When I got a copy of Ezra’s book, Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights, and began reading it, I started thinking about the implications for the life debate. Not too long ago, no one knew what Human Rights Tribunals were, and where people had heard of them, they just didn’t care. Not unlike the abortion debate–people just don’t really care.
So I thought an interview with Ezra was in order to find out if and where some comparisons lie. Just by the by, yes, I worked for Ezra at the Western Standard, for two years. And au contraire to what gossipy lefties in the blogosphere write, I don’t ever try to conceal this because I’m proud of it.
PWPL: In your book you discuss how the term “human rights” has been hijacked by “dysfunctional, self-interested government agencies who lost track of what the term means a long time ago.” When a term has been hijacked like that, what’s the best thing to do—take it back or come up with a new one?
Ezra Levant: I think it’s a good idea to take back the good words. First of all, it restores them to their proper meaning. Second of all, it confuses the other side, because they’re used to very shallow debates — they rarely get a run for their money — so if they’re forced to move beyond mere labels and into the substance of the debate, that’s a win right there.
So, for example, I now call myself a human rights activist, and a liberal. Because it’s true, first of all. And because: why should human rights destroyers get to steal those good words?
PWPL: I ask that because I believe the words “women’s rights” and “feminism” have been hijacked by dysfunctional pro-abortion groups. How is it that such dysfunction can remain propped up—in the case of “women’s rights” often times by women—for so long?
E.L.: I think it’s precisely because no one challenges the use of those terms, really burrows into what they mean, and compares what they’re called to what they do.
PWPL: When you started fighting human rights commissions, it seemed like you were way out in right field. But you’ve done a very good job of making them seem abnormal. How do you think we might go about denormalizing a shrill defence of abortion under any circumstances?
E.L.: I am not as familiar with the pro-life/pro-choice debate. But in the HRC debate, I compared what they said they did (defend human rights) to what they actually did (abridge human rights). And I just shone a light of public scrutiny on what they did when they thought no one was looking.
I think that when the pro-choice-in-all-circumstances argument is inspected at its logical conclusion — very late term abortions; abortions for cultural or sex selection reasons — then it ceases to be the “normal” Hollywood story of what an abortion looks like, and becomes something much more troubling. It also demonstrates, especially in the sex-select abortions, how abortions are being used to eliminate girls. I think of other shocking examples and statistics when it comes to abortion rates of minorities, which I understand are disproportionately higher. I might compare that reality — abortion’s spokesmen are usually rich white women, but abortions usually target girls and visible minorities — to the vision of Planned Parenthood’s founders, who were eugenicists with precisely that outcome in mind.
PWPL: What do you think about so-called “bubble zone” laws, the kind that have seen Linda Gibbons, a Toronto-area pro-life sidewalk counsellor, sent to jail for talking to women inside the zone? Are those an infringement on freedom? Should those laws be repealed?
E.L.: Of course. I’m all for property rights — so I’m for the right of people to kick protesters off their land. And I’m all for laws against assault. But “bubble zones” are clearly neither — they’re clearly political censorship. It’s even worse (and more transparent) that they’re for only one sort of politics and one side of the story.
PWPL: When the Ontario College drafted “Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code” many doctors in Ontario became concerned about being forced to refer for abortion. The policy was subsequently redrafted, but should Ontario doctors still remain on alert? How real do think the threat is?
E.L.: Quasi-judicial tribunals and other outside-the-public-consciousness forums are the preferred battleground for radical social engineers. They know they can’t win in the court of public opinion, and often not even in the court of law. So they’ll try it through agencies and boards and commissions — places where scrutiny is lower, rules of procedure are weaker, and the ability of radicals to hijack the process is higher.
PWPL: The debate on abortion has become so polarized it is, often, called a dialogue of the deaf. We could try shouting louder and see if our voices get noticed that way (doubtful), or we could try something else. Do you have thoughts on what this “something else” might be?
E.L.: It’s not my forte; I’m not well briefed on the state of the debate. I’d agree that simply turning up the volume — such as shock tactics — probably won’t work, and might even turn people off. I think that approaching the subject from creative and counter-intuitive points of view, such as focusing on sex-select abortions, might be more productive. I also think that the simple visual of that fetus, in utero, holding on to the finger of a doctor doing surgery, is very powerful.
PWPL: Finally, I’m looking for an “Ezra Levant” for life: someone who would bring your spunk and vigour to Canada’s pro-life scene. Any thoughts on taking up the cause after you finish up with the whole HRT thing?
E.L.: Thanks for the offer. But after working for free for a year and a half fighting against HRCs, I think I have to earn a real living now!by