Oh, Canada. Our neighbor to the north has tremendous appeal for many people. Conservatives love their vast energy resources, hunting, outdoor sports opportunities and – until recently – the fabulous comedy show of the Toronto mayor’s office. Liberals adore their socialized healthcare system, Justin Bieber and the fact that George W. Bush was never president there. But in case you were thinking of moving to the Great White North you should keep in mind that even for all of its wonderful features, Canada does not have any sort of assured freedom of speech. This is a lesson that Canadian conservative writer and broadcaster Ezra Levant learned to the tune of $80K.
An Ontario judge who heard a defamation lawsuit against Sun News Network host Ezra Levant ruled Thursday that the controversial media personality libelled a Saskatchewan lawyer in a series of blog posts the judge said were “motivated by malice.”
Justice Wendy Matheson ordered Levant to pay $80,000 in damages to Khurrum Awan and remove “defamatory words” about the man from his website within 15 days.
“I find that the defendant’s dominant motive in these blog posts was ill-will, and that his repeated failure to take even basic steps to check his facts showed a reckless disregard for the truth,” Matheson wrote in her decision.
Awan was completing his articling and looking for work as a lawyer when the statements were posted online by Levant. Awan was seeking $100,000 in damages.
This story dates back to 2008 and a British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal hearing where some students were protesting an article in Maclean’s magazine. The group, including Awan, claimed that the article was Islamophobic, and gave testimony to that effect. It seems that Levant went to his personal blog and wrote a series of articles on the subject with titles such as Awan the Liar, Awan the Liar Part Two and so forth. This upset Awan quite a bit and he went to court. The results speak for themselves.
When you get to subjects such as social evolution, religion and prognostication about the future (which was the subject of the original article) it’s fairly obvious that you are talking about matters of opinion. Even here in the United States, you can’t go around writing, for example, that Bob is a drug dealer unless you can come up with some proof to support the allegation. That veers off from the arena of opinion and into the land of slander and libel. But Ezra Levant was disagreeing with Awan – albeit somewhat strenuously – on more subjective matters. For this exchange of ideas a Canadian judge has fined him $80K.
Canada. A beautiful place, but still not the land of the free.