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Ann Coulter's speech in Ottawa cancelled Add to ...

Right-wing antagonist Ann Coulter cancelled a University of Ottawa address last night after organizers decided it wasn't safe to speak.

The move followed boisterous demonstrations outside that sponsors of the appearance feared could turn violent.

"There was a risk there could be physical violence," said Canadian conservative activist Ezra Levant, who was scheduled to introduce Ms. Coulter.



I'm guessing the scores to get into the University of Ottawa are not very challenging. Ann Coulter


He said some demonstrators swarmed the event, making it "a situation the security and police advised was untenable for safety reasons."

In an interview, Ms. Coulter said she's given 100 to 200 speeches at colleges and last night was the first time one of her addresses has been "completely shut down." She said the incident reflects poorly on the University of Ottawa.

"It's at the absolute bush league, bottom of the barrel schools that you get the worst treatment and yet and still I've never seen this before," she said.

"I'm guessing the scores to get into the University of Ottawa are not very challenging."

She said she will hire Mr. Levant, a lawyer, to file a human rights complaint in Canada regarding the incident.

Mr. Levant called the cancellation a sad commentary on the state of free speech in Canada. "When you start to intimidate and pose as security threat, there is no longer free speech."

Ms. Coulter's detractors cheered the departure of the sharp-tongued Ms. Coulter who's been accused of vilifying minority groups from gays to Muslims.

"I was just worried that things were going to be said about certain groups of people that were going to make them feel very unsafe and very uncomfortable and we promise our students here at the University of Ottawa a safe, positive space," said Rita Valeriano, a second-year sociology and women's studies student.

Ms. Coulter said students at the best U.S. universities such as Harvard don't try to shut her down as they did at the University of Ottawa. "At the good schools -- the Ivy league schools in America and their equivalent -- there is no hassle whatsoever. A lot of the students disagree with me but they have too much intellectual pride to stamp their feet and say 'You're ugly'. They come and they ask questions."

Riding a wave of controversy over her speaking tour of Canada, Ms. Coulter told CTV news earlier yesterday that she's being treated unfairly here because she's conservative.

In an unusual move, the University of Ottawa had sent her a warning before her speech, cautioning Ms. Coulter to watch her words lest she face criminal charges for promoting hatred in Canada.

"I hereby encourage you to educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before your planned visit here," University of Ottawa academic vice-president François Houle wrote.

"Promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges."

Speaking to CTV's Power Play Tuesday, Ms. Coulter suggested there's a double standard at work in Canada because left-wing provocateur Michael Moore doesn't receive the same kind of forewarnings.

"Does Michael Moore get a letter reminding him to be civil and threatening him with criminal prosecution?" Ms. Coulter said.

Ms. Coulter has made a career of outrageous statements, including her post-9-11 call for Islamic countries to be invaded, their leaders killed and all Muslims converted to Christianity. In 2007, she said "if we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat president." In an April, 2008 column she described Barack Obama's book Dreams From My Father as a "Dimestore Mein Kampf."

Civil libertarians decried the University of Ottawa's treatment of Ms. Coulter, saying it's out of line for an educational institution to be telling people to watch their words.

"It could be interpreted as an attempt to curtail speech," said Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

"I don't think it's appropriate to warn speakers. Regardless of how bigoted and terrible a speaker she is, she's entitled to freedom of expression and Canadians have a right to hear her views."

Ms. Coulter defended her nasty tone as political satire employed to force change - and a popular draw for audiences. "They wouldn't be bringing me in here for a speech if I never told a joke, if I never used satire."

She is a syndicated columnist for Universal Press Syndicate and in addition to appearing on U.S. talk shows, writes a legal affairs column for the conservative publication Human Events.

Ms. Coulter is visiting three universities during her trip to Canada, speaking at the University of Western Ontario, the University of Ottawa and the University of Calgary. The visit is being sponsored by the International Free Press Society, which promotes free speech, as well as the U.S.-based Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute, which encourages conservatism among young women.

Mr. Levant, on the advisory board of the International Free Press Society, said University of Ottawa has "proved the point of the whole tour."

"And isn't it ironic that it takes a provocative American coming to Canada to reveal the shortcomings in Canadian free speech?"

Follow on Twitter: @stevenchase

 

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