Stop Hate Speech from Being Spread at the Toronto Public Library
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To Toronto Public Library,
We are a group of Toronto and Ontario writers and members of the literary community who need to share our disappointment and dismay that TPL has decided to rent out the theatre space at its Palmerston branch for an event on October 29th to a group that will host Meghan Murphy.
We have always been supporters of TPL and all its branches. We believe deeply in TPL’s mandate to create a just and inclusive city for all residents. As writers and poets, many of us have had the privilege of participating in readings and other events with the good faith and trust that we are extending TPL’s core values of equity, diversity, inclusion, intellectual freedom and integrity.
Those who want to disseminate hate speech today know that they can misrepresent, then weaponize the phrase “freedom of speech” in order to get what they want: an audience, and space to speak to and then mobilize that audience against marginalized communities. While everyone has freedom of speech, we want to once again point to the limits of those freedoms when certain acts and speech infringe on the freedom of others, particularly those in marginalized communities. We also want to point out that hate groups do not have a right to use publicly funded facilities to meet and organize. This is precisely why TPL has a community and event space policy: to determine who and who does not have the right to use its facilities. There is a difference between denying free speech---and what is known as deplatforming, which is when you refuse to allow hate speech to be disseminated in your facility. This has been an effective tactic to stop those who capitalize on spreading hate speech, such as Meghan Murphy.
Meghan Murphy has a history of publicly opposing Bill C-16, which makes it illegal to discriminate based on gender identity and expression. She has publicly argued that trans women are dangerous to cis women, and should not have access to women’s locker rooms, bathrooms or prisons. In May of this year Murphy travelled to Scotland to speak out against the country’s reform of their Gender Recognition Act to be more inclusive of trans people, saying it would “nullify women’s rights.” On top of that, she has also been banned from Twitter for violating their Hateful Conduct Policy.
We stand with our friends in Vancouver who strongly opposed VPL’s hosting Murphy at an event in January 2019. We are shocked that our public institutions we hold in regard would allow Murphy to have a platform while purporting to uphold community values. More than that, we feel betrayed. In a province where 20% of trans folks have been physically or sexually assaulted due to their identity, and 34% have been verbally threatened or harassed, we should be safeguarding access to public institutions to our most vulnerable. Offering Murphy a platform means denying the resources and promise of safe and equitable space to trans communities.
We see the event taking place at TPL Palmerston as a direct violation of your community and event space policy in 4.4.a).
a) The Library reserves the right to deny or cancel a booking when it reasonably believes:
i. use by any individual or group will be for a purpose that is likely to promote, or would have the effect of promoting discrimination, contempt or hatred for any group or person on the basis of race, ethnic origin, place of origin, citizenship, colour, ancestry, language, creed (religion), age, sex, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, disability, political affiliation, membership in a union or staff association, receipt of public assistance, level of literacy or any other similar factor;
It is hard to believe that the event which Meghan Murphy is speaking at, titled “Gender Identity: What Does It Mean for Society, the Law and Women?” would not be bringing together all of her talking points mentioned above in order to “promote, or… have the effect of promoting discrimination, contempt or hatred” for trans people. In a city where trans communities are already unsafe, your decision to allow this event to happen within TPL will intensify this danger. This is unacceptable to us. We urge you to cancel this event in compliance with your own policies.
If this event moves forward, the signed writers and publishing professionals will no longer, in clear conscience, participate in TPL events. In addition, in solidarity with the trans community, we will stage peaceful demonstrations both online and in front of the Palmerston branch on the night of the event. We urge you to reconsider this decision, and not allow TPL to be manipulated by right wing rhetoric that demands we give space to hate speech when none is owed or deserved. Please, keep TPL safe for our most marginalized community members.
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