Vancouver Public Library changes booking policies for events
Alyse Kotyk, Regan Hasegawa, CTV News Vancouver
Published Monday, September 30, 2019 3:11PM PDT
Nearly a year after hosting a controversial blogger's event, Vancouver Public Library has revamped its booking policies.
Last January the library's decision to allow Meghan Murphy to speak in one of its meeting rooms drew protests.
Murphy is known for being outspoken about transgender issues. She's argued, for example, that transgender women shouldn't be allowed to use women's change rooms.
At the time, VPL said it had zero tolerance for discrimination, but asserted that "free speech and intellectual freedom are fundamental values of public libraries." Even so, the library has now updated its booking policies and requires a pre-screening process.
"We found there was a lot of confusion about who could make decisions about denying or cancelling a rental and how we make those decisions," Christina de Castell, chief librarian, told CTV News Vancouver.
"We felt the booking room policy needed to be updated to be clear about the language and how we balance values. The consciousness of discrimination of equity-seeking groups is changing in Canada, and we have decided to consult with the B.C. human rights commissioner to help us prevent discrimination."
Through the pre-screening process, the library conducts a risk assessment where they look at each of the speakers booked and what kinds of affiliations they have. Speakers are now required to be booked at least six weeks in advance.
"The procedure is intended to limit the likelihood that prohibited activities, including hate speech (as defined by law), will take place on library premises, and to assist the library in identifying events that may require additional preparation by library staff," VPL's updated public meeting rooms and facilities use page says.
The library's decision to allow Murphy to speak resulted in it being banned from this year's Pride Parade.
"During this event, five speakers asserted that trans women are not women and should not be treated as women," the Vancouver Pride Society said back in July. "We support debate, even that which we find objectionable or offensive, but not past the point that the speech is discriminatory based on protected grounds."
It's not known if the library will be invited back to next year's parade.
The library says it will consider each event on a case-by-case basis and that anyone who doesn't violate the Criminal Code or the province's human rights code is welcome to book an event.
"It is hard to sometimes uphold the freedom of expression rights of groups you don’t necessarily agree with and we see that as our obligation, as a library," de Castell said. "We are a place for everyone in Vancouver and that means we don't mean exclude one group in order to include another."