The University of Ottawa fallout over Ann Coulter continues as more of U of O President and former Liberal cabinet minister Allan Rock’s FOI-released emails (see earlier post here) come to light.
Obviously one thing that these emails show is how utterly hypocritical and glaringly inept Allan Rock is, although anyone who followed his political career wouldn’t be shocked ie gun registry, tainted blood, Airbus lawsuit, Cipro cock-up etc. The guy was/is a walking screw-up blessed with nine lives, but what I find most interesting with the Coulter saga is the political angle.
First we found out that a NDP MP Pat Martin staffer led the protest (see here) and now some very prominent names have been discovered being involved by persistent Allan Rock critic Denis Rancourt.
Reading Rancourt’s great run-down (see here), this one email exchange with Rock and ex-Liberal minister Lloyd Axworthy jumps out:
I see you have that nut bar Ann Coulter visiting your campus. She is a disgrace.
That said, I thought your VP was unwise to write to her as he did. VPs Academics and Presidents need to err far on the side of academic freedom and the rights of speech, freedom, etc. It is the value that distinguishes universities from all other institutions and is at the core of their purpose.
I know your instinct will be to back up your VP because he is on your team. But on this occasion, I would not follow that instinct and instead stand clearly for the freedoms.
Free advice from the peanut gallery. No need to reply.”
As always, I am grateful for your views. I would like, however, to engage a bit further on this question.
After it was announced last Thursday that Coulter was coming, the Student Federation wrote me demanding that I ban her. It was clear from the outset that I could not and would not but a quick review of her website/history revealed the depth of her ignorance and the capacity of her thoughtless words to wound and offend. The Provost’s letter was intended to encourage civility and to remind this foreigner that the rules of the game are somewhat different here.
Question: is it a derogation from the principle of free speech for a university, while expressing to a mindless poltroon the willingness to receive her, to issue as well a plea that she be civil and respect the legislative limits of free speech?
“I think it is. Because it always plays as this one has – that tlre university doesn’t really believe deeply in these fundamental freedoms.
The cops and immigration officials can enforce our laws on speech. You should and no doubt did as AG [Attorney General] but not as President.
University’s (sic) have a unique role and the President has to not only uphold it but be seen to. That means nuance, subtlety and balance need to be put aside. Unequivocal defense of the freedoms is where the President should stand at Canada’s university. The fact that the students wanted something else is no answer.
You are an awfully good friend to bother to reply. Thanks.
“Thanks “Lloyd” I will think about all of this further and do some reading too. Maybe we can continue this discussion a some point.
Warm best wishes.
Next, my “buddy” the torture claiming professor and lawsuit threatener (see here) Amir Attaran pops up with some advice and slagging of Ezra Levant:
“My condolences – nobody deserves this. If you end up being sued, as seems likely, [...] Litigating against Ezra Levant, no excellent lawyer, on a sell-evidently specious claim would be none too taxing of the grey matter.”
Then we have a report from Elly Alboim of well-known political communications team, Earnscliffe Strategy Group, which in part reads:
“Remember as well that part of the controversy unfortunately is attributable to Francois’ email. Your statement today does not address that, nor does the proposed invitation. Obviously without distancing yourself from what he wrote, the impression will stand that the university made some sort of presumptive judgment about her and her motivation in an attempt to moderate the way she expressed her views. I’m not sure we can underestimate the importance of that email and the way it is being perceived. The university cannot credibly position itself as a wholly innocent victim of a drive by.”
Even Iffy is touched by this as ex-Liberal minister Herb Dhaliwal asks Rock where he was for the “Thinkers’ Conference”:
We are all wondering why you are not in Montreal, even your friend Anne Coulter asking about you.
Give me a call.
Ottawa sure is a small place huh?