Edmonton·CBC Investigates

Ezra Levant, free-speech advocate, applies to resign from legal profession

Controversial free-speech advocate Ezra Levant has applied to resign from the Law Society of Alberta while facing complaints from two Alberta lawyers.

Law Society of Alberta to hear Levant’s resignation application next week

Ezra Levant, the provocative political commentator formerly of Sun News, is facing complaints from two Alberta lawyers. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

Controversial free-speech advocate Ezra Levant has applied to resign from the Law Society of Alberta while facing complaints from two Alberta lawyers who he publicly criticized during his time as a newspaper columnist and television commentator.

Edmonton lawyer and former Alberta Human Rights Commission hearing officer Moosa Jiwaji, who filed a complaint against Levant in September 2014, confirmed Tuesday to CBC News he received a letter from the law society informing him that Levant had applied to resign from the legal profession.

Reached in Copenhagen by email, Levant said he had submitted his application to resign a long time ago, "but only on the condition that it not be under a cloud — that is, all complaints against me must be disposed of first. I stand by that condition."

Levant said he has had 26 law-society complaints against him but none have been successful.

"In the past eight years there has never been a moment when I was free to resign — each new complaint overlapped the previous one," he said, adding that "if all of the complaints against me are disposed of, I would resign simply because I haven't worked as a lawyer in well over a decade, and I haven't lived in Alberta in years."

Next week at a hearing in Calgary, a three-member, law-society committee is to decide whether to accept Levant's resignation.

Jiwaji filed his complaint following a series of columns and broadcasts by Levant in which he excoriated the adjudicator for his rulings related to alleged discrimination against a foreign trained engineer, and an electrician.

In his complaint against Levant, Jiwaji cited statements Levant made during broadcasts about him and the commission.

"In all the broadcasts Levant used profane, defamatory and derogatory language," the complaint states, "and called Jiwaji, among other things, a 'bigot,' an 'anti-immigrant racist,' a "Kangaroo court judge,' 'someone who loves racial revenge movies,' 'anti-African,' a 'buffoon,' 'a fan of racist revenge porn,' and 'someone who had a slave mentality.'"

In March 2014, Edmonton lawyer Arman Chak, a former commission employee, filed a complaint with the Law Society of Alberta against Levant. The complaint stemmed from a Sun News column entitled "Next stop, crazy town" in which Levant criticized the Alberta Human Rights Commission, and Chak personally, over a previous commission ruling. The column also criticized Jiwaji.

"But with human rights commissions, when you think you've hit rock bottom, you haven't," Levant wrote. "The crazy keeps going down. You gotta get out your shovel and dig to get to the crazy that's underneath the crazy."

Citations issued

The Law Society of Alberta initially dismissed Chak's complaint without a hearing. A complaints reviewer said there was no reasonable chance a hearing panel would find Levant breached the society's code of conduct, citing Levant's argument that he was acting as a journalist, and not as a lawyer, when he made the statements.

Chak appealed the decision. Levant's lawyer argued his client made the comments as a journalist and had a right to "fair and free comment," and that he should be entitled to criticize because it is not in his capacity as a lawyer. But a conduct committee panel eventually agreed to hold a hearing into the complaint and issued citations related to the complaints of both former human-rights lawyers.

The citations alleged Levant had been "publicly discourteous or disrespectful to a commissioner or tribunal chair" and that his "public comments regarding the Alberta Human Rights Commission were inappropriate and unbecoming."

The law society's code of conduct essentially says lawyers are supposed to be courteous to other lawyers, and the public.

Chak, now a bencher with the law society, declined comment. Jiwaji said he wonders why Levant, as a free-speech advocate, has not taken the opportunity to defend his statements at a public hearing.

Levant said the complaints from Chak and Jiwaji "are absurd and unconstitutional.

"I think it's outside of the law society's legal jurisdiction," he said. "And my record of successfully defending against all of these nuisance complaints suggests that the law society's complaints officers and benchers that have actually heard the evidence have agreed with me.

"I suspect the law society is tired of having their resources abused by political complaints and being hijacked by nuisance litigants," he said.

"I'm happy to proceed either way — fight the absurd complaints against me (as I have for eight years), win, and then retire as a lawyer. Or have the law society drop the absurd complaints against me, and then retire."