Tory 'disappointed' by library's refusal to cancel event featuring controversial speaker
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Thursday, October 17, 2019 11:24AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 30, 2019 6:08AM EDT
Mayor John Tory says he is “disappointed” that the Toronto Public Library has agreed to allow an event featuring controversial speaker Meghan Murphy to proceed.
The freelance writer’s views against transgender rights has sparked outrage from residents across the city and has prompted nearly 4,000 people to sign a petition calling for the engagement to be cancelled, a request the library has refused.
On Thursday, Mayor John Tory weighed in on the debate, saying that he disagrees with the library’s position.
“I'm disappointed in the Toronto Public Library's decision to allow this talk to go ahead on its property,” he said in a written statement issued Thursday.
“There are thousands of places this event could be held in Toronto other than the public library. When it comes to public buildings, I believe we should hold ourselves to the highest standard and listen to the valid concerns of our residents."
He added that politicians “don't make these room booking decisions.”
“My office has reached out to the City Librarian and asked for her rationale and whether she would reconsider this decision. She has explained her rationale and stands by her decision,” he said.
In a statement issued Wednesday, City Librarian Vickery Bowles said she is aware that the event has caused “anger and concern among members of the trans community and others.”
Here's our updated comment on the upcoming third-party room rental event, as well as answers to questions we've been seeing: https://t.co/1BEmlVHT7T— Toronto Public Library (@torontolibrary) October 15, 2019
“As a public library and public institution, we have an obligation to protect free speech. The community is asking us to censor someone because of the beliefs they hold and to restrict a group’s right to equitably access public space and we cannot do either. Doing so would also weaken our ability to protect others’ rights to the same in the future,” she wrote.
“We are supporters of the LGBTQ2S+ community and will continue to champion this community through our programs, services and collections and offer spaces for dialogue, debate and understanding.”
She added that the library is within its rights to deny or cancel a room rental if they believe the purpose of the event will “promote discrimination, contempt or hatred for any individual or group.”
She said the event, titled ‘Gender Identity: What does It Mean for Society, the Law, and Women,’ does not violate the library’s policy.
A description of the event posted online states that Murphy plans to discuss legislation and the “underlying philosophy” of gender identity as well as “how the reification of gender is a betrayal of long-held leftist and feminist principles.”
“Murphy has made it clear that the reification of gender identity poses problems that must be reckoned with,” the description reads.
The event, which will be held on Oct. 29 at the library's Palmerston branch, was organized by the group "Radical Feminists Unite - Toronto."
Jill Andrew, the NDP critic for Culture and Women’s Issues and MPP for Toronto-St. Paul’s, also spoke out against the library’s decision in a statement issued Thursday.
“Not only has Murphy publicly opposed Bill C-16, an enactment that makes it illegal to discriminate based on gender identity and expression, but she has stated that trans women should not be allowed to access to women’s washrooms, locker rooms and prison facilities,” the statement read .
“Allowing Murphy a space to disseminate her views serves to provide platforms where individuals may promote homophobia, transphobia and hate speech.”
The library’s decision not to intervene has also sparked calls from local authors to boycott the library.
Bowles said the library values its relationship with Toronto's literary community and "would regret any decision to boycott library events."
This is not the first time a public library has come under fire for agreeing to allow Murphy to speak.
Last year, LGBT advocates spoke out against Murphy's scheduled appearance at the Vancouver Public Library, an event which proceeded as planned.