Event featuring controversial speaker Meghan Murphy to go ahead at Vancouver library

The VPL says it is now working on ensuring the event it safe, and says because it "may cause disruptions," it will take place after the central branch has closed for the evening. Douglas Williams/The Canadian Press

A speaking event featuring controversial feminist Meghan Murphy will go ahead at the Vancouver Public Library (VPL).

VPL chief librarian Christina de Castell confirmed Monday that the Gender Identity YVR (GIDYVR) event would go forward, saying the library board had assessed it under its new booking policy.

De Castell said the assessment, which included advice from Vancouver police and lawyers, determined the event was unlikely to breach the BC Human Rights Code.

“After a difficult and emotional discussion, a majority of the Board decided to accept the rental request,” wrote de Castell.

“As with other room rentals, acceptance of this rental request does not mean that the Board endorses or agrees with the positions of the group or individuals using our space.”

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Click to play video: 'Meghan Murphy draws hundreds of protestors at Toronto appearance'
Meghan Murphy draws hundreds of protestors at Toronto appearance

The VPL says it is now working on ensuring the event it safe, and says because it “may cause disruptions,” it will take place after the central branch has closed for the evening.

The VPL revised its room booking policy last year, after criticism stemming from another speaking event featuring Murphy, including the organization being disinvited from the Vancouver Pride Parade.

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.

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Global News has requested comment from Murphy about the event. In previous interviews, she has denied her views are hurtful to transgender people, and insisted her events are about having conversations about difficult topics.

The March event was initially titled “For females only: sports, spaces, and safety,” but organizers renamed it “Women’s places & spaces: sports, prisons, and shelters” earlier this month.

“New title. The last one caused confusion. People of all genders (and views) are welcome at our event,” said organizers in a social media post.

Other speakers include Linda Blade, president of Athletics Alberta who has spoken against transgender athletes competing in women’s sport, and Heather Mason, a former inmate who has described housing transgender inmates in women’s prisons as “dangerous.”

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Events featuring Murphy have been a flashpoint in the past.

In October, an event at the Toronto Public Library drew large protests, but was defended by the library under the aegis of free speech.

The VPL also cited free speech in its decision to accept the new booking, noting that it is required to abide by measures in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms dealing with freedom of expression.

Click to play video: 'Protests planned over radical Canadian feminist’s event'
Protests planned over radical Canadian feminist’s event

“VPL recognizes the importance of freedom of expression as a core principle of democracy, and identifies it as an organizational value. We believe that dialogue, not censorship, will ultimately lead to greater understanding and inclusion,” wrote de Castell.

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“Historically, libraries’ participation in defending freedom of expression has advanced the position of marginalized groups, including LGBTQ2+ communities.”

Her statement went on to list VPL initiatives to foster inclusion and reduce discrimination, including issuing library cards under people’s chosen gender identities, staff training, and trans-inclusive washroom facilities.

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