So, the Vancouver Public Library has decided to double down on the TPL policy of letting hate-groups-in-disguise speak. I don’t know how I feel about all this. I mean, I do. But I’m conflicted. While I heartily condemn these groups, and I imagine their very existence is threatening to people who have already experienced lifetimes of marginalization and fear, I am also a supporter of the right to gather and free speech. What bothers me is that these groups are using acceptance and space at mainstream public institutions as a way to legitimize what is essentially a campaign to stamp out the rights and opportunities of others before they’re even fully realized. I sympathize with the difficulty of the decision making for the library boards, is what I’m saying. That said, I would have just made a different decision based on my interpretation of what Canadian public values are and I would ask them to consider this: what are our public spaces for? When you allow a group in to discuss whether another group deserves the same rights and privileges as other Canadians, how does that change the space for everyone? Not just those immediately affected by the panel, but everyone to come. The library is one of the last sacred, engaging, utilitarian, and “free” spaces for us ALL to gather. I see no problem with holding that outside the polarizing politics of our moment. It should be a space for bringing people in, not for shutting people out.
“After a difficult and emotional discussion, a majority of the Board decided to accept the rental request,” de Castell said in the statement. “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.”