Cancellation of Ann Coulter Speech Akin to Censorship

Published: March 25th 2010

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter
Pic: wikimedia commons

A ferocious protest by hundreds of students that resulted in the abrupt cancellation of American right wing commentator Ann Coulter’s speech at the University of Ottawa this week is being hailed by Canadian free speech advocate and conservative activist Ezra Levant as the latest evidence that the liberal ideals of free discourse and intellectual debate are a thing of yesteryear on many Canadian university campuses.  


“It shows the rot at University of Ottawa,” Levant said. “If I had a University of Ottawa diploma, I’d use it to wrap fish or under a birdcage because that’s all it’s worth right now.”


Levant told Shalom Life that what shocked him most was not the seemingly out of control protest itself or its aftermath – Levant wrote in his blog that a security assessment by police, campus security and Coulter’s bodyguard deemed that Coulter and her audience were in “too much physical danger” to carry on – but the decision by University of Ottawa vice president Francois Houle to explicitly warm Coulter in a letter that she needed to be mindful of Canadian hate laws and that promoting hatred against an identifiable group could lead to criminal charges.


“It was so outrageous for someone whose job it is to promote intellectual discovery and open debate and other liberal ideals to write such a close minded threatening censorious letter,” he said.


Coulter, a bestselling conservative author, columnist and pundit known for her extreme outspoken views, was in Ottawa on the second stop of a three-campus tour sponsored in part by the International Free Press Society. Levant, who has the job of introducing Coulter each night, told the crowd assembled in the University of Ottawa’s 400-seat Marion Hall that “this is an embarrassing day for the University of Ottawa and their student body… who choose to silence her through threats and intimidation.”


Levant is convinced that Houle’s letter sparked the action by outraged students who label Coulter’s rhetoric hate speech – during her appearance at the University of Western Ontario she suggested that a Muslim student could “take a camel” as a substitute for taking a plane. He described the letter as giving “students their marching orders.”


“Once he set the tone of censorship then nothing surprised me after that because his students followed his lead and decided that they were going to follow through and shut down the speech,” Levant said.


Levant is of the opinion that there is a greater issue at play here. He remarked that campus debate has over the years become top-heavy, with one side given free range and the other silenced, intimidated and threatened by protesters and university administrators.  


 “If you are a Jew-hating left-winger, Canada is open season. But if you’re a conservative or a Zionist, it’s not a healthy environment,” he said. “It shows that academia is no longer liberal. The idea of a liberal education is a fraud. It’s illiberal. There’s a whiff of fascism in the air.”


Related articles: (Ann Coulter, Ezra Levant, University of Ottawa, free speech, camel, houle, Israel Apartheid Week)
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