With limited exceptions, the aforementioned cases received little attention. Then along came Levant. Even those to whom he is not beloved are waking up to the dangers of a lumbering system in which there are no real rules of procedure, the accused must pay their own way and could ultimately be compelled to pay a fine and apologize, while the complainant relies on taxpayers to protect his or her "human right" to not feel offended.
Levant is preternaturally media savvy, and when he made his appearance before the Alberta commission – this January – he had it videotaped, promptly posting the recordings on YouTube. Some 400,000 people have watched his bristly exchanges with the hapless commission representative. Levant, a lawyer, peppered her with questions of his own and reminded her of the freedoms that the HRC was trampling upon:
"For a government bureaucrat to call any publisher or anyone else to an interrogation to be quizzed about his political or religious expression is a violation of 800 years of common law, a Universal Declaration of Rights, a Bill of Rights, and a Charter of Rights. This commission is applying Saudi values, not Canadian values."
The resulting publicity proved too much for Imam Soharwardy. He dropped his complaint after two years and much public money spent, stating his newfound appreciation for the values of his adopted country: "I understand that most Canadians see this as an issue of freedom of speech, that that principle is sacred and holy in our society." Levant still faces a similar complaint from the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities.
This, in turn, has brought unprecedented scrutiny to complaints against Maclean's, a mainstream magazine that's a mix of Time and US Weekly. Though some call it right-of-center, its main agenda appears to be getting attention. (Last fall, Maclean's ran a cover story critical of the war in Iraq featuring President Bush made to appear as Saddam Hussein.)