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Conservative pundit Ann Coulter watches the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York on Sept. 4, 2006. (JEFF ZELEVANSKY/JEFF ZELEVANSKY/REUTERS)
Conservative pundit Ann Coulter watches the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York on Sept. 4, 2006. (JEFF ZELEVANSKY/JEFF ZELEVANSKY/REUTERS)

Speaking tour

Ann Coulter gets cold shoulder in Ottawa Add to ...

Even before she opened her mouth for the first of three speeches this week on Canadian soil, American right-wing antagonist Ann Coulter had already scored a victory of sorts.

Ms. Coulter, who was to speak at the University of Western Ontario on Monday night, received a pre-emptive and private caution about the limits of free speech in Canada from the provost of the University of Ottawa, where she appears Tuesday.

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The letter was immediately leaked to select conservative news organizations, with Ms. Coulter telling one that the university was "threatening to criminally prosecute me for my speech."

For a strident provocateur who's speaking on "Political Correctness, Media Bias and Freedom of Speech," the University of Ottawa warning - however tepid - was pure oxygen for the fire.

"We, of course, are always delighted to welcome speakers on our campus and hope that they will contribute positively to the meaningful exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of a great university campus," wrote Francois Houle, vice-president academic and University of Ottawa's provost.

After mentioning the Charter of Rights and Canada's free speech laws, Mr. Houle invited Coulter to "educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada" and noted, by example, that "promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges."

Ms. Coulter is famous for saying "not all Muslims may be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims."

She also famously ranted that "the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East, and sending liberals to Guantanamo."

Mr. Houle's letter was leaked to the National Post in Canada and to newsmax.com - the self-described "leading independent online news site with a conservative perspective" - in the United States.

Ms. Coulter's representatives did not respond to an interview request Monday from The Canadian Press, but she told newsmax.com in an email that: "The provost of the u. of Ottawa is threatening to criminally prosecute me for my speech there on Monday - before I've even set foot in the country!"

Ms. Coulter, a regular commentator on Fox News, is not known for getting hung up on the details. She's perhaps best known in Canada for saying this country is "lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent" after the Canadian government refused to join the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Her tour is being organized by the International Free Press Society, a group whose website presents Islam as the pre-eminent threat to democracy and free speech across the western world.

"This jihad, like all jihads before it, will continue until a sharia-based caliphate rules the world, or until it is defeated," the society's policy statement says.

Among its board of advisers are conservative bloggers Ezra Levant and Kathy Shaidle, polemicist Mark Steyn and far-right Dutch political leader Geert Wilders.

Ms. Coulter's reported $10,000-per-speech fee, meanwhile, is being covered with the assistance of the Claire Boothe Luce Policy Institute, an American outfit that calls itself the "home of conservative women leaders." It lists Margaret Thatcher and Sarah Palin among those who "have inspired millions and impacted the world for the better."

Even critics of Ms. Coulter say that attempting to muzzle her only gives her a louder bark.

"In terms of putting limits on what she ... should say or shouldn't say, I'm not sure that helps," said New Democrat MP Paul Dewar, whose riding includes the University of Ottawa campus.

"It might add fuel to the fire that she will be probably starting tomorrow."

Liberal MP Scott Brison told Ms. Coulter's political opponents to "vote with your feet."

"If you don't agree with what she has to say, then ignore her."

Ms. Coulter wraps up her Canadian tour at the University of Calgary on Thursday.

 

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