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September 22, 2013

Sun News' Levant violates CAB's code of ethics

The Canadian Charger

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In response to numerous complaints by viewers, The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) has found Sun News commentator Ezra Levant in violation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code, for comments he made about "Gypsies" in September 2012, during his program the Source.

On September 5, 2012, Mr. Levant was commenting about the recent arrest of a group of individuals who were allegedly involved in a theft ring.

Apparently all of the accused were of “Gypsy” heritage, which stoked Mr. Levant's bigotry against “Gypsies”, aided and abetted by his Sun News production team, which displayed the photo captions “The Jew vs The Gypsies” and “Gypsy Crime in Canada”, while Mr. Levant made the following comments:

“But these are Gypsies, a culture synonymous with swindlers. […] Well, the Gypsies have gypped us. Too many have come here as false refugees. And they come here to gyp us again, to rob us blind as they have done in Europe for centuries. Well, I warned you. [...] Now let me stop before you blow your hate crime whistle at me for saying “Gypsy” or “gypped”. See, political correctness, saying euphemisms like calling them “Roma” instead of “Gypsy”, or, as the BBC calls them “Travellers”.

“Now, the point of that is to obscure the truth. Look, they’re Gypsies and one of the central characteristics of that culture is that their chief economy is theft and begging. Sorry, it’s true. [...] Being Gypsy isn’t like being Black or gay or being a woman or even Romanian where many Gypsies come from. [...] Being a Gypsy is a positive choice, like being a Blood or a Crip. Like joining the Cosa Nostra. For centuries, these roving highway gangs have mocked the law and robbed their way across Europe. Now, because of our broken refugee system, they’re here in Canada by the thousands and they’ve brought a Gypsy crime wave with them.”

He listed the names of some of the people arrested and the criminal charges against each. He also mentioned that a number of Gypsies in Canada were investigated for fraudulent refugee claims.

All of the complainants to the CBSC said that the Sun News Network broadcast had stereotyped, stigmatized, degraded, discriminated against and otherwise presented an unduly negative portrayal of Gypsies by alleging that all Gypsies are criminals. Most complainants also said that Gypsies are considered an ethnic group, contrary to Mr. Levant’s contention that they are not.

The CBSC National Specialty Services Panel found that the comments violated Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code (EPC) because they were abusive and unduly discriminatory against an ethnic group, and violated other provisions of the EPC regarding negative portrayal, stereotyping, stigmatization and degradation.

The CBSC did not require Sun News to announce its findings on air (as it usually does when broadcasters violate a code) because Sun News had already broadcast two separate apologies.

Despite complaints to the CBSC, Mr. Levant initially stood by his comments.

"There were some criticisms after that show, but I dismissed them as coming from the usual soft-on-crime liberals and grievance groups,” Mr. Levant said during a broadcast in March.

However, for reasons known only to him, Mr. Levant subsequently issued a lengthy on air apology, on March 18, 2013, at 5:00 pm.

“I did more than just attack a crime or immigration fraud problem. I attacked a particular group and painted them all with the same brush. And to those I hurt I am sorry. […] It’s just wrong to slur a group of people. I made the moral mistake of judging people collectively.”Later in his apology, citing the philosopher Ayn Rand, he added: “The problem with stereotyping is that it’s ‘the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage […] that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors’.”And he concluded by saying “I regret having made these statements and I’m hopeful that those remarks will serve as an example of what not to do when commenting on social issues”.

Gina Csanyi-Robah, Executive Director of the Roma Community Centre found the apology insincere.

Shortly after Mr. Levant's comments, Toronto Police launched a hate crimes investigation.

On March 11, 2013 Ms. Csanyi-Robah said police informed her that they found more than enough evidence to charge Mr. Levant under the Criminal Code, and the Crown attorney agreed. However, the Ontario Attorney General refused to grant permission to proceed with the charge. Ms. Csanyi-Robah said that two detectives told her that was highly unusual — they had never seen such a rejection.

Ms. Csanyi-Robah said that at a March 14 meeting with two detectives, the crown attorney, and deputy attorney general Patrick Monahan, Mr. Monahan said there was evidence to proceed with the charge but that it could be “a challenging case.”  Ms. Csanyi-Robah said Mr. Monahan said Mr. Levant was a bully and that he'd turn it into a “bit of a circus”.

“They were intimidated about what he’d come out and say on the air,” she said.

Ms. Csanyi-Robah also said she found it “shocking” that Mr. Levant apologized six months after the fact, but within days of her meeting Mr. Monahan.

“Someone absolutely got to him,” she said. “Everything we discussed at that meeting was in that apology.”

In a subsequent public statement, she added: “Is his apology due to his fear of prosecution? . . . Has political interference caused another miscarriage of justice against the Romani community?”

A spokesman for Mr. Monahan refused comment, citing confidentiality.

Meanwhile, Jewish community leaders also condemned the broadcast,  stating in the opinion section of the National Post that: “If the Sun News Network had aired an attack on Jews, the whole country would be outraged,” andYet we have seen little support for the Roma from other faith and ethno-cultural groups, politicians and community leaders in the wake of Levant’s on-air rant. Even the media has remained mysteriously silent.”

Moreover, in an opinion piece in the Toronto Star, Osgoode Hall Law School professors Benjamin Berger and Sean Rehaag said The Roma community in Canada is frequently under attack, and they characterized Mr.  Levant’s segment as just the latest.

Among the loudest critics of anti-hate human rights laws was Ezra Levant of Sun News Network. He mocked a group of Muslims who complained to the federal as well as three provincial human rights commissions about what they thought was a hateful tirade against all Muslims in Maclean’s magazine. That complaint was rejected but the campaign by Levant and Co. continued. http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/03/21/stephen_harpers_inconsistencies_on_hate_laws_siddiqui.html#

The CBSC received a number of complaints about the broadcast. Sun News Network responded to the complainants, agreeing that the comments should not have been aired and noting that the station had aired a statement to that effect a few weeks following the broadcast. Levant himself apologized for the remarks on an episode of his show in March 2013.

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