University provost responds to Coulter visit

Controversial author and political commentator Ann Coulter is filing a human rights complaint against University of Ottawa provost Francis Houle after he sent her a warning letter before she even arrived in Canada. The letter advised that she weigh her words carefully because “Canadian law puts reasonable limits on freedom of expression.” Student protests against her speech sparked security concerns and Coulter’s speech in Ottawa was canceled as a result.

University of Calgary provost Alan Harrison hopes the story turns out differently when Coulter speaks at the Red and White Club at McMahon Stadium today.

“The purpose of the university is to encourage and support the free exchange of ideas,” he said. “To do anything other than that is, I think, to go against what the university stands for.”

“We have laws in this country to ensure that people cannot promote hatred,” he continued. “If she is deemed to be promoting hatred, those who feel that she is doing so can seek redress through the law; it’s up to them to do so. It’s not our job to determine in advance what she might or might not say and whether that is the promotion of hatred.”

Rainer Knopff, a political science professor at the U of C, helped mediate between the university and the event organizers, International Free Press Society and the Claire Boothe Luce Policy Institute.

He says that while he is not familiar with Coulter’s work, he knew she was a prominent political voice in the United States and felt the university would be an appropriate venue for her speaking engagement.

“[I]t doesn’t matter how controversial it is,” he told CJSW News. “She should be allowed to say it if she’s not contravening any laws, and the response to that is definitely not to shut it down before you hear it.”

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