Ann Coulter is gone but the University of Ottawa and its staff, provost Francois Houle and president Allan Rock, have been placed under a cloud by certain elements of the media. It is alleged that they treated Ann Coulter badly after having invited her to speak, almost as though there had been some sort of plot afoot with some newspapers suggesting it is Coulter who now deserves an apology.
That may not be correct. The university was approached by Coulter’s managers and organizers and the university agreed to allow her to speak in keeping with our freedom of speech ethos and university policy. It was also claimed in the major print media that the university called it off because of threatened violence. That also doesn’t appear to square with the facts.
There was some protest — and students have a right to free speech as much as anyone else — but there was no violence or threat of violence. It was Coulter’s organizers that called off the event.
The claim is specious that we owe everyone a polite and passive audience even to the exclusion of negative placards or comments, whether or not the speaker is polite. Passivity can imply agreement, especially when the speaker deals in insults, false or exaggerated claims and has no real argument.
We do have hate crimes and speech laws in Canada under which citizens have been prosecuted, fined and even expelled. Under these circumstances it seems reasonable to warn everyone of the fact beforehand, for their own protection — lest they risk being charged — and for the university’s own protection so they are not charged in turn by the guest speaker or the law.
Coulter is especially known for her radical anti-Muslim remarks, such as, their leaders should be killed and the rest forced to convert to Christianity. She also expressed the opinion that Muslims as a group should not be allowed on planes — the origin of the “flying carpet” and “camel” statements. These were suggested by her as travel alternatives and cited by the media as evidence of nothing more than something of a mischievous sense of humour.
Both Ezra Levant and Rex Murphy had a lot to say on the matter and both blamed the University of Ottawa’s alleged “leftist” viewpoint. But, ironically, both were also squarely behind the banning of respected standing British MP George Galloway on the ground that he was a supporter of terrorism. Ironically again, the U.S. did not see it that way and he was allowed to speak at several universities in that country. Very sensible and democratic of our southern neighbour as Galloway’s crime was alleged to be distributing UN supplied medicine and food to besieged Palestinians. The print media’s record on this story is less than admirable.
Doris Wrench Eisler, St. Albert