VPL revises room booking policy after controversial speaker draws protests

The Vancouver Public Library has revised its facilities booking policy after controversy flared up earlier this year. Douglas Williams/The Canadian Press

The Vancouver Public Library board has approved a revised policy for people or groups who wish to book its rooms and facilities.

The policy states the VPL will not block speakers, even those deemed “offensive or harmful,” so long as they do not violate the Criminal Code of Canada or BC Human Rights Code.

“In keeping with its value of intellectual freedom, the Library will not restrict freedom of expression beyond the limits prescribed by Canadian law,” states the new policy approved Wednesday.

The move comes in the wake of a speaking engagement by controversial feminist Meghan Murphy in January.

Murphy, the founder of online publication Feminist Current, has been banned from Twitter and argues that people who are born biologically male cannot transition to become women.

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The event drew condemnation and protest from LGBTQ2 groups who called it hate speech towards trans people, and resulted in the Vancouver Pride Society banning the VPL from the 2019 Pride Parade.

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

Under the VPL’s new policy, the library acknowledges that its facilities may be used by people who “express ideas that may be contrary to the Library’s vision and values.”

“By offering Library spaces for short-term rental by the public, the Library does not endorse or agree with any of the aims, policies or activities of any group or individual using the space, or of any of the ideas, messages or information they express,” it adds.

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However, it said it will block speakers under specific circumstances:

1)    Any violation of the Criminal Code, including:

  • The communication of statements that incite or willfully promote hatred against an identifiable group; or
  • The advocacy or promotion of genocide.

2)    Any violation of the BC Human Rights Code, including:

  • The publication, issuing or display of any material that indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or group, or is likely to expose a person or group to hatred or contempt, because of their race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age.

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

The library says it will also pre-screen applicants to ensure compliance with policies.

It was not immediately clear whether the Murphy event that took place earlier this year would have violated the policy’s BC Human Rights Code provisions.

The Vancouver Pride Society said it would need to review the policy and speak with members of the transgender community before commenting.

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Global News has requested comment from the Vancouver Public Library.

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