Far-right pundit Ann Coulter will be in Canada this week for “a trio of speaking engagements,” including one at the University of Ottawa. In advance of her visit, a senior official at the school sent Coulter a letter warning her to use “restraint, respect and consideration” in her remarks and telling her to review the country’s hate speech and defamation laws. From the letter:
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.
In the past, Coulter has bashed Canada, saying, “They’d better hope the United States doesn’t roll over one night and crush them. They are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent.” In response to the letter, Coulter writes, “I was hoping for a fruit basket, not a threat to prosecute.”
It's interesting how this touches on our frequent discussions of the responsibility these right-wing celebrities have for their words. It's fascinating that in Canada, not only do they not have an antiquated and nonsensical 2nd Amendment to interfere with their common sense laws, they seem to have a better understanding of the ideas contained in the 1st.
What's your opinion? What do you think the danger is in trying to define violations of the "free speech" aspects of the 1st Amendment? Is it always the slippery slope - if they outlaw this today what will happen tomorrow?
Do you think the University spokesman was out of line issuing that warning instead of offering a fruit basket?
What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.