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.

Ezra 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 Many of its members have withdrawn from Medicare reimbursement and bill separately outside the government system to preserve their autonomy in caring for patients.

Marc 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:

'You're entitled to your opinions, that's for sure.'

'If 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.

'This 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.

'This is an abomination to a free society. And that's what this book is about."


The 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.

A 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.

Who 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 legislatures.

The 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.

But 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.

That's 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 speech."

George 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.

Jonas, 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.

The 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 homeland.

Since 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.


The 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.

The 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.]

Canada's 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.]

At 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.

The 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."

In 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.

Levant 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.

The 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.

When 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.

There 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.


There 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.

Many 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, [2005] 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.

How 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.

Recently 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 problem?

Why 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.

There 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.

Levant 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.