Freedom of speech: The Canadian version
WHEN conservative rabble-rouser — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing — Ann Coulter was booked for a speech at the University of Ottawa, the provost of that font of learning dropped her an email of advice. Among the words of wisdom from Francois Houle: “There is a strong tradition in Canada, including at this university, of restraint, respect and consideration in expressing even provocative and controversial opinions and I urge you to respect that Canadian tradition while on our campus.” In other words, the university will allow any expression of opinion as long as it is certain those opinions would be approved by a triumvirate consisting of, say, Olivia Chow, Maude Barlow and Svend Robinson. Coulter, who is as at least as much a performance artist as she is a pundit, saw the wide-open net and fired in the puck. Rather than giving her speech to a handful of supporters, balanced by a handful of slogan-shouting lefties, she cancelled the speech on the grounds that Ottawa police could not guarantee her safety from a mob, apparently visible to nobody else but her, of club-carrying, rock-flinging, tar-and-feathering pinkos. So Coulter, who was hoping to be a bit controversial, succeeded beyond expectations and Houle, who was hoping God knows what, succeeded in looking like a jackass.