What Teh Binks Wroted

March 22nd, 2010

M. François Houle
Vice-recteur aux études / Vice-President Academic and Provost
Université d’Ottawa / University of Ottawa.
550, rue Cumberland Street
Ottawa (ON) K1N 6N5
téléphone / telephone : 613 562-5737
télécopieur / fax : 613 562-5103

Dear Mr. Houle:

Friends directed my attention to your recent letter to Miss Ann Coulter, an American author and columnist who is on a speaking tour of Canada.

In that letter, you claim Canadian freedom of speech isn’t free, thus she might be arrested. Is this the state of modern universities and political science today at the Université d’Ottawa / University of Ottawa?

Your letter is ungracious, dishounourable, soft-totalitarian, and risable.

You are a teacher at a publicly funded university. Were you advised by university lawyers or Governors/ Senate to write this letter? By whose authority and in whose name is it written? Do you profess to speak only for yourself, or presume to represent the university leadership, or the entire university student & faculty body, or merely to speak for all Canadians?

Against your deeply intolerant letter via the University of Ottawa in 2010, I stand proudly with the remarks of a proud and tolerant Quebecer and McGill grad (Class of 1864):

“Canada is free and freedom is its nationality…. The good Saxon word, freedom; freedom in every sense of the term, freedom of speech, freedom of action, freedom in religious life, and civil life and last but not least, freedom in commercial life.”

~ 7th Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 1894
Perhaps– for his extreme freedomist views– Mr. Laurier would be sternly scolded via the new & improved University of Ottawa, where censors and opinion-police protect everyone from open debate and free discussion, lest their feelings get hurt and sloppy thinking gets corrected. That’s not Canadian, or the best of our law & traditions: that’s Soviet. Those many of my family who served– and one who died– defeating the forces of fascism in World War 2 did not offer up their lives so that such narrow-minded fascism might prosper here at home 65 years later..

Shame on you, Mr. Houle. You owe Miss Coulter and all freedom-loving Canadians– and free people everywhere– an apology. It’s examples like yours which make this honours-list post-grad student glad not to have gone on to Ph.D. studies, which too often involve a lapse of humility, common sense, and honour.

Sincerely yours,

B.A. Double Major Hist. & Phil. (Acadia 87)
M.Div. Wycliffe College, (University of Toronto 91).


“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.


François Houle.”
Vice-recteur aux études / Vice-President Academic and Provost
Université d’Ottawa / University of Ottawa
550, rue Cumberland Street
Ottawa (ON) K1N 6N5
téléphone / telephone : 613 562-5737
télécopieur / fax : 613 562-5103

2 thoughts on “What Teh Binks Wroted

  1. I drafted one as well, here.

    Dear M. Houle,

    There may come a time when you see fit to visit the United States of America. As you took pains to warn Ann Coulter of the threats she faces in your great nation, it seems only fair to warn you of the threats you would face in mine.

    You will find here, sir, a nation steadily recovering from the world’s grim heritage of racism, working towards an ideal of equality. Though you may encounter racists — or even people who form preconceived notions of others based on “social condition” — by and large you will find that Americans judge people based upon how they act and what they accomplish.

    You might encounter a few racists. You may also encounter a few jackasses — people of the sort who are not necessarily racist, but who find racial humor amusing. I bid you to sit down for this next part, sir, and perhaps fix yourself a fortifying fair-trade coffee before reading it. You will discover that in this nation, assholes cannot be jailed or sued simply because they are assholes. There are no universal help lines to call if you find yourself offended by something that somebody said about some third party, or even about you. You might want to call ahead to locate some welcoming university faculty meetings to which you can turn for emotional succor should this prove overwhelming.

    No, here you will find that assholes can only be prosecuted or sued reliably if their conduct rises to the level of true threats or advocacy of imminent likely lawless action. Our primitive citizens remain hopelessly mired in the quaint idea that when it comes to rude and abrasive speech, a free people can take care of themselves by talking back, and eventually prevailing in the public discourse. You may encounter snatches of folk sayings along these lines, such as “free speech” and “marketplace of ideas” and “Oh, for Christ sake grow a pair, you big girl’s blouse.” Though occasionally correct-thinking local officials and university administrators succeed in holding miscreants officially accountable for incorrect thought, the tide is against them.

    What may be more upsetting to you, sir, is that you will encounter a rough populace largely unreceptive to the proper role of government and its preferred elite, such as (you will, modesty aside, acknowledge) yourself. You will find many Americans skeptical of the idea that it is the role of government, or university professors, to tell them what to think, what to say, how to live — even when government committees and university ovulars have committed months of intense study to those subjects and made powerfully insightful recommendations. Rest assured that there are still large pockets of citizens who look to the government for instruction. Can you find some? Yes, you can.

    I wish you, sir, a felicitous journey. Terribly sorry about all the English everywhere.

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