VPS Statement On VPLs Entry In The 2019 Pride Parade
May 26, 2020
July 23 (Vancouver) – The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) will no longer permit the Vancouver Public Library to participate in the City of Vancouver’s entry in the 2019 Pride Parade. This is due to their decision to provide a platform for discriminatory, transphobic speech. Individual LGBTQAI2S+ and allied employees of the Vancouver Public Library may march with the City of Vancouver or with their union, CUPE 391. This is in line with our recent decision to rescind UBC’s entry.
On January 10, 2019, the Vancouver Public Library permitted transphobic and anti-sex worker speaker Meghan Murphy to book space for an event. During this event, five speakers asserted that trans women are not women and should not be treated as women. VPS asserts that the conduct reflected both at this event, and in past public comments by these speakers, are discriminatory in a way that violates the British Columbia Human Rights Code.
Concerns raised by community members prior to the event have not been adequately addressed. On April 24, 2019, VPS attended a meeting with other individuals, community organizations, and library representatives to discuss community concerns. On June 25, 2019, VPS, along with other community organizations, signed a joint letter written by the Coalition Against Trans Antagonism which outlined concerns with the current rental policy and requested that changes be made. On July 15, 2019, VPS sent a follow up letter informing the VPL that lack of change to the room rental policies would preclude them from participating in the 2019 Pride Parade. VPS has followed the lead of trans, grassroots organizers on this issue.
Transgender people have a human right to be referred to by their chosen name and pronouns; these rights are enshrined by the BC Human Rights Code and have been upheld through Dawson v. Vancouver Police Board (No. 2) 2015 and Morgane Oger v William Whatcott (No. 7) 2019.. Our public institutions have a moral obligation to protect members of the public from discriminatory speech.
Institutions such as libraries and universities are well known houses of public debate and free thought. 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. Basic, fundamental rights are not up for debate.
We recognize that the Vancouver Public Library recently developed a trans inclusion strategy and implementation plan. This is important work which has included staff training, updating washroom signage, shifting to gender-neutral language, creating resource guides and establishing a staff LGBTQ2+ Allies group. The head librarian at the Vancouver Public Library stated in a conversation with the executive director of Vancouver Pride that she is committed to trans inclusion.
Inclusion and belonging go beyond policy; sometimes it necessitates making challenging decisions to put written values into real-world action. Transphobic speech is dehumanizing and causes harm while clearly running afoul of provincial human rights protections. This is wrong; it is wrong in our public institutions and it would be wrong in the middle of our parade – an event born from protest and intended as an event to uplift and celebrate those on the margins.
Public institutions have the right to control their own policies – they are not required by law to provide a platform for discriminatory speech. We look forward to seeing how Vancouver Public Library continue the good work they have embarked upon by continuing to engage in a consultation process with trans communities, acknowledging the damage that has been done and striving to rebuild trust with our communities so that the public library can be a place of safety for all of us.
We suggest that the Vancouver Public Library and other organizations follow the lead of organizations such as the Toronto Public Library whose room booking policies do not permit discriminatory speech based on protected grounds. Until then, VPS will exercise our right to set our own policies, which is why we will continue to decline entries from organizations that provide a platform for discrimination.