By Terry Vanderheyden

CALGARY, March 31, 2006 ( – A leader in Canadian human rights law has come out against a decision by the Alberta Human Rights Commission to prosecute The Western Standard magazine for publishing the Danish anti-Mohammad cartoons.

The Commission’s decision to pursue the Standard after they received a complaint from “radical” Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy spurred the human rights lawyer Alan Borovoy to write to the Calgary Sun. “During the years when my colleagues and I were labouring to create such commissions, we never imagined that they might ultimately be used against freedom of speech,” Borovoy, who is general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, wrote. Censorship was “hardly the role we had envisioned for human rights commissions. There should be no question of the right to publish the impugned cartoons,” he added.

Borovoy even said that Canadian human rights law should be changed to prevent this sort of thing from occurring in the future. “It would be best, therefore, to change the provisions of the Human Rights Act to remove any such ambiguities of interpretation,” he challenged.

Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant, in a release, explained that although Soharwardy’s complaint will cost him nothing as the Tribunal prosecutes the publisher, the paper will likely spend $75,000 to defend itself.

“I agree with Borovoy: the law should be changed to stop future abuses,” wrote Levant. “But those changes will come too late for us – we’re already under attack. The human rights laws, designed as a shield, are being used against us as a sword.”

The Standard plans to file their legal response this week. “And we will fight this battle to the end – not just for our own sake, but to defend freedom of the press for all Canadians,” Levant emphasized. “Do you believe that’s important?” he asked. “If so, I’d ask you to help us defray our costs.”

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