Mayor Tory "disappointed" Toronto Public Library refused to cancel controversial speaker's event

Oct 17 2019, 7:47 am

Mayor John Tory says he’s “disappointed” the Toronto Public Library hasn’t cancelled an event featuring a controversial transphobic speaker, Meghan Murphy.

The talk, which is slated to take place on October 29 at the library’s Palmerston branch, will feature Murphy, a freelance writer who runs the website “Feminist Current” and has publicly argued that trans women endanger cis women.

Tory said he doesn’t agree with the library’s decision to allow the talk on its property and that he’s reached out to the City Librarian, Vickery Bowles, and asked for her rationale and whether she would reconsider this decision.

However, Tory said Bowles stands by her decision and still plans to move forward with the event, which the library says is entitled: Gender Identity: What Does It Mean for Society, the Law, and Women?

“Politicians don’t make these room booking decisions nor should politicians make these decisions – that’s why we have professional staff and written policies to govern the use of our public spaces,” said Tory.

He added that there are “thousands of places this event could be held” in the city other than the public library and that when it comes to public buildings, he believes “we should hold ourselves to the highest standard and listen to the valid concerns of our residents.”

Yet, despite the “significant” discussions and negative feedback online as a result of the event, Bowles says the library has an obligation to protect free speech.

“When Toronto Public Library (TPL) makes meeting rooms available to the public we serve, we need to make them available to all on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use,” Bowles said in a statement.

Bowles added that in order to rent a third-party room, the purpose of the event must be in compliance with the library’s Community and Event Space Rental policy.

The library also noted Murphy has never been charged or convicted of hate speech offences and is contractually obligated not to violate TPL’s policy.

Following the library’s decision, several local authors launched an online petition, that has already garnered nearly 4,000 signatures as of Thursday, calling out the library for providing a platform for Murphy to spread “hate speech.”

Started by authors Alicia Elliott, Catherine Hernandez, and Carrianne Leung, the petition says the publishing professionals who sign it will no longer participate in events at the library if the talk is allowed to happen.

“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,” the petition reads.

“Offering Murphy a platform means denying the resources and promise of safe and equitable space to trans communities.”