Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Canada: the No Free Speech Zone

University of Ottawa's letter to Ann Coulter

March 22, 2010

Dear Ms. Coulter,

I understand that you have been invited by University of Ottawa Campus Conservatives to speak at the University of Ottawa this coming Tuesday. We are, of course, always delighted to welcome speakers on our campus and hope that they will contribute positively to the meaningful exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of a great university campus. We have a great respect for freedom of expression in Canada, as well as on our campus, and view it as a fundamental freedom, as recognized by our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I would, however, like to inform you, or perhaps 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.

You will realize that Canadian law puts reasonable limits on the freedom of expression. For example, promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges. Outside of the criminal realm, Canadian defamation laws also limit freedom of expression and may differ somewhat from those to which you are accustomed. I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind.

There is a strong tradition in Canada, including at this university, of restraint, respect and consideration in expressing even provocative and controversial opinions and urge you to respect that Canadian tradition while on our campus. Hopefully, you will understand and agree that what may, at first glance, seem like unnecessary restrictions to freedom of expression do, in fact, lead not only to a more civilized discussion, but to a more meaningful, reasoned and intelligent one as well.

I hope you will enjoy your stay in our beautiful country, city and campus.


Francois Houle,

Vice-President Academic and Provost, University of Ottawa

The letter above, translated from elite-speak into English:

Dear Peon:

We are delighted to welcome speakers from all viewpoints to our campus. We have ideas we like, and we are always pleased when someone comes to remind us just how correct our ideas really are. Why, we even have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms to prove it.

But you need to remember that not all viewpoints are created equal. Here in Canada, we have laws to make sure that you remember that. We’ll have none of that ‘First Amendment’ garbage here. After all, this is not pre-Obama United States up here. This is Canada. Here we have our Charter of the Freedom to Keep Your Mouth Shut.

Here in Canada, if you peons say anything that we can label as ‘hateful’ we will slap you in the slammer before you can say, “freedom of expression.” In fact, we would suggest you avoid that expression, as it does not comport with our Canadian customs.

You surely understand that our threats and intimidation are necessary to make sure you don’t say anything we know to be stupid. And we, of course, know much better than you what is stupid. (Hint: what you think is stupid.)

So just say things that we want to hear and nothing else. That’s the only civilized thing to do. And if you know what’s good for you, it’s what YOU will do.


Francois “Goebbels” Houle
Vice-commandant and First Citizen, University of Ottasquat

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