Shame on Ottawa

I’ve mentioned a few times my dislike of protests in this part of the world, in this day and age. Well, this week I felt completely embarrassed by Ottawa and the bullies who kept a guest speaker from the US from speaking .

Of course most sane people know that Ann Coulter spews a lot of rubbish – nasty, stupid, racist stuff. Most of us have no interest in hearing what she has to say and probably wish she would just shut up already.

However, there seem to be other people in this country who do want to hear her speak – whether because they agree with her views or whether they want to go and argue with her. And so, several universities in Canada have invited Ann Coulter to come and talk and a lot of students and other citizens of this country are attending the events.

Please note:  she did not sneak into the country and try to organize secret cabals to convert friendly, liberal Canadians to facism. She was invited.

Ottawa didn’t seem to get that. First some patronizing prig (Francois Houle, Vice-President Academic and Provost, University of Ottawa) takes it upon himself to send Ann Coulter a stern letter bringing to her attention Canada’s “freedom of speech” laws which “may differ somewhat from those to which you are accustomed.”

If that’s not embarrassing enough, approximately 2,000 angry, “threatening” protesters showed up before the event and conducted themselves in such a way that Ann Coulter’s appearance had to be cancelled to protect her safety.

These people have not only taken away Ann Coulter’s right to freedom of speech, but more importantly, they’ve also taken away the rights of all the people who wanted to hear her speak.

Protesters claim Ann Coulter doesn’t practice freedom of speech; that she just disseminates messages of hate. Perhaps, but surely that should have been decided after she spoke and by the Human Rights Commission – not by a mob of thugs or by a university provost.

Are we so addle-minded that we’re afraid to allow someone with radical or even distasteful views express them publicly? Are we incapable of doing battle with her on equal terms in the forum that was set up for this purpose? Does freedom of speech in Canada mean saying only kind, polite things that must not, under any circumstance, offend anyone at all?

Ann Coulter has filed a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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43 responses to “Shame on Ottawa

  1. Well, I read Alan Rock’s rebuttal here. He said it was organizers that canceled the talks not U of O officials or police (as some claim.) As well, it sounds like there was nowhere near 2000 people protesting, one reporter said no more than say 200. If this is true, then it’s a massive publicity stunt.

  2. I didn’t know who Ann Coulter was until now. I had to go do some reading before I was able to understand your post.

    I must agree with you, the protest which prevented Ann Coulter from speaking in Ottawa would be offensive to any Canadian who truly understands what it means to be a Canadian.

    The protesters appear to have adopted a mob rule, might makes right, approach.

    I doubt very much the protesters thought about the sacrifices made by Canadians around the world in the last 100 years to preserve and protect the freedom we enjoy every day.

    The same freedom allows a mob of angry protesters to gather and create a physical safety issue for a person visiting Ottawa to attend a speaking engagement.

  3. I’ve also heard from various reports that the number of protesters was far less than 2000. That said, I agree that Houle’s letter set the tone and that even if this was a publicity stunt it was probably a response to his letter.

    Much as I hate Ann Coulter’s views, I’d rather she’d been able to speak. She would have received less publicity that way.

    She can say what she wants…I just don’t want to listen to her.

  4. I will only make one quick comment. I honestly think the best thing to do with these people is to ignore them.

    We don’t want our choices about what to hear determined by a mob of angry students.

  5. I completely agree with your points, but I completely loathe that right-winged mean-spirited racist.

    *This* is what they call, in the parlance, a bugaboo.

  6. I completely agree with you, but as a comfortably middle-class white woman from a Catholic upbringing. I’m not Jewish, Muslim, or of any other group that she’s offended with her oppressive views. If I was, I’d probably be furious she was invited at all and very offended anyone would stick up for her. I would likely be protesting her visit with zeal and cheering that she was turned away at the last minute (and I was pretty happy she didn’t speak, to be honest, regardless of the circumstances).

    Now don’t get me wrong, here. I’m a free speech believer to the core. As much as it kills me to hear a racist, fascist pretty hate machine spew her views around, I believe in her right to do so.

    But I say this from a place of relative safety as a woman of privilege (white, middle class, Catholic, etc). Because, other than her view that women voters are ruining the US by electing democrats and therefore probably shouldn’t have the vote at all, I’m not someone directly affected by what she says. So it’s easier for me to look at the free speech issue instead of the hatred issue, I guess.

    I see both sides on this, I really do.

  7. I see both sides too. But ultimately I think we played right into her hand. Her gimmick is to be outrageous and stir up controversy and make people demand that she be silenced. She got exactly what she wanted without having to do anything. She got way more publicity this way than if we’d just ignored her.

  8. One of the great problems with a belief in freedom of speech is that it is only ever tested when you have someone considered outrageous. We should never forget that through history mobs have always been used to stifle discussion by those espousing unpopular ideas and when discussion is stifled violence always follows.
    he should have been permitted to speak and then been refuted by the oh so highly motivated Francois Houle.

  9. First off – I agree with Zoom.

    Second off, there were not NEARLY 200 protesters there and all they were doing was singing and standing in an orderly line. There are many videos of the ‘protest’ online and none of them (that I have seen anyhow) show an unruly threatening mob.

    Third off, her people canceled the event. UOttawa protection staff has canceled events in the past that seemed like they would get out of hand and they did not do so in this case. It was better for her publicity-wise to cancel and have all this fall out than to just speak.

  10. But what is a protest other than a prime example of people demonstrating *their* free speech rights?

    I’m with Maven on this one. I can see both sides. And Maven, here area a couple of other statements that she made that might resonate with you on the basis that you are Canadian.

    “They better hope the United States doesn’t roll over one night and crush them. They are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent.”
    ********
    COULTER: We could have taken them [Canada] over so easily.

    [ALAN] COLMES: We could have taken them over? Is that what you want?

    COULTER: Yes, but no. All I want is the western portion, the ski areas, the cowboys, and the right-wingers.
    *****
    ELLIS HENICAN [Newsday columnist]: We share a lot of culture and a lot of interests. Why do we want to have to ridicule them and be deeply offended if they disagree with us?

    COULTER: Because they speak French.

    COLMES: There’s something else I want to point out about the French. Is it’s fashionable again on your side to denounce the French.

    COULTER: We like the English-speaking Canadians.

    *******************

    Can someone tell me why she was invited in the first place? Were there not more serious people on the conservative side of the spectrum that could have been invited? That could have carried on respectful discourse and not tell a student at Western wearing a hijab that she shouldn’t be allowed to fly and should “take a camel” instead? A Canadian conservative pundit perhaps? We do have them, apparently, you know, in the ski areas out west. Near the cowboys.

  11. I think both Coulter and face veils are better off ignored. And, yes, I suspect the non appearance was a publicity stunt. How could she resist? What a great chance to Canada bash.
    I am so glad she is not a native son.

  12. We might have fought for freedom of speech, but we’ve also fought for freedom from hate speech. I guess it’s just a question of which you value more. Fortunately in my view, Canadian laws favour the latter.

    But we should probably stop talking about this person – she’s a bad actor with a pathetic live show. And I’m quite certain she was going to enrich the academic experience at Ottawa U!

    On the topic of protests — it must be nice to be in a position where you have no need for such things! Not everyone is so lucky, and a peaceful gathering is a very healthy part of our democratic system. I think there are a lot of example of how “protests” have been effective. For instance, when you hear about a controversial meeting or what have you, it’s always followed by “and 1000s of people gathered to oppose …”, and NEVER “1000s of letters were written”, or petitions signed, etc. History will remember the public events, and I think we’ll already be characterized a docile generation as it is.

  13. Haha – that should have read: “I’m quite certain she was not going to enrich…” Freudian slip?! 🙂

  14. @Alison: Why do her comments about Canada not surprise me in the least? She really is a piece of work. A laughable piece of work.

    Incidentally, I just want to clarify that I’m not trying to sound grandiose by saying I come from ‘a place of privilege’. I’m just stating the unfortunate obvious. As a predominately white woman with financial security in this society, I’m not usually hated on like some ethnic and minority groups many of my friends belong to. I can join a fight I believe in and focus on that because I’m not being dragged into one against my will. Ann Coulter comes from a similar place, except she’s also skinny and blond, so she can probably get away with a lot more than me, the chubby redhead.

    I talked to my husband about this and he had an interesting thought. He said we get this free speech thing all wrong. People have the right to speak their minds without government interference, but that doesn’t mean private establishments aren’t allowed to decide who can and can’t speak within their walls. And personally, if I were paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend a university, I wouldn’t appreciate having someone invited to speak at it who has no respect for me as a human being. Ms. Coulter being invited to U of O was a slap in the face to nearly every student and faculty member.

  15. The principle of free speech is an important one but sometimes we also need to silence hatred. Having said that I have confidence that most Canadians are mature and smart enough to be unswayed by this woman’s words which reflects neither maturity or wisdom. They should let her speak and let her own words shut people’s ears.

  16. Torn on this one. Yes, I believe in a right to free speech. In specific, considering some of the crap that I blog and get away with, I find the principle to be a fine and useful thing.

    That said, both Coulter and her fellow-traveller (heh…) on the tour, Ezra Levant, are well-practiced past masters at spewing rubbish to manipulate people’s reactions, and using those reactions to game the system like crazy. It’s their shtick.

    So I’m kinda left pondering the possibility that the perhaps only reasonable reaction, when she craps on people, is for them to skip the civilities and just crap back. I mean, she was gonna do it anyway. And from what I’ve seen, rather than debating ideas on their intellectual merit, when anybody tries to engage on that level she merely piles on more abuse.

    It’s a toughie. She doesn’t really seem to feel bound by rules of polite debate. Others expect to, which gives her a type of power over them, in the same sense that sociopaths and psychopaths have power over normal people. Normal types expect not to be blindsided, whereas ‘paths are all about using blindsiding to manipulate everybody around ’em…

    That said, to anybody who paid ten bux to listen to the woman: What in hell possessed you?

  17. I think the fellow who sent the initial letter was well within his rights to do so. However, I don’t agree with the protesters. I say, let her talk and hang herself with her hateful words. Arrest her if she fall afoul of your laws, but let her speak.

  18. I don’t think this is a tough one at all. If you don’t have enough common sense to ignore someone you find offensive or you take offense at what is obviously an attempt at humor, then surely you’re bound to want to stomp on someone’s right to free speech at some point. She was invited, nobody was forced to attend. If you don’t like what she has to say, the simplest thing to do is not buy a ticket and skip the event. Or, here’s an idea… go to the event, find out if she actually says anything offensive, then blog about it. So something proactive. This was a little like arresting somebody before they committed a crime.

  19. Well, the organizers of the event were those who cancelled it, not the University, and certainly not a mob of thugs. That’s pretty ridiculous, and a gross distortion of fact.

    Houle’s letter wasn’t stern, it was informative. Ann Coulter is the type of person who needs to be reminded that you don’t go into someone’s house as a guest and spit on the carpet. If she were engaging students in academic debate, that would be one thing – but that’s not her shtick. Her shtick is propagating hate, and she is well known for it. There was nothing threatening about the letter – you can’t “implicitly” threaten someone – you either do, or you don’t. I actually found the letter to be quite welcoming, and certainly professional. Freedom of expression is a right. Expression of hate is a crime. That’s all it said.

    I don’t think it was out of the realm of possibility that Coulter would cross that line (if history tells us anything), so a professional reminder is something she should be thanking her lucky stars to have received. Instead, she’s using it for publicity. And people are writing articles and blogs about it. So one point for Ann!

    Coulter’s brand of racism is currently accepted and it makes me absolutely sick. And that people are willing to back it up by defending her right to “free speech” makes me even more sick.

  20. All this attention is precisely what Coulter was hoping for. It would have been so much better for her to give a little talk to some people who already agree with her (if that’s possible).

    She must be annoyed at having lost the spotlight for saying mad things and getting the media into a froth to Sarah Palin. Indirectly, Ottawa U and the protesters have given Coulter a bit of a boost.

  21. I watched a lot of video on this and there wasn’t an angry threatening mob. It was a peaceful protest. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with peaceful protests of what constitutes hate speech.

    She created this uproar as a publicity stunt and honestly, given our hate crime laws and the enforcability of them I don’t think Houle’s letter was out of line.

    I think pretending all she is is a pundit is out of line.

  22. If people just ignored her, she would have much less impact. As it is, she garnered a ton of free publicity. Seems like people played right into her hands.

    And once again, you generated a great discussion. Kudos.

  23. Bah! Good riddance to her! While she was here, she told some Muslim student to “ride a camel” so she obviously does spout hate speech!

    Coulter is a cancer and we don’t need her and her insane, hateful bullshit in this country.

    Freedom of speech is one thing, encouraging people to discriminate against others is another!

  24. You know I have often wondered why the U.S. insists on invading countries that are so far away when we can just bus in the troops to Canada…I mean we do get most of our oil from you and your beer is far superior to ours. Well we missed our chance at that with Bush.

    Ann Coulter…as victim…pretty surreal.

    Send us your beer and oil or we send her back.

  25. yay, more attention for an attention grabbing twit. i feel like we have played right into her evil little hands and somehow have made her current.

  26. Nat – Ah, conflicting reports. So she was invited and then she was cancelled at the last minutes because of something that happened. I guess that much everyone agrees on.

    OC Driver – I can’t argue with that.

    Mary Lynn – 200 or 2000 – the numbers aren’t as important as what they did. I agree that we’re all giving her way too much air time by staging all these stunts. Let her say her piece if we’re going to invite her and then send her on her way.

    Justin – I hope we don’t, but that seems to have been what happened.

    Ellie – You’ll get no arguments here about the fact that the woman spouts shite.

    Maven – The fact is someone thought she was worth inviting up here to give a talk for whatever reason. Not everything we listen to, watch or read has to be pure and noble. Sometimes it’s good to test our freedoms and values like this…maybe. In any case I don’t want an angry mob deciding who I can and cannot listen to.

    Zoom – Very true. She’s laughing her ass off at Ottawa’s posturing and outrage. Like OC Driver guy said – I bet a lot of Canadians had never even heard of her before this.

    Dave1949 – I’m pretty sure she knows exactly what she can and cannot say to stay on the right side of the law (far right). And exactly how far she can push people to get maximum exposure for her craziness. If we’d just quietly let her give her talk – without a lot of media talk afterwards or protests beforehand – and send her back from whence she came, many Canadians would still be totally ignorant of who Ann Coulter is.

    Tiana – Interesting.

    Alison – I wonder the same thing – why invite this into the country at all? She has nothing intelligent to say whatsoever. And protest is fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with other people’s rights.

    Mary – It makes for good media, I guess. She’s gotten a lot of airplay in the last few days.

    Heather – If she is promoting hate by definition of our Human Rights Commission then she should never have been invited in the first place. Or, if she was invited and began to speak in such a way that violated human rights then she should be shut down at that point – not before she’s even said anything based on what a few people believe she might say because that’s the sort of stuff she says. I agree protests have been very effective in places and at times when human rights were violated and it was the best recourse. We are very lucky to be living in a country and at a time where that is not necessary. I object mainly to a few people making the decision for everyone else not to let this woman speak.

    Maven – I have no idea why she was invited. Was it a secret invitation? Did no one know about this until this week? I don’t understand the entire thing. I guess the thing about a university is the “universe” part and exposure to everything so that young minds learn how to make judgments and define stupidity from intelligent thought. I think we do higher learning a disservice if it’s only going to be about a certain level of elitist material.

    LGS – Well said my squirrely friend.

    Coyote – I guess it’s like paying ten bucks to watch “Dude Where’s My Car”. Part of the fun of free speech and Ashton Kutcher is that it’s not up to any small or even larger segment of the population to decide for everyone else what should be allowed to exist and what isn’t (within legal bounds, of course). But you’re quite right about the fact that there is no room for debate with this woman from what I’ve heard. It’s more of a freak-show element to listen to her maybe. Some people like that.

    Dr. Monkey – Sure the guy was within his right to send that letter, but he just made himself look like an ass. As if Ann Coulter isn’t perfectly aware of what she can and cannot get away within Canada.

    Charlene – Quite right. Do you think she’s actually a comedian then? I was wondering the same thing. Is she taking over the Howard Stern circuit or something maybe?

    Meagan – I think she was invited with the full knowledge of what her schtick is. And I think Ann Coulter is well aware of what she can say up here without getting arrested. I apologize if my facts are distorted, I was just going by the various things I read in the media. And I’m by no stretch of the imagination defending Ann Coulter. I think she’s ridiculous and nasty and should never have been invited in the first place, but since she was and she’s not violating any laws then she has as much right to speak as anyone else. Unfortunately.

    Milan – You’re so right. Ottawa U played right into her hands.

    Mudmama – Like I said to Meagan, Houle just made a fool of himself. Everyone knew what Ann Coulter was when they invited her. Ann Coulter knows what she can and cannot do without some academic spelling it out for her. But you’re right, there’s nothing wrong with peaceful protest.

    Jazz – The media was already going crazy about the stuff she said in London. I don’t even know what her exact job is and how she’s parlayed this stupidity into lots of money for herself.

    Pauline – Telling someone to go ride a camel is stupid and racist, but not hate speech per se. If she had been disseminating hate in London, she would have been arrested for it. I have no idea why we’d even invite her up here to begin with. She has nothing intelligent to contribute. Maybe she’s considered some bizarre form of entertainment?

    Julia – Thanks

    Heather – I, too would like to know what really happened.

    Cedar – Ya, no one said she was the victim. Freedom of speech was the victim and the stupid people who want to hear Ann Coulter speak are victims.

    Meanie – Ya, we’re not used to dealing with stuff like this.

    Julie – I don’t get that part at all either.

  27. “Coulter’s brand of racism is currently accepted and it makes me absolutely sick. And that people are willing to back it up by defending her right to “free speech” makes me even more sick.”

    A-freakin-men. So, if we let her speak, we are saying hey, that kind of hatred is alright to spew out of your misinformed and ignorant mouth? I think not.
    I am proud of the protesters, although from the sounds of it, it wasn’t even them who “had it shut down”, either way..I am PROUD we didn’t allow this “free speech” *cough* racism to be spoken here. I am proud to be a Canadian!
    Down with right-winged neocons from the states!

  28. I’m with Lone Grey Squirrel and Jazz on this one. It’s sickening that this has garnered so much attention for her. On the other hand, I am secretly pleased that she was shut down. I guess I’m a secret Fascist?

  29. Wow am I gonna be standing alone here! LOL!
    I’d love to hear her speak. She’s a gadfly and I find a lot of humour in what she says.

  30. Raggedy Andie – No, we’re saying that she may be a stupidity-spouting racist, but in a free, democratic society we must defend the right of every idiot to be allowed to speak their mind as long as they’re not inciting violence and hatred.

    Geewits – I understand that viewpoint. Problem is that she wasn’t really shut down. The fact that she didn’t get to make her little speech only garnered her more attention and garnered Ottawa and Canadians in general entirely the wrong kind of attention

    Lebowski – Well, you certainly can’t find anything intelligent in what she says, so I guess humour is one way of looking at it.

    Brett – Now, you see you would not be allowed to say something like that in public, because that is considered inciting violence and hatred

  31. She wasn’t invited to speak by the University, but by a small group at the University with about 80-100 conservative members. (Out of a student-staff-faculty population – of which I am a member – that I’m sure nears 30,000. Kind of small peanuts, non?)

    So sure as heck those who did not invite her, nor support her invitation should be right there saying so.

    I’m sad that she didn’t speak. I’m sad that the students who were protesting the event did not get the opportunity to engage in civil debate with her (not that I expect that would have happened anyway). And I’m sad that when she slipped up – because if telling a 17 year old student of the institution at which you are speaking to “take a camel” isn’t slipping up, then I don’t know what is – then she did not take the opportunity to test said hate speech laws.

    If she were saying the deplorable things that she is saying about Muslims about any other minority group? But no… because in the United States, it is currently in vogue among a segment of the population to vomit that kind of racism. I wish that our Campus Conservatives were better than that, but they obviously aren’t or they would never have extended the invitation.

    Finding humour in it isn’t an excuse either. Jokes about apartheid or the holocaust aren’t funny, are they? Why is this any different?

  32. I think Coulter could be what Sufism calls a Malamatiyya, a follower of the path of blame. She and others like her, Ezra Levant for instance, in essence have become agitators for the Left (by choice or perhaps by accident), by going ‘deep cover’ and acting as lightning rods for the far Right. And by taking money from people who have too much of it already, the deep pockets who have benefited most from ultra-Conservatism (as we have come to know it, anyway). In this way she could be thought of as a saint of sorts…

  33. Meagan – You’ll get no arguments from me that this woman is nasty and pathetic and shouldn’t be given as much as a forum as she suddenly is being given in Canada. I understand she’s pretty much washed up in the US since everyone is bored of her antics already. I guess we’re a fresh new, outrageable market to exploit and we fell right into the game plan. The best way to thwart her, I think would have been to just let her say her stupid piece and send her back where she came from – without acknowledging anything she may have said in the media or making a big deal of it. Because the big media deal thing is exactly what she’s after – the outrage, the protests, the shutting her down stuff.

    Trent – Okaaaaaaaaay. For sure her and Ezra’s schtick is to cause trouble and stir up our outrage. To what end, I don’t know. I think it’s all stupid and should be ignored until it goes away. Because it can only continue to exist as long as we get all outraged about it. Without fanning the flames they’ll just fizzle and die.

    Brett – It certainly sounds more polite put that way!

  34. @XUP

    This is one place where I’m glad to see we both agree.

    Whether we agree with Ann Coulter or not, she has every right to speak, just as anyone else does.

    It’s the arrogance of some of these protesters that really galls me. They not only don’t want to hear a different point of view, but they try to sabotage it so that no one ELSE can.

    You can’t have it both ways, people. Free speech works for everyone. Not just for the Pro-Left.

    And, besides, what is everyone so afraid of?

    By all means, let Ann (or anyone, for that matter) speak. Hear what your opponent has to say, and learn about them.

    If you offended or disagree, challenge them to an open and civilized debate. That’s what Universities are for.

    …not for covering your ears and screaming “LaLaLa I can’t hear you”.

  35. Friar – What do you mean “one place”?? We agree on lots of stuff — just not crazy stuff like eating white bread or Big Macs