American right-winger Ann Coulter's speech at the University of Ottawa was cancelled Tuesday night due to security concerns after thousands protested outside the venue.
A spokesman for the group that organized the event said there were fears for Coulter's well-being after about 2,000 people gathered outside the venue to protest her presence there.
Although the event was cancelled, organizers said her Canadian tour will continue, wrapping up at the University of Calgary on Thursday.
Coulter is a darling of the U.S. right wing who, according to critics, uses incendiary language to sell millions of books, as well as her syndicated column.
On Monday night, Coulter sparked controversy when she spoke to about 800 people at the University of Western Ontario in London. She drew applause when she attacked the health-care overhaul bill U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday.
But the regular Fox News commentator drew outrage from some, including a 17-year-old Muslim student who asked her a question about her views on Muslims.
Coulter has said all terrorists are Muslims and has suggested all Muslims be barred from airlines and use flying carpets.
When the student said she didn't have a flying carpet, Coulter told her to "take a camel."
In an interview on CTV News Channel Tuesday, Coulter called that remark a joke. "They wouldn't be bringing me in here for a speech if I never told a joke, if I never used satire," she said.
"There's a political point behind my saying that they could take flying carpets, the silliness of all this."
Coulter warned to tread lightly
Even before she spoke in London — the first of three speeches this week on Canadian soil — Coulter received a pre-emptive and private caution about the limits of free speech in Canada from the provost of the University of Ottawa, where she appears Tuesday.
The letter was immediately leaked to select conservative news organizations, with Coulter telling one that the university was "threatening to criminally prosecute me for my speech."
For a strident provocateur speaking on "Political Correctness, Media Bias and Freedom of Speech," the University of Ottawa warning — however tepid — was pure oxygen for the fire.
After mentioning the Charter of Rights and Canada's free speech laws, vice-president academic and University of Ottawa provost François Houle invited Coulter to "educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada."
He noted, by example, that "promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges."
Warning just fuel to fire, say critics
Coulter's representatives did not respond to an interview request Monday from The Canadian Press.
However, she told newsmax.com in an email that: "The provost of the U. of Ottawa is threatening to criminally prosecute me for my speech there on Monday — before I've even set foot in the country!"
Even critics of Coulter say attempting to muzzle her only gives her a louder bark.
"In terms of putting limits on what she … should say or shouldn't say, I'm not sure that helps," said Ottawa Centre New Democrat MP Paul Dewar.
"It might add fuel to the fire that she will be probably starting tomorrow."
Liberal MP Scott Brison told Coulter's political opponents to "vote with your feet."
"If you don't agree with what she has to say, then ignore her."
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