Controversial television journalist Ezra Levant will find himself in court Oct. 15 to answer for a series of blog posts in which he repeatedly called a Canadian Islamic Rights activist a liar.
Mr. Levant, who hosts a daily show on Sun News Network, wrote the posts while covering unsuccessful human rights complaints against Maclean’s magazine for its coverage of the Islamic community over a two-year span.
Mr. Levant’s posts were critical of Khurrum Awan, a member of the Canadian Islamic Congress who spoke at the Canadian Human Rights Commission hearings and served as its youth president. In his statement of claim filed to Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Mr. Awan said Mr. Levant suggested he was “a liar, a perjurer, an anti-Semite, a con artist, unfit to be a lawyer and has acted in a conflict of interest.”
“The plaintiff has suffered mental distress, humiliation and loss of reputation,” reads the statement of claim filed by lawyer Brian Shiller of Ruby Shiller Chan Hasan Barristers. “The plaintiff has been shunned by former friends, ridiculed in various publications and is the subject of odium and contempt.”
In his statement of defence, Mr. Levant suggests any damage to Mr. Awan’s reputation was self-inflicted.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. Neither side would comment on the case, except to confirm the court date.
Mr. Levant has written about them extensively on his personal blog, however, saying that he welcomes the opportunity to challenge both Mr. Awan and the organization in court. He has also asked his readers to help fund the “Ezra Levant defence fund,” adding that he has “won three human rights cases and the first 20 law society complaints have all been dismissed.”
Mr. Levant isn’t new to controversy. He has run into trouble with Canada’s broadcast ethics regulator twice this year for his show The Source – once for telling a Latin American banana executive (in Spanish) the equivalent of “go have sex with your mother,” and again for suggesting the Roma people are thieves who came from “a culture synonymous with swindlers.”
In his most high-profile run-in, the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada complained to the Alberta Human Rights Commission in 2006 about Mr. Levant’s decision to republish controversial cartoons of Muhammad in his magazine The Western Standard. The case drew international attention, but Syed Soharwardy ultimately dropped the complaint.
A judge ruled against him in 2010, however, after being sued for challenging the mental state of a lawyer who requested an adjournment during a Canadian Human Rights Commission hearing. He was fined $25,000, and scolded by the judge for speaking with “reckless indifference.”
Mr. Levant has spoken frequently about the need to strip human rights commissions of their ability to investigate hate speech, arguing that the courts are better suited to handle the cases because they have a higher standard of proof than tribunals.