Right-wing spitfire sparks protest at University of Ottawa

Emily Dickinson

Right-wing American Ann Coulter, scheduled to speak Tuesday evening at the University of Ottawa, was shut down after the auditorium reserved for her speech was surrounded by protestors.

According to Ezra Levant, the Canadian conservative activist who was set to open for her, it was “physically dangerous” for Coulter to proceed.

Before the cancellation, a young man clad in a "Coulter Over Canada" shirt shows his excitement for the arrival of American commentator Ann Coulter

“The University of Ottawa is not a place for debate,” Levant said to the crowd, many clad in shirts that read “Coulter Over Canada.”

Those who managed to get into the auditorium before the fire alarm was pulled and the doors were closed shouted “Shame!” when Levant announced the cancellation.

“It is an embarrassing day for the University of Ottawa and their student body, who could not debate Ann Coulter as was done at the University of Western (Ontario), who chose to silence her through threats and intimidation,” he said.

The speech was part of Coulter’s three-stop tour in Canada, sponsored by the International Free Press Society. Coulter spoke at the University of Western Ontario the night before, where she told a Muslim student to use a camel as a mode of transportation if she did not have a magic carpet, as she had previously suggested.

Outside the auditorium in Ottawa, the crowd was split.

Mike Fancie, a fourth-year student at the University of Ottawa who was the media spokesperson for the protest, said there were no more than 100 people actively protesting, contrary to Levant’s claim that there were 2,000.  Everyone else, he said, was just trying to get into the event.

“Free speech ends when it becomes discriminatory and hateful,” said Sameena Topan, an administrator of the Facebook group that wanted to ban Ann Coulter from the University of Ottawa’s campus. She said she was happy the event was cancelled.

Hundreds of people waited to find out if they would be allowed in to see Ann Coulter at the University of Ottawa

Others were not so pleased.

Jonathan Reid, a first-year political science student at Carleton University, yelled at protesters outside of the auditorium.

“I have nothing to say to people who silence free speech and go against the Constitution of Canada,” said Reid. “You have just demonstrated how unconstitutional all of you are.”

Kasia Adamiec, a first-year University of Ottawa criminology student who said she does not agree with Coulter’s opinions, agreed with Reid.

“I’m disappointed by the fact that my right to listen to freedom of speech was taken away tonight,” she said.

Fancie said the protest was not about shutting Coulter down, but about letting her know how unwelcome she was on campus.

“We are a diverse community and we have people on our campus who come from such a wide range of walks of life, many of whom Ann Coulter has insulted on a regular basis,” he said. “It’s unacceptable to hide behind a veil of freedom of speech in order to continue targeting those groups just for the sake of intolerance.”

Randal Marlin, a philosophy professor at Carleton University, said he would not have cancelled her speech, but would have expressed deep revulsion at what she does.

“She doesn’t deal at the level of intellectual discourse. It’s like a freak show,” he said.

“We are most tolerant when we are indifferent. The students at the University of Ottawa showed at least that they are not indifferent, and good for them on this.”

Coulter said she will file a human rights complaint against François Houle, vice-president and provost of the University of Ottawa. Houle sent her a letter that warned her Canadian defamation laws limit freedom of expression, and reminded her that her words could lead to criminal charges.

Marlin said, however, a hate crime must be directed at an identifiable group, “And purveyors of tasteless irony are not an identifiable group.”

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Right-wing spitfire sparks protest at University of Ottawa

  1. Pingback: Right-wing spitfire sparks protest at University of Ottawa « Dead Poet's Society

  2. Pat Dickinson

    Freedom of Speech is not the issue here. I am not a journalist, and I do not fully understand the codes and laws, written or unwritten, which act as the very foundation of which your profession stands, but I do know racism.
    It is our responsibility as a people, to make sure Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and all the other nameless men and women who perished in the flames of their own fires, sparked for the freedom of every individual world wide, did not die in vain.
    It is our responsibily to keep the gaps narrowed, and bridge those that need to be. The only way to omit racism is to stop talking about it!!!!!! Giving this woman or any other individual an audience to present such beliefs is asking for people to pay attention, and the more they speak, the louder they become.
    The Travesty of this event is not that Ann Coulters appearance was cancelled, rather, booked in the first place.
    On September 11, 2001, the world, and the United States of America specifically, witnessed, and felt the impact of one of the worst acts of terror we have ever seen or read about. Before this incredible tragedy, one of the worst acts of terrorism on US soil, happened in Oklahoma City, and if my memory serves me correctly, Timothy McVeigh, the individual convicted of bombing that Government buliding was neither Canadian, or Muslim, rather a full blooded American, from strong Irish roots. An ethenticity which represents a large percentage of our wonderful countries, and our political arenas.
    How was your beer on St Paddys Day Ann?

    Peace and Love

    P.S. Great piece though!!

  3. Andrea Dickinson

    Too bad most of the media did not tell us the accurate facts surrounding this debacle, as you seem to have been able to do. It seems as though the lack of professional organization of the event led to many frustrated people trying to attend that were denied admittance. Seems as if a hundred protesters sprinkled in with thousands of would be audience members made for a make-believe ‘huge protest’. Sadly, cancelling because of potential danger bought Ms. Coulter alot of airtime both here and stateside, and that is the name of her game.

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