Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Ezra Levant libel trial kicks off as Canada’s noisy hate-speech debate enters new chapter

A libel trial begins this morning in Toronto nearly six years after it was launched in the heat of Canada’s first online culture war.

Pitting a Regina lawyer against a nationally known television personality who describes himself as “one of Canada’s premier advocates of free expression,” Khurrum Awan v. Ezra Levant is one of several defamation suits that arose from the fight over hate speech bans in human rights law. But as one of the last to come to trial, it marks a kind of bookend on Canada’s noisy hate debate.

Court documents indicate this week’s trial will turn on Mr. Awan’s claim that Mr. Levant, on his blog in 2009, “variously described [him] as “Khurrum Awan the liar,” “stupid,” a “fool,” a “serial, malicious, money-grubbing liar,” and “unequivocally implied that he was an anti-Semite and perjurer.”

Back then, Mr. Awan was a law student, and the public face of an Ontario hate speech complaint against Maclean’s magazine, citing columnist Mark Steyn, who is in attendance Monday, and Barbara Amiel among others, and backed by the Canadian Islamic Congress. Now Mr. Awan is a lawyer in Saskatchewan who has recently acted for plaintiffs against drug companies.

The failure of his hate speech complaint, and similar ones in British Columbia and federally, became the primary example for the argument that human rights tribunals had run amok as would-be censors, and the fiasco of their failure after a public hearing in Vancouver was a key motivation for the government’s repeal last year of Section 13, the federal Internet hate law.

This massive national pivot on hate laws, which leaves rare criminal prosecution as the only legal response to hate speech, was in response to a blog-based campaign led by Mr. Levant



stinky said...

Good on Ezra Levant. Glad that it has to go to court rather than a PC tribunal.

Is the verdict to be rendered by judge or jury?

Anonymous said...

Rent seeking muslims. Would be interesting to se them against Jackson and Sharpton in the court of public opinion.