Against Free Speech II

March 24th, 2010

By Brianna Aubin

First Glenn Beck, now Ann Coulter. Only this time it wasn’t a couple of braindead liberals yakking it up on the news with no actual power to enforce their whims, it was a University of Ottawa bureaucrat accusing Coulter of “pre-crime” after learning that Ann was slated to give a speech at the University of Ottawa by a conservative group on campus.

Here is what was written:

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

[Emphasis mine]

The truly ironic thing about this letter is that Houle did not even know anything about the content of the speech, aside from the fact that it was about “political correctness.”  Which means that by sending that letter, he was pre-convicting Ann of a crime, convicting her without trial, without evidence, without reason, without logic, without facts… except for the lone fact that Ann belongs to a recognizable delineation of ideological thought — conservative — and that she therefore would inevitably be tempted to say things that did not square with the views of the liberal, enlightened Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Wow, that’s some protection for freedom of expression you’ve got there, Canada.  I can’t imagine why I don’t want the United States to be more like you and Europe.

Ann did not end up giving the speech in Ottawa.  It was canceled after 2000 people showed up to protest and a fire alarm was pulled in the building where the speech was to be given; for some reason, organizers feared the event might turn violent.  Contrast this to the tea parties, who don’t so much as leave trash on the lawn, where those who disagree with them feel secure enough from physical harm that they can wander in amongst the protest blaring their views at the top of their lungs and where protesters have no fear of bringing their small children to the events, and the differences are astounding.

Of course, such moves are unfortunately not exactly new for Canada.  Mark Steyn has been battling the loss of free speech via the hate speech policies of the Canadian Human Rights Commission for years now, ever since his America Alone
was nearly banned by them.  Steyn won his case by basically standing right up in front of the Commission, waving his book in their face, and daring them to go ahead and actually go through with it; like all far-left organizations who know when they have been exposed as not actually having any moral ground to stand on, the Commission backed down.  But apparently having their moral impotence and flagrant disrepsect for the basic rights of our liberal democratic societies shoved in their face once was not enough to discourage one of their ideological minions from taking another pot-shot at a similar conservative activist — who, I might add, is also planning on trouncing the Human Rights Commission with everything she’s got by filing a human rights complaint with them stating that she has been “offended” by Houle’s letter and therefore Houle should be punished by the Committee.

Canada is not the United States.  But it is our next-door neighbor, one of our staunchest allies, and one of the longest-standing and most stable democracies in the world.  If petty, two-bit Canadian bureaucrats are now feeling secure enough in their right to determine the acceptable limits of debate that they will send idiot, threatening letters to people who hold certain views, on no other basis than the fact that they are known to hold certain views, then the United States should put itself on an even more stringent guard.  Because we’re walking in the exact same direction as Canada and Europe — heck, we took a huge step forward in their direction just this week.  And if there has ever been a nation which adopted all of the economic policies of socialism, but managed to exist long-term without slowly starting to adopt the political positions of socialism as well — a political leadership that does not care about the will of the people and the eventual abolishment of all political and personal freedoms — I have yet to hear of one.

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3 Responses to “Against Free Speech II”

  1. Tom |

    I’ve been following the Coulter vs. Canada debacle, too. One of the most serious criticisms of liberals is their intolerance of opposing points of view. This certainly isn’t the first time a university has gone into full uproar over the mere prospect of a conservative speaking on campus. It happens frequently in Canada and, worse, in the U.S. I’m not sure conservatives are that much more willing to listen to the other side, but they at least are generally more mature and a lot less violent about it.

    Seems to me that if you’re that frightened of hearing someone speak who may disagree with your orthodox dogma, then maybe you’re not so sure about the validity of what you believe.

    Perhaps we should remember, though, that the speech protection we have in our Bill of Rights is unusually strong, even among other civilized countries like Canada and the UK. Also, I’d note that the First Amendment prohibits governments at all levels from “abridging the freedom of speech.” Schools and universities have much more flexibility in what they do and don’t tolerate.

  2. Jane Thomas |


    In the world of liberals and conservatives there is always a body of extremists in both groups. Discussion between those of the liberal persuasuan and those of the conservative persuasion is always healthy. Encouraging the extremists in both groups is not so healthy. We are seeing extremism at play right now with the threats and violence by the conservatives against those who voted for the health reform bills.

    The Tea Party movement is a fairly moderate movement by people who are tired of big government, tired of government interference in their private lives and tired of excessive taxation. Ann Coulter is far more extreme than that, as was Al Franken (who, unfortunately is now in Congress) on the extreme liberal side. They trade on making radical statements and denigrating others. They love making shocking and ugly comments about others, be they individuals or movements. I think, in diplomatic speak, the caution for them would be that such statements are not helpful.

    We all have to share this country with our polyglot of beliefs and needs. Moderation in all areas is helpful. Radicalism is rarely helpful.


  3. Tom |

    I agree, Jane. People who shout at each other, hurl epithets, and make threats aren’t accomplishing much. No one responds positively in that kind of environment.

    As far as tea partiers are concerned, I also think they’re fairly moderate, as protest groups go. If they ever go beyond that, or tolerate true extremists in their midst, they’ll lose most of their effectiveness.

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