A second visit to Halifax, Canada, which initially faced the prospect of complete sabotage, turned out to be a substantial success. My views were heard, the enemies of free speech were humiliated, and a professionally-produced video of a good debate on racial diversity is now available to the public.
In the previous issue, I described how a January visit to Halifax ended in my being shouted down by masked lefties and being shoved out of a meeting room—a meeting room I had rented so I could give a lecture on the drawbacks of racial diversity (see “Free Speech? Not in Canada,” AR, March 2007). Many people in Halifax thought this was the perfect way to treat a “racist,” but one man did not. This was Peter March, professor of philosophy at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. A man who tests the limits of free speech himself (see sidebar, page 14), Prof. March was appalled at what happened and determined to have me back to Halifax.
The January trip was to have been a debate with David Divine, a black professor at Dalhousie University, also in Halifax, but Prof. Divine got cold feet. Prof. March offered to stand in for Prof. Divine, I accepted, and he started making arrangements. He found it was nearly impossible to organize the debate. Prof. March could persuade no academic department at either Dalhousie or Saint Mary’s to act as sponsor, and no hotel was likely to host an event that might be disrupted. With the help of the Canadian college professors union, Prof. March finally got his own university at least to supply a lecture hall, but Saint Mary’s set harsh conditions. Unlike ordinary university events, we were to pay for cleanup and security—no fewer than six Halifax police officers—at a cost of $1,200. AR reluctantly agreed to pay.
Because my earlier visit to Halifax made such an impression—television reports and news stories went on for days—there was no problem with publicity. Prof. March was certain we could fill the 250-seat hall he had secured, and there was sure to be plenty of media.
I arrived in Halifax on Monday, March 5, the day before the debate, and was besieged by reporters writing articles in anticipation. Professors at both Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s were shrieking because I might have a chance to speak after all. Isaac Saney, an adjunct professor of international development studies (whatever they are) at Dalhousie issued a statement that began by calling on all right-thinking people to demonstrate against “the proliferation of racism at Saint Mary’s University.” Prof. Saney then worked himself up into a fine, totalitarian lather:
“This so-called ‘debate’ is a provocation against the people of Canada and Nova Scotia. It is an attack on the rights of all. The opposition against this false ‘debate’ reflects the finest Canadian democratic tradition and declares that Halifax will not be a harbour for racism and fascism. We must ask why the Canadian state has allowed this ‘master race supremacist’ from the United States to re-enter the country.”
Prof. Judy Haiven of Saint Mary’s also thought she should decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t. “I think people who preach hate shouldn’t be given a platform,” she said. She thought it was so important to demonstrate against me that she was prepared to take time off from her important research on “how cultural capital accrued through tradition and maintained by performance, festival and exhibition, can breathe new life into economically depressed communities.”
Hyperventilation impresses Canadian academics—so much so that Saint Mary’s decided it could not lend its name to an event that might criticize racial diversity. When I checked into my hotel, I had a message from Prof. March: Saint Mary’s had pulled the plug. Its excuse? It had conducted a “review” of the security situation, and “new information” led it to conclude that “there is a higher level of personal risk and need for increased security than the university has the capacity to provide.”
What new information? Aaron Don¬caster, one of the people who had broken up my meeting in January, claimed on a lefty blog that he had received an e-mail message from someone saying that if Mr. Doncaster made a move against me during the debate, he would be cut open with a knife. Mr. Doncaster added that he would show this threat to Saint Mary’s and get them to cancel the debate. Prof. March called the threat utterly bogus, noting it was made on an “obscure blog, with an obscure complaint by an unnamed person.”
Others were just as spineless as Saint Mary’s. Prof. March and I had agreed to go to the studio at Halifax’s CNJI radio, “News 95.7,” for some advance sparring the morning of the debate. At news of the cancellation, any sensible radio station would have leapt at the chance to be the one place an aroused public could go to hear what we had to say. Not “News 95.7.” It told us to get lost. By this time, it began to look as though my trip was a complete waste.
Fortunately, Halifax has more than one radio station, and competitor CJCH set aside more than an hour for us on Rick Howe’s Hotline program. The studio was crammed with reporters and TV crews, and Prof. March and I gave an abbreviated version of our debate. My arguments are summarized in “Banned in Halifax,” in the February 2007, issue. Prof. March was unable to cite a single strength that racial diversity gives a country but insisted there is a “moral imperative” to make it work. Racial problems in the United States, he argued, are explained by centuries of mistreatment of blacks by whites.
People have various ways of showing how confused they are. Before our program began, host Rick Howe, who otherwise moderated skillfully, announced sententiously that Canada has laws against hate speech, and that if he thought a crime was about to be committed in his studio, he would halt the debate. Station manager Scott Bord¬narchuk also explained to reporters that the usual seven-second broadcast delay would ensure that no “potentially hateful material” got on the air. Needless to say, no laws were broken.
After the broadcast, Prof. March and I were surrounded by as many reporters and cameras—perhaps a dozen—as would have been present had the debate gone forward that evening. One of the first questions to me was whether I had ever had sex with a black or other non-white woman. “What’s it to you?” I said. “Next question.”
The television reporting that evening was reasonably good, mentioning that I had come with so many facts and figures that the debate was “lopsided.” The newspapers in effect conceded that I won the debate by refraining from saying that anyone had won.
As we left the radio studio, Prof. March told me that Saint Mary’s was considering securing a venue and hiring a professional crew to film a full-length debate, with the rights to be turned over entirely to us. I was skeptical, but sure enough, he called a few hours later. He was in the middle of negotiations with the university. It would arrange and pay for the filming, he said, but there were conditions: There were to be no guests, no media, and I was not even permitted to tell anyone that the filming was about to take place. Prof. March could get no explanation from the university why media could not be present, but I thought the Saint Mary’s proposal was better than nothing, so I agreed.
Later, I got a call from a reporter who had got wind of something, and found myself in the ridiculous position of having to say I could tell him nothing. We laughed about the absurdity of this hush-hush approach, and it was clear he thought the university people were behaving like fools.
Later that evening, Prof. March drove me to an apartment building on the Halifax waterfront, where we put on the entire debate before the camera. The disk will soon be available for purchase at www.amren.com. The audience consisted of three people from St. Mary’s University, including Chuck Bridges, vice president for public affairs. After the debate, I had the pleasure of telling him the university’s behavior had been contemptible.
Saint Mary’s has, in fact, taken a considerable beating. No one was fooled by its claim that it canceled the debate for fear of violence. It canceled because it could not face the simpleton leftists to whom it thinks it must answer. Clutching at the merest pretext was better than the disgrace of having let a “racist” speak on campus—and everyone in Halifax knows this.
Why did Saint Mary’s offer to tape a private debate? Did it have qualms of conscience? Hardly. It had violated an agreement with Prof. March, who could haul the university before the professors union for suppressing his free speech rights. Prof. March is a man who demands his rights, and the university knows it.
On balance, therefore, my second venture into Canada was a success. AR saved the $1,200 it would have spent on police officers and cleanup. The radio debate and the press coverage led to a radio appearance in Toronto and to interviews from several student newspapers outside Halifax. There are now possibilities for other debates elsewhere in Canada, and some American campuses may be interested.
Halifax is typical of overwhelmingly white areas, where people have little experience with minorities and therefore think they know all about them. It is a pleasant, trusting place, whose people have no idea of the benefits they reap from cultural and racial homogeneity. Let us hope some become aware of what is at stake before it is too late.
Peter March, the 62-year-old philosophy professor who debated me is something of an institution in Halifax. Never afraid to stick his neck out, he infuriated Muslims and liberals last year when he posted on his office door the famous series of Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. Saint Mary’s, timid and conformist as ever, wailed about the hurt being done to the feelings of Muslims, but Prof. March stood his ground, pointing out that hurt feelings are the price to be paid for freedom of speech.
Prof. March has been criticized as a publicity hound, but he is the only man in Halifax who made a real effort to make sure my views were heard—and it took an enormous effort. In several private conversations he proved himself keenly intelligent and happy to explore even the most controversial questions. This is not to say that he departs from orthodoxy on race—indeed, he defends it passionately—but he can listen to an unfamiliar argument and formulate a stout rejoinder.
Prof. March won no friends by inviting me to Halifax. If I was the most reviled man in the city that week, he was surely the second most reviled. But it is men like him, who understand and act on principle, who define our civilization and made it great.