University of Ottawa Counters Free Speech Criticism


Ann Coulter Event Canceled Due To Safety Concerns

Free speech has pretty much been a one way street on college campuses across the United States of America for the past few decades. If you have a liberal viewpoint, just about anything you say is permissible. But, if you are a conservative, then on some campuses you’ll encounter student demonstrations, heckling, or even pressure to cancel your event.

Ann CoulterOur Canadian neighbors also value free speech, offering protection through the Constitution of Canada, Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act, the latter passed in 1977. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, things start to get interesting as clauses about “Hate Propaganda” are included.

Section 318 of the code addresses genocide while section 319 covers the “public incitement of hatred.” Section 320 outlines penalties including the confiscation of publications.

But nothing under the Criminal Code of Canada was used to silence Coulter. Instead, according to the Mar. 25, 2010 issue of the “Examiner,” she received a letter from the University of Ottawa in advance of her appearance warning her what she could say in Canada.

That letter was written by Frances Houle–Vice-President Academic and Provost—and published by the “National Post” in their Mar. 22, 2010 issue. Houle welcomed Coulter to Canada but then undertook an ominous tone when he suggested criminal charges could be brought forth if Coulter violated Canadian law:

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.

The missive went on to say that the organizers themselves had decided to cancel the event while Coulter countered that she was advised by the University’s Protection Services and her bodyguard that they would not be able to protect her. Further, the university wanted her to pony up $1200 for additional security coverage.

Regardless of what you think of Coulter, she has the right to speak under Canadian law. Some have pointed out that all Houle did was to help familiarize Coulter with the law, but given that his letter was copied and sent to several publications before she received her copy, you have to question Houle’s actions.

Coulter is calling on the Canadian Human Rights Commission to look into the matter, teasing from her website that she hopes Houle does jail time. In the meantime, she is continuing with her tour of Canadian universities, visiting the University of Calgary last night.

As for the University of Ottawa, a hand’s off approach seems to be their preferred course of action as they concluded their press release with the following statement: Please note that this is the University of Ottawa’s official statement and no further comments will be issued.

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Categories: Campus News