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American pick-up artist not the first to face 'hate speech' trouble in Canada

Last Updated Aug 11, 2015 at 1:20 pm EDT

A US and Canadian flag fly at US Steel Hamilton Works, indicitive of cross border trade between both countries. The Canadian Press Images/Stephen C. Host

Blogger and self-described pick-up artist Roosh V (also known as Daryush Valizadeh) is not the first American Canadians have tried to keep out of the country due to their troubling views.

Valizadeh has said rape shouldn’t be a crime on private property. He often gives speeches and talks about his views, which include adherence to “traditional” gender roles. He is currently in the midst of a six-city tour, despite a petition to stop him at the border. View the change.org petition.

Back in 2010, protesters tried to stop controversial news analyst Ann Coulter from entering the country. While they were not successful, demonstrators at the University of Ottawa did stop her from speaking.

File photo of Ann Coulter. GETTY IMAGES/Stephen Lovekin.
File photo of Ann Coulter. GETTY IMAGES/Stephen Lovekin


Prior to her cancelled speech, university academic vice-president Francois Houle had written Coulter to warn her that Canadian laws make provisions for hate speech.

“Promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges,” he warned her in the letter, which Coulter quickly leaked to the media.

Coulter had said “not all Muslims may be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims,” and that Canadians ought to be grateful the U.S. didn’t roll over them. That was after former prime minister Jean Chrétien refused to follow George W. Bush into the war in Iraq.

She also said the Harper Conservatives were not her “cup of tea.”

“If they support same-sex marriage and socialized medicine, no they are not conservative enough,” she said.

Marco Secchi/Getty Images
British MP George Galloway. GETTY IMAGES/Marco Secchi


That same year, British MP George Galloway made a delayed visit to Canada. Galloway was scheduled to speak in Canada in March 2009, but decided against coming after Ottawa said he would likely be denied entry.

The government cited his dealing with Gaza’s elected Hamas government, which Canada considers a terrorist organization. Eighteen months later, Galloway visited the country,

In 2012, it was a film that demonstrators tried to keep out of the country.

About 2,000 members of the Muslim community protested outside the United States Consulate on University Avenue in Toronto to protest the film Innocence of Muslims. The film was criticized for being anti-Muslim.

The film portrays the prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and a fraud.

In 2014, anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera was detained in Regina, but ultimately allowed to enter Canada. He was speaking at a pro-life conference elsewhere in Saskatchewan.

BERLIN, GERMANY - MAY 30: Musician Valentina Lisitsa performs live during Berlin Festival Day 2 on the Yellow Lounge at the Arena Treptow on May 30, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images)
Valentina Lisitsa performs during the Berlin Festival at the Arena Treptow on May 30, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. GETTY IMAGES/Frank Hoensch/Redferns


And just this year, controversial comments cost a Ukrainian pianist a gig with the Toronto symphony.

Valentina Lisitsa, an ethnic Russian born in Ukraine who now lives in the United States, said in a Facebook post that she has been accused of “inciting hatred” on Twitter because of her comments on the conflict in Ukraine.

TSO president and CEO Jeff Melanson said Lisitsa was replaced due to comments she made on social media.

“This is not about free speech, this is not about a political perspective or persuasion, this is about very offensive, intolerant comments about people,” he said at the time.

What is hate speech?

Hate speech lacks a formal international definition, but is usually described as “written or oral communication perceived to disparage a person or group of people based on their social or ethnic group,” according to Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.

The Canadian Criminal Code “public incitement of hatred” a crime. That is, “communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace” and “communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group.”

The target of hate speech must be an identifiable group. The speech or words themselves must be considered likely to cause a breach of the peace.

If the statement is true, or if it is made in good faith, or if it made in the service of a broader discussion, are all considered defenses of hate speech.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, a group advocating for greater freedom of speech for reporters and all Canadians, recently held a forum on the country’s hate speech laws.

Broadly, the CJFE “believes that the best response to offensive speech is not less speech but more speech.” The group has argued that “the only arbiter of what constitutes hate speech should be our court system applying the law as set out in the Criminal Code.”