Will Ann Coulter dare take on tyrannical Canadian hate speech laws?

The Ann Coulter debacle should have never occurred.  At least one good thing has happened.  Canadians are re-examining the issue of free speech, and decent debate has been ignited by the refusal of Coulter to give her speech at Ottawa University.  If that is what Coulter and her supporters wanted to achieve, they have succeeded.  But if they wanted a test of Canada’s hate laws that protect political correctness, they have failed.

Was Francois Houle, Provost for the University wise in giving legal advice to Coulter about Canada’s criminal laws that limit free speech?  Such gratuitous advice was inappropriate, as it could be construed to be intimidation to chill a dynamic fearless speaker who is prone to hyperbole and exaggeration, designed to entertain, infuriate, and humor her audience. 

Given Coulter’s purpose to expose the prevailing climate of political correctness in Canada.  It would have been better to let her suffer the consequences of her buffoonery even if it meant a return visit to experience Canadian hospitality in one of our penal homes.  Since ignorance of the law is no excuse, an intelligent person like Coulter is presumed to be capable of distinguishing between Canadian and American law, and knowing just how far she can go with strident bigotry.  Her audience could then judge whether she is a brilliant thinker or be marginalized as a close-minded fool of insignificance.  In a free and democratic society governed by the rule of law, there needs to be a place for the marketplace of ideas.

What happened to law enforcement?  After the outstanding security provided at the Olympic Games in British Columbia, have the police fallen asleep at the local Tim Horton’s donut shops?  Police ought to know there are professional agitators who zoom like bees to honey when it comes to G8 conferences, and the same kind of attention is devoted to controversial speakers that are outliers in society.  The police could have easily dispersed any potential rioters, arrested those armed with weapons of any sort, and restored peace and dignity to the event. Such apparent dereliction of duty was a disgrace.

Allen Rock, President of Ottawa University notes that it was the Coulter team that made the final decision to cancel the event. If true, this reeks of manipulation and amounts to a publicity stunt to fan the flames of righteous indignation.  I prefer the example of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi and their followers who faced death threats, beatings, and imprisonment and yet exercised their free speech rights with conviction and courage.

Does freedom of speech encompass hateful comments about persons, religions, nations, and anyone or any group Coulter detests?    Perhaps it does, if one does not incite others to violence and other criminal acts against opponents.  Freedom of speech is tied to freedom of conscience, and the classic expression of inclusiveness for those whom we might vigorously disagree with is found in the words of Justice Jackson in Barnette, a 1943 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled in favor of what was widely viewed as an unpatriotic act during a time of war: “But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom.  The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.” Famous French author Moliere observed: “A wise man is superior to any insults which can be put upon him and the best reply to unseemly behavior is patience and moderation.”

Coulter can still do Canada a favor for she has two more speeches scheduled at Canadian universities. She can throw caution to the wind and violate our hate crime laws, and argue in court that they are unconstitutional as violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by muzzling freedom of thought, conscience, and speech.  Only then will we discover if Canadian judges and juries are patient and moderate, or intolerant of non-conformist thinkers who are viewed as offensive criminals and threats to the rule of law.