As part of a short cross-Canada tour, because apparently Ontario and Alberta count as a truly cross-Canada tour, Ann Coulter came to speak at the University of Ottawa at the invitation of a Free Speech Society. Most of the people in my class left to try to hear what she had to say and I believe it is fair to assume that the vast majority of people who were going wanted to hear what she had to say, whether they agreed or not. To enter, you needed to register, which was free for students, a few days ahead of time. This meant that most people who were there really supported her and what she had to say.
She was of course there to speak about the importance of free speech, but the planned question and answer session would have surely brought out what many of the people who weren’t allowed in wanted to hear: disgusting words about Muslims and homosexuals and liberals. For those who didn’t know, Ann Coulter is not a Facebook fan of these people. Inviting her to the University of Ottawa was guaranteed to create such a show, especially because of Seamus Wolfe, the President of the Student Federation. He likes to get into his own trouble and it was expected that people like himself would try to stop her speech on the basis that it is spreading hate. On the other side, the organizers wanted to promote free speech. It is possible that what the University’s vice-rector François Houle said about the different interpretation of free speech in Canada was important. Telling a Muslim that she cannot fly on a plane so she should use a magic carpet or a camel is not free speech in this country, at least most people wouldn’t think so.
In fact, that so many people were there to hear what she had to say and supported it shows that our country is not as tolerant as we think. What is perhaps more disturbing is that those people are part of the governing elite in Canada and represent an important part of the population. To say that you support free speech is one thing, it should be universal, but to agree with her on topics ranging from converting Muslims to Christianity and destroying the Middle East is a little bit scary. But many people agree with that to some degree and many of the organizers of the event work for members of Parliament or take part in fundraising or what not. This is a scary prospect if ever the reigning party were to obtain a majority. The rights that all Canadians enjoy are threatened, and I don’t mean free speech.
What is especially disturbing is the legitimacy that she has. After seven best-selling books and many television appearances, Ann Coulter still has not really done anything. She does not base her information on facts but on assumptions and close-minded approaches to complex questions. She is not elected and she does not legitimately speak for anyone but herself. How can she define liberals and conservatives and make judgments?
Since the University allowed her to speak, it should have provided enough security to let her do so properly. In that way, she could have done what most expected of her: talk of things that most of us reject as hate and insulting our shared values. Now, she will write a book about it and make more money. At least the University of Ottawa has got its name out for something!