Freedom of Speech Inquiry: Senator Tkachuk Advocates Importance of Freedom of Speech

For immediate release Senator Tkachuk Advocates Importance of Freedom of Speech

March 30, 2010

“On March 23, 2010, a mob prevented Ann Coulter, a political provocateur, from speaking at the University of Ottawa. Their actions were explicitly encouraged and given prior sanction by the Provost of the University, Mr. Francois Houle.

“He wrote a letter to Ms. Coulter before her arrival in Canada. The obsequious words of welcome that began the letter were suspiciously warm and completely disingenuous: “we are, of course, always delighted to welcome speakers on our campus” he wrote, followed by “We have a great respect for freedom of expression in Canada”. After which he should have written “Except when we don’t like what you have to say and how you say it”.

“After making clear for Ms Coulter the differences between free speech in Canada and the United States he basically accused her of trafficking in hate speech, which in Canada by the way, and I will quote his letter again: “could in fact lead to criminal charges.”

“The letter closed with a line that could have come straight out of the re-education camps of Pol Pot’s Cambodia: “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.”

The mob took its cue from the Provost. Their actions so physically intimidated the police that the guardians of free speech, fearing for her safety, advised Ms. Coulter against speaking.

After the fact, the leadership of the University incredibly failed to support what to me is the very foundation of our academic institutions: freedom of speech. The tepid response from University of Ottawa President Allan Rock came with his head firmly planted in the sand: He wrote, and I quote: "We have a long history of hosting contentious and controversial speakers on our campus. [Tuesday] night was no exception, as people gathered here to listen to and debate Ann Coulter's opinions," In other words: ”It wasn’t us that stopped her from speaking”. Which is a little like the owner of an arena saying we didn’t say you can’t play hockey, while he let the ice melt.

“At the University of Ottawa, a mob carried out the will of the governing body of the university.

“Prior restraint – regulating speech or expression before it occurs -- is usually exercised through judicial or administrative regulation. Not at the University of Ottawa. At the University of Ottawa the mob exercised prior restraint and the administration took cover behind it.

“The mob went so far as to prevent the speech itself. Not the courts, not the law, but the mob on the excuse of what Ms. Coulter might say. They prevented their fellow students from hearing her – students who were voluntarily there to listen and debate and make up their own minds. They were prevented from debating her by the mob. They were prevented from taking her on if they so chose.

“That this took place at a University is all the more troubling. We depend on them to promote the free exchange of ideas. We depend on them to teach our kids, our future leaders, about the value of free speech, its meaning and its origins. But the University of Ottawa has yet to learn the lesson itself it seems. How could they overlook some of the most elemental teachings of free speech such as these words on the subject by Justice Louis D Brandeis:

“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.

“The taxpayers of Canada fund the University of Ottawa. These same taxpayers, ordinary Canadians or, rather, extraordinary Canadians, are willing to allow citizens to advocate the breakup of Canada, allow them to form political parties advocating that idea, allow them to run candidates for office who if elected sit in our Parliament.

“While the administration of the University of Ottawa and their faculty are entrusted by taxpayers to teach these values to our young, they have failed us. They have failed the parents of these young people and they have failed the country.”

Jim R  – (1:20 AM)  

Wow! This guy's a keeper.

Blazing Cat Fur  – (6:29 AM)  

Can't get anymore "kept" than the Senate:) But yea a good speech.

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