Who can forget the embarrassing debacle that occurred in March when Ann Coulter embarked on her Canadian university tour? And no, I’m not just talking about what she said. Students and community members gathered outside of the University of Ottawa to protest the right wing pundit’s planned address, and effectively had the event shut down. Coulter went on to speak at the University of Calgary, but the fiasco left a black eye on Canadian Universities’ reputation for tolerance of free speech.
Now, the University of Western Ontario, which was the first school to host Coulter back in March, is set to welcome another controversial speaker: Mark Steyn. Perhaps best known for his contentious views on the nature of Islam, Steyn was originally supposed to speak on Western’s campus as coordinated by the Campus Coalition for Democracy. However, due to capacity constraints, the venue had to be moved.
Then, yesterday, the new venue—the London Convention Centre—denied the Steyn camp its room rental request. StrictlyRight.com, one of the organizers of the event, called foul, saying that the denial amounts to censorship at a city-owned facility, adding that the centre was caving to pressure from local Islamic groups. The centre’s general manager countered the allegation, saying that the decision to deny the request was business-driven—not politically.
In any case, the venue has been moved yet again and it seems as thought Steyn will take to the podium as planned on November 1. And even though it’s to be held off campus, students are still talking about implications of the contentious speaker’s arrival. According to the Western Gazette, the Muslim Students’ Association has already expressed concern to UWO’s administration about Steyn promoting Islamophobia on campus, though president Selma Tobah said there are better ways to oppose Steyn’s beliefs than boycott or protest. And Ryan Ruppert, president of the Campus Coalition for Democracy, told the Gazette he is hoping for “backlash through intelligent questioning.”
Who knows–maybe this time, things will go off without a hitch?