Let me first start with the official alumni newsletter I received earlier today.
Dear Alumni and Friends,
On Tuesday, March 23, an appearance by Ann Coulter was scheduled on our campus, organized by the International Free Press Society Canada and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute.
The University of Ottawa has always promoted and defended freedom of expression. For that reason, we did not at any time oppose Ann Coulter’s appearance. Whether it is Ann Coulter or any other speaker, diverse views have always been and continue to be welcome on our campus.
Last night, the organizers themselves decided at 7:50 p.m. to cancel the event and so informed the University’s Protection Services staff on site. At that time, a crowd of about one thousand people had peacefully gathered at Marion Hall.
“Freedom of expression is a core value that the University of Ottawa has always promoted,” said Allan Rock, President of the University. “We have a long history of hosting contentious and controversial speakers on our campus. Last night was no exception, as people gathered here to listen to and debate Ann Coulter’s opinions.
I encourage our students, faculty and other members of our community to maintain our University as an open forum for diverse opinions. Ours is a safe and democratic environment for the expression of views, and we will keep it that way.”
This to me clearly states that, at the least, Allan Rock is sorry for the behaviour of students and some faculty members last night. As the National Post has reported, Ann Coulter’s speech last night was canceled due to fears of violence. If this crowd was as peaceful as Mr. Rock claims, why was Ann’s safety at risk? If this truly was a peaceful demonstration, why did campus officials take such drastic action? It was partly because the University of Ottawa didn’t want to host her, and partly because there was a clear and identifiable threat to Ann Coulter.
As Michelle Malkin wrote yesterday, Ann Coulter stirs up controversy, and because of this, university officials wanted to prevent her from speaking. While the University of Ottawa doesn’t have a problem with Israeli Apartheid Week, a radical pro-Palestinian movement which demonstrates on campuses across North America to push its bigoted message, Ann Coulter is somehow too radical? As I stated above, the University of Ottawa didn’t want her to speak. While this point was made clear by University of Ottawa Vice-President Academic and Provost Francois Houle’s threatening email, let’s take some time to understand why this is. The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) invited Angela Davis to kick of Black History month on February 2nd as the keynote speaker. As I stated previously, the University of Carleton, which I am now attending to finish off a second degree in history, also invited this political radical to speak. I talked with one of the Carleton University Students’ Association members who was selling tickets to the event and he said that the purpose was to give students a chance to learn Davis’ political viewpoint (or lack thereof). While everyone is entitled to speak, in the case of Angela Davis, there should also be speakers of a contrary viewpoint. The SFUO didn’t invite Ann Coulter to the University of Ottawa simply because they, along with various faculty members, don’t wish for any viewpoint which contradicts that which they are setting out for naive young students. The narrative has been established and diverging from it is not acceptable. It wouldn’t surprise me if protests against Ann Coulter were somehow organized by the SFUO, especially considering that protesters, wearing keffiyehs, were wearing stickers from the Canadian Federation of Students. Blazing Cat Fur has a picture of the “No Islamophobia Anti-Semitism Racism” sticker for those who are curious.
At the University of Western Ontario, Ann made headlines for telling Fatima Al Dhaher to “take a camel”, something which raised eyebrows and got headlines. The story the media missed was that Fatima is a member of an anti-Israel/anti-Jewish hate group called “It’s Called Palestine Not Israel!”, something which Canadian blogger Blazing Cat Fur was able to dig up. As Blazing Cat Fur stated, since Fatima read this question from her Blackberry, one has to wonder whether or not she was under instruction from someone else to do it. This is where my second point comes in, that Ann was actually in danger. Aside from the “hundreds” of ignorant and ill-informed protesters who were determined to deny Ann her right to speak, various radical Muslim students were there to incite whatever they could, be it angry chanting or violent riots. It isn’t simply Concordia University that has these problems, I have personally dealt with these people myself on the University of Ottawa’s campus. During my second year, I was talking with one of these Muslim students during Islam Awareness Week. While the conversation started out fine, everything changed when this seemingly intelligent and well-spoken young man admitted that, if called upon, he would be willing to sacrifice himself for Islam. I am not ashamed to admit that this student, along with his friends terrified me. Does this mean that all Muslim students are like this? Of course not, but it is obvious that there is enough of them to pose a threat to defiant speakers like Ann, as well as students who attend these speeches. All it takes is one of these students to cross the line and a somewhat violence-free protest turns into an all out riot. Once again, we have seen this behaviour on other campuses, so don’t think it couldn’t happen at “Canada’s University”. That is the point isn’t it? To use the threat of violence to suppress free speech? I doubt a radical like Fatima would have a problem using violence to achieve her group’s ideological goals.
In conclusion, I would like to say two things. Firstly, that as an alumni of the University of Ottawa I am ashamed at what I occurred. As my History of Modern China Professor Jacob Kovalio, said, “to borrow the words of the protesters, ‘Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Free Speech has got to go.’” I can tell you that his outrage with the lack of respect for freedom of speech in Canada is felt by myself and many others who viewed this entire fiasco as a national embarrassment. If I was in Allan Rock’s position, Francois Houle would be fired. His conduct is by far the most disgraceful of all participants involved in preventing last night’s speech. Matter of fact, as an alumni, I would recommend prospective students look elsewhere for their education until the University of Ottawa terminates Houle, let alone guarantees the rights of students and visiting speakers to voice their opinions openly. Secondly, I would like to apologize to Ann Coulter for the treatment she has received thus far in Canada. Most Canadians are downright embarrassed by what these radicals have done, and we do not condone this kind of behaviour in Canada. We are a country founded on freedoms, contrary to what some would believe, and if we cannot guarantee the freedoms of foreign guests, then we aren’t the people I believe us to be. This is truly a learning experience not simply for the University of Ottawa, but for all of Canada.
The instant we let fringe radicals determine what can and can’t be said within our borders, we cease being the “true north strong and free”. Why bother singing our national anthem if it is meaningless? Disgraceful…
UPDATE: Fox News’ Megyn Kelly interviewed Susan G. Cole, a columnist for NOW Toronto. Suffice to say, Susan doesn’t live in the Canada I know and love. I don’t think she even lives on the same planet. Freedom of speech is not part of our political culture? A pathetic political radical…
UPDATE: More from Blazing Cat Fur, this time about professional agitators hired to protest at last night’s event. It seems Anewsocialcontract (also known as John D) and Ellen Ocrana, the bigot wearing the Canadian Federation of Students sticker, are experts at suppressing the rights of others. If these two radicals didn’t come by themselves, who brought them? Take Back Your School is floating the idea that the Canadian Federation of Students had a part in last night’s protest as well. Seeing that Ellen Ocrana is wearing one of their stickers, it wouldn’t surprise me…
I will continue to update this post as this fiasco continues to unfold… Pathetic…
UPDATE: Blazing Cat Fur has a new post up, quotes from Ezra Levant, the organizer behind Ann Coulter’s speech tour, as well as a quote from the best selling author herself. Give it a look!
UPDATE: I have received an update from one commenter that the girl in the picture is actually named Ellena Orcan. According to Free Ann Coulter!, she is a former model and political radical who was at the event at the University of Ottawa. I have been informed by the commenter that Stephanie Bowa, the girl who was mistaken for Ellena, has received hate mail. THAT STOPS NOW!
The only mistake Stephanie Bowa made was that she joined a radical Facebook group. Sure Stephanie doesn’t believe Ann Coulter should speak at the Canadian universities, and while I will gladly debate her on that belief, she has not shown herself to be the political radical/bigot that Ellena is. I might send an email off to someone I think deserves a good talking to, but I never cross legal lines to push a point. That is what political ideologues like Francois Houle do. I would like to believe my readers aren’t the kind of people who would resort to threats.
Let’s try to remain civil. This whole fiasco has been embarrassing to the University of Ottawa students and alumni, as well as millions of Canadians, but that doesn’t mean we start attacking those who’s only offense has been subscribing to a “bass ackwards” Facebook group… Pathetic…
UPDATE: Take Back Your School did some digging and found a letter to the now infamous Francois Houle from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). Give it a read, it clearly states that CAUT believes Houle crossed the line and should apologize for threatening Ann Coulter.
March 22, 2010
Dr. Francois Houle
Vice-President Academic and Provost
University of Ottawa
Room 217A Tabaret Hall
Dear Dr. Houle:
We are deeply disturbed by your correspondence with Ann Coulter regarding her speaking engagement at the University of Ottawa tomorrow. Your admonishing her about speech rights in Canada raises serious questions about the University of Ottawa’s respect for freedom of expression and academic freedom.
The purpose of a university is aptly captured in the University of Toronto’s statement on the “Purpose of the University”:
Within the unique university context, the most crucial of all human rights are the rights of freedom of speech, academic freedom, and freedom of research. And we affirm that these rights are meaningless unless they entail the right to raise deeply disturbing questions and provocative challenges to the cherished beliefs of society at large and of the university itself.
Ms. Coulter certainly does raise disturbing questions and provocative challenges. While many of us profoundly disagree with her, a university should welcome controversial speakers and vigorous debate, not seek to restrict discourse or speakers.
We feel you owe an apology to Ms. Coulter and, even more importantly, you owe the University of Ottawa community an assurance that the administration of the University strongly supports freedom of expression, academic freedom and views the role of the university as fostering and defending these values.
Penni Stewart James L. Turk
President Executive Director
UPDATE: Atlas Shrugs has been following radicalism on the University of Ottawa’s campus well before the protests to keep Ann Coulter from speaking. Hassan Diab, a former professor at the university was arrested in November of 2008 for his part in a synagogue bombing in October of 1980 which killed four people. What did I say about radical Muslims on campus? Doesn’t surprise me that a professor would turn out to be a unrepentant terrorist, especially considering my own personal experience with certain students.
With all this nonsense, how is it that Ann Coulter is the threat? Last time I checked, she never murdered anyone, unlike Angela Davis and Hassan Diab… Pathetic…