The third stage in filing a CBSC complaint is, if you are not satisfied with the response you've got from the station rep, is to outline your reasons in a ruling request form, and, well, request a ruling. Below is the final version of what I submitted on Sunday. If you've followed this you've read some of it before, though I've added a bit at the end. In any case:
The CBSC Secretariat will be reviewing your file in the near future to determine whether adjudication by a panel of industry and public members is appropriate in the circumstances of this complaint. The CBSC’s examination of any complaint includes a review of all of the correspondence in the file as well as our own viewing or listening of the broadcast in question. Each CBSC decision creates an important precedent and is used to clarify the interpretation of the broadcast codes. Due to the importance of every complaint, we review each one in the order it was received, and accordingly, it could take up to four months for this process to be completed for your file.
And here's the complaint:
CBSC File Number: CBSC File C14/15-0421
Thanks to Mr. Manson of Sun News for his response. However, I find it an inadequate defence of Mr. Ezra Levant's November 10 broadcast. Therefore I would like to request a a ruling on this particular case. Mr. Manson and I have exchanged a pair of emails. The bulk of this complaint is my response to his first email; the remainder is a response to issues raised in his second.
When I first contacted the CBSC, I suggested that the segment in question violated clause
2 of the CAB code, and also clause 5. Clause 5 demands accurate reporting, which standard I felt Mr. Levant had failed to meet when he asserted that the Greater Essex school-board was exempting Muslim school-children from Remembrance Day ceremonies due to conflicts with their/their family's religious beliefs.
Now, Mr. Manson has suggested that a failure of communication between The Board and SNN occurred, and points to several exchanges between their spokesperson and Sun News representatives dating from the morning of November 10 as evidence of this. But none of the facts contained in these exchanges would render Mr. Levant's original assertion an accurate report of what was said to him by Board representatives, or even a plausible inference from what was said to him. In fact, Mr. Manson quotes from one email as
"The procedure for religious accommodation has been in place for some time and no it was not in response to any concerns from any particular people or groups – it’s a necessary document to allow the board to manage any requests for accommodations based on religion or beliefs."
The claim that no particular people or groups requested accommodation logically implies that no Muslim people or groups requested it. Therefore the assertion Mr. Levant made to the effect that Muslim individuals did request such accommodation (and were granted
it) would necessarily be an inaccurate report.
And in his later discussion of the controversy, Mr. Levant neither admits to nor apologizes for this basic inaccuracy.
Furthermore, this inaccurate statement serves as a trigger for what I would call an extended violation of the CAB code's second clause. That is, Mr. Levant engages in a stream of Muslim bashing invective. I would probably argue that even if facts stood as per Mr. Levant's original assertion--if in fact some Muslim parent had requested accommodation for religious reasons—Levant's tirade would still have been abusive and unduly discriminatory. But as it stands we have a falsehood serving as an excuse for a concentrated blast of bigotry. And of course Mr. Levant has neither admitted to or apologized for his bigoted statements anymore than he has for his inaccurate ones.
In his second email, Mr. Manson writes as follows:
"In his follow-up monologue on November 12, 2014, Mr. Levant said: “In the end, the school board claims that no students asked for an exemption. I take public statements from the board with a grain of salt now, but I hope that’s true.”
"Mr. Levant therefore acknowledged the Board’s position that no students had asked for an exemption. Sun News therefore reiterates its position that no further action by the CBSC is necessary with respect to this complaint."
Put generally, Sun News and myself are offering different narratives as to the sequence of events that occurred the week of November 10.
I am arguing that Mr. Levant's first exchange with the school-board on the morning of November 10 was absolutely clear: no students, including Muslim students, had requested an exemption, and none had been granted. Nevertheless on the evening of that same day Mr. Levant claimed that the school-board had exempted a number of Muslim students from its Remembrance Day ceremonies for religious reasons. It is this statement, as well as the anti-Muslim tirade that followed, that I believe Mr. Levant should be sanctioned over, and for which he has thus far assumed no responsibility.
On the other hand Mr. Manson and Mr. Levant have argued that this first exchange with the school-board somehow supported or at least did not at least logically disallow Mr. Levant's claim. And when afterwards Mr. Levant received new information which cast his earlier assertion into doubt, he was willing to take responsibility for any of the resultant confusion. And it is clear why he would prefer to promote this narrative. To be told clearly that not-A, and to then go on television and say A, suggests either deliberate misrepresentation or a reckless disregard for the truth.
However, I think even a cursory reading of the school-board/SNN correspondence makes clear that Mr. Levant and Mr. Manson's time-line of events is largely fictive. Nor is this just my opinion. For example, The Globe's Sylvia Stead has written of this incident:
"Nothing in the partial memo received by Mr. Levant or in the follow-up questions justified his conclusion because it is not based on the truth."
Other writers who have looked at the matter have come to similar conclusions. I can supply more links as needed.
Finally, I would suggest past incidents make a “reckless disregard for the the truth” the more likely explanation for Mr. Levant's assertion. It is, after all, the manner in which his writings have been described in a number of defamation cases which Mr. Levant has found himself on the losing side of, including this one decided very recently between Mr. Levant and Khurrum Awan: