Well, Ann Coulter is no longer in Canada, but 30 million Canadians are. So, for the sake of argument, let us take as read the frankly rather boring observation of the northern punditocracy that the whole brouhaha worked to her advantage, and consider instead whether the Canada on display during her 96-hour layover actually works to Canadians’ advantage. Which was the claim advanced by the eminent Canadian “feminist” Susan Cole appearing on U.S. TV to support the protesters’ shutdown of Miss Coulter’s Ottawa speech:
“We don’t have a First Amendment, we don’t have a religion of free speech,” she explained patiently. “Students sign off on all kinds of agreements as to how they’ll behave on campus, in order to respect diversity, equity, all of the values that Canadians really care about. Those are the things that drive our political culture. Not freedoms, not rugged individualism, not free speech. It’s different, and for us, it works.”
Does it? You rarely hear it put quite that bluntly—“Freedoms”? Ha! Who needs ’em?—but there was a lot of similarly self-regarding blather in Coulter Week euphemizing a stultifying, enforced conformism as “respect” and “diversity” and whatnot. “I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind,” wrote François Houle, the provost of the University of Ottawa, addressing Miss Coulter in the smug, condescending, preening tone that comes so naturally to your taxpayer-funded, tenured mediocrity. “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 [sic] to respect that Canadian tradition.”
Because, after all, nothing says “restraint” and “respect” and “civility” more than a snarling mob using the threat of violence to shut down those it dislikes—and all for that beloved “Canadian tradition.” Strange that the more Canada congratulates itself on its “tolerance” the less it’s prepared to tolerate. “If any Canadian spoke like Ann Coulter,” wrote Denise Cooke-Browne, “he’d be jailed.” And she says that like it’s a good thing. And she also says it as a former investigator for the Newfoundland “Human Rights” Commission. In Denise Cooke-Browne’s Canada, there are now not unfashionable or dissenting or wrong opinions, but criminal opinions.
What are the grounds for jailing Miss Coulter? In her letter to the National Post, Ms. Cooke-Browne cited only the following:
“Remember, she has said that Canada is lucky that the United States let us exist on the same continent.”
I think this is what less enlightened societies would call a “joke.” But, of course, since becoming a beacon of “restraint” and “civility,” Canada now prosecutes jokes. The British Columbia “Human Rights” Tribunal, under the same commissar who presided over a lengthy analysis of the “tone” of my own jokes, is currently trying stand-up comedian Guy Earle for his allegedly “homophobic” put-down of a heckler. Mr. Earle isn’t a right-wing hater like me and Miss Coulter. Until he fell afoul of his Sapphic heckler, he appears to have held conventionally Trudeaupian views. Left to his own devices, he would be more likely to essay an anti-Bush gag than one of Miss Coulter’s camel jests. But he’s wound up in court anyway, having lost three years of his life and facing $20,000 in punitive damages for a remark he made in the course of a stage act for which he received a $50 bar tab. The B.C. Supreme Court advised the tribunal against proceeding with their show trial on the grounds that it was not clear they had jurisdiction. So the tribunal went ahead anyway. Susan Cole’s Canada doesn’t “work” for Guy Earle. In fact, it’s destroyed him. “You better hope and pray that you aren’t next,” he writes. “And yet no one cares.”
Very true. Canada is now a land that prosecutes comedians for their jokes. You’d think that Mr. Earle’s fellow comics might be a little disturbed about where this leads. Yet the fellows who pride themselves on their “edgy,” “transgressive” comedy are remarkably silent on what’s happening in Vancouver. So are the organizers of Juste Pour Rire, who presumably will be sending out form letters of that François Houle email, advising any visiting “edgy” “transgressive” comics from down south that here in Canada we have a strong tradition of restrained and civil comedy, and why not try something on the lines of:
“Who was that lady I saw you with last night?”
“Oh, that was my drunken lesbian heckler. Isn’t she marvellously restrained?”
Ms. Cooke-Browne makes explicit the reality—that “diversity” and “equity” and “respect” are merely the fashionable cloaks for muscle. As readers well know, I personally would rather Ann Coulter were free to tell her camel jokes than Denise Cooke-Browne were empowered to prevent her from doing so. The cure is worse than the disease. For the corrosive effects of “diversity,” look no further than three critical societal institutions: the education system, law enforcement and the media.