She may be wrong, but Ann Coulter does have rights
- Guest post
By Wendy Gillis
I am not what you'd call an Ann Coulter fan.
I fit more into the "would someone please get Miss Coulter a history book, a reality check and a sandwich" camp when it comes to the famous (or is it infamous?) Fox commentator and staunchly right-wing author, best known for her incendiary remarks about muslims, Canada and, interestingly enough, women's right to vote.
So when I heard that University of Ottawa's Provost Francois Houle issued a suggestion that she brush up on Canada's free speech laws, I thought it was, well, bad-ass in a tongue-in-cheek, Canadian, "we have something called respect up here" kind of way. I especially liked the bit about welcoming speakers who "contribute positively to the meaningful exchange of ideas," adopting the finger wagging tone of a parent trying to nip bad behaviour in the bud.
But word that Coulter's Tuesday night speech in Ottawa was cancelled because of perceived threats to her safety should not sound victory bells for even her harshest critic. Provided the threat to her physical well-being was real (though I do have doubts . . . remember Ann, we don't have a Second Amendment here), then — gasp! I can't believe I'm saying this — I agree with Ezra Levant when he says this is a challenge to free speech.
By all means, protest away. Had I been on campus in Ottawa, I might have shown up with a sign myself. But prompting the cancellation of her speech with violence only gives her ammunition to criticize the left; now she can truthfully say her opinion was muzzled because a bunch of Canadians silenced her with force. As much as I wish most of her words were never uttered, fear should not stop anyone from expressing their opinion in this country (so long as they respect the laws, of course).
On top of that, the more we let her speak, the more people will realize she's simply an ill-informed provocateur, out to make headlines and upset stomachs. As far as I'm concerned, we need more opportunities to reveal just how little she knows about, say, Canada's involvement in Vietnam.
Ultimately, Canadians should have spoken Coulter's aphoristic language, and demonstrated that while not all polemicists have something valid to say, they do have the right to say it.
Wendy Gillis is a student in the Ryerson Master of Journalism program and a former editor in chief at the Sheaf, the student newspaper at the University of Saskatchewan.