Thousands of angry Canadian protesters forced authorities to cancel a speech by conservative firebrand Ann Coulter at the University of Ottawa Tuesday night, after police concluded it would be "physically dangerous" for the best-selling author to take the stage.
In a brief e-mail to Newsmax and other media outlets, Coulter commented at 8:07 p.m. Tuesday: "Two thousand protesters surrounded building with rocks and sticks [and] pulled [a] fire alarm in the building. Blogs call for Ann Coulter to be hurt. MPs were banned from going, I was denounced by an MP in the Parliament today. Cops just shut it down!"
Ottawa police Sgt. Dan Beauchamp told reporters: "It's a public safety issue," according to The Washington Times.
Evan Levant, the conservative activist scheduled to introduce Coulter, tells Newsmax that a Facebook page had advised protesters to bring things to throw at Coulter, including "vegetables and eggs and things like that."
"I think it's a real black mark on Canada's reputation as a free country,"
Levant tells Newsmax. "To have this sort of censorship through intimidation is very un-Canadian. Freedom of speech is a Canadian value, it's in our charter of rights, our bill of rights, and it's one of the rights we fought for at Juno Beach on D-Day. And to have it eroded this way, so blatantly and with the blessing of the university administration — that's the worst part of it."
Conservatives blame a letter sent to Coulter Friday afternoon by Francois Houle, the academic vice president and provost of the University of Ottawa, for triggering the events that led to the uprising.
Houle e-mailed Coulter to warn that “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."
Houle continued, “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.”
Houle also remarked, “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.”
If Houle's intent was to promote "civilized discussion," however, he was unsuccessful.
At one point, Levant tells Newsmax, he feared that the attendees would be trapped inside the venue.
"I knew that we could not open the doors because they had pressed up against them," he tells Newsmax. "And there was a moment there when I was a little bit worried because there were about 150 or so of us in the room, and when I heard that the police thought that they couldn't control the situation anymore, I was briefly worried that there would be no way out of the room for the people in the room. But it was confirmed for us there was a safe way out."
The opposition to Coulter's speaking to the students was justified, curiously, on the basis that what Coulter had to say could foment acts of intolerance.
"What Ann Coulter is practicing is not free speech — it's hate speech," Ottawa student Mike Fancie told The Associated Press.
Coulter frequently speaks to college conservatives and other organizations. Although she has been the target of rallies and pie throwing before, she says she has never had a speech obstructed by an angry mob.
Coulter told The Washington Times that the University of Ottawa is a "bush league" institution.
"I go to the best schools, Harvard, the Ivy League and those kids are too intellectually proud," to threaten speakers, she told the Times. She added that "their IQ points-to-teeth ratio must be about 1-to-1."
The demonstration came in the midst of Coulter's tour of three Canadian campuses.
Ironically, the tour is titled "Political Correctness, Media Bias and Freedom of Speech."
Canadian attorney and free-speech activist Douglas Christie said Canadian law makes it a criminal offense to make speeches that criticize people on the basis of "race, religion, ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, mental/physical disability or marital status."
He says: "Those are the taboo topics. All the left-wing topics are wide open. . . In the name of tolerance they have become violent thugs, and that's the basically how they operate. The essential problem there is that someday there will be some resistance, and some pushing back. If we don't have civility, we will in the end force people to violence. And that's very regrettable."
The University of Ottawa Campus Conservatives describe their purpose as promoting “universal Canadian value like freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, as well as question the size of and role that government should play in the life of Canadians.”
Newsmax contacted Houle’s office, asking whether liberal speakers receive similar e-mails warning of possible criminal prosecution prior to speaking on campus. There was no response to the request for comment.
Coulter's Canadian speaking tour ends Thursday in Calgary.
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