All Posts Tagged With: "Ann Coulter"
Would that stop hate or stifle free speech?
Jewish organizations are calling on the University of Toronto to cancel an 18-week seminar series led by Toronto-based Islamic scholar Abdullah Hakim Quick. They say Quick has made homophobic and antisemitic comments in the past and should not be allowed to speak on campus.
“The unfortunate truth is that when you have speakers like this, that are divisive, it hurts communities,” says Avi Benlolo, President of the FSWC. “We hope that the unviersity will make the right decision to cancel it or put it on hold pending review,” he adds.
U of T spokesperson April Kemick told CJN that the “event is a booking by a campus group—one of hundreds that happen over the course of the year—and there is no connection to the university.”
Will the controversial speaker be warmly received?
Who can forget the embarrassing debacle that occurred in March when Ann Coulter embarked on her Canadian university tour? And no, I’m not just talking about what she said. Students and community members gathered outside of the University of Ottawa to protest the right wing pundit’s planned address, and effectively had the event shut down. Coulter went on to speak at the University of Calgary, but the fiasco left a black eye on Canadian Universities’ reputation for tolerance of free speech.
Now, the University of Western Ontario, which was the first school to host Coulter back in March, is set to welcome another controversial speaker: Mark Steyn. Perhaps best known for his contentious views on the nature of Islam, Steyn was originally supposed to speak on Western’s campus as coordinated by the Campus Coalition for Democracy. However, due to capacity constraints, the venue had to be moved.
Then, yesterday, the new venue—the London Convention Centre—denied the Steyn camp its room rental request. StrictlyRight.com, one of the organizers of the event, called foul, saying that the denial amounts to censorship at a city-owned facility, adding that the centre was caving to pressure from local Islamic groups. The centre’s general manager countered the allegation, saying that the decision to deny the request was business-driven—not politically.
In any case, the venue has been moved yet again and it seems as thought Steyn will take to the podium as planned on November 1. And even though it’s to be held off campus, students are still talking about implications of the contentious speaker’s arrival. According to the Western Gazette, the Muslim Students’ Association has already expressed concern to UWO’s administration about Steyn promoting Islamophobia on campus, though president Selma Tobah said there are better ways to oppose Steyn’s beliefs than boycott or protest. And Ryan Ruppert, president of the Campus Coalition for Democracy, told the Gazette he is hoping for “backlash through intelligent questioning.”
Who knows–maybe this time, things will go off without a hitch?
U of L’s media coordinator of globalization studies says diagnosis is a ‘boon to humanity’
When U.S. right-wing pundit Ann Coulter attempted to speak at the University of Ottawa in March, protesters gathered outside the lecture hall and effectively shut down the event. The crowd boasted signs branded with “Love,” “Respect,” and “Free Speech Stops at Hate Speech,” and chanted “Ann go home!” until police and security advised Coulter to cancel her speech in the interest of her safety. The demonstration came after University of Ottawa vice-president academic and provost Francois Houle sent Coulter a letter advising her to “educate [her]self as to what is acceptable in Canada” and to “weigh [her] words with respect and civility in mind.”
Now, I cite this example in hopes that the security personnel at the University of Lethbridge will be adequately prepared for what I expect to be another vehement uproar. Indeed, I’ll bet those same demonstrative individuals are already making their way west to protest yet another exploitative exercise of expression. “Free speech stops at hate speech!” Yup . . . any day now . . .
Well, maybe they just haven’t heard yet. Joshua Blakeney, media coordinator of globalization studies at the University of Lethbridge, has written a piece for the alternative e-weekly The Canadian Charger where he gleefully rejoices in Christopher Hitchens’ recent throat cancer diagnosis. Hitchens, a journalist and pundit, is known for his stanch views on religion and unapologetic support for the war in Iraq. Contentious as his politics may be, it’s hard to deny he’s a brilliant speaker with a quick wit, a reputation he managed to uphold during a recent interview with Anderson Cooper where Hitchens discusses his impending death.
But for Blakeney writing in The Canadian Charger, it seems “impending” can’t come soon enough. The cancer is “something to be celebrated,” writes Blakeney, a U of L Masters student, “because it deprives the war propaganda machine of one of its most erudite apologists.”
“As I was contemplating this revelation, I couldn’t help feeling that the neoconservative armchair warrior was getting his just desserts,” Blakeney continues.
Then, after toting some 9/11 “truths” (Blakeney studies under prominent 9/11 conspiracy theorist Prof. Anthony J. Hall) and other wisdom about Iran and Israel, Blakeney concludes his “Hitchens deserves to die” thesis:
“It is fair to say that if cancer is good enough for babies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and soon Iran, then it is good enough for [Hitchens].”
Ironically, The Canadian Charger originated as an outlet to counter “hateful” messages printed in Maclean’s magazine, which were brought to (and later dismissed from) human rights commissions. Yet curiously, here beholds a piece where the terminal illness of someone is rejoiced because of his political beliefs.
“I wouldn’t rejoice in someone’s sickness unless it was someone as ghastly as Christopher Hitchens,” Blakeney told the National Post. His inability to write “could well reduce cancer rates,” he continued. “He is a dangerous demagogue who made a career out of selling aggressive wars that cause cancer. . . . I haven’t stooped to his level.”
Okay everyone; are we all ready with our placards? “Love,” “Respect,” “Free speech stops at hate speech!”
Of course not. Blakeney’s not entertaining in hate speech. Fallacious and vile cheap shots, but not hate speech. But then again, neither was Coulter. So I’m wondering where the student unions are on this one. Where’s the protest to ensure a “safe space” for Iraq war supporters on campus? After all, if we have the so-called “right to not be offended” in one case, aren’t we going to uphold it in another?
After UOttawa speech was canceled prez was advised not to invite Coulter back
The president of the University of Ottawa wanted to invite Ann Coulter, the abrasive right-wing American commentator, back to campus after her scheduled speech last March was shut down amid fierce protests. But Allan Rock’s advisers talked him out of it, warning that Coulter’s appearance would only turn into another media circus, newly disclosed documents show.
“An invitation to Ms. Coulter to return to the campus would demonstrate good faith on the part of the university and an unqualified commitment to freedom of expression,” Rock wrote in an email to senior university officials on March 24. That was the day after the speech was cancelled because of raucous anti-Coulter protests outside the auditorium. But several advisers, including Elly Alboim of the consulting firm Earnscliffe Strategy Group, strongly advised against the move. “My own personal view is that, on balance, I would not re-invite her,” Alboim said in a email to Rock. “Should she decide to take you up on the offer, her appearance will become a live news event that she will cynically use to personal advantage to extend her sense of grievance and victimization and amplify her profile. . . . It will be her win, not about your gesture.”
University records surrounding the Coulter controversy were obtained by The Canadian Press under Ontario’s freedom-of-information law. Coulter, 48, is well known in the United States not only for her social conservatism but for the deliberately provocative ways she expresses opinions. She has said she likes to stir the pot without pretending to be impartial or balanced. During her three-campus speaking tour in Canada last spring, for example, she told a Muslim student at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., that the woman should “take a camel” if she was barred from flying.
Dissension about Coulter’s pending appearance at the University of Ottawa was inflamed by an email sent by a senior university official to her on March 19. It warned that Canadian law places limits on freedom of expression, including restrictions imposed by defamation law and laws against promoting hatred toward an identifiable group. “I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind,” wrote Francois Houle, vice-president academic and provost.
Coulter made the email public, claiming the university was trying to gag her — triggering an avalanche of angry invective directed at the university for its allegedly heavy-handed effort to smother free speech. The negative reaction dominated the news media, and resulted in hundreds of often vicious emails to Houle himself.
In fact, the released documents show that it was Rock — not Houle — who asked that the email be sent. Rock even dictated some of the wording. “Ann Coulter is a mean-spirited, small-minded, foul-mouthed poltroon,” Rock wrote to Houle in a March 18 email. “She is ‘the loud mouth that bespeaks the vacant mind’.”
“She is an ill-informed and deeply offensive shill for a profoundly shallow and ignorant view of the world. She is a malignancy on the body politic. She is a disgrace to the broadcasting industry and a leading example of the dramatic decline in the quality of public discourse in recent times.” At the same time, he argued, “we should not take any steps to interfere with her plans to speak next week on our campus.”
Instead, Rock advised Houle he should write to Coulter informing her of the different rules surrounding free speech in Canada compared with those in the United States. “You, Francois, as Provost, should write immediately to Coulter informing her of our domestic laws. . . You should urge her to respect that Canadian tradition as she enjoys the privilege of her visit.” After seeing a copy of the final email to Coulter, Rock praised Houle: “Quel excellent message! Merci et felicitations. I am sure she has never been dressed down so elegantly in her life!”
The Houle-Rock email was itself prompted by a March 17 letter to Rock from Seamus Wolfe, president of the university’s student federation, who alerted the president to Coulter’s pending appearance the following week. Wolfe cited Coulter’s past comments attacking aspects of the Muslim and Jewish faiths, arguing she had a clear history of promoting hatred and should not be allowed to speak publicly on campus. “I would request that you notify Ms. Coulter that she is not welcome on our campus, and that her event will not occur on uOttawa property,” Wolfe wrote.
Says, “Freedom of expression applies. Even when it’s painful”
University of Ottawa president Allan Rock has finally addressed that itchy little PR debacle that stung the university a few weeks ago.
In an address to the university senate, Rock discussed the cancellation of right-wing commenter Ann Coulter’s speech on March 23. Coulter’s talk was called off after student protests prompted security concerns.
“From the moment we learned about Ms. Coulter’s intended presentation, there were groups and individuals who insisted that we prohibit her from speaking on campus,” Rock said. “We rejected those demands, asserting that Ms. Coulter had every right to appear and to speak.” Coulter has been criticized as being overly inflammatory and offensive.
“Freedom of expression applies,” he said later. “Even when it’s painful.”
And for Rock, it seems it was pretty painful. He said he turned to the Internet to learn more about Coulter and admitted to “using intemperate language in exchanges with colleagues” in her regard.
And then there was the infamous email from Provost François Houle–the one sent a few days before Coulter’s visit, essentially warning her to watch her mouth. “I share responsibility for the letter from the Provost to Ms. Coulter,” Rock said. He explained that the letter was sent with his knowledge on behalf of the administration.
Rock later added: “I acknowledge that there are other, and indeed better ways, of achieving the letter’s stated purpose.” He also confirmed that the university did not cancel the event; it was indeed Coulter’s representatives.
So what have we learned? Well, it seems the administration champions freedom of expression. That’s a good start! Even though they paradoxically encouraged self-censorship and incited uproar with a preemptive cautionary email (not so good), which culminated to a hostile situation beyond their control—a situation of which they really haven’t yet taken ownership. But hey, at least we know Rock did some solid Googling before that “welcome basket” popped up in Coulter’s inbox.
UCalgary club issued notice after refusing to turn anti-abortion signs inward
“Kids, we’ve told you once, we’ve told you a thousands (read: three) times before, we don’t want to see those dirty pictures.”
Well, at least they’re consistent.
The University of Calgary has accused 10 students of trespassing and, the students say, has threatened them with sanctions for non-academic misconduct, after they refused to turn their provocative anti-abortion display inward. The club’s Genocide Awareness Project boasts signs comparing abortion to the Holocaust and displays graphic photos of aborted fetuses.
This is the fourth time the university has issued trespassing notices to the group. The latest charges were stayed in November.
Campus Pro-Life treasurer Alana Campbell questioned the university’s decision to defend the right to speak of Ann Coulter, the right-wing pundit who visited the university a few weeks ago, but is trying to stifle their controversial display.
“It is most curious that U of C threatened us with arrest when they spoke so glowingly in defense of an American speaker — she’s not even a student,” Campbell said in a release.
“We’re gonna use that ‘safe campus’ line again. No one really knows what it means, but it works.”
In a statement obtained by the Calgary Herald, the university defended its actions towards the pro-life group.
“The university has advised members of the Campus Pro-Life Group that, given their unwillingness to compromise on their provocative signage, they are not welcome on campus for protests,” the statement read.
“The paramount issues for the university are the needs to uphold its legal right to manage activities on campus, and to ensure the safety and security for the thousands of students, staff, faculty and community members on campus each day.”
“That means turn your signs in so no one can see them, totally defeating the purpose of what you’re doing. Don’t make us tell you again. Because we will. Punks.”
Organizers, not police cancelled Ann Coulter’s UOttawa speech
Despite conflicting reports, Ottawa Police said event organizers, not police, cancelled a speaking engagement at the University of Ottawa Tuesday evening that featured the fiery U.S. pundit Ann Coulter.
After a fire alarm that delayed the event from starting, Ezra Levant, who was set to open for Coulter, told the approximately 200 people who made it inside the auditorium: “2,000 people right now are pressed against the front doors, pressed against the police, refusing to allow people to come in” and, Levant added, police and security had advised them it would be “physically dangerous” for Coulter to speak.
“We did advise Ottawa U security that the venue wasn’t large enough to accommodate all the people who attended,” said Ottawa Police media spokesperson Const. Alain Boucher.
But he said, whether or not the event would take place was up to the organizers. Boucher said Ottawa Police were concerned with “security issues,” which he said could be summed up to the sheer number of people for the size of the venue. He said according to police estimates there were 1,500 people in total, both outside and in the entrance to Marion Hall, where the event was being held.
As for the protesters outside the auditorium, Boucher said, “I wouldn’t call them rioters. They were people there to voice their concerns.”
After Levant and International Free Press Society president Bjorn Larsen finished speaking to the almost half-full auditorium, protesters could be found grouped together on the tarmac holding signs and chanting various call and responses.
Police were guarding the steps to the building, but at the time none of the protesters were within 10 feet of the officers. No arrests or reports of violence were made.
One of the officers estimated the number of demonstrators to be 200.
Coulter herself told Maclean’s that police “eventually said, we’ve got a bad feeling, this isn’t gonna happen. And they shut it down.”
But Boucher, maintains, the decision to cancel the event wasn’t made by police.
Despite backlash the university received after vice-president academic and provost Francois Houle sent a letter to Coulter advising her to “weigh [her] words with respect and civility in mind,” the university insists it never prevented the event from taking place.
A statement issued Wednesday said that the university made no attempts to bar Coulter from appearing on campus. “Last night, the organizers themselves decided at 7:50 p.m. to cancel the event and so informed the University’s Protection Services staff on site. At that time, a crowd of about one thousand people had peacefully gathered at Marion Hall,” the statement said.
President of the university Allan Rock, is quoted: “Freedom of expression is a core value that the University of Ottawa has always promoted.”
The organizers of Coulter’s speech, students from the school’s Campus Conservatives, have not yet responded to requests for comment from Maclean’s.
Coulter is set to speak at the University of Calgary tonight. CTV reported University of Calgary provost Alan Harrison said security will be increased because of what happened in Ottawa.
Canadian media to UOttawa–you suck
The reviews of Ann Coulter’s aborted talk at the University of Ottawa are in, and the message from Canada’s editorial and op/ed writers is, “Dear University of Ottawa, you suck.”
At the Globe and Mail, an editorial argued that “the forces of intimidation won out over public inquiry” and, as such, “It was a defeat of the university’s basic mission to educate and enlighten.” In a similar vein, the National Post editorialists remember the good old days, when “Universities used to fight vigorously for the free expression of ideas, all sorts of ideas, even discomforting and controversial ones.” When Coulter’s talk was canceled, “it was a triumph for thuggery over scholarship.” An Ottawa Citizen editorial, also invoking the word “thuggery,” goes even further and says the incident is just the latest example of “totalitarianism on Canadian campuses.” You can find similar arguments from editorial boards right across the country, from the Montreal Gazette, to the Calgary Herald, to the Vancouver Province. Curiously, the Toronto Star editorial board has so far ignored the issue.
I was beginning to worry at the fact that Ezra Levant’s blog has been silent on the cancellation of Coulter’s speech. Thankfully, he popped up in the Citizen this morning. Focusing his barbs on U of O provost Francois Houle, Levant said Houle’s “bizarre” email to Coulter, warning her she could be subject to criminal charges, was a “starter pistol for radical students.” For Levant, “it was the assessment of police, campus security and Coulter’s own bodyguard that there was too much physical danger to Coulter and the audience to proceed.” However, he stops short of calling the protesters rioters, and, instead uses the awkward phrase “student disrupters.” Levant also accused the U of O of indulging “in some of [the] most offensive conduct in the country on their campus.” Citing Israel Apartheid Week, Levant says “Never has Houle seen fit to issue a warning to his campus’s steady stream of Jew-baiters to govern their tongues.”
Paul Saurette, a professor of political philosophy at the University of Ottawa, sees the rancour over Coulter as an opportunity for a teachable moment. With a healthy dose of John Stuart Mill (an assuredly original source on free speech . . .), Saurette submits Globe readers to a yawning missive on the theoretical implications of free expression in Canada. Here’s a sample: “But we also need to remember that, even in theory, the principle of free speech is not a pure metaphysical law that says we are literally free to say anything we like.” Saurette is hopeful that the Coulter incident will “inspire” Canadians to spare “a few moments to think about the complex nature of free speech and its implications.” I get it, free speech is complicated. . . .
Lawrence Martin offers a somewhat different take. After making the obligatory sops to free expression, he, rightfully I would say, points to several greater threats to liberty that have failed to spark the level of outrage seen in the Coulter case. Stephen Harper has engaged in an “unprecedented” clamping down of freedom since he took office. From trying to censor “coverage of dead bodies returning from Afghanistan,” to putting “out a secret handbook instructing members how to muzzle parliamentary committees,” to thumbing a nose “at high court rulings on Omar Khadr,” the government has turned Ottawa into “Muzzletown.”
Maclean’s On Campus blogger Jeff Rybak has also argued that there are much greater things to worry about than the Coulter saga. After naming several news stories much more worthy of our attention, Rybak laments, “all I can bloody well hear about is this screwball American provocateur who has just about nothing relevant to say to Canadians and nothing informed to say to anyone. Someone please tell me why I’m supposed to care?”
And what has been the net result of the University of Ottawa protests, and Houle’s preemptive letter? The Post‘s Kevin Libin sums it up nicely: “Burnishing the image of Ann Coulter as a teller of dangerous truths may not have been quite the goal of Mr. Houle and the U of O mob, but they have unquestionably done it. In the U.S. media, their school, and this country, have become in the last 48 hours an object of scorn and ridicule, on all sides of the political spectrum, while Ms. Coulter has been cast a free-speech hero. No wonder she seems so cheerful.”
She’s relevant because we are making her relevant
Until this week I knew very little about Ann Coulter and I liked it that way. I was vaguely aware of her as a deliberately provocative, talking-head right-winger. I had the sense that she was good at antagonizing people. That was about it. I had about as much interest in following her “work” as I do in Rush Limbauch’s oeuvre.
This week I can’t hide from her. She’s everywhere. Elections just ended at U of T with the usual accusations and counter-accusations, students at UTSC just approved an unprecedented and massive levy to fund a world-class athletics facility for use in the 2015 Pan-Am Games, wrestling continues unabated over the fate and status of First Nations University of Canada, and all I can bloody well hear about is this screwball American provocateur who has just about nothing relevant to say to Canadians and nothing informed to say to anyone. Someone please tell me why I’m supposed to care?
The freedom of expression angle I get. It’s important to pause once in a while to reflect on the importance of free speech and also on the occasional limits necessarily imposed on it. But honestly, can’t we have that debate in context of someone who is at least relevant? Ezra Levant is a home-grown topic of debate, speaking to and about Canadian issues. Ann Coulter is just a traveling gong show promoting nothing other than her own celebrity. And we let her! We even help her! Every line I’m writing this very moment gives her more of the commodity she’s so successfully selling — her own profile. She doesn’t care if we like her or what we say about her just as long as we keep listening and paying attention. And we sure are doing that.
The fact that this is playing out on our university campuses is no coincidence. Students make fantastic reactionaries. There’s a whole lot of good intentions there but not a lot of direction. So with very little of their own to say, student activists simply argue about what someone else is saying. Coulter opens her mouth and gets the whole thing rolling for us. She says something outrageous, some students argue she shouldn’t be allowed to say it, others defend her right to say it, and all of a sudden that’s the whole debate. Students aren’t saying anything at all–or at least nothing of their own. They’re just arguing over what Coulter said. And that’s just sad.
Maybe I’m bitter because the spat of Ann Coulter articles here are the biggest thing for On Campus in ages. Even the strike at York didn’t attract this much attention or this many comments. Students do have a lot of power and can set the agenda for discussion of post-secondary issues if they want to. But taking on real and complex topics is difficult. Getting all outraged about Coulter–or alternatively, getting all outraged over the suppression of Coulter–is easy. And as long as we keep getting distracted by every circus sideshow that comes to campus, it’s going to remain that much harder to bring attention to the real issues affecting post-secondary students in Canada today.
But hey, in the spirit of giving everyone what they want, here’s a video of Coulter saying outrageous things. Enjoy.
Maclean’s speaks with Ann Coulter
Ezra Levant, who was present at the venue for tonight’s aborted Ann Coulter talk at the University of Ottawa, spotted my quickie weblog entry about the cancelled event and had me chat briefly with the leggy agitator. Coulter tells Maclean’s she never had the chance to move on from a private dinner reception at which she was signing books, meeting local conservatives, and waiting for the all-clear from her bodyguard, who was on the scene at the university. “I was just reviewing my speech. It was a fine little speech, and by the way, I cut it down so we could have an extensive question-and-answer period. I gathered that I was going to have a very exciting crowd tonight.”
The police, Coulter says, “had been warning my bodyguard all day that they were putting up [messages] on Facebook: ‘Bring rocks, bring sticks, you gotta hurt Ann Coulter tonight, don’t let her speak.’ And the cops eventually said, we’ve got a bad feeling, this isn’t gonna happen. And they shut it down.”
Coulter agrees with the suggestion that conservative speakers face greater dangers and nuisances in trying to encounter audiences on university campuses. “I speak at a lot of college campuses and I need a bodyguard… Michael Moore does not; Judy Rebick does not. I think Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could have spoken tonight with less controversy.” She dismisses the possibility, however, that things are ever likely to change. “Unfortunately, conservatives are too polite, so they will never get a taste of their own medicine in that regard, in terms of angry mobs with sticks and rocks.”
She accuses the University of Ottawa’s academic vice-president, Francois Houle, of “inspiring hatred” toward her with his epistolary warning to her that she needed to be conscious of Canada’s criminal prohibitions of hate speech. Indeed, she says she intends, with Levant’s help, to ask police to proceed with exactly the same charges against Houle.
“He described the law to me very carefully—any speech that incites hatred toward someone based on membership in an identifiable group can be criminally prosecuted. Well, before I even set foot in Canada, he had identified me as having criminal proclivities because I belong to an identifiable group: conservatives. Or it could be because I’m a Christian, I’m a Presbyterian. I’m a female conservative. If what Francois Houle did to me is not a hate crime, then nothing is.”
After the event was cancelled by the police, Coulter says she went to her hotel room to relax and had a surreal moment. “I was watching the local news, which was all hockey and Ann Coulter, and some nut came on claiming that he was the organizer behind my speech. [murmurs in background] OK, his name is Craig Chandler. I sent an e-mail to my bodyguard saying Craig Chandler is disinvited from the event in Calgary. He’s on TV claiming to be the organizer and denouncing me!”
UOttawa talk cancelled after protesters raise safety concerns
A controversial event at the University of Ottawa featuring right-wing U.S. pundit Ann Coulter was cancelled due to apparent safety concerns, after 200 students gathered in protest outside.
Lawyer and political activist Ezra Levant, who was slated to speak before Coulter, broke the news to the half-filled auditorium in Marion Hall, after chaos at the registration table and a pulled fire alarm caused delays. “The police and the security have advised that it would be physically dangerous for Ann Coulter to proceed with this event and for others to come in,” Levant said.
Controversy has stemmed from Coulter’s writing, which some critics say promotes hate.
In one prominent column she wrote for the nationalreview.com after September 11, Coulter said: “We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now. We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”
Coulter was scheduled to speak at the Ottawa campus as part of a three-stop Canadian tour that started at the University of Western Ontario on Monday and ends at the University of Calgary on Thursday. The events were organized by the International Free Press Society in partnership with student Conservative groups on each campus.
Students in Ottawa lined up more than an hour before the event was set to start and the entrance to the auditorium quickly filled as the crowd attempted to push and bargain their way past the volunteers who were trying to verify who had registered in advance.
According to volunteers, only those on their lists who had confirmed registration would be let into the auditorium.
Inside, Levant cited the letter sent to Coulter by the University of Ottawa vice-president academic and provost Francois Houle, that he said concealed a “veiled threat” and was the source of controversy leading up to Coulter’s arrival in Canada.
In his letter, of which a copy was obtained by the National Post, Houle urged Coulter to act with “restraint” and warned her Canadian laws for freedom of speech differ from those in the United States. He advised that before arriving at the University of Ottawa campus Coulter should “educate [her]self as to what is acceptable in Canada” and to “weigh [her] words with respect and civility in mind.”
That message was echoed by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, who Levant said, took their cue from the administration. The SFUO opposed Coulter’s arrival on campus, and Levant said ripped down posters advertising the event.
“Francois Houle got his wish,” Levant said. “He telegraphed to the community that the University of Ottawa is not a place for free debate like Western Ontario.” Levant’s speech was met by shouts of “Shame!” and “We want Ann!” from the raucous crowd.
Bjorn Larsen, the president of the International Free Press Society, the group who organized Coulter’s speaking tour, expressed his disappointment at having to cancel the event. “I promise you that we will try to bring Ann Coulter back,” Larsen said, which received loud applause from the audience, but was drowned out by protesters in the back who chanted “Ann go home!”
“It is an embarrassing day for the University of Ottawa and their student body,” Levant said. But protesters outside were happy to see the event cancelled. Levant said there were “2,000 intimidating protesters pressing against police,” but officers confirmed there was closer to 200 demonstrators.
Those who had gathered broke out in chants of: “Whose campus? Our campus!” after the event was cancelled, as police barred the way to the front doors of the building. A few pro-Coulter supporters came around to the front of the building and engaged in impromptu and heated debate with the protesters.
One student held a sign that read: “Free speech stops at hate speech.”
“We came together because we’re angry about the fact that Ann Coulter’s views risked being exposed on our campus,” said University of Ottawa student Mike Fancie. “The precedent that Ann Coulter set by publicly . . . insulting a Muslim student at the University of Western last night shows that she had no intention of being civil and no intention of avoiding attacks on minorities last night.”
During her speech to a crowd of 800 at the University of Western Ontario Monday night, Coulter told Muslim student Fatima Al-Dhaher to “take a camel” as an alternative to flying, the National Post reported. Coulter has said previously that Muslims should be banned from airplanes and instead use “flying carpets.” Al-Dhaher had asked Coulter how she was expected to travel, since she didn’t own a flying carpet.
Coulter also told the UWO crowd that the University of Ottawa provost’s letter has made her a victim of “hate crime” and that she would be taking it up with the Human Rights Commission.
SFUO president Seamus Wolfe said earlier in the day that he thought the provost’s letter to Coulter was “reasonable.” Wolfe said he had heard from a number of students over the past few days who were outraged about Coulter’s arrival at the university.
“Anyone that consistently promotes hatred of violence towards any individual or group of people should not be permitted to use a public institution, like a university, as a soapbox for that hatred and promotion of violence,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe was outside the building after the announcement that the event was cancelled. “I’m very happy that the students have spoken loud and clear, and that hate speech is not allowed at the University of Ottawa,” he said.
Coulter has appeared as a political and legal commentator on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.
This story has been updated.
Protest causes safety concerns
A public speaking event by conservative commentator Ann Coulter has been cancelled after a protest prompted security concerns.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, several hundred protesters gathered outside Marion Hall at the University of Ottawa to protest Coulter’s speech. The event was cancelled at approximately 8:15 p.m., as security officials cited concerns for “public safety.”
Before Coulter arrived in Ottawa, she was warned by Francois Houle, vice-president academic and provost at the U of O, that she should to review Canada’s hate speech laws prior to giving her address. The student union at the university had also voiced objection to Coulter’s visit.
Coulter responded in an email to the Ottawa Citizen, saying Houle’s warning promoted “hatred” and “violence” against conservatives.
For our complete on the ground coverage, click here.
And she still hasn’t been arrested.
Ann Coulter has responded to the University of Ottawa’s provost Francois Houle suggestion that she choose her words carefully, unless she wants to wind up with criminal charges. Coulter is scheduled to speak at the University of Ottawa this evening. In an email to the Ottawa Citizen, Coulter says that Houle is promoting “hatred” and “violence” against people with conservative views. She also told the newspaper that she would like to file a human rights complaint. Coulter spoke at the University of Western Ontario Monday evening, and will also be speaking at the University of Calgary this week.
As the Citizen reported:
“Now that the provost has instructed me on the criminal speech laws he apparently believes I have a proclivity (to break), despite knowing nothing about my speech, I see that he is guilty of promoting hatred against an identifiable group: conservatives,” Coulter wrote in an e-mail on Monday.
The Citizen had requested a telephone interview with Coulter. Instead, the newspaper received the e-mail from the author.
She questioned whether every speaker booked at the university received a similar warning or just the conservative ones.
“The provost simply believes and is publicizing his belief that conservatives are more likely to commit hate crimes in their speeches. Not only does this promote hatred against conservatives, but it promotes violence against conservatives,” Coulter wrote.
She added she would ask the human rights commission to investigate, but didn’t specify which one.
“I was hoping for a fruit basket upon my arrival in Canada, not a threat to criminally prosecute me,” Coulter said.
After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Coulter notoriously wrote of Muslim countries, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.” She has also suggested that Muslims use “flying carpets,” as opposed to airplanes.
At Coulter’s University of Western Ontario talk, a Muslim student challenged her on her previous comments. The student said, as reported by the Sun media chain, “As a 17-year-old student of this university, Muslim, should I be converted to Christianity? Second of all, since I don’t have a magic carpet, what other modes do you suggest.” To which Coulter responded, “take a camel.”
UOttawa’s provost should educate himself on Canada’s hate speech laws.
It isn’t just the student union that is having a fit over Ann Coulter’s planned visit to the University of Ottawa. Francois Houle, vice-president academic and provost at the U of O, has sent Coulter an email warning her to watch her mouth, lest she find herself behind bars.
Coulter has posted the email online, which reads:
I would, however, like to inform you, or perhaps remind you, that our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or “free speech”) in a manner that is somewhat different than the approach taken in the United States. I therefore encourage you to educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before your planned visit here.
You will realize that Canadian law puts reasonable limits on the freedom of expression. For example, promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges. Outside of the criminal realm, Canadian defamation laws also limit freedom of expression and may differ somewhat from those to which you are accustomed. I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind.
There is little question that Coulter has written many things considered provocative, rude and inflammatory. For a few examples see here and here. But has she ever said anything criminal? Something so offensive that it would actually attract the attention of the police? Our criminal hate-speech provisions no doubt require an arbitrary line be drawn between what is acceptable and what is not. But the way the law has evolved is that it has become reserved for the most egregious and vile offences, like this case.
When Section 319 of the criminal code, the hate speech provisions, was subject to a Charter challenge and reviewed by the Supreme Court some two decades ago, it survived only because the judges reasoned that, as written, it should not have an overly broad interpretation, and that only the most extreme cases should be subject to prosecution. Such cases typically include a sustained effort by the accused to willfully promote hatred over a period of time, and, in such a way that there would be no redeemable political speech. Hate speech has to be near fully void of relevant comment on issues of public interest. In fact this is written right into the criminal code and anyone charged with promoting hatred has recourse to several defences. The defences include truth, commenting on religious topics, making comments that stem from religious beliefs, and making comments that are on a topic of public interest.
Even if Coulter repeated every inflammatory thing she ever wrote during her visit in Canada, she likely still wouldn’t be charged. And, if she was, she would have several legal defences at her disposal.
Provost Houle wants Coulter to educate herself on our hate speech laws, I would suggest he take his own advice.
University of Ottawa student union president wants to ban controversial writer and speaker from campus
“Fickle Students for Selective Free Speech?”
Yes, that’ll do nicely. After all, I think it’s about time we coin some sort of phrase to describe the exasperating irresolution of student leaders on the issue.
This week, it’s Ann Coulter, the notoriously controversial writer/speaker/columnist known for her right-wing opinions and provocative comments. Coulter is scheduled to speak at the University of Western Ontario Today and University of Calgary Thursday, but it’s Tomorrow’s visit to the University of Ottawa that has spawned a “Ban Coulter from Campus” Facebook group and disdain from SFUO president Seamus Wolfe.
“The federation does not support Ann Coulter speaking on our campus,” Wolfe told the Ottawa Citizen. “We’re trying to work with the administration to see if we can ask her to do her speaking event somewhere else.”
That’s not all. According to the Ottawa Citizen article, Wolfe has prohibited posters advertising the event from going up in the University Centre building.
It seems obvious to me that these are counter-productive resistance tactics. Not liking Ann Coulter—that, I get. But trying to keep her off campus? I’ll need a little help with that one.
If anything, U of O students should consider themselves lucky; they have home court advantage, strength in numbers (or so it seems, at least, from Wolfe’s comments) and the opportunity to challenge Coulter directly during a scheduled Q&A after her speech.
Censorship is nothing but a soggy band-aid. Why cover up contentious ideology when you can potentially reason it down to irrelevance?
If you really think Coulter spews ridiculous, insulting dribble, let her hang herself with her own words. It will be a lot more effective than putting tape over her mouth and insisting that she would have been offensive.
In a 2005 editorial, Gilles Marchildon, executive director of Egale Canada, a national LGBT lobby group, summed up this view of censorship very succinctly. Referring to a homophobic letter printed in an Alberta newspaper by Pastor Stephen Boissoin in 2002, Marchildon writes:
While it is difficult to support Boissoin’s right to spew his misguided and vitriolic thoughts, support his right, we must.
If Boissoin was no longer able to share his views, then who might be next in also having their freedom of expression limited. Traditionally, the LGBT community’s freedom has been repressed by society and its laws.
Plus, it is far better that Boissoin expose his views than have them pushed underground. Under the glaring light of public scrutiny, his ideas will most likely wither and die.
Coulter’s views, too, should face the glaring light of public scrutiny. And our universities are just the places to house the debate. That is, unless our student nannies get in the way.