For shame, Canada…or maybe not

Ann Coulter, professional harridan, was scheduled to give a talk at the University of Ottawa tonight. It has been cancelled, citing a large number of protesters (which is not a problem, I would hope people would publicly express their displeasure!), and the possibility of violence (which is a problem, if true). At the very least, some hooligan pulled a fire alarm.

This is not the proper way to handle kooks at all.

She is a vile lunatic, but she should have been given the right to speak, and then her noise should have been ripped apart with good questions, and conversation after the event. It’s pretty much guaranteed that she would have said things that are stupid and outrageous and embarrassed herself — not that she’d notice, since she’s shameless — but now she gets a free pass and a martyr card.

I may be wrong here. If there was violence, or a credible threat of violence, then it was a bad show for free speech. On the other hand, it’s looking like there really wasn’t any serious threat — it was just a loud mob of people peacefully protesting, of which I entirely approve. The ‘violence’ story is beginning to sound like a contrived excuse for Ann Coulter to bolt out of the hot seat.

Although pulling a fire alarm is still very bad form.


  1. Glen Davidson says

    Wow, one of the least sympathetic individuals in America now gets to claim to be a victim (marginal case at best, but it’ll sell to many).

    Does the word “counterproductive” mean anything to these dolts?

    Glen D

  2. Cay says

    Wait, Ann Coulter should be allowed to speak, but the Pope should be turned away at the border? What about a little consistency?

  3. Fil says

    What’s her game exactly? Is she a media whore, revelling in the limelight and controversy her dumbass statements cause? Or does she really believe her own bullshit? I’m gobsmacked that anyone would want to listen to her at all, let alone so much.

    The world is weird beyond my poor understanding, I fear.

    On Topic: I’m in two minds. I agree that people like her need to be challenged in open forum, but I also don’t like to see her getting any exposure at all….except maybe to ridicule. There, you see? I’m confused.

  4. dunderjeep says

    Love your blog but is this the same guy who just wrote
    “The Pope is planning to visit the UK. He shouldn’t be welcomed; he should be turned away at the border as an undesirable fraud. “

  5. cms13ca says

    She was at University of Western Ontario in London, yesterday.

    Fatima Al-Dhaher, a political science student, complained about Coulter’s comments on Islam, including her suggestion that Muslims denied air travel use “flying carpets.”

    “As a 17-year-old student of this university, Muslim, should I be converted to Christianity? Second of all, since I don’t have a magic carpet, what other modes do you suggest,” Ms. Al-Dhaher said, according to the London Free Press.

    After being pressed to answer the question, Ms. Coulter said: “What mode of transportation? Take a camel.”

  6. llewelly says

    God | March 23, 2010 9:54 PM:

    She’s My prophet, and the people who reject her do so at their own peril.

    Planning to savage children with bears again, God? Well, it won’t work. Canadians enjoy being savaged by bears.

  7. John Morales says

    Um, that there’s a risk of violence¹ is evidenced by the triggering of a fire alarm?

    That seems a bit of a stretch, to say the least.

    ¹ Such that the talk needs be cancelled.

  8. PZ Myers says

    Coulter is a powerless loudmouth. The Pope is a criminal with considerable influence and power among the gullible.

  9. nonsensemachine says

    The thing with the Pope is whether or not he should get a state visit, which means he would get pomp and circumstance as a foreign dignitary and a stay on the UK’s dime. The Pope is a criminal and is also rich as fuck. He can speak in the UK on his own dime and as a lowly visitor. Then they could protest him all they want, but should never resort to threats of violence.

  10. NewEnglandBob says

    You are absolutely correct, PZ but it still feels good that it happened to Ann Coulter. SHE is the one inciting the behavior.

  11. aratina cage says

    Looking at the Glenn Greenwald piece, I don’t agree that she should come up against the law for her anti-human flagitiousness, but she was speaking at the pleasure of the academic institution and it was completely within their right to cancel the talk at their discretion. She has no right to be accommodated for a speech on the University of Ottawa campus. Besides, none of her views need repeating; we’ve heard it all before. Better to cancel the talk and turn her away than to give her the time of day.

  12. ZombieOctopus says

    We have laws against hate speech here, simple as that, and the reason we have them is that Canadians like it that way, see: protest.

    The kind of rhetoric that goes on in America is disgusting and Canada isn’t having it. Although many Americans, like Ann, would like to believe the American constitution applies anywhere Americans are present, it doesn’t.

    I am disappointed we didn’t get to see her arrested and prosecuted for hate speech though, that would’ve been sweet.

  13. phantomreader42 says

    Ann Coulter is, by her own definition, guilty of treason, a capital crime. She’s also grown rich by selling lies to the gullible, though nowhere near on the same scale as the elderly Nazi pedophile in his stupid-looking hat. Neither of them deserve a platform or money.

  14. clockkingfl says

    I’d have enjoyed seeing Coulter speak then being put on the spot with some direct and intelligent questions. From what I’ve seen of her, she does not like that at all, especially when she’s the one in the wrong.

  15. Zombified says

    What evidence is there of a real security problem? So far its just the say-so of some right-wing cockroach.

    This looks like another example of crybaby chickenhawk rightwingers making a fuss because -OMG- people are exercising their right to protest. Blaming the opposition’s exercise of free speech and then rolling around on the floor crying foul instead of engaging in actual debate is the standard conservative play; it’s what Sarah Palin built her whole career on.

    It is basically impossible to debate these rats without them throwing a hissy fit about some stupid thing and people need to quit falling for it.

  16. Eamon Knight says

    I agree: given that her appearance was already booked, they should have let her yap, then ripped her to shreds in the student press the next day. Arguably, they shouldn’t have booked her in the first place — free speech doesn’t automatically grant the right to any particular platform — but caving to the protesters (however much I may agree with their sentiment) and cancelling at the last minute just allows Coulter and that git Levant to play the martyr card. Bad move, U of O folks.

  17. ISDP says

    As someone who attends the University of Ottawa, this deeply disturbs me. The University looks worse for how it handled the whole debacle than Coulter does for the nonsense she spews out on a regular basis.

  18. Levi in NY says

    She was just scared at the prospect of facing the nearly two thousand protesters who gathered there. Right-wingers like to talk tough, but deep down most of them are cowards.

  19. Usagichan says

    Partly I feel its a shame to give the oxygen of publicity to this unpleasant person – As PZ has mentioned the strongest arguments against her will come from her own lips. She seems to have nothing new to say, but canceling her talk makes it seem like there is something there, without her saying anything.

    There is also the unpleasant conflation of the talk (which seems to have been canceled due to the presence of protesters) and Canada’s laws on Freedom of Speech. This incident has not been about Canada’s legal system, but about local people not wanting to put up with the kind of poisonous oratory so beloved by sections of their neighbour’s population. Freedom to shout down your opponents – I thought that was a good old American tradition too…

  20. Zeno says

    I regret that she now has any excuse at all to play the martyr card. I’m sure she’ll take advantage of it. After all, she’s a loud exponent of traditional family values despite being a childless old maid, so she can do most anything without a qualm.

    In some measure, she is reaping what she sows. At previous appearances she has encouraged bully-boy college students to beat up protesters, inciting violence. Still, we shouldn’t sink to her level.

  21. Shala says

    If she had gotten to speak, she’d likely be pulling the persecution card instead of the martyr card.

    I don’t care if she comes here to speak. She doesn’t deserve to speak at a university though. She is a complete lunatic, and should be denied speaking at such an academic facility until she has something actually useful to say.

  22. Autumn says

    Why would a university even have her on a list of people to invite? She isn’t an elected official, she is far from being highly regarded in her field, and she hasn’t managed to express a thought in the last ten years that didn’t contain at least one glaring error.
    Why not just randomly select someone to give a speech? It would be at least as interesting and relevant, and there is a very strong likelyhood that the random person would be a much better writer than Coulter.

  23. DaveWTC says

    First of all, you weren’t there. And, second, since when does one (possibly badly handled) incident at a university indict an entire country?

  24. Shala says

    I agree with Autumn. I dislike the way this was handled, with the fire alarms and such, but why would we even want Ann Coulter speaking here in the first place?

    Imagine if we let someone like Fred Phelps speak at the University of Ottawa (presuming he actually wanted to etc.). Sure we could just demolish his points and stomp his ignorance into the ground, but…why are we even letting him show up in the first place? Why not someone actually interesting and able to contribute to the student’s understanding of arts & science?

  25. Epinephrine says

    Sorry, I’m proud to have run her off.

    My understanding (and I live in Ottawa…) is that the protesters were not violent. Unless singing “na na na na, goodbye” is “violent. Rather, Coulter did not like the warning that hate speech is illegal here, and likely was alarmed at the size of the crowd.

  26. Cameron says

    What a striking difference. In the USA you pull a firearm at a political rally and you’re just exercising your 2nd Amendment rights. In Canada you pull a fire alarm at a political speech and you’re advocating violence.

  27. Quidam says

    I would take anything Ezra Levant says with a large pinch of salt.

    Tea Party estimates put the crowd at around 3 million people. That must really concern a populist like Anne

  28. pipkin1972 says

    @clockkingfl ‘especially when she’s the one in the wrong’
    Don’t you mean ‘especially when she’s the one thats always wrong about everything all the time’.

  29. Romeo Vitelli says

    “Imagine if we let someone like Fred Phelps speak at the University of Ottawa (presuming he actually wanted to etc.”

    Fred Phelps did come to Canada a few years ago to protest human rights legislation there. Sadly, he wasn’t arrested for hate speech and left the country when the police refused to guarantee his safety. He and his followers have since been banned from reentering the country.

  30. Shala says

    Fred Phelps did come to Canada a few years ago to protest human rights legislation there. Sadly, he wasn’t arrested for hate speech and left the country when the police refused to guarantee his safety. He and his followers have since been banned from reentering the country.

    Interesting, I never knew that. It seems an appropriate response to someone like him though, not letting him come here again and all.

  31. besserwisser says

    She should never have been scheduled to speak in the first place. Ignorance and absurdities like that do not belong in institutions of higher learning. Would you allow a Holocaust denier to speak at a University?

  32. pipkin1972 says

    Somehow i don’t think this will put her off from attending future events and i’m sure she will turn it around to her advantage.
    It’s unlikley living in England but if there were a question and answer bit at the end i’d quite like to attend one of these events so i can ask-
    Is there any tv appearence that you wouldn’t wear a cocktail dress for?

  33. Hurin says

    I find it shameful that there are academic higher-ups anywhere in Canada who would desire the presence of that slithering paskudnyak.

    Her “political commentary” is essentially hate porn designed to give the illiterate, 30 something failures of the birther fringe something to project their impotent rage into. she doesn’t merit a speaking arrangement in a circus tent much less a university.

  34. cpsmith says

    Yeah, I’m a student at Carleton University (just down the road from Ottawa U.) and while I would be troubled if there had actually been any real threat of violence I don’t think there was. Carleton didn’t invite her because she sucks and didn’t deserve a platform on which to speak. People protested at Ottawa U. because she sucks and doesn’t deserve a platform on which to speak. If there is going to be any right to free speech there has to be a right to protest and let others know how insanely stupid some of that speech is. If you don’t like getting yelled at, stop saying stupid things. As a Canadian, this event makes me proud, not ashamed. That being said it would have been awesome to see here just because it would have been hilarious.

  35. Biddy says

    Our “hate speech” laws turn my stomach! However, so does Coulter…. If only the world weren’t afflicted by either.

  36. Doug says

    I guess I’ll have to put my Kevlar gloves on over a pair of nitrile gloves & pick up a copy of the Sunday edition of local right wing tabloid rag (Calgary Sun). Sunday is when all the real mouth-foamers get to spew in their columns. They have, from time to time, published some Coulter excrement. There will no doubt be railing against the horrible injustice done to their darling.

    The first time I ever Coulter (a Scottish word for a ploughshare:
    “Till crash! the cruel coulter past
    Out thro’ thy cell.”
    on TV was a year or two after 9-11, when she was being interviewed by a (not idiotic) Canadian journalist. She was moaning about how Canada refused to send troops off with the Bush boys, and how we were failing in our tradition set by earlier wars, including Vietnam. When the interviewer told her (correctly) that Canada did not send troops to Vietnam, she insisted he was wrong.

    What was it Al Franken called her in his book? I loaned my copy to someone and never got it back.

    Phreddy Phelps is reported to have been a dropout from The Prairie Bible Institute at Three Hills, Alberta (not too far north of Calgary – somewhat west of the midpoint of a line between Drumheller, home of the Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology and Big Valley, home of the creation museum.

  37. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Coulter makes her living out of writing right-wing books and making speeches. She is not good at thinking on her feet. She should have given her speech and then get ripped apart by questions.

  38. Milawe says

    Two thousand noisy protestors have every right to gather against Ann Coulter or anybody else. Just as Ann Coulter has a ‘right to free speech’ so did each and every one of those protestors. These protestors aren’t ‘The State’. They weren’t marching in with batons and capsicum spray to arrest her and imprison her. These protestors were simply matching their noise with hers (and no doubt were more interesting and truthful than she’s ever been).

    Ann Coulter has a far greater platform to spread her vile propaganda than these 2000 people put together, and attempts to deal with her politely by asking intelligent questions in the past have done very little to quiet her or dent her book sales.

    My own similar experience with Anti Nazi protests, where our tactic was to always block attempts for National Action to organize, leads me to believe that such forms of protest can be perfectly successful. National Action only ever lasts as long in Melbourne as it takes for the Anti-Nazi’s to notice they’re around.

    This is a good thing. If only it had happened to Coulter 10 years ago.

  39. Pyrrhonic says

    @ Cay #4,

    I believe the protest is not to prevent the Pope from speaking, to prevent him from receiving the same treatment as other heads of state:

    As a head of state, the Pope is an unsuitable guest of the UK government and should not be accorded the honour and recognition of a state visit to our country.

    The consistency is in the pudding, so to speak.

  40. Izzy says

    @39 As a Canadian, this event makes me proud, not ashamed.

    I hear you there! I can’t stop grinning.

  41. Rorschach says

    Yay, a Coulter thread !!

    Obligatory literature reference

    And, can someone explain to me how “pulling a fire alarm” is anything akin to violence? I read that as “pulled a firearm” first, and thought, uhm yeah, that’s not good, but a fire alarm?

  42. Doug says


    Pulling a fire alarm is pretty extreme in these parts. Generally, Canadian public demonstration violence is more along the lines of shouting for someone like Coulter to “go home” without saying “please”.

  43. Ibis3 says

    Ah, too bad the UofO sent the letter. Should have just waited for her to stick her foot in it and let her get arrested for hate speech.

    Btw, I like our hate speech laws. I think inciting others to hate and violence should be a crime. Freedom of expression should come with a counter-balancing duty to exercise that right with a sense of responsibility. There’s a distinction between saying “I can’t stand fags” and “Kill all the fags”. It’s not about oppression of political (or other) opinion, it’s about keeping the nutters from encouraging others to commit acts of violence on their behalf.

    I just saw a clip earlier today from The Young Turks which mentioned tweets by some right wing blogger calling for someone to take a shot at Obama, and he was saying that those threats and incitements to violence should be investigated and charges laid. Why is it less acceptable to call for the death of one man, whomever he is, than to call for the death of a whole group? Or to foment so much hatred that someone going off and killing another person (or group) is a logical consequence (like, say, stirring up a lynch mob or a group of tea partiers)?

    PS Another Ottawa native and Carleton alumna here.

  44. DaveWTC says

    @#49 Shala, what is an “Atlantic Canadian” brofist and do I want one? (Carleton alumnus and, I forgot to add, Ibis3, Ottawa native!) I am surprised at how many of us (ONs) are weighing in – nice to see since methinks the blogger is a little full of himself on this one.

  45. Shala says

    @#49 Shala, what is an “Atlantic Canadian” brofist and do I want one?

    I took notice that Izzy was from New Brunswick. I’m from Nova Scotia myself. :)

    You may want one!

  46. lesbianjesus says

    #10 boggsster

    We have freedom of expression, not freedom of speech. It actually ends in a higher recognition of the rights of the individual, as it reduces the right to victimize another with your speech.

    The university should have let her speak though, despite her camel/Flying Carpet comments earlier.

  47. Ibis3 says

    BTW, it sounds to me like the *organiser* cancelled the event (perhaps at Coulter’s own request), when confronted with an unexpected(?) amount of protest, rather than any authoritative body like the university (let alone a gov’t body!). I could be wrong though.

    I mean, honestly. I can’t imagine a group of Ottawa protesters turning violent short of rioting should Leafs fans ever hold a Stanley Cup victory parade down Bank St.

    Ann Coulter? Somehow I just don’t see them getting that worked up over her.

  48. zeppo-marx says

    One point that doesn’t seem to get much play: The University did not invite her. A conservative student group did, no doubt hoping to make some money from the ticket sales.

    More people turned up to protest her than actually paid for tickets.

    Yeah, the letter was poorly written and perhaps ill-advised, but given her history it could also be taken as an honestly-given reminder that she wasn’t in Kansas anymore and should take that into account. After all, this IS the woman who koew so much about Canada that she extolled our active help in the Vietnam War when she denigrated us for skipping Iraq. She is famous for being offensive and for not doing her homework – which could have proved difficult for her.

    It would have been an embarrassment to the university should she get charged for hate-speech violations on campus, and the letter might have been as much a bit of CYA by the school should a student register a complaint because they had let her speak despite knowing her history. The author was, however, awfully naive not to see how it was only giving ammunition to her claims of being a poor, downtrodden conservative.

    Ah well. If she’s too scared of the state of airline security up here too – I can find a camel for her to ride home on.

  49. pdferguson says

    I have to agree with everyone who stated the obvious: what the fuck were they thinking when they invited her?

    The real issue is that she should never have been invited in the first place. She has nothing of value to offer the U of Ottawa community; she’s got less intellectual credibility than a syphilitic circus clown. I would rather she just go home with that chip on her shoulder than give her a platform she absolutely does not deserve.

    If anything good is to come out of this, it should be a discussion about the celebrity culture that provides hate mongers and other intellectual frauds like Coulter a microphone. A discussion about Coulter would be far more interesting than a discussion with her.

  50. Izzy says

    @Shala @DaveDTC *brofist*
    I’m starting to believe this is a really good year for Canada. Haha!

    Man, I just watched a YouTube video of this woman and I’m glad she didn’t get a chance to talk. What unbelievable nonsense!

  51. Ibis3 says

    @ #58 I agree. That letter sounds more like a good-faith warning than a threat. But I guess Coulter and her cronies aren’t used to that kind of approach.

  52. baryogenesis says

    I agree she should have been allowed to speak up here in Canada, but am also torn by the fact that she drifts into hate speech. And, btw, Spunmunkey @9, I love that “old chestnut” and think it should be available to those who haven’t read it. She’s probably just a media whore as some have said, like Beck and Rush. Otoh, if she offers to engage the public with that kind of rhetoric…let’s have fun with her.

  53. at0m1qu3 says

    Sorry PZ but I wholeheartedly am proud of the students and presumably others who created conditions inhospitable to this crank of your country.

    If she were ever to be somewheres in travelling distance from me I would raise as much noise as possible and would wish to block her entry. Free speech is fine, hate speech is not. I’m surprised at your apparent change of position between this cook and the other one with the funny hat (read pope)

  54. Anti_Theist-317 says

    Comment #65, I agree. I guess I been living under a fucking rock cause I had no idea who this cunt was. I been googling to make sure when I made this post I was articulate, intelligent and informed. After much research I can say way to go Canada.

    I am not a big rollins fan. But, here is a funny youtube video I favorited for ya’ll:

  55. ecpaulsen says

    Man, I HATE taking a contrary position on a topic on PZs blog, and being a Liberal I AM torn when a speaker is silenced by detractors – and yet…

    Coulter and her ilk are little better than pornographers, in my estimation somewhat worse. Their intellectual “product” is hate porn, it is sowing the seeds of anger and violence in the minds of those who nourish themselves wholly on such bitter fruits. Is it really wrong for those students to see the pornographer coming to their town, attracting the vile denizens that live in it’s margins, and want to deny a venue for the perversions she offers for the price of admission? Do those of you condemning these students think that allowing her to speak would have resulted in some quid pro quo where maybe an Atheist convention would be warmly welcomed in Pignugget Arkansas? It won’t EVER happen.

    Why don’t liberal minded people understand that the Coulters of this world will ALWAYS claim unfair bias, will ALWAYS condemn the “hypocritical Liberals” even if the protest was small and friendly, will ALWAYS try to stamp us out like bugs no matter how assiduously we protect their rights to do just that!

    You can’t hold a debate with someone who refuses to argue honestly and Ann Coulter has built her empire on slander and the most unconscionable fact free screeds laced with venom and invective. Yes, it would be nice to give her a daisy and sit down in a HoJos to have a civil conversation over a pot of tea with her instead of wielding silver and garlic to keep her at bay – but in what bizarro universe is that EVER going to happen? It is far better to keep the cap on the Benzene than risk the brain cancer.

  56. greg says

    This is akin to inviting Hitler to speak. Ok, she hasn’t committed mass murder, but her hate speech is of the same ilk.

    Perhaps the group that invited her might consider some off campus venue, since the students paying tuition there might object to having Hitler or David Duke show up on THEIR campus, and clearly they did.

    Is this a rejection of free speech? No. It’s a rejection of her using controversy to profit at the expensive of responsible or even rational thought. She’s had way more than her 15 minutes of fame. Why add to it? What does she say that’s new or worth listening to? She has spoken and reaped the reward of her words. Utter rejection.

    I certainly don’t advocate violent protest, but claiming a largely peaceful crowd was violent when one or two miscreants acted stupid is hardly fair.

    Find another venue, Ann.

  57. Aagrajag says

    Bloody hell…

    Ashamed Ottawan here…

    I don’t understand how this creature obtained a speaking engagement at the UofO; abnormal psychology class demonstration perhaps? The article really doesn’t give much useful info.

    Still, I would have loved to see her speak, and watch her torn to logical pieces by the audience.

    (Sigh) This could have been better handled.

    Also: I’m going to rape, torture and murder Anne Coulter.

    Hey…… it’s just a joke! Funny, eh?

    //No, really, a joke. I will not harm Anne Coulter. This is satire, meant to mock her constant incitements to violence that she lightly dismisses as “jokes” when challenged.

  58. Walton says

    I will say exactly the same as I said about the incident with the Ethical Humanist Society and the communist Sunsara Taylor.

    On the one hand, I believe unequivocally in freedom of speech as a fundamental right. In no circumstances should the government interfere with the right of Ann Coulter – or Sunsara Taylor, or Fred Phelps, or anyone else – to express their views, however kooky or offensive those views might be. “Hate speech” laws are entirely wrong; once we start giving government the power to decide what is and isn’t acceptable public discourse, we have surrendered one of our most fundamental freedoms.

    On the other hand, an organisation is under no obligation to give any given speaker a platform, and organisations have the right to withdraw invitations. There is no “right” to address a particular organisation. If an organisation’s members don’t want a particular speaker to be associated with their organisation, then it is right for the invitation to be revoked – whether the organisation is the University of Toronto or the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago.

    We had a scandal like this in Oxford, only much worse, when Nick Griffin and David Irving (far right crypto-fascist loons) were invited to speak at the Oxford Union. That invitation, too, attracted some controversy, but the members actually voted in a poll that Griffin and Irving should be allowed to speak. (I remember participating in that poll, but can’t recall how I voted). In the end, they did speak, but the event was very seriously disrupted by anti-fascist protestors.

  59. John Morales says


    On the one hand, I believe unequivocally in freedom of speech as a fundamental right.
    On the other hand, an organisation is under no obligation to give any given speaker a platform, and organisations have the right to withdraw invitations.

    Your absolutism is showing, again.

    cf. PZ @12.
    cf. Shouting fire in a crowded theater.

    Nuance and context, apparently, are considerations you often neglect to consider.

  60. negentropyeater says

    She is a vile lunatic, but she should have been given the right to speak, and then her noise should have been ripped apart with good questions, and conversation after the event. It’s pretty much guaranteed that she would have said things that are stupid and outrageous and embarrassed herself

    As if her followers will understand this !

    The more noise these pundits make, the more the teabaggers gain confidence and it feeds into their paranoid behaviour.

    The US will have no way of stopping this. Good for Canada for not letting this kind of thing grow.

  61. Janet Holmes says

    The bloody woman was not denied the right to speak, she chickened out when she was warned that she couldn’t get away with the same shit in Canada that she does in the US! It’s not the same thing!

    She spat the dummy and ran, how is that being victimised? It isn’t.

  62. Walton says

    JM: Free speech has to be a near-absolute, otherwise it is worthless.

    There are, I would say, two legitimate exceptions to free speech:

    (1) Speech that directly endangers the lives or physical safety of others. This would include:

    (a) Shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre, and analogous cases;

    (b) Breach of security by a person entrusted with sensitive information, such as the identities of undercover intelligence officers, that could lead to people getting killed;

    (c) Co-ordinating acts of violence or conspiring to commit acts of violence; or

    (d) Directly threatening violence. (At common law, this is the crime of assault. Unlike battery, which requires that physical violence actually be committed, assault consists in causing a person to apprehend immediate unlawful violence; so if you threaten to attack someone, or swing your fist at them, you may have committed an assault even if you didn’t actually touch them. Not many people realise this.)

    (2) Speech that defames the reputation of others. However, it’s important to note that libel and slander are merely civil wrongs, not criminal offences. If you libel someone, you can be sued in a civil court, but you can’t be imprisoned (unless you defy an injunction and are held in contempt of court).

    I would say that it’s important to guarantee free speech beyond these limits. Speech that is distressing, upsetting or offensive to people, however grave its emotional impact, should not be prohibited or restricted by law. Only when it crosses the line, into threatening or conspiring to commit acts of violence, should it be prosecuted.

    So, for example, if a speaker stands on a street corner yelling obscenities and vile epithets against people of a particular race or religion, I would say that his right to free speech should be protected. He should be arrested only if he actually threatens or incites violence against people in the vicinity. “Hate speech”, in itself, should not be a crime. That’s why I support Fred Phelps’ right to protest at funerals, for example. He’s a despicable scumbag, and his behaviour is gravely offensive and hurtful to the families of the deceased, but as long as he isn’t advocating violence, I would say that his right to free speech supersedes their right not to be emotionally distressed.

    Why do I take such an extreme view of free speech? Because, fundamentally, I don’t trust government to decide what forms of speech are acceptable – because history shows that government, when entrusted with this power, will ultimately use it to censor forms of speech that offend the values of the majority, and to silence unpopular minorities. This is still going on. Read Ed Brayton’s blog – in conservative rural parts of the US, there are lots of examples of heavy-handed local authorities, police and school administrators acting against people who express unpopular viewpoints, such as criticism of Christianity or advocacy of gay rights, because these views are deemed to be “offensive” to the majority.

    We, as secularists, are rightly unhappy when the law is used to protect religious sensibilities. But we need to recognise that if we want our right to free speech to be protected, we need to stand up for others’ right to free speech – and that includes people whose views are offensive to virtually everyone, such as Fred Phelps. Once we give government the power to censor views that the majority finds unpalatable, we give government a power that can be used to silence criticism. That’s a dangerous road – and that’s why “hate speech” laws are entirely wrong.

  63. JerryM says

    Calling Ann Coulter’s rhetoric hate porn is an insult to porn.

    Francis’ letter is just a reminder to her so she’s aware of the law of the land. Perhaps naively, he thought he was giving her advice, while she issues warnings as veiled threats, so she perceives them as such as well.

  64. scooterKPFT says

    So all that is necessary to shut up Ann Coulter is a Jr. High fire alarm prank?

    Why didn’t someone mention this earlier?

  65. Shrunk says

    A couple of points need clarification here.

    As others have mentioned, Coulter was not there at the invitation of the University, but of a private conservative group. I’m not sure if that group was also responsible for providing security.

    Secondly, there are some, apparently first hand, accounts on
    this page
    that report that the threat to Coulter’s security has been greatly exaggerated, and that the “2000 violent protestors” was actually a quiet group of about 30 people. While I can’t verify that, the film footage I’ve seen on TV, though not conclusive, seems to support that.

    It should also be mentioned that the decision to cancel the event was made by Coulter’s own staff, not the university. Publicity stunt, perhaps?

  66. IanM says

    It wasn’t the prospect of a raucous crowd that sent Ann Coulter running. The government threatened her with legal action if her talk crossed the line into what it determined as hate speech.

  67. John Morales says


    Thanks for the response, Walton. It is a nice disquisition (though I note you didn’t mention slander or cons, for example ;) ).

  68. Evolving Squid says

    Our “hate speech” laws turn my stomach!

    Why is that? I’m genuinely curious.

    As a Canadian, I, too, am embarrassed by hate our hate speech laws.

    Suppressing the expression of idiotic ideas in law does not cause the ideas to be destroyed, but drives them underground. I’d much rather have the hate out in the open where it can be subject to public scrutiny like other ideas.

    Let the hateful whack-jobs shout from every street corner! we’ll know where they are and what they’re doing. If we suppress them, they’re still going to talk but we won’t know what they’re up to until they lash out in a terribly unpleasant way.

    Free speech is something that needs to be nurtured and protected, and the speech of douchebags most needs that protection. Obviously hateful harpies can be effectively shouted down, so I’m not convinced that hate speech laws serve any purpose whatsoever in a free and democratic society.

  69. Evolving Squid says

    The government threatened her with legal action if her talk crossed the line into what it determined as hate speech.

    No, that is not true.

    A university official sent her a reminder that Canada has hate speech laws with nasty penalties.

    That is all that happened. It wasn’t a government threat. It wasn’t even a university threat. Someone was concerned that she might get herself in trouble and sent her a warning.

    She has taken that and blown it all out of proportion, as would be expected.

  70. Blondin says

    If she had given the talk I’m sure we’d all be having a good laugh now over the way she made an ass of herself as she always does. Instead she’s going to get a lot of mileage out of this.

  71. AJ Milne says

    Seriously, looking at the reports I’m getting, I don’t think there is anything much on the protesters’ behaviour here, really.

    I see no reports of anything especially wacky–I mean, there’s the fire alarm, I guess, and that’s a bit outside, but not exactly violent–and you can bet there’d be those if there was anything much.

    What happened was almost certainly numbers, not specific threats of violence. The security forces present weren’t prepared for that many, and came to the conclusion there weren’t enough of them to handle things safely if things got ugly, and warned Coulter’s people. She bailed on that advice, and took the opportunity, as usual, to lie her nasty little ass off about how dreadfully suppressed her voice is. Poor thing.

    So, in short: no, the protesters are okay by me. Damn straight tell that loser you’ve heard enough of her brand of shit. I’d have liked to have heard her properly mocked for what she actually came to say*, sure. But that’s not on them. Apparently the cops just weren’t quite up to this. What can ya do.

    (/*And then again, seriously, it ain’t like we haven’t hard it before, and it makes about as much sense to ‘debate’ this woman as it does to play chess with a pigeon, to invoke the standard trope. So honestly, no great loss, here, either.)

  72. LisaJ says

    I’m a current U Ottawa student and an alumni of the University of Western Ontario and, funny thing, I didn’t even hear of Coulter’s visits until I watched the evening news last night. My first thought was, ‘what the hell is this woman doing speaking at Universities?’. She’s a moron, the epitome of ignorance and anti-education; she has no place in this setting. If she’d been invited to speak at another, non-academic, public venue then I’d be more sympathetic to her apparently being run off, but I think this was the right outcome for this particular location. She never should have been invited to speak in an academic setting.

    It’s too bad that it came to the level of protests on our part. However, I do wonder if the severity of our reaction has been overblown; again, I go to U Ottawa and haven’t heard a whole lot about it, and I’d be incredibly surprised if this student population would resort to violence or even serious threats to that effect. Sure, this will give Coulter easy Fodder to rip Canada apart on her ridiculous show, but do I really care? Nope.

  73. Epinephrine says

    Since people are discussing our (Canadian) hate speech laws, I’ll voice that I’m torn about them. On the one hand, I see nothing useful in the types of speech that are illegal in Canada – it is not illegal to voice hate or to rant about how much you hate a group. It is illegal to incite violence against a group, or to advocate that others should hate. It is a fine line, but there is a difference between stating that “I hate X, for these reasons,” and “you should all hate X, too.”

    I’m not embarassed by our laws, though I do question whether they are perhaps antiquated; my wife and I were discussing this during the news reports. I think that freedom of speech (or expression) is important, but I agree with Walton that there are types of speech that need not be protected. Inciting violence and inciting hatred are close cousins, and one can easily lead to the other. Saying that a country would be better off with no X’s around isn’t necessarily inciting violence, but one can see how it could lead there. There is a certain justifiable worry that hate propaganda can result in harmful action.

    Also, a fist bump to my fellow Carleton alumni!

  74. RoughCanuk says

    Free speech is not license to call for the murder of indviduals or people Coulter dislikes and her record has innumerable calls for death and destruction of others. This is why it was suggested that she be arrested for hate speech in Canada, based on her previous eliminationist rhetoric.
    Coulter’s presentation would not have been an opportunity to refute or contest her views, it would only have served as pulp for her supporters. She tends to humiliate her critics, deflect questions and blatently lie when challenged.
    Suggestions for arrest do not neccessarily translate into action, recalling that during President GW Bush’s visit to Canada during his last term a few people thought he should be arrested for war crimes.
    I am pleased that her sponsors at the UofO and her handlers agreed to cancel, but it does sound more of a publicity stunt rather than actual concern over her safety. But BRAVO to the protestors, nonetheless.
    Critics of Canadian hate laws should actually read them first and be prepared to discuss them rather than go off full tilt, Glenn Greenwald style.
    I found the intimidating style of free speech suppression in the USA far more unnerving when I was living in Washington (don’t criticize our President or his policies in a time of war), I found it far more brutal and frightening to endure.

  75. AJ Milne says

    Thanks for the addendum, PZ. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that a lying sack o’ shit like Coulter is (probably) trying to spin the opinion of the security detail about the practicality of security under the circumstances into ‘ZOMG! I’s been martyred!’, but she has to be called on it. Like everything else.

    (/Oh, and yeah, I live in Ottawa, attended U d’O back in the day. And Coulter, if a nicely large mob of people showing up to tell a manipulative little demagogue like you loudly they’ve noticed how very full of shit you are is ‘bush league’, asswipe, I’m ever so proud to come from the bush.)

  76. davem says

    The more I see of Ann Coulter, the more I think that she’s another in the style of Ray Comfort. I cannot believe that either of them actually believes what they say. To me, both of them are simply cynically doing it for money. In AC’s case (Whoa, just noted the Antichrist’s initials there!) she just says outrageous shit just to get more book sales, or articles read. Either that, or she’s certifiable.

  77. Canuck says

    To #8 – Thank you, we are accustomed to bears.
    in re this thread:
    I cannot help but wonder what would happen if we engaged in a quintesentially Canadian responce to speakers of this ilk.
    1. Pack the auditorium with protesters who have been well trained to respond properly – i.e. – no sound, no response, and no questions – just dead air. This would not really work if the seats had to be paid for – or
    2. ensure that no one attended – or that her response was exceedingly sparce. The simple solution for demagogs is to refuse to listen.
    Please remember that there is a public speaking park in Toronto. Occasionally our local Nazi shows up. The police also show up – to protect him from our community of Polish Jews. Their reaction is to stand still and stare hard.
    I do wish that people would remember that while we may have freedom of speech, we also have the freedom to refuse to listen.
    The fire alarm was a very nice touch.

  78. Ibis3 says

    @ #81

    does not cause the ideas to be destroyed, but drives them underground

    [citation needed] Oh, and while you’re at it, please make a distinction between “idiotic ideas” –which are not “suppressed,” and incitement of violence and hatred.

    I’d speculate that the opposite is true. Just take a look at a Tea Party rally south of the border. Spurred on by Fox “News” pundits and Michele Bachmann, many of those people look like they’re on the edge of violence (spitting at people, breaking into Congress, bringing guns to hear Obama speak)…it’s only a matter of time before the pot boils over and real damage is done. Oh yes, sorry. Tell that to Dr. Tiller or the police officers in Pittsburgh.

    The evidence seems to suggest that stirring up hatred gives it oxygen, and causes more people to become more and more extreme until violence is the inevitable result. It does not seem to lead to rational discourse about the merit or truth of people’s opinions.

    People who would not have ever committed a violent act otherwise can be party to genocide if they feel bolstered and encouraged by a crowd of other people telling them to “kill all the Whatevers!”.

    Far, far better to say that kind of hate speech is not tolerated and nip it in the bud. This helps to prevent an atmosphere of intimidation from arising and feeding itself, or even from allowing hate to become normalised/popular. I think this goes a long way to explaining why we have more progress with respect to gay rights north of the border, for example.

  79. umcscience says

    I’m glad that Canada will charge people with hate crimes. I am also glad that Canadians are willing to shut down known hate-mongers like Coulter and Westboro Baptists who only lower our standard of living.

  80. Shala says

    It is difficult for me to comment about hate speech, since I am definitely not a politician, but speaking as someone part of a non-Atheist minority (bisexuality) I would prefer not to turn on the television and hear about myself going to Hell or acquiring AIDS and dying. The hate speech laws may be arguably too harsh, but I would prefer not to be discriminated against at all openly.

  81. theflyingtrilobite says

    Part of free speech is defending the rights of those with you whom you (vehemently) disagree.

    I despise what Coulter stands for. She should have been allowed to speak.

    Unless she was actively exhorting the crowd to commit violence against liberals, atheists, muslims or whoever she’s mad at today, it shouldn’t fall under hate speech.

    Here in Canada we don’t allow people to whip up a lynch mob. We do -and should- allow them to make asses of themselves.

  82. Quidam says

    Ann Coulter is an insult comic with pretensions of intellectual adequacy.

    Why she was booked into universities to perform I don’t know. Probably because Yuk Yuks has standards.

  83. mikerattlesnake says

    I can’t get too upset over this. She’s had her chance to speak, she has never said anything worthwhile, and a robust intellectual debunking has never had an effect on her or her followers. As long as we don’t quite get to the torches and pitchforks stage, I’m fully in support of people telling her exactly how they feel about her bullshit and denying her the chance to speak. I mean, there are plenty of intelligent, worthwhile people who will never get the opportunity to do a lecture like that, why is it an inalienable right for her?

  84. bigcitylib says

    There are a few pictures of the “mob” that have emerged. I have one back at my site. Used to be that “mob” signified more than one person, but perhaps not these days.

  85. Ibis3 says

    @ 94 Unfortunately the hate speech laws aren’t harsh enough. There’s an exemption for religion:

    (2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of
    (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
    (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.


    (3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2)
    (b) if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text;

  86. Lochsloy says

    Coulter apparently will attempt to speak this evening in Calgary. If she does so and should break Canadian hate speech law, she could be arrested (very unlikely). Good for the U.S. but unfortunately we Canadians would then have to support her with appropriate room and board. The vast majority of Canadian taxpayers would prefer that she just be sent home and told not to return.

  87. marcm2k says

    Here’s the situation in Canada. It would never get violent. (well, as far as I’ve seen) We’ve had 500,000 people in downtown Toronto celebrating and there wasn’t one incident.

    We’re pretty level headed here. We don’t like to solve things with violence. The fire alarm is the extent we’d go – maybe some vandalism done by a couple of idiots. Other than that, nothing else.

  88. Thomathy says

    @Everyone (especially Americans who don’t care to educate themselves a bit) who keeps on about our (Canada’s) hate speech laws and how Coulter should have been allowed to speak:

    We don’t have freedom of speech and it shouldn’t be confused with freedom of expression and our hate speech laws are not limiting of our freedom to say or write or think whatever we want.

    Coulter left on her own accord and she was never stopped from speaking. She could have got up on the pulpit provided for her by her invitation from a private group at that university and spewed whatever inane rhetoric she wanted to. Apparently, some protesters and the laws of our country are enough to intimidate her into shutting-up and well they should be (though you might have thought she had the courage of her convictions).

    I’m quite proud to be living in a country where people like Coulter are properly cowed by crowds of people who disagree with her and by laws she might not even have contravened.

  89. realinterrobang says

    Yesterday the Vancouver Sun had an article saying that Coulter intended to file a grievance with the Human Rights Commission because she’d received a (very politely worded) letter from a UO administrator reminding her of Canada’s hate speech laws and that she should not allow her mouth to get her in trouble. Somehow in what passes for her mind, that constitutes “hate speech” against her.

    So here we have someone who claims to loathe all forms of what she calls “political correctness” (mostly on the grounds that societal admonitions against being an asshole in public take away her whole schtick) and restraints on speech rushing off to take advantage of the Human Rights Commission to defend her status as a member of a “protected class” under Canadian law. (I’m sort of wondering what “protected class” that would be; last I checked, “insane right-winger” didn’t count as a “protected class.”)

    Apparently it’s perfectly okay for her to make blatantly racist, anti-semitic, anti-Muslim, and bigoted statements in public, but it’s not okay for someone to politely remind her that her big mouth could put her in jail in Canada. It’s All Okay If You’re A Right-Winger, I guess. The stench of hypocrisy is fouller than Ann Coulter herself. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  90. pdferguson says

    Walton wrote:

    There is no “right” to address a particular organisation.

    Well put, Walton. This is where PZ’s argument went off the rails.

  91. Walton says

    I should add – in response to some people above – that if you support hate speech laws, you are not a liberal. You are an authoritarian. Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental tenets of liberalism. Hate speech laws are completely incompatible with liberal principles, in exactly the same way that blasphemy laws are incompatible with liberal principles. If the word “liberal” can extend to people who support hate speech laws, then it has lost any kind of meaning whatsoever.

  92. Shala says

    I should add – in response to some people above – that if you support hate speech laws, you are not a liberal. You are an authoritarian.

    I’m neither.

  93. Shrunk says


    I should add – in response to some people above – that if you support hate speech laws, you are not a liberal. You are an authoritarian. Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental tenets of liberalism.

    Agreed, although I’m not sure if the problems with the Canadian hate speech laws are in their conception so much as in their application. As worded, part of the definition of hate speech is that it must be demonstrated to actually lead to harm against an identifiable group of people(the specific wording is “likely to lead to a breach of the peace.”) That seems to me to be a reasonable constraint on freedom of expression.

    The problem is that interpretation and implementation of the laws are often left up to quasi-judicial bodies knowm as “Human Rights Tribunals” which do not necessarily include lawyers and tend to interpret the law in inappropriately broad terms. When HRT decisions have been appealed to “real” courts, the interpretation has tended to be much narrower.

  94. Thomathy says

    @Walton in #106:

    Oh, please. There’s so many uses and meanings of the word liberal in a variety of contexts that you’re absolutist usage does more to ruin the meaning of the word in any context than the context dependent uses do and calling someone who supports hate speech laws an authoritarian really lowers the bar on the application of that word.

    You obviously don’t appreciate what may or may not constitute a liberal person, nor do you have any appreciation of what an authoritarian actually is. Do you often make such sweeping and useless generalisations and make a point of showcasing your rather simple views or did you actually intend to have written something of substance?

  95. Darrell E says

    What the fuck is it with all of the people commenting about how AC should have been allowed to speak?

    “I despise AC and everything she stands for, but she should have been allowed to speak.”

    Really? Great! Now we know just how fucking noble and righteous you are! Here you go, pick a sticker. Oh, you want the blue one instead of the gold one?

    Did any of you read any of the accounts of this event, or any of the comments in the thread?

    It was AC’s own people, and the people that invited her, which was not the University, that decided to deny AC the opportunity to speak.

    Why in the fuck would you take the word of a piece of shit like AC regarding this event over the many other accounts that contradict her’s?

    This is me giving the students who protested this a standing ovation. Well done.

    This is me calling AC, and Mr Levant, a lying fucking coward.

  96. Walton says

    Shala, while I certainly wouldn’t suggest that “liberal” and “authoritarian” are exhaustive categories, I beg to differ. If you support laws against “hate speech”, you are an authoritarian. Full stop. I’m not insulting you; I’m stating a fact.

    There are plenty of forms of speech which are genuinely hurtful, offensive and morally repugnant. Fred Phelps’ protests at funerals can be extremely offensive and emotionally distressing, for instance, both to grieving relatives and to the gay, lesbian and transgender communities. But when we start censoring these forms of speech in order to protect people’s injured feelings – however legitimate those feelings of distress and upset may be – then we cease to live in a free society. If we want to live in a free society, we need to accept that some people will use their freedom to say things that are offensive.

  97. Shala says

    Walton, I’m currently checking over the wikipedia article on authoritarianism, and I can’t really say I support most of the stuff there.

    Granted, I have said earlier that I am not a political student. I can’t bring anything of large substance to a political table, but offer my thoughts. That said, it seems to me you have crafted a false dichotomy with your accusation of one being either liberal or authoritarian. I’m a progressive conservative if that helps you understand my position.

    My main problem: What use is there for such hate speech anyway? It is not bettering society. How will we stop people from doing it? If the United States’ free speech laws are any indication, hate speech will go on forever there.

    I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. If not by law, what can we do about hate speech?

  98. Free Lunch says

    We’ve had 500,000 people in downtown Toronto celebrating and there wasn’t one incident.

    Sure, but your celebration has always been tempered by the knowledge that the Stanley Cup has eluded your team for half a century. You just might get a bit out of hand if the Cup ever shows up.

  99. cpsmith says

    I’ve been looking at some of the local news reports and it appears that the violent behaviour of the crowd included carrying posters quoting Coulter and chanting “This space is safe space.” Well golly gee whiz. How terrifying.

  100. AJ Milne says

    #110, FTW.

    Coulter can’t string three words together without it turning to bullshit. The fact that she’s trying to spin this the way she is should surprise no one. But, again, what isn’t in those news reports should make it clear enough: all that really happened is the security detail was afraid they might not be prepared for the numbers. So she buggered off and is now busily trying to wrap her lying ass in the martyr shroud.

    She should be ashamed of herself. But then, she’s a pathological liar, and one who makes her daily bread being exactly that. So as if.

  101. Thomathy says

    @Walton in #111

    Well, isn’t it good that hate speech laws in Canada aren’t designed to salve the hurt feelings of people or to silence people who say offensive things?

    Just how long are you going to straw man this with your own idea of freedom of expression and of hate speech laws?

    Honestly, we get your point, it just so happens that it’s utterly irrelevant.

  102. Ibis3 says

    @ Walton

    Codswallop. Liberalism is traditionally a quest for the perfect balance between individual liberty and responsibilities to fellow citizens.

    My personal liberty exists only because I am free of violence and intimidation.

    The reason we have laws against hate propaganda is the same reason we have laws against stalking or uttering threats to an individual. This is perfectly consistent with the values of liberalism.

  103. Walton says

    Shala, I’m sorry I wasn’t clear in my earlier post (my fault; I’m rather distracted today by studying for my exams). “Liberal” and “authoritarian” are definitely not exhaustive categories. It is certainly possible to be neither liberal nor authoritarian. However, I would argue that laws against hate speech are an inherently authoritarian measure.

  104. Ibis3 says

    @ Walton #118

    However, I would argue that laws against hate speech are an inherently authoritarian measure

    …inasmuch as any law is an inherently authoritarian measure.

    Fixed that for you.

  105. Shala says

    However, I would argue that laws against hate speech are an inherently authoritarian measure.

    With free speech though, what can be done about people who promote hate speech and issue threats?

  106. Ibis3 says

    @ Shrunk #108

    The law against hate speech (properly “hate propaganda”) is part of the Criminal Code, and handled by police & the courts.

    What you’re referring to is Human Rights legislation set up to handle discrimination complaints against employers or bodies that are federally or provincially regulated. This legislation is administered by Human Rights Commissions or Tribunals. The standards there are a lot less stringent, and rulings are pretty limited (I believe they are limited to orders to cease behaviour and fines.) Complaints are handled on a case by case basis.

  107. broboxley OT says

    @Shala #121 ignore them, laugh at them or smack them around with a baseball bat and use the speech and incitement as a defense when you get to court.

  108. Lutrasimilis says

    Long-time reader, first time poster.

    Here’s the deal. As a Canadian, if I flew down to the United States and expected them to change some of their laws to accomodate my local values, I would be laughed all the way back to customs.

    Could someone please tell my why the fuck Americans like Ann Coulter think that their sovereign values follow them into other countries?

    This isn’t about hate speech laws, which are complete BS by the way, this is about a visitor who expects us to modify our laws in order to accomodate her cartoonish neurosis.

    We didn’t. Now she’s crying and running to the same HRC she was insulting on the same day. Please, my American friends and neighbors, would you explain sovereignty to this woman?

  109. raven says


    Could someone please tell my why the fuck Americans like Ann Coulter think that their sovereign values follow them into other countries?

    Well, I’ll give it a try. But reading some defective mind like Coulter’s is a waste of time, it usually results in nausea and vomiting.

    Since the USA is the last and only superpower, and Canadians mostly speak English, a lot of Americans just assume they are functionally our 51st state. Reinforced when the Canadians act like they are.*

    I suppose Coulter, not being very bright, just made that assumption.

    *Canadians often adopt whatever is happening in the USA a few years after it starts here. The conservative current government of Harper is just Bush light, complete with incompetent christofascist fundie creationists running around in important positions.

  110. Lutrasimilis says

    Since the USA is the last and only superpower, and Canadians mostly speak English, a lot of Americans just assume they are functionally our 51st state. Reinforced when the Canadians act like they are.*

    Finally! A reasonable answer. I find that a lot more compelling than I expected…it makes sense.

    However, it’s something that would cause most Americans to bristle were the situation reversed. You all seem to understand that no other country has a right to impose its laws on your own, no matter how reasonable they might seem. Ann wasn’t coming to Canada looking for a debate, she came to Canada looking for a fight, and she got one.

    If she’d had some guts she might have even braved the protesters she was insulting. Anyone with real conviction would have.

  111. Ibis3 says

    @ raven I believe (and continue to hope) that Harper is an outlier aberration which only holds power by a slim margin because the country is so regionally divided, the sane split their votes among four other parties (while being sold on the notion that a coalition is somehow more antidemocratic than someone ruling like a despot with only 30%ish support). Apart from Harper & his ilk, Canadians can not be accused of “often adopt[ing] whatever is happening in the USA a few years after it starts [there]”. However, I will admit that our government has often surrendered to the US gov’t and corporations in many ways large and small for (mostly) economic reasons.

  112. Doug says

    Ezra Levant, the organizer of the Ottawa event with the lying liar Coulter, just made an appearance on Calgary news, making it quite clear that it was the decision of the organizers to cancel. He wailed, predictably, that it was forced because of protest and intimidation, and was a violation of the right to free speech. Well guess what, Ezzie, you fucking turd, verbal protest is free speech. If the emetic Coulter can’t take it, the obvious conclusion is that what she has to say isn’t even worth the risk of her being insulted. The kind of free speech Levant and Coulter want is very specifically the kind deliberately intended to cause intimidation. Suck it up, princess. The shit can fly both ways.

    She is scheduled to yap at The University of Calgary tomorrow. I hope there is another loud exercise of free speech to tell her to climb back on her flying monkey and return whence she came. Before she goes, I hope she gets her hair tangled in Katie Ohe’s lovely “zipper” kinetic sculpture just outside of the lecture room to be used.

  113. muddywaters says

    Re Ibis3:

    Harper is only in power because we have a first-past-the-post voting system. When you look at the (significant) political parties that contest each election:

    Greens (left leaning)
    Liberals (centrist)
    NDP (left leaning)
    Bloc (left leaning)

    Conservatives (right leaning)

    most Canadians vote center-left. But when the left leaning vote is split amongst 3 or 4 parties, the conservatives can come up the middle and win…even if only as a minority. But they are, in effect, governing with 35% of the popular vote.

  114. steverino63 says

    The First Amendment is something that differentiates us from a lot of western nations, including Canada. FYI, people who “salute” banning Coulter, Canada used a similar statute to ban left-liberal British MP George Galloway.

  115. steverino63 says

    Ohh, and agreed with all the people who called out PZ for inconsistency if not hypocrisy.

  116. Semaphore says

    Long-time reader, first time commenter

    I have to say that I’m a little surprised at the way this has been treated in the American media, particularly Glenn Greenwald’s article in Salon. Characterizing our hate speech laws as tyranny is, I think, based on different ways of regarding rights between Canada and the States, but describing the provost’s very civil note informing Coulter about the differences in Canadian and American law as ‘hateful’ and suggesting that he be prosecuted is just beyond me.
    I think that the fundamental difference that’s causing so much confusion is Americans’ individualist and absolutist conception of rights, compared to Canadians’ more communitarian way of looking at things and our explicit constitutional recognition that rights can be limited when doing so is reasonable and demonstrably justified by our fundamental values. In American constitutional law freedom of speech is only limited by clear and present danger of civil unrest- whereas we take a much more complex route of weighing the value of the speech- and even hate speech, which is by definition low value, is constitutionally protected- and then going through a second analysis to determine if the limitation is justified. When Greenwald implies that the government can criminalize whatever it wants as hate speech, I don’t think that he realizes that when such a law was inevitably challenged the court would go through a complex analysis looking at the objective of the law (which in the case of the ‘inciting hatred against identifiable groups’ law is to protect vulnerable groups from harm to their dignity, and to protect society’s attitudes from being poisoned by false views), the law’s connection to its purpose, whether the limitation impairs freedom of expression to the minimum extent possible to meet the objective, and finally whether the effects of limiting hate speech are proportional to the importance of the objective. It’s not nearly as far-reaching as people seem to be assuming, and limits on freedom of expression are very carefully controlled- the current Supreme Court is famous for its commitment to freedom of expression. Prosecutions on the criminal provision that Coulter was warned about can only proceed with the permission of the Attorney General, which makes them very rare and only used in extreme cases.
    It’s really a cultural difference, and I for one am glad that I live in a place where the harm that hate speech can do is recognized and balanced with the importance of free expression. I wouldn’t call it authoritarian at all to recognize that rights need to be limited when they cause harm to others.

  117. AJ Milne says

    Canada used a similar statute to ban left-liberal British MP George Galloway…

    Reminding you: Coulter was not ‘banned’.

    Coulter buggered off. Her own security detail made the call.

  118. Ibis3 says


    I guess you haven’t bothered to read any of the comments here. “Apples, meet oranges.”

    Case #1: Person known for crossing the line from vitriol into hate speech is invited to speak on a university campus by a student club. Before she arrives, she is given a good faith warning by an administrator of said university that the law in Canada is different than that to which she is accustomed. She arrives to find that some protesters have gathered to denounce her opinions. Organisers change their minds and cancel the event. There was absolutely no government involvement whatsoever from beginning to end.

    Case #2: Person (who happens to be an elected member of the legislature in an allied democratic country) is invited (I believe by private groups) to come and speak. A politico-ethnic lobby group writes a letter to the government expressing their distaste of his political views and the government bans him from entering the country citing him as a “potential threat to national security”.

    These two incidents couldn’t be much more dissimilar.

  119. Shrunk says

    @Ibis3 (#122)

    The law against hate speech (properly “hate propaganda”) is part of the Criminal Code, and handled by police & the courts.

    What you’re referring to is Human Rights legislation set up to handle discrimination complaints against employers or bodies that are federally or provincially regulated.

    It’s not quite that straightforward. For instance, the Alberta (of all places) Human Rights Tribunal several years ago found a Pastor Stephen Boissoin guilty of hate speech – for a letter he had written to a newspaper denouncing homosexuality. It’s not a criminal conviction, but he was fined and he was prohibited from voicing similar opinions again in public. Even though the decision was eventually overturned on appeal, the potential chilling effect on freedom of expression should be obvious.

  120. Jim says

    PZ Myers: “(Ann Coulter) is a vile lunatic.”

    An artful phrase, PZ. May I use it? It’s how I think of you.

  121. Jim says

    I think it’s a hoot that liberals are so adept at proving that the things Coulter says about them are true.

  122. PZ Myers says

    You’re making a case that you’re boring and stupid, jack(g)off. How about upping your game a little and trying to say something intelligent for a change?

  123. Caine, Fleur du mal says


    I think it’s a hoot

    It’s a shame you aren’t. You’re bloody boring, dude.

  124. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Jim the loser idjit back? Still nothing cogent to say. He may as quit while he’s behind–the donkey’s ass.

  125. Jim says

    PZ Myers: “How about upping your game a little and trying to say something intelligent for a change?”

    Clearly there’s no requirement to say something intelligent on Pharyngula, given that it’s so seldom done.