Ann Coulter and other controversial speakers are always welcome at the University of Ottawa, the university said Wednesday after organizers cancelled a speech by the conservative pundit.
"The University of Ottawa has always promoted and defended freedom of expression," the university said in a statement. "For that reason, we did not at any time oppose Ann Coulter's appearance. Whether it is Ann Coulter or any other speaker, diverse views have always been and continue to be welcome on our campus."
Allan Rock, president of the university, added in a statement that the university is a "safe and democratic environment for the expression of views, and we will keep it that way."
Organizers of the Coulter event told university security staff at 7:50 p.m. that they would be cancelling the speech by Coulter, an American known for her controversial right-wing views. The International Free Press Society Canada cited fears for Coulter's well-being and claimed 2,000 protesters were gathered outside the university's Marion Hall, where she was supposed to speak.
Following Tuesday's incident, Coulter told reporters the University of Ottawa was a "bush-league university" and again indicated she was unhappy with a note she had received from the university's provost, François Houle, prior to her appearance. The letter mentioned the Charter of Rights and Canada's free speech laws and invited Coulter to "educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada." Coulter earlier said she took that as a threat to "criminally prosecute" her.
The university disputed the organizers' version of events, saying that about 1,000 people had "peacefully gathered" at the time of the cancellation.
CBC's Hannah Thibedeau, who was at the university Tuesday evening, said police gave a similar estimate for the size of the crowd, and most of the people there were hoping to see Coulter. Only around 100 to 200 appeared to be protesting.
"It wasn't really threatening, it was more rowdy," she said.
However, some people were upset that organizers appeared to be hand-picking who could enter the hall, which was largely filled by Coulter supporters by the time news media were allowed inside. Organizers said the people they picked had pre-registered. At one point, a fire alarm went off.
Brent Rathgeber, Conservative MP for Edmonton-St. Albert, said in a statement that he was at the university Tuesday evening. Some protesters tried to force their way inside the hall before pulling a fire alarm, he said.
"Tuesday night’s events should cause Canadians to ponder if they genuinely enjoy freedom of speech," he added.
Seamus Wolfe, president of the University of Ottawa Students' Federation, said he was pleased Coulter couldn't spread her views.
"What the students said loud and clear is that Ann Coulter goes well into the territory of hate speech and that has no place at a university campus."
Coulter is scheduled to end her Canadian tour at the University of Calgary on Thursday.
Her three-city tour began Monday night, at the University of Western Ontario in London, where she was heard by a crowd of 800.