SHAKE DOWN, How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights,
by Ezra Levant, McClelland & Stewart LTD, Toronto, © 2009 by Ezra Levant,
ISBN: 978-0-7710-4618-6, 216 pp, $28.99 Can/U.S. $25.95.
Levant was the banquet speaker at the meeting of the Association of American
Physicians and Surgeons in October 2009 in Nashville. His book, Shake
Down, was available that night and has a lot to say concerning the current
infringement on individual liberty in health care, which was an important item
on the meeting agenda. The AAPS is probably the only medical society remaining
where you can count on 100 percent of its members favoring freedom in health
care and opposing government-controlled health care. Many of its members have
withdrawn from Medicare reimbursement and bill separately outside the government
system to preserve their autonomy in caring for patients.
Steyn, author of America Alone, writes
in the Foreword, "If you want to know what this book's about, the easiest
place to start is with one brief sound bite from Ezra Levant's interrogation by
the Alberta 'Human Rights' Commission. Ezra had chosen to publish the 'Danish
cartoons' – the controversial representations of the Prophet Mohammed – in
his magazine, The Western Standard, and as a result had found himself summoned
before Shirley McGovern, a 'human rights agent' for the Government of Alberta.
And, at one point in her inquisition, after listening to Ezra's musings on the
outrageousness of what was happening, Agent McGovern looked blandly across the
table and shrugged:
entitled to your opinions, that's for sure.'
only. . . he were, he wouldn't be there. . .
Clichés are the reflex mechanisms of speech – 'Yeah, sure, it's a free
country. Everyone's entitled to his opinion, right?' . . .
But in Canada you are no longer entitled to your opinion. The cliché is
no longer operative. You are only entitled to your opinion if Agent McGovern and
her colleagues say you are—'for sure.' Canadians do not enjoy the right to
free speech. They enjoy instead the right to government-regulated,
government-licensed, government-monitored, government-approved speech—which is
not the same at all. Ezra Levant was of the opinion that he should publish the
Danish cartoons. That opinion brought down upon him the full force of the
Government of Alberta. I (Marc Steyn) wrote an international bestseller called America
Alone, a Number One book in Canada, excerpted in the country's oldest and
biggest selling magazine Macleans. The opinions expressed in my book and that
magazine excerpt were put on trial for a week in a Vancouver courthouse.
is not North Korea or Sudan . . . or Sadam's Iraq. If it were, what's going on
would be easier to spot. So if, like hundreds of thousands viewers around the
world, you would go to YouTube and look at the videos of Ezra Levant's
interrogation, you will find not a jackbooted thug prowling a torture chamber
but a dull bureaucrat asking soft-spoken questions in a boring office.
Nevertheless, she is engaged in a totalitarian act.
is an abomination to a free society. And that's what this book is about."
BEAUTIFUL IDEA – THAT FAILED.
author agrees that if you had to come up with the most appealing name possible
for a government bureaucracy, Human Rights Commission would be a top contender.
Everyone's in favor of human rights, and if there is a commission that's working
to promote them, that's a good thing, right? When they were created a generation
ago, Canada's human rights commissions were inspired by a narrowly defined goal:
to offer victims of true discrimination a quick, low-cost means to fight back
against bigoted landlords, employers, and storeowners.
creature of the civil rights era and its aftermath, human rights commissions (HRCs),
were supposed to be equalizers to help the poor and powerless stand up to the
rich and powerful. The HRCs were an informal, quasi-judicial structure that
could move quickly to assist people in dire need—some kicked out of an
apartment in the middle of winter because of prejudice. Unlike regular courts,
victims wouldn't have to spend money hiring lawyers—the commissions themselves
would investigate problems and put a government lawyer on the file for free.
Trials would be relaxed—not bogged down with all the rules of regular courts
that lawyers love but nobody else understands. It would be a people's court for
the kind of people who used to fall through the cracks.
could object to that? Human rights were a beautiful idea—that failed. Canada
in the 1960s was much less multicultural than now. In the 1960s, the idea that
Canada could have a female prime minister, a Chinese and then a black Governor
General, and openly gay cabinet ministers—and that a majority of the citizens
of Canada's biggest city would be minorities—would have seemed like a vision
from the twenty-second century. Women went from being anomalies at universities
to making up 50 percent of Canada's law students and 60 percent of Canada's
medical school enrollees. Jews flooded into once restricted country clubs.
Blacks and Asians took their rightful place in Parliament and provincial
battle for equality just isn't as urgent any more in a country where a Sikh has
been Premier of British Columbia and a woman is the chief justice of the Supreme
Court. Canada's HRCs could have declared the war won, and do what happens when
the battles are won: The warriors can go home and enjoy themselves.
they didn't. By the time the battle against bigotry was being decisively won in
the late 1980s and 1990s, the human rights industry spawned by Canada's HRCs had
become too big to fold up and throw in the recycling bin. So new, previously
unknown brands of discrimination had to be found for yesterday's anti-racists
and their newly recruited colleagues.
where things went off the rails: these once-honourable institutions aimed at
correcting historic injustices slid into farce as Levant characterizes it. The
complaints now came from crackpot narcissists, angry loners, and professional
grievance collectors. Their disputes had nothing to with human rights. But in
the absence of legitimate human rights cases, the HRCs took on their
causes—with disastrous results. The institution devoted to human rights became
the biggest threat to the core liberties—most notably, freedom of speech. HRCs
became a parallel legal system, competing with real courts for cases, while
lacking all of their institutional expertise and procedural safeguards.
Alan Borovoy, the seventy-six-year-old general counsel of the Canadian
Civil Liberties Union was one of the 1960s activists who helped draft the laws
that created Canada's first HRCs. He has now become disgusted by the manner in
which they've been co-opted by radicals. When the Western
Standard magazine was hauled before Alberta's Human Rights and Citizenship
Commission for publishing Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, Borovoy said,
"We never imagine that [HRCs] might ultimately be used against freedom of
Jonas, now a National Post columnist,
who came to Canada in the wake of the Soviet crackdown on Hungary in 1956, was
one of the few skeptical voices when Canada's HRCs took to flight. Having fled
communism, Jonas knew a thing or two about the natural tendency of government to
encroach on every sphere of human activity—often at the expense of individual
rights. . . No one listened to him. The author states now we wish we had.
an old debating partner of Borovoy, shot back with an I-told-you-so column in
the Post and recited some of the
traditional reasons he's always opposed government intervention in this field.
"Human rights laws and tribunals are based on the notion that being hired,
promoted, serviced and esteemed is a human right," he wrote. "It
isn't. Being hired, promoted, serviced and esteemed is a human ambition. It's a
justifiable ambition, but still just an ambition . . . There are attractive
ambitions and ugly rights, but the ugliest right still trumps the prettiest
ambition." There is little disagreement between them now. Both men think
the HRCs have gone too far. Jonas says Borovoy should have known better; Borovoy
says he didn't see it coming. But
today, both men want to pull the plug.
complaints to the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship have actually fallen 15
percent in recent years. In the private sectors, a company that experienced a 15
percent drop in customers in a growing market would either have to lay off staff
or go out of business. But it's tough to put the human rights commissions out of
business, since they get their money from the government no matter how obsolete
their 'product' has become. Also the human rights commission takes more time
than ever to achieve a result, having gone from 382 days to 410 days in what was
suppose to be a speedy and informal alternative to real courts. What good is a
fourteen-month delay to someone who's been kicked out of an apartment in the
middle of winter? Isn't there something dishonest about a government agency that
has 15 percent less work to do, takes 7 percent more time to do it, and still
gets the same cheque each year from the government? The HRCs know this and so
they have started a marketing campaign trying to convince Albertans to complain
more about one another. There's great confusion about whether office jokes are
funny, unfunny, or a violation of human rights. (Answer: If they're not funny,
they're discrimination.) Why do the HRCs feel compelled to teach eager new
immigrants that the Canadian way is to gripe to the government about any slight,
whether real or imagined? That may describe the way of life in some of the
countries the new immigrants come from, but it doesn't describe their adopted
Levant began his campaign against HRCs, some of his opponents have attempted to
smear him as an enemy of human rights. He defends himself by pointing out that
he does not oppose human rights themselves, but the hijacking of these rights by
dysfunctional, self-interested government agencies that lost track of what the
term means a long time ago.
DID WE GO WRONG?
HRCs don't have formal rules and do not follow the Canadian courts' rules that
have developed over centuries, stretching back to the Magna Carta, the great
charter forced on the King's power. He was no longer able to seize land or
people without just cause or to arbitrarily use the law to fill his coffers and
impoverish his enemies. Fines and punishment should be proportionate to the
offense. And it guaranteed speedy trials.
HRCs seems so un-Canadian to Levant since they violate the most basic principles
of natural justice. As soon as a human rights complaint is filed, the deck is
stacked against the accused. (A study of the cases in which the Canadian Human
Rights Commission investigated allegations of hate speech, for example, found
that 91 percent of the government's targets were too poor to afford lawyers and
appeared on their own or with representation by a non-lawyer volunteer.) In
other words, it's a turkey shoot for the government, with poor, intimidated
targets fighting against the unlimited resources of the state. [Not
unlike abusive PEER REVIEW wherein the disenfranchised doctor is fighting the
unlimited resources of the hospital-government complex—a turkey shoot for the
hospital and government. Only the turkey or physician goes to the national data
bank—the permanent tomb for the doctor who may have practiced medicine far
superior to that of his accusers but is an economical threat to them.]
HRCs possess powers that even real police forces don't have. Police must have a
search warrant approved by a judge before they can enter your place.
In Newfoundland's HRC, under Section 22 of that province's human rights
code, any HRC officer can "enter a building, factory, workshop or other
premises or place in the province a) to inspect, audit and examine books of
account, records, and documents or b) to inspect and view a work, material,
machinery, an appliance or article found there." A human rights busybody
only has to decide that you have something he or she wants to see—and presto,
instant access. And not only that,
those same laws give the HRCs the right to have whoever is occupying that
building c) answer all questions concerning those matters put to them; and d)
produce for inspection the books of account, records, documents, material
machinery, appliance or article requested." Levant feels that amazingly,
Canada has set up a human rights commission—staffed by people who have no
training in police procedures or any substantive legal knowledge of criminal
procedure—that has been granted powers real police don't have except in
countries such as Iran. [Also in the
United States, hospitals can conduct PEER REVIEW trials, without the benefit of
the doctor having an attorney present and no presiding judge, to remove his
privilege to practice medicine both in the hospital in question and in any other
hospital in the United States.]
the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the abuse of process goes deeper: trial
transcripts reveal that the staffs of the CHRC's anti-hate squad, in their bid
to entrap alleged hate-mongers, actually have become one of Canada's largest
sources of hate speech. The staffs are spending their time becoming members of
neo-Nazi websites and writing bigoted comments on the Internet. Their goal is to
goad Canadian citizens into replying with their own hateful comments, which the
human rights investigators can then prosecute as human rights abuses. Levant
says that would be like a police officer setting out lines of cocaine at a
party, snorting a few himself, then inviting other people to do the same—and
then arresting them when they take him up on his offer.
HRC staffs have also become members of the U.S. white supremacist sites whipping
up anti-black, anti-Semitic, and anti-gay sentiment and encouraging them to
organize and get out and be "dangerous." Levant wonders after his
investigation of the Stormfront chat group whether anyone in the group was a
real neo-Nazi or whether they were all "in on the game."
the 1980s and the 1990s, Canada's spy agency, the CSIS, planted an operative
named Grant Bristow in the middle of the neo-Nazi movement to keep an eye on the
violent members. But he didn't act passively as CSIS eyes and ears; he actively
helped build the Heritage Front into Canada's largest neo-Nazi group.
Bristow—and CSIS—created the biggest racist gang in the country, a project
that only ended when Bristow's double identity was about to be discovered. Even
in Canada your tax dollars are at work against you.
points out that every generation witnesses some variation on this game: a
government agency helps to build up isolated hate-mongers into national menaces
and then points to its own handiwork as proof that more government power and tax
money is necessary to save us.
CHRC frequently tries to set up secret trials and exclude the defendant from the
trial knowing they can't allow public scrutiny. Levant points out that even
Stalin's show trials allowed their political criminals to be in the room when
they were being set up.
the hearing for the mighty Macleans
magazine was pricked into action, they were able to have an open hearing despite
the fierce objections of the HRCs and the parade of witnesses described as a tour de force. To read how three decades of abuse begins to unravel
is worth the price of the book alone.
is an old legal maxim that says justice must not only be done; it must be seen
to be done. Canada's HRCs have set Canada back in regard to both objectives.
Their lawless practices have not only undermined centuries-old principles of due
process and natural justice, they have eroded public confidence in the rule of
law. They have brought the administration of justice into disrepute, and have
turned legitimate police forces into political tools. And amazingly they have
done so without most Canadians noticing. Canadians
are beginning to wake up.
THE UNITED STATES WAKE UP IN TIME?
are dozens of other stories of cases that are very interesting and insightful
and involve notables. This is an important volume on the lessons to be learned
when the government goes too far in an attempt to correct wrongs. We are seeing
this in our country at the moment as numerous freedoms are being challenged. We
are hearing the same stories about human right to health care that haven't
changed materially in 50 years or since the late 1950s. Since that time, the
U.S. has provided all the aged from 65-years-old up with unlimited health care
known as Medicare. We have also provided poor people with unlimited health care
known as Medicaid. In some states, this doesn't just cover the poorest 12-15
percent of the population, the standard definition of poor, but sometimes the
lowest 30 percent. Sometimes it even includes people making several times the
artificial poverty line. We have also covered the disabled in our country with
Medicare Disability for those permanently disabled at any age, from birth to
death. We have covered our retired and disable veterans with health care
benefits. Thus we have a triple net through which very few can fall.
Americans are holding Canada up as the ideal country to emulate in total health
care. But on taking a closer look at Canada's 33 million compared to the US 305
million, Canada has more uncovered citizens by percentages and by absolute
numbers. Canada has 20 percent of its population on a waiting list, many who
will never obtain health care. The Canadian
SupremeCourt Decision 2005 SCC 35,  1 S.C.R. 791 ruled that
Canadians DO NOT have UNIVERSAL access to health care coverage, they only have
universal access to a waiting list. Some on that list will never obtain health
care in their life time.
does the United States stack up to their 20 percent without access, or about six
million Canadians? Eliminate the 14
million or so that are qualified for coverage and will be covered should
they ever end up in a hospital that is very skillful in helping people get
coverage they already have but never applied for. It has also been shown that
many already have Medicaid coverage but told the census bureau that they don't
because they do not associate Medicaid with insurance coverage. Eliminate the 19
million college students and new graduates through age 34 who are young and
healthy and temporarily have other priorities and are able to pay for routine
health care. Eliminate the 18 million
uninsured that make more than $50,000 a year but choose not to purchase
insurance when many that make $25,000 do purchase a policy that will cover them
should they require the high end of care such as expensive hospitalization, and
pay for routine care as it comes up. This type of insurance can be purchased for
a hundred or two a month. Eliminate the six
millions illegal aliens in our country that are frequently added to the
exorbitant numbers the radicals keep mentioning. We would find it difficult to
confirm that even five million, or less than two percent out of three hundred
five million, have a valid problem.
some of our local health and state health directors have taken to the media the
problems they have with lack of coverage. Many of those that they highlight as
having no coverage had state insurance but were eliminated from these government
programs because of fiscal reasons. With the current proposals, we will have
huge fiscal problems that could even limit Medicare coverage. Why try to close
one government fiscal problem with another more enormous government fiscal
would we want to trade our essentially complete access to care for incomplete
access to care that every socialized country is experiencing? Many in those
countries will never get care. Every American has access to care.
is no health care emergency problem in the United States. There is just a
political problem in denying individual freedoms by taking away our most
personal and confidential freedom and making it an open public problem. In
government health care, every disease, mental illness, and personal habit can be
reviewed to see if it is covered or even necessary. There will be little
confidentiality in a government run health care system.
has made us aware of how our rights can easily be usurped by government
encroachment, which is the modus operandi of all governments since the beginning
of time. To say our government is different is naiveté. All governments are
power hungry and want to have control over their subjects as Levant has so ably
illustrated. If we end up with a Bismarck health care scheme, we cannot later
say, "We didn't see it coming," like the Canadians said when their
'Human Rights' Commission nearly destroyed Freedom of the Press and individual
freedom. Our present government is running amok with programs that will limit
our freedoms and that will prove disastrous for our patients and our society.
Let us heed the warning of Levant before it's too late.