Update at bottom: Coulter tells young Muslim student to 'take a camel'
If there's anything Canadians know about Ann Coulter, it's likely her comments several years ago on Fox News in which the conservative pundit declared Canada to have "become trouble recently."
"They better hope the United States doesn't roll over one night and crush them," she said on Hannity & Colmes in 2004. "They're lucky they're allowed to be on the same continent as the United States."
Now Coulter is headed to Canada for a series of speaking engagements, and some in the country are willing to go to great lengths to ensure that her brand of vitriolic rhetoric doesn't affect Canada's usually civil political discourse.
Coulter's speaking tour -- which will land her in London, Ontario, and Calgary, Alberta, this week, as well as the nation's capital, Ottawa -- is being met with loud opposition.
Most notably, the vice-president of the University of Ottawa, where Coulter is scheduled to speak Tuesday, sent her a letter late last week warning her not to run afoul of Canada's laws on hate speech.
"I would ... remind you, that our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or “free speech”) in a manner that is somewhat different than the approach taken in the United States. I therefore encourage you to educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before your planned visit here," Francois Houle wrote to Coulter, as quoted at the National Post.
"For example, promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges," he added. "I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind."
That provoked a sharp and not entirely accurate response from Coulter, who headlined a blog posting Monday at BigGovernment with the words, "Canadian University Provost Wants to Send Me to Jail … For a Speech I Haven’t Given Yet."
While the vast majority of Canadians would disagree with Coulter's views, the University of Ottawa's letter nonetheless provoked some ridicule among Canadian commentators Monday.
The university's provost "should educate himself on Canada's hate speech laws," blogger Carson Jerema wrote at Maclean's magazine, noting that Canada's Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that "only the most extreme cases" of hate speech "should be subject to prosecution."
"Houle would have a very hard time persuading the Ottawa police or the [Mounties] to lay criminal charges over an Ann Coulter speech because they realize, even if he doesn't, that Canada doesn't need to become even more of an international laughingstock in this area," wrote Mark Steyn at the National Post. (Steyn is a conservative writer who has himself run up against Canada's hate speech regulations.)
But some of Coulter's political opinions may walk a fine line under Canadian law. In 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Coulter wrote of Muslim nations, "We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now. ... We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
For the University of Ottawa, the issue may be somewhat personal. In that same Fox segment where she declared Canada "lucky" to be "allowed" to be in North America, she also stated that it's fair game to ridicule Canada because they "speak French" there. The University of Ottawa is a fully bilingual school, offering classes in English and French.
While Canada's hate speech laws are generally considered less restrictive than those found in Europe, they are certainly more restrictive than any that exist in the United States. The laws make it a criminal act to "advocate or promote genocide," meaning to call for the killing of "any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation." The laws also make it illegal to "communicat[e] statements in any public place" in order to "incite hatred against any identifiable group, where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace."
The following video was broadcast November 30, 2004, on Fox News and uploaded to YouTube in November, 2006.
Coulter tells young Muslim student to 'take a camel'
According to one Canadian publication, "Coulter's Monday night appearance at the University of Western Ontario started sparks flying in the southwestern Ontario city days before she had even hit town."
However, Digital Journal's Ken Wightman writes, that "if the 800 people filling the auditorium seats at Western come for fireworks, they got a rather mild display. That is not to say that Coulter was disappointing. A mostly friendly audience, her one-liners and political zingers fell on eager ears.The audience loved her."
With her speech over, Coulter took questions from the audience. Not all got off lightly. She told one questioner, "I thought it was just American schools that graduated ignorant people."
Another, a young Muslim student wearing a hijab wanted to quiz Coulter about the speakers's suggestion that all Muslims should be banned from airlines. They can use flying carpets, Coulter has said. The girl complained she didn't have a flying carpet; Coulter told her to "take a camel."
Coulter is famous for stating, "not all Muslims may be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims."