Star letter, to which Ezra replied that Awan should’ve contacted him before filing the libel, besides his statement was a fair comment.
After lunch Mr. Shiller continued: You mentioned Jason Kenney’s letter to Awan on Friday. F. Joseph is a Muslim professional who works for HRC and you want to destroy those commissions. You called the students Muslim terrorists – it was a title in your blog.
Ezra Levant: The statement is not true – you are putting words in my mouth. I didn’t see anything like that. Please show me the specific blog posts that verify your statement.
(Shiller didn’t provide that information.)
Shiller: You also attack people involved in the HRC.
Ezra Levant: Only if warranted. That’s activism in action.
Shiller: Do you think you are an expert in running the HRC cases?
Ezra Levant: I have witnessed their work and have been through a case.
Then Mr. Shiller started reading from old documents and comments on how Ezra mocked the kangaroo judges, their stupidity, standing up for the tribunal, etc. He asked Ezra if he agrees about each of the statements. Ezra noted that those are not real judges. The commissioners didn’t understand basic procedures.
Shiller: Was the tribunal really stupid?
Ezra Levant: The made a stupid decisions at that moment.
Shiller: Is Faisal Joseph a bigot?
Ezra Levant: If you work for an organization like CIC, you are definitely a bigot. Faisal Joseph called me an idiot blogger.
Shiller: Is Faisal Joseph an anti-Semite?
Ezra Levant: I have no way to get into his mind to form an opinion, but his client CIC is anti-Semitic.
Shiller: In 2009 you were a member of the Law Society of Alberta. The way you call the HRC names is not civil. Doesn’t the civility requirement apply to you?
Ezra Levant: I have strong opinions, but I have never had serious complaints.
Shiller: You have had several complaints. Can you talk about them?
Ezra Levant: Many complaints were dismissed. I am bound to keep confidential those that are still active. Do you want me to do something unethical? Besides, too many clients of your firm sue me.
(That caused laughter among the audience, but Mr. Shiller didn’t like it that his firm was mentioned.)
Shiller: Do you agree that you painted a whole community with a broad brush?
Ezra Levant: Please be more specific about the question.
Shiller explained with a quote from Ezra’s apology on the gypsy issue, in which he used the brush analogy. Can’t he apply the same to the legal community?
Ezra Levant: They are totally different communities, with different characteristics. The gypsies are an ethnic and cultural community. The legal community is a community of choice.
Shiller: Did you want to destroy Awan’s credibility in your fight to discredit the HRC?
Ezra Levant: Anti-Semitism and credibility are not related – you remember that Elmasry is an engineer.
Shiller: So when you saw that Awan and Felton appeared on the same panel, you considered them friends. Does that make you a friend with Elmasry since you were in a panel with him?
Ezra Levant: I meant that they were friendly, allies, colleagues, etc.
Then Mr. Shiller brought up again the issue of the nuisance lawsuits and lawfare. Ezra mentioned Vigna, saying that he was Ruby’s client. Shiller denied it. Ezra said he could check – Vigna was their client in the last stage of the proceedings. That made Shiller angry and he errupted – don’t ask any more about our clients!
After that Shiller produced a copy of a document he said was from Ezra’s site. Ezra didn’t recall what it was and asked for details. Shiller said it was a video transcript from Ezra’s show. Ezra objected that then it wasn’t from his site, but from Sun News. In it Ezra discusses Ruby’s firm and says that they engage with lefty political causes, mentioning Benjamin Levin’s alleged child molestation case. Shiller mentioned that this is not a political case, but Ezra wanted to discredit the firm by linking it to an alleged child molester.
Ezra objected that Levin is a high profile member of the Liberal Party of Ontario and its government, who is close to Kathleen Wynne, thus the case is political. He again said that the video was not on his site, but on Sun’s.
That caused a heated exchange between Shiller and Levant and the judge had to interfere.
Then Shiller went into some statements about Awan’s financial situation and his ability to pay his legal expenses. Ezra noted that on that issue the two lawyers had a conversation. Shiller didn’t seem to remember it. At that moment Awan approached Shiller and whispered something in his ear. Shiller abruptly withdrew the question.
At that time Shiller was becoming more and more impatient, often interrupting Ezra.
He asked if Awan was anti-Semitic.
Ezra Levant: He was associated with an anti-Semitic organization, but I can’t see in his heart.
Shiller: Did you know that he was never a member of CIC?
Ezra Levant: No, but that’s how he always presented himself.
Shiller: You called him Illiberal Islamic Fascist.
Ezra Levant: I did, the first two words are not offensive, and the third expresses his methods of censorship attempts.
Then Shiller went into the discovery examination transcripts. He stated that at the time Ezra used a milder definition, but today he called Awan fascist.
At the end Shiller totally lost patience and almost slammed a volume on the table…
If you can find a strategy in the above cross-examination, I envy you.
The trial continues tomorrow…
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