By Thaddeus M. Baklinski
OTTAWA, March 23, 2010, (LifeSiteNews.com) - An email from the Provost of Ottawa University to conservative pundit Ann Coulter, in anticipation of a talk she is scheduled to give on campus Tuesday night, warns her to use "restraint, respect and consideration" when speaking at the school, lest she run afoul of Canada's "hate speech" laws.
Francois Houle, Vice-President Academic and Provost, went on to advise the notoriously controversial conservative pundit to review Canada's hate speech and defamation laws before giving her talk at the university.
In response, however, Coulter has said she will be filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission alleging Houle targeted her as a member of an identifiable group (conservatives) and subjected her to hate speech.
“I’m sure the Human Rights Commission will get to the bottom of it,” Coulter said to a crowd at the University of Western Ontario Monday, according to the Vancouver Sun. “I think I’m the victim of a hate crime here. Either what (Mr. Houle) did was a hate crime, or the whole commission is BS.”
"It's almost like there is one standard for Conservatives and one completely different one for Liberals," Coulter told the crowd.
In Houle’s letter, which was sent to Coulter on Friday, he wrote: "I would … 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."
The professor goes on to explain, "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."
Coulter, who holds a law degree, is on a three-city Canadian tour (universities at London, Ottawa and Calgary) speaking about political correctness, media bias and freedom of speech, and is promoting her latest book, “Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America.”
The tour is sponsored by International Free Press Society-Canada and the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute.
Conservative columnist, lawyer and former publisher of the Western Standard magazine Ezra Levant, who introduced Coulter at the talk she gave at the University of Western Ontario on Monday night, called Mr. Houle's letter a "veiled threat."
In an email Coulter sent to the Ottawa Citizen, she questioned whether every speaker booked at the university receives a similar warning, or just the conservative ones.
"Now that the provost has instructed me on the criminal speech laws he apparently believes I have a proclivity (to break), despite knowing nothing about my speech, I see that he is guilty of promoting hatred against an identifiable group: conservatives," Coulter wrote.
"The provost simply believes and is publicizing his belief that conservatives are more likely to commit hate crimes in their speeches. Not only does this promote hatred against conservatives, but it promotes violence against conservatives."
"I was hoping for a fruit basket upon my arrival in Canada, not a threat to criminally prosecute me," Coulter said.
The Citizen's Matthew Pearson said that he had arranged an interview with Houle on the subject of his email to Coulter, but the Provost backed out a few hours before the interview was to take place.
Internationally syndicated conservative columnist Mark Steyn slammed Houle's e-mail as “embarrassing.”
"What a sad and embarrassing letter, even by the standards of the Canadian academy," Steyn wrote in his blog Steynposts. "Those who preside over what should be arenas of honest debate and open inquiry instead wish to imprison public discourse within ever narrower bounds - and in this case aren't above threatening legal action against those who dissent from the orthodoxies. Lots of Americans loathe Ann Coulter but it takes a Canadian like François Houle to criminalize her."
"M Houle would have a very hard time persuading the Ottawa police or the RCMP to lay criminal charges over an Ann Coulter speech because they realize, even if he doesn't, that Canada doesn't need to become even more of an international laughingstock in this area.
"So the threat is an empty one and M Houle seems to be being - oh, what's the ‘respectful and civil’ way of putting it? - a posturing wanker," Steyn said.
To contact Francois Houle with your respectful opinion:
University of Ottawa Vice-President Academic and Provost
550 Cumberland Street
Ottawa ON K1N 6N5
Phone: 613-562-5737 or 613 562-5800 ext. 5737
The full text of the Francois Houle's letter to Ann Coulter, which was obtained by the National Post, is available here.