Vancouver Public Library barred from Pride for hosting ‘hateful’ speaker

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The Vancouver Public Library (VPL)  has joined the University of British Columbia (UBC) in being forced to the sidelines of the Vancouver Pride Parade.

The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) said Tuesday that it was rescinding the VPL’s  invitation to march in the parade because the institution hosted a talk by self-described radical feminist speaker Meghan Murphy back in January.

The VPS describes that talk as “an event that undermined the dignity of trans women.”

READ MORE: Trans advocates want VPL to scrap event featuring controversial feminist

Murphy, the founder of online publication Feminist Current, has been banned from Twitter.

Her writing on sex and gender, particularly questioning whether people can change their biological sex and arguments that “men aren’t women,” has been condemned by transgender and LGBTQ2 advocates.

At the time, the Coalition Against Trans Antagonism said the event “promotes fear, discrimination, and hatred toward trans people and sex workers,” while the group Qmunity said the library was providing a platform for “hateful” views.

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Murphy denied that her ideas are an attack on trans people, arguing critics were trying to intimidate her from having a discussion about difficult ideas.

“Feminists are not going around attacking trans people. We would never do that,” Murphy told Global News at the time.

“We’re not against trans-identified people. Again, we’re just trying to have this conversation.”

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“When we released our decision about UBC, several people told us to keep the politics out of Pride,” said VPS executive director Andrea Arnot in a media release, Tuesday.

“Pride was born from resistance led by trans women of colour. Pride has always been political.”

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READ MORE: Vancouver police can march in the Pride parade, but not in uniform, society says

The VPS said library employees are still welcome to march with the City of Vancouver or as individuals, but that the organization will not be welcome to participate as a group.

In June, the VPS dis-invited UBC from the event after it hosted a speech by controversial speaker Jenn Smith, who describes himself as a “transgender-identified male,” who writes and speaks on “the dangers” of “transgender ideology.”

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The society says it took the latest action after raising concerns about the VPL’s booking policy and issuing a demand for the institution revisit it by August. It said the VPL declined to do so.

READ MORE: Pride divided: Leadership under pressure as LGBTQ2 community looks to future

Library responds

In a statement, the VPL said it had withdrawn from the parade at the society’s request, and acknowledged concerns over the institution’s room rental policy.

The library said it hoped to regain the trust of the LGBTQ2 community and said it remained committed to promoting dialogue and “raising marginalized voices” through its programs and services.

However, it stood by its decision to host Murphy’s talk.

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“Vancouver Pride Society is asking the Library to go beyond the law and rely on their interpretation of what is legally permitted speech in Canada,” said the Library.

“The limits on freedom of expression must be decided by the legal system, not the Library.”

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The VPL said it hoped to return to the parade next year.

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The VPL and UBC are not the only high-profile organizations to be barred from participating in the city’s Pride parade.

In 2017, the society barred uniformed officers with the Vancouver Police Department from marching in the parade but allowed non-uniformed police to participate.

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