Monday, December 1, 2008

Free Speech in Canada

As noted here, Canadian journalist Ezra Levant has been ordered by a Canadian court to remove several blog posts in which he criticized a lawyer for the Canadian government.

I have re-posted those blog posts below in full. I do not endorse their accuracy. But people should have the option of reading Levant's side of the story.

To give both sides, I have also noted below where the Canadian court disagrees with Levant's claims.


Good grief. Now Giacomo Vigna is threatening to sue me!

By Ezra Levant on April 28, 2008 9:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (46)

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve received yet another threat of a lawsuit from a member of the human rights set. This one is from Giacomo “Serenity now!” Vigna, a lawyer for the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Here is a copy of Vigna’s home-made libel notice. It’s Cherniaky in its logic and Kinsellian in its command of the law.

Vigna’s letter is a classic case of why lawyers should not represent themselves, even if they think they’re saving a few bucks: their judgment is clouded by their emotions.

I mean, seriously, look at why Vigna says he’s going to sue me. On page three of his threat, he’s underlined what he says makes him really mad at me. He complains that I made fun of his courtroom antics, when he told a tribunal chairman that the whole hearing had to stop because Vigna didn’t “feel in a serene state of mind”. I compared Vigna’s lame series of excuses – a discussion that went on for twenty pages of court transcripts! – to a student who pulled the fire alarm to get out of writing an exam.

You’d think that Vigna would want to forget about that awful, awful day when he turned the tribunal hearing into his own therapy session. But not Vigna – he says he’s going to sue me for calling his drama audition a “farce”.

Alright, readers, skip the next few paragraphs. They’re a private message from me to Vigna, barrister to barrister, and friend to friend.

Pssst. Giacomo. If you’re embarrassed by me poking fun at you on my little blog, how are you going to handle a whole trial about your Dr. Phil moment? There was nobody paying attention to your hearing last year – certainly not Richard Warman, the nominal plaintiff, who didn’t even bother to show up that day. Nobody really cared that you had an “episode”. Do you really want to have a full-blown trial, in a real court, about your statement that:

“I don’t feel very well. I feel dizzy, I feel anxiety, and I am not in a serene state of mind to proceed with this file today. I have a lot of things worrying me right now and I don’t want to elaborate… I am not dying, Mr. Chair, I don’t have the flu, but I am not mentally capable of proceeding under these circumstances.”

Don’t you see that, if you want to get even with the fellow who made you look like a fool, you would have to – geez, how do I put this gently – sue yourself?

Giacomo: Don’t. Aim. The. Gun. At. Your. Own. Foot.

OK, everybody else, you can start reading again.

Vigna’s demand letter continues in the same vein for quite some time. On page four and five, he again underlines what really made him mad – the video montage of George Costanza’s dad shouting “Serenity now!” on Seinfeld. I’m not sure what legal defence I’d use on that one – truth or fair comment. I think the judge would be too busy laughing to even listen. Again, I can’t believe that anyone would actually want to have a trial on the important legal question of whether or not his whimpering merits a comparison to a Seinfeld character. Maybe we can call in some expert witness to testify about just how badly Vigna embarrassed himself that day. Was it a Seinfeldian humiliation? Or did it reach South Park levels of self-degradation? I could talk about that for a week at trial, but I don’t know if Vigna could, without – you know what’s coming – losing his serenity.

But page eleven of his threat gets interesting. That’s where Vigna moves from merely beclowning himself to actually endangering himself.

Last week I blogged about revelations uncovered by John Pacheco showing that Vigna and Warman switched a key piece of evidence at a tribunal hearing, and didn’t tell the tribunal chairman why they were doing it. I called that unethical, and I stand by it. [NOTE: A CANADIAN COURT RULED THIS SENTENCE DEFAMATORY. SEE PAGE 25 OF THE RULING.]

It’s a lawyer’s duty to tell a tribunal the whole truth – to bring even damaging information to the tribunal’s attention, especially when asked. Vigna was asked by the chairman why he was switching a piece of evidence, and he didn’t explain the real reason why. He led the chairman to believe there was no substantive reason, when there was. That’s unethical.

Look, I’m not the type to lodge a complaint against Vigna with the Law Society of Upper Canada about it. But for Vigna himself to voluntarily bring on a full-blown trial over that matter? I’d call that professional suicide. It’s one thing for a defamation court to laugh about Vigna for a week, deciding whether or not he’s a fool like Seinfeld's Kramer. But it’s more serious when the subject at hand is his unethical conduct. The man should really get a lawyer to give him cool-headed advice.

I suppose my favourite part of Vigna’s libel notice is the very last page, page 13. I’m not just talking about Vigna’s use of the royal “we” to describe himself. (We all do that. Sometimes when I’m at Tim Hortons and I order two donuts, I say “we” want two donuts, because I don’t want the cashier to think I’m eating them both myself). And I’m not just talking about Vigna’s suggestion that I hire a lawyer to get good advice – this from a fellow who has clearly not shown his own letter to anyone who will talk him down from his ledge.

No, my favourite line is his last sentence. After 13 pages of threats, 13 pages of trying to strike terror into my heart, what is Vigna’s coup de grace? What is his “or else”?

Vigna threatens to have the trial… in French!

Whatever turns his crank, I guess. The French do have a theatrical tradition of farces – I pick up a real Jerry Lewis vibe from Vigna, though his serenity monologue was a little bit more Three Stooges.

(It's not surprising that Vigna threatens to use Canada's official bilingualism as a weapon against me. It's similar to his use of "human rights" law as a weapon of censorship. Official bilingualism and human rights commissions were supposed to make Canada better, to protect minorities -- at least that's how they were sold to us. That they are now used cynically and abusively by people like Vigna tells you that even government bureaucrats don't believe the propaganda of Trudeaupian idealism. Those policies are just one more weapon with which to attack their political opponents.)

Vigna’s threatened lawsuit is so obviously frivolous and vexatious, it’s laughable. I hope it goes no further. But, unfortunately, if he really does proceed with a suit, I won’t just be able to laugh – I’ll have to run a defence, and that costs money. And even if I beat Vigna in court – in a year or two – I’ll still have to shell out money for lawyers along the way. I really don’t see how even a quick trial would cost less than $30,000. And remember, that’s on top of Richard Warman’s lawsuit against me and my fellow bloggers, and that’s on top of the human rights commission complaint against me, which still continues.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Vigna has piled on. Other bloggers have written about Vigna’s tomfoolery but, as far as I can tell, I’m the only one he’s threatening to sue. And I don’t doubt there will be more suits on top of those.

There’s a term for this: SLAPP, or strategic lawsuit against public participation. It’s Richard Warman’s specialty, and now Vigna’s getting in on the game. And, I’ll be candid: if it weren’t for the support of the blogosphere, I’d probably crumble under the pressure of it.

But so far, so great: I’ve been able to fight these bullies. As I’ve said before, I’m up for the fight, and I believe in it. I actually think I’m suited for it. The only thing I’m missing is financial strength.

I hate to ask again, so soon after asking for help to fend off Warman’s suit, but if you want to chip in to help me fight off Vigna, please do. Even a bare-bones defence is going to cost me tens of thousands of dollars – and I’ll have to come out to Ontario for the trial, too.

I didn’t ask for this suit. But it’s clear to me that the human rights industry can’t win through arguments, so they’re going to try to bludgeon me (and others) into submission.

Well, I’m not rattled – I’m still serene. I’m going to fight them as long as it takes. Please help me if you can.

Yours gratefully,

Ezra "Tranquility" Levant


CTV's Mike Duffy Live

By Ezra Levant on May 21, 2008 1:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

I was invited on CTV's Mike Duffy Live today to talk about the RCMP's investigation of the Canadian Human Rights Commission's conduct. You can see the clip here.

Watching that clip, I'm reminded of how insane the facts are here, and how just a few months ago I would have written off anyone describing such malfeasance as some sort of conspiracy theorist or other nutbar.

I think, in fact, that is going to be the CHRC's spin here: not to try to explain themselves (how do you explain hacking into a private citizen's Internet account? How do you explain strutting around the Internet, pretending to be a Nazi, spewing anti-Semitic, anti-Black and anti-gay venom?) but to just deny everything, and hope the charges against them sound too surreal to be believed.

That's the first possible theory to explain the CHRC spin doctor's comments in the clip before me: the CHRC is just going to brazen it out. It wouldn't be the first time they've lied to the public -- or under oath, for that matter.

The only other explanation I can think of that squares the CHRC's flat denial with the incontrovertible facts here is that the CHRC is going to argue that they, as an organization, didn't do anything wrong, and didn't approve of anyone doing anything wrong -- and that any bad behaviour was the act of a rogue individual. Perhaps their fall guy will be someone the CHRC has already thrown overboard, like Richard Warman, their former investigator who was let go in 2004, or Giacomo Vigna, the CHRC lawyer who was fired from the Lemire case in 2007. [NOTE: A CANADIAN COURT RULED THIS SENTENCE DEFAMATORY. SEE PAGE 27 OF THE RULING.]

If that's their strategy, I just don't think it will work -- as we learned from the March 25th hearing, CHRC management knew all about Jadewarr and other abusive practises. They never did anything to stop it -- and it's a touch late, now that the RCMP are calling.


CHRC lawyer threatens me with another lawsuit. (I'm still "serene")

By Ezra Levant on July 22, 2008 7:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (73)

An employee of the Canadian Human Rights Commission has threatened me with another lawsuit, because I criticized his conduct at the CHRC.

So now the government is suing its political critics. Sorry – are we in Russia or Canada?

The CHRC staffer is Giacomo Vigna, one of the CHRC lawyers who prosecutes section 13 "hate speech" cases. And he’s also a bit of a buffoon. One day last year, he stopped an entire tribunal hearing because he said he wasn’t feeling “serene”.

Nobody could understand what he was talking about, but they stopped the trial anyways, at enormous cost to the taxpayer – the government had to pay for all of the other lawyers' costs for travelling across the country to be there. The tribunal chairman demanded a doctor’s note, which Vigna gave his solemn professional undertaking to provide. It’s been more than a year, and Vigna hasn’t complied with his promise. [SEE LEVANT'S CORRECTION HERE. A CANADIAN COURT RULED IT DEFAMATORY DESPITE THE CORRECTION.] The CHRC had to drop him from the case and hire a new lawyer at great expense, because the trial couldn’t continue until Vigna kept his promise. How embarrassing.

I learned all of the above from reading a transcript of the trial. You can see the details here, for yourself, starting at page 4867. I’m not quite sure what Vigna's legal argument is. Is he disputing the facts, as captured by the court stenographer?

Just to keep track, this is the second lawsuit threatened by Vigna. And it's on top of the lawsuit already filed by Richard Warman, the former CHRC employee who remains the heaviest user of the CHRC's section 13 "hate speech" law. Out of 13 Internet cases to have gone to a full hearing, 12 of them have been Warman's. Vigna and Warman were a team at the CHRC, in fact -- Vigna was the CHRC's lawyer prosecuting Warman's complaint against Marc Lemire.

And then there's the defamation threat against me by Warren Kinsella. Kinsella has been the CHRC's lonely defender in the public square. He's friends with Warman -- they even share the same defamation lawyer against me. Kinsella is also part of the "human rights" industry himself, if marginally, having written a loving book about it. And he once gave a keynote speech to the "human rights" industry's luxurious annual convention in Banff. Nice gig.

So that's four defamation suits, all filed or threatened by members of the "human rights" industry. And then there's the two "human rights" complaints themselves (one of which was abandoned, one of which continues against me). And then there are other legal assaults (twelve of them, actually) that have been thrown at me, which I’ll describe another day.

And then there’s the odd death threat.

If that sounds excessive, you're getting the picture. It's a strategy. It's called "lawfare", and it's an attempt to smother me under so many hassles and costs that I abandon my criticism of Canada's HRCs and their abuse of real human rights, like freedom of speech.

They're not even subtle about it. Warman calls his strategy "maximum disruption". He boasts he files legal actions against his enemies just to cause them a hassle. Kinsella calls it “Kicking Ass”. Now you'll understand why I'm putting "human rights" in quotation marks when talking about them.

Instead of rebutting my criticisms, these folks think that if they just throw enough nuisance suits at me I'll pack up and leave.

Not bloody likely.

And not as long as I have the support of the blogosphere to cover my legal fees. I know that support frustrates my antagonists. See, this is the part in their fantasy where I'm supposed to crumple under the weight of their lawsuits, and beg for their forgiveness -- like so many of their previous targets have done. This isn't where I'm supposed to say "not bloody likely.”

Enough preamble. Let me show you Vigna's new legal threat. You can find it here. It was served on one of my lawyers in Toronto.

You will see that it is written entirely in French. My translation of it is here.

Vigna speaks perfect English. My lawyer is unilingually English. The words I wrote that he complained about are in English. The fact that Vigna chose to write his demand to my lawyer in French tells you that he is trying to do a little "maximum disruption" of his own. I don't dispute that Vigna technically has the legal right to file a lawsuit in Ontario in French -- though that will add some cost and hassle to my defence, which is clearly his intended effect.

But he is going much beyond that. He is writing his general correspondence – not his court pleadings, but his day-to-day communications with my lawyers – in French. He's using bilingualism as a weapon. He probably thinks he's pretty tricky. I'd say it proves my point -- he's a little off balance and a lot unprofessional, the very things he's denying in his suits. And it shows a larger sickness in the CHRC: instead of using laws like “human rights” legislation and “bilingualism” as shields to protect people, they’re being used as weapons, to battle people. They’re being abused – especially by activist-bureaucrats.

I’m not going to fisk the whole demand. I think it’s pretty clear that Vigna ought to get himself a lawyer other than himself. He’s not particularly experienced at civil litigation – he’s more used to the shooting-fish-in-a-barrel practice of prosecuting hate speech cases, where a 100% conviction rate suggests that the work isn’t particularly challenging. I’m not sure how he’ll do in a real court – where, unlike section 13 hate speech cases, truth and fair comment are defences. But even if Vigna had experience and expertise in defamation law, it’s clear that he’s -- uh, how can I phrase this – not serene enough to use good judgment in his own case.

I don’t propose to go through all of Vigna’s minutiae. But there are a few points I’d like to address.

Vigna – like so many people in the “human rights” industry – characterizes people who disagree with him as law-breakers. Either you agree with him, or you're an outlaw. In particular, he’s mad about this blog entry I made about the harassment that Vigna’s private investigator subjected my parents to. It takes an extra helping of chutzpah to harass my parents, and then threaten to sue me for complaining about that harassment, and even call my complaint itself harassment.

(I note that his private investigator, one Gaby Saliba, has sworn a false affidavit. Saliba swears that my father told him that I still live at my parents’ house. It’s hilarious in a way; I haven’t lived there since I was a teenager, and my parents kept telling the trespassing Saliba this. Saliba’s perjury makes it a little less funny. But the CHRC isn’t exactly known for its ethics.)

Vigna also complains that his antics – first his antics in the courtroom, and then his ham-fisted antics on my parents’ property – were reported elsewhere on the Internet. He says I’m acting in concert with other websites to intimidate him. Apparently, he thinks there should be some sort of publication ban when he wants to sue people. (I note that Kinsella, too, demanded that I not publicize his legal threats against me. Sorry -- I'm not interested in being threatened in secret.)

I note that one of the websites cited by Vigna is the white supremacist site, VNN. I’m a Jew. I’m not a member of white supremacist Internet communities. I don’t have any dealings with them.

But Vigna can’t say the same, can he? Vigna was one of the CHRC staffers who knew about their secret memberships in neo-Nazi groups. Vigna even knew the passwords and account details for such neo-Nazi memberships, including one called Jadewarr. [NOTE: A CANADIAN COURT RULED THIS DEFAMATORY. SEE PAGES 28 AND 29 OF THE RULING.]

You’d think that a man who had access to membership privileges on neo-Nazi websites wouldn’t exactly be bringing that up in court, especially when the suit is about his reputation. I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear about some shocking “news” on Stormfront or VNN that just happens to justify the latest CHRC tyranny, my first thoughts are “the CHRC planted it themselves.” That’s because the secret accounts that Vigna, Warman and others at the CHRC had access to were in fact used to plant hundreds of hateful messages online, and were used to entrap the CHRC’s targets. I’ve never had the access codes to a neo-Nazi website. Vigna has. It’s just creepy that he’d try to tag that on me.

I’m not going to dignify Vigna’s response with any more time. I’m going to put a top defamation lawyer on the case, and tell him to fight Vigna hard.

I'm going to make sure we subpoena all the CHRC's own records that touch on the case. Vigna is Jennifer Lynch's man. Let's get her on the record about his conduct. Let's get their internal files about why Vigna was sacked from the case. And what the whole "serenity" nonsense was really about. Vigna's direct boss, the great Ian Fine, was part of the whole "serenity now" business, too. I've debated against him. Prediction: not a strong witness.

I'm going to fight hard. Not just because it’s so obviously a nuisance suit from Vigna (two, now). Not just because it’s my right as a Canadian to criticize the government, and the on-the-job conduct of government employees like Vigna (and when they harass my parents in retaliation).

But because Vigna is part of a larger pathology: an out-of-control “human rights” industry that feels it can squash criticism, rather than have to answer to it.

Dear reader, I know you’re probably growing tired of helping me out. I’m a little tired of spending my time fighting back against such suits, too. But I know that I can’t back down. I have to fight these fights all the way to the end.

Not just to win them for my own sake, but to send a message to the HRCs that the way they bully their opponents is not acceptable. That message will be sent by the trial judge to Vigna. But I want that message to go to Vigna’s boss, Jennifer Lynch, the Chief Commissioner of the CHRC, too. She presides over a corrupt, ethically-challenged swamp, that is under investigation by the RCMP, the Privacy Commissioner, Parliament, and even an internal review. Lynch smiles for the media, and pretends she’s fine with it all – but the fact is, her own staff and former staff are her attack dogs, suing and harassing her political critics. I blame Lynch as much as I blame Vigna and Warman, for Lynch has created a corrupt corporate culture where abuse of process and vindictive lawsuits against political critics are just a normal day at the office.

My legal fights are about beating Vigna, Kinsella, Warman, etc. But they’re also about standing up to the poetically named Ms. Lynch and her petty tyranny.


My defence in Vigna v. Levant: Vigna beclowned himself

By Ezra Levant on August 1, 2008 1:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (57)

This is a half-siren post. Thanks to RR for providing me with the image!

Giacomo Vigna is a failed politician. He has run for public office three times. His last adventure with the unwashed masses was in Ottawa, where he ran for city council. He spent $17,600 and came in fourth, with just 582 votes. That's $30/vote, and he still got creamed.

Vigna is now betting his money on Michael Ignatieff, to whom he gave $1,000. I'm guessing that's as good as lost, too.

Vigna is best known, however, for his antics before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. He appeared before that tribunal as the Canadian Human Rights Commission's lawyer, prosecuting section 13 hate speech cases, such as the Warman v. Beaumont and Warman v. Lemire hearings.

It was in the Lemire hearing that Vigna had -- how can I put this gently? -- a bad day. You can read for yourself, from the court transcripts of that day, starting at page 4867 here:

MR. VIGNA: Sorry. Mr. Chair, I don't have the flu but I don't feel in a serene state of mind to proceed with the file today. I don't feel very well. I feel dizzy, I feel anxiety, and I am not in a serene state of mind to proceed with this file today.

I have a lot of things worrying me right now and I don't want to elaborate, but my colleague said, Mr. Fine, there are some certain incidents that have occurred which I don't feel at liberty to elaborate right now, which have had an impact on my ability to proceed in a professional way on this file, at least for today, because I wouldn't be rendering the Commission a just service by proceeding in this condition.

I am not dying, Mr. Chair, I don't have the flu, but I am not mentally capable of proceeding under these circumstances.

THE CHAIRPERSON: But the witness is here?

MR. VIGNA: The witness is here. It's not the question of the witness. The witness is here. I thought until this morning that I would proceed, but I really don't feel primarily mentally able to proceed, and physically too.

...MR. CHRISTIE: I have heard two explanations which are as frivolous as any I have ever heard in justifying an adjournment of a whole proceeding… To say I am not feeling well, but sit here and talk about it, is inconsistent. There is no medical certificate, and I heard very faintly Mr. Vigna say I'm not physically sick, I don't have a serene state of mind. Very few of us in the difficulties we face always have a serene state of mind. I don't know what that means.

This is not a case of a nervous breakdown or a mental state justifying a psychiatric examination. I am certain of that. To say I don't feel like doing it today is insulting...

MR. VIGNA: Mr. Chair, I will provide a medical certificate.

THE CHAIRPERSON: Please sit down, Mr. Vigna.

MR. VIGNA: I feel insulted by that comment.

THE CHAIRPERSON: Please sit down.

Not good. Vigna gave his professional promise -- called a lawyer's undertaking -- to give the tribunal a copy of his doctor's note. He never did [SEE LEVANT'S CORRECTION HERE. A CANADIAN COURT RULED IT DEFAMATORY DESPITE THE CORRECTION.] and the tribunal has not let him off the hook. So the CHRC -- besides having to pick up the tab for all of the other lawyers who flew to the hearing -- replaced Vigna, also at great cost.

Vigna is apparently still not serene, because he's suing me for mentioning the above facts. He doesn't dispute those facts; he just doesn't like me repeating them.

Well, that's tough. Vigna was a government lawyer, prosecuting a political lawsuit. And his lack of "serenity" cost taxpayers countless thousands of dollars. I would think it's a textbook case of the public interest.

Vigna sued me, with this 86-page monstrosity of a lawsuit -- written in French. (Here is a smaller translation of it.) That's a hoot in itself, because Vigna is fluent in English, I speak English, and the words he's suing me about are in English, too. But it's just his own lame attempt at "maximum disruption". He lacks the "grand vision" of Richard Warman, who schemes with street hoodlums to throw pies in the face of his opponents. Vigna just punishes me with the language of love!

Here's my statement of defence, filed and served today. It has some similarities to my defence in the Warman matter, but obviously the meat of it is different. I'll keep you posted on what happens next -- and in what language.

I should warn Vigna, though: I know Yiddish, and I'm not afraid to raise the stakes in this battle of the mother tongues!

Moral of the story: if you don't want to be called a schlemiel, don't act like a schlemiel. What a goyishe cop.

Folks, this is the second enormous expense I've incurred in a week, the first being the defence in the Warman nuisance suit. If you agree with me that Vigna's mishugenah behaviour was fair game for criticism, and if you hate the fact that, like Warman, Kinsella, Syed Soharwardy and the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities, Vigna is resorting to "lawfare" to fight his political battles, in an attempt to bankrupt me, then please consider chipping in. I'd appreciate the help. The lawsuit isn't fair, and I think I'll win. But that's probably $50,000 down the road -- and Vigna et al. are hoping I won't be able to survive that long. Please help me prove him wrong.

I remain grateful to you and the many supporters who have helped me survive so far. I promise to keep fighting.