'Betrayal': Authors vow to boycott Toronto libraries after controversial event with Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, seen in an undated photo, to take part in a panel discussion about gender identity on Oct. 29, 2019. (Postmedia)
Meghan Murphy, seen in an undated photo, to take part in a panel discussion about gender identity on Oct. 29, 2019. (Postmedia)

Canadian writer and founder of the Feminist Current website Meghan Murphy is at the centre of a social media storm after announcing her event at the Toronto Public Library.

Murphy is scheduled to host a discussion about gender identity on Oct. 29 at the Palmerston branch, but is facing backlash because of her views. Members and advocates of the LGBTQ community said they don’t want Murphy to have a larger platform to spread what they referred to as hate speech.

Several distinguished Ontario authors condemned the event and vowed to boycott Toronto libraries if it goes on. An online petition created by Alicia Elliott, Catherine Hernandez and Carrianne Leung has been circulating online. It states that Murphy has “a history of publicly opposing Bill C-16, which makes it illegal to discriminate based on gender identity and expression.” It also says Murphy has called trans women “dangerous to cis women.”

The petition has garnered almost 6,000 signatures.

However, city librarian Vickery Bowles told CBC Radio the event would not be canceled. That sentiment was echoed at a Toronto Public Library board meeting on Oct. 22, despite members of the trans community sharing their concerns.

A statement released by the library said the event did not violate their policies. Pride Toronto urged them to reconsider, saying that there would be “consequences to our relationship for this betrayal,” in an open letter.

The Vancouver Public Library was barred from the city’s Pride Parade after hosting a discussion featuring Murphy in January.

On the other hand, some defended Murphy and showed her support online.

In an article published by The Spectator USA, Murphy said that she has never engaged in hate speech. She also alluded to the idea of a double standard when it came to her opinions versus those of her critics.

“One wonders why they believe their speech should be protected — even when hateful or slanderous — but not the speech of others,” she said. “It is a modern hypocrisy I will never understand.”

A rally is expected to take place ahead of the event at the Palmerston branch on Oct. 29.

More than a local issue

In Nova Scotia, the Royal Canadian Legion was under fire after a group with controversial views on immigration and multiculturalism scheduled events at three of their branches. The meetings booked by the National Citizens Alliance were cancelled in May after being highly criticized on social media.

“Political rights are at the heart of our fundamental freedoms, yet they’re being sacrificed now, because someone doesn’t like a viewpoint or something,” Alliance leader Stephen Garvey told CBC News.

The Legion, however, maintained the cancellations were due to scheduling errors.

In Alberta, the LGBTQ community asked the City of Calgary to reconsider hosting a Christian prayer session at city hall because their leader was against abortion and gender fluidity. An open letter written by members of Queers on Campus said the city had no obligation to “provide a platform for him, and doing so legitimizes and emboldens hatred in our public spaces.”

Despite resistance, the event took place on Oct. 5.

Hate speech or lively debate?

Whether or not to host controversial discussions has become a point of contention across the country. Free speech is a fundamental right in Canada, but it comes with reasonable limits. The issue is complicated by the fact that hate speech encompasses a broad definition, which varies between the provinces and territories. At its core, it means publicly inciting hatred against an identifiable group.