“You will realize that Canadian law puts reasonable limits on the freedom of expression, wrote Houle to Coulter*, according to the National Post, which reprinted the letter. “For example, promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges.”
“Mr. Houle’s conduct has been denounced as condescending, a violation of freedom of expression and even intellectual cowardice,” writes Robert Sibley of Canwest News Service on March 26.
“Since the Coulter cancellation, the University of Ottawa has been widely mocked in the Canadian and U.S. media as a bastion of small minds.”
However, some students at the University of Ottawa chose to deny Coulter the ability to speak altogether.
“Ms. Coulter, an often controversial commentator, cancelled a speaking engagement at the University of Ottawa earlier this week because of a mob of shouting students denouncing her presence,” writes Sibley.
Coulter’s three-part speech tour was, ironically, entitled “Political Correctness, Media Bias and Freedom of Speech,” according to Casey Curlin and Victor Morton at the Washington Times.
“Before the speech, organized by the International Free Press Society Canada and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, the venue was picketed by about 1,000 yelling demonstrators, and student Web pages had been calling for violence against Miss Coulter,” reported Morton on March 25. “On Tuesday night, she was advised by security that her safety could not be guaranteed.”
“Mr. Levant has agreed ‘to be Ann’s lawyer’ in bringing a hate-speech claim against Mr. Houle, saying his letter helped create a threatening environment against Miss Coulter.”
According to this embedded Associated Press video covering the protest, one female protestor at the University of Iowa argued that “[We] don’t believe that Ann Coulter is here to exercise her freedom to expression. We believe that she is indeed exercising hate speech…”
A smaller protest also met Coulter at the University of Calgary. Sibley reported that “…last night [March 25] about 40 protesters stood gathered outside the entrance to the Red and White Club at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium waving homemade signs and chanting ‘Ann Coulter go home’ and ‘free speech not hate speech,’ while about 900 students and ticketholders [sic] filed in quietly and orderly.”
Other chants, which can be heard in this video, include “Human Rights, Yes, Racism, No” and “Racist, Sexist, Anti-gay, Ann Coulter Go Away,” and “Ann Coulter, We Know You, Hitler Was a Bigot Too.”
Perhaps student protesters in Canada could take a cue from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), which sent a letter to Houle condemning his behavior as antithetical to academic freedom. “We are deeply disturbed by your correspondence with Ann Coulter regarding her speaking engagement at the University of Ottawa tomorrow,” states the letter. “Your admonishing her about speech rights in Canada raises serious questions about the University of Ottawa’s respect for freedom of expression and academic freedom.”
It continues, stating that “Ms. Coulter certainly does raise disturbing questions and provocative challenges.”
“While many of us profoundly disagree with her, a university should welcome controversial speakers and vigorous debate, not seek to restrict discourse or speakers.”
According to Sibley, CAUT “…represents more than 67,000 academic and general staff at colleges and universities across Canada.”
*Full Disclosure: AIA’s Executive Director, Malcolm A. Kline, worked with Ann Coulter at the National Journalism Center.
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.