Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ann Coulter, Freedom and the University of Ottawa

It all started with a letter:
Dear Ms. Coulter,
I understand that you have been invited by University of Ottawa Campus Conservatives to speak at the University of Ottawa this coming Tuesday. We are, of course, always delighted to welcome speakers on our campus and hope that they will contribute positively to the meaningful exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of a great university campus. We have a great respect for freedom of expression in Canada, as well as on our campus, and view it as a fundamental freedom, as recognized by our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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 a strong tradition in Canada, including at this University, of restraint, respect and consideration in expressing even provocative and controversial opinions and urge you to respect that Canadian tradition while on our campus. Hopefully, you will understand and agree that what may, at first glance, seem like unnecessary restrictions to freedom of expression do, in fact, lead not only to a more civilized discussion, but to a more meaningful, reasoned and intelligent one as well.
I hope you will enjoy your stay in our beautiful country, city and campus.


François Houle
Vice-recteur aux études / Vice-President Academic and Provost
 Université d’Ottawa / University of Ottawa
550, rue Cumberland Street
Ottawa (ON) K1N 6N5
 téléphone / telephone : 613 562-5737 
télécopieur / fax : 613 562-5103

The Provost had some issues with Ms Coulter coming to his university and spewing her usual right wing rant.

Let's talk about opinion: I am not a fan of Ann Coulter. I have read one of her books but I found it so full of full of that I can't bring myself to read any more of her trite. The problem I have with her, besides being a right wing whack job is that she uses the fears of people and exploits them. She uses the tools demagogues have used throughout history and she's really not that profound a speaker. A few minutes listening to her, or reading her, get all the information you want.

Then the University of Ottawa decides to get involved and then she becomes a martyr of free speech, free expression and freedom as a whole. Even though she would be glad to take away personal liberty and freedom from people she viewed to be not like her. That includes Moslems, Liberals, Immigrants and any one who disagrees with her.

She responded to the Provost:
"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 to the Ottawa Citizen on Monday. The Citizen had requested a telephone interview with Coulter but instead received the e-mail from the author.

She questioned whether every speaker booked at the university receives 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,"

Now she is going to wrap herself as a victim of political correctness and overweening government censorship of Conservatives such as herself. She will say the problem is the fact she is a CONSERVATIVE. That may be the reason but even is she is a right wing nut bar, she should be allowed to speak. Those that don't want to hear her message have the freedom to be some place else on the time she plays. As well, they have the right to stand outside of the meeting place and complain about her words and opinions, that too is called 'freedom of expression'. Now, pulling the fire alarm is an act of vandalism and that should be denounced. That was wrong. She should be allowed to speak because when she does people will recognize her as the vapid lunatic she truly is.

The idea that she spews material that could be considered 'hate crime', is not true. As many have pointed out, while Canada does have laws against hate crimes, the bar as articulated by the Supreme Court is so high that only the most egregious speeches and words fall under that definition.

Now she is the poster girl of oppression. She will milk this for all its worth. Just what we need. She will comment on this again and again. She will tell people what sort of country Canada is, well in some regards she will be correct.

In fact its already started:
Since I arrived in Canada, I've been denounced on the floor of Parliament... My posters have been banned. I've been accused of committing a crime in a speech that I have not yet given. I was banned by the student council -- so welcome to Canada!" Coulter lamented.

"I would like to know when this sort of violence, this sort of protest, has been inflicted upon a Muslim -- who appear to be, from what I've read of the human rights complaints, the only protected group in Canada," she said.

"I think I'll give my speech tomorrow night (in Calgary) in a burqa. That will protect me."

Witty isn't she. I must say that the best way to respond to Ms Coulter and those who would shut her up is the words of Evelyn Beatrice Hall:
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,'

To say that does not mean you agree with her opinion, but rather you believe she has the right to express them. The thing is, when she speaks, she reveals her ignorance. She needs to speak early and often.

But that's my opinion.

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