The Provost of the University of Ottawa, one François Houle, found himself between a rock and a hard place. As a university official, he bears responsibility for what takes place on his campus. He doesn't want to stifle discussion, but a known hate-monger is about to show up, and there is a distinct possibility that Canadian laws will be broken. If that happens, he and the university he represents are legally liable.*
So, good Canadian that he is, he doesn't impose a ban on Ann Coulter. He simply lets her know that the laws here are different from what she is used to. He has been made aware of previous Coulter comments like this:
Promoting torture and genocide:
I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo.
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.
[On the desegregation of schools] Few failures have been more spectacular. Illiterate students knifing one another between acts of sodomy in the stairwell is just one of the many eggs that had to be broken to make the left's omelette of transferring power from states to the federal government.
When we were fighting communism, OK, they had mass murderers and gulags, but they were white men and they were sane. Now we're up against absolutely insane savages.
I think our motto should be, post-9-11, 'raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.' [That was too much even for Michelle Malkin].
And--with refreshing candour--fascism:
My libertarian friends are probably getting a little upset now but I think that's because they never appreciate the benefits of local fascism.
Oh, and that freedom of speech thing?
They're [Democrats] always accusing us of repressing their speech. I say let's do it. Let's repress them. Frankly, I'm not a big fan of the First Amendment.
Some of this is arguably proscribed by our Criminal Code, in particular Sections 318 and 319, which make the advocacy of genocide and the wilful promotion of hatred against identifiable groups a crime. Provost Houle had every right to be worried. So he sent Coulter a mild little note:
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.
You really can't get much more Canadian than that: a courteous message, expressed almost diffidently, suggesting that a visitor to this country might want to pay some attention to our laws, given her past record.
But the far right, which frankly sympathizes with both the tone and the substance of the comments noted above, leaped to their feet in classic faux-outrage. This letter was alleged to be a "threat." Free speech, we were told, was imperilled. Houle was personally attacked hither and yon. A caricature of a frog was published by one well-known blogger.
And the libertarian left somehow got infected with the same virus.
Provost Houle's coordinates were posted. A virtual lynch-mob was summoned. If he didn't know before, he's about to find out rather quickly what fascism--local, regional, national and international--smells like.
One unrepentant fascist visits this country, and the mildest suggestion that she obey our laws generates an American-style ergotic frenzy affecting even some of my own comrades. It's not a day when I can feel proud to be a Canadian. Not at all. The quicker this poison drains back to its country of origin, the better for all of us.
In the meantime, let her speak. But if she breaks the law, she should suffer the consequences. It's not like she hasn't been warned.
UPDATE: Thread-winner at Big City Lib's place:
Uh huh, so in Coulter world being urged to practice restraint, respect and consideration is discrimination?
Who raised her? Wolves?
*Or not. Law student Jimmy Durante on this thread and now lawyer Nbob on the thread following my later post on the topic agree that there would be no legal liability on the part of the university unless there were knowing participation in a criminal offence. It seems likely, given that, that the Provost was simply voicing a reasonable institutional concern about the possibility of criminal hate speech or defamation occurring on the campus for which he had responsibility. This changes nothing about the uncalled-for, insulting, sometimes grotesque comments made about him since. The latest, from Coulter herself:
"After Tuesday night, the hatred incited by Francois' [sic] letter is no longer theoretical....Either Francois [sic] goes to jail or the Human Rights Commission is a hoax and a fraud."
How the OHRC gets into the picture here is anyone's guess, as the Ontario Human Rights Code does not proscribe hate speech--nor, of course, do the Commission or the Tribunal have the power to jail anyone. But as most of us know, Coulter just makes stuff up.