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Ann Coulter and the mob

A mob of child-censors has successfully shut down a speech by Ann Coulter at the University of Ottawa.

Terrence Watson - March 23, 2010

No one believed Ann Coulter's speech had been shut down until the police showed up. Their badges and bulletproof vests fit the occasion eerily well.

Even then, the crowd was reluctant to disperse. Some fifty of us were jammed into the foyer of the Louis Pasteur building at the University of Ottawa, just outside the lecture hall where Coulter was scheduled to speak. Behind us there were several times that number, some who had been waiting just as long as those of us who were pushy enough to at least get inside the building.

Even with the police there, telling us to leave, there were some who didn't believe it. I left them behind and walked back into the rain. I wasn't all that surprised to be turned away; disappointed, but not surprised. Moving through throngs of protesters, more cops, past the firetrucks, and out into the damp night, I said to myself: this is the Canada I remember. And this is why I once made the decision to leave it behind.

As an undergrad at the University of Waterloo, noted for its absence of political fervor, I had gradually become aware that the country I lived in did not welcome freedom of thought and discussion the way I once imagined. At that time, I didn't know about Section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, or the equivalent sections in provincial human rights codes, or Sections 318-320 of the criminal code. I didn't know about Taylor or Keegstra or the myriad other moral and legal aberrations that already did infect, or would soon infect, what was supposed to be a liberal society.

I had John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. An aspiration at the time it was written, I assumed – naively – that Canada and other civilized nations were on their way to achieving the vision set out in its pages. I was wrong. Canada was not the United States, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was not the U.S. Bill of Rights.

It didn't take long for me to figure that out. I argued, as best as I could, for the aspiration. For the American ideal. I was told, by other students and even professors, to go live in the United States, if I liked it so much. And so I did.

I am back now in Canada, after five and a half years, and I would like to think that I have returned to take the fight to the censors, and our despicable anti-speech legislation, in whatever way I can. That is one reason I chose to attend Ann Coulter's talk.

When the protesters showed up, chanting “Free speech, not hate speech!” and carrying, of all things, a police siren, I was reminded of why I left. Their insipid slogans and aggressive posturing, culminating in a mad rush to break into the lecture hall, were all too familiar. All too Canadian.

More articles by Terrence Watson