Note: This report is taken from the BIAC website . Links to the VPL presentations and the original complaint letters are at the end of the report.
The Vancouver Public Library remains an open space for public discourse on Palestine, BDS, occupation and apartheid, despite the efforts of some to silence discussion. On November 2, 2011, Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign (BIAC) members attended the Vancouver Public Library Board meeting, to respond to letters received by the Library from the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and others, demanding that the Library cancel BIAC’s September 18 event, Beyond the Palestinian Statehood Initiative. The Seriously Free Speech Committee and Independent Jewish Voices also presented at the Library Board, as did the BC Civil Liberties Association and the BC Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee.
While an audience before the Library Board had initially been requested by the Jewish Federation in opposition to the library’s hosting of BIAC’s event, the Federation’s representative failed to attend the Board meeting, and it was announced that they would seek to attend a later meeting. However, the five organizations present took clear positions in support of intellectual freedom at the public library, thanking the Library Board for its commitment to intellectual freedom and diverse viewpoints’ and communities’ access to the Library’s space.
The Library responded throughout to such letters by replying with its commitment to intellectual freedom, and that all groups had a right to rent library space. Those who sought to shut down the event (including the Simon Wiesenthal Centre) also tried to appeal to city politicians to silence free expression at the Library.
The presentations from Seriously Free Speech, IJV and BIAC made clear that this incident and attempt to suppress speech at the Vancouver Public Library was far from isolated and part of an ongoing effort to silence organizing and events related to Palestine, referencing the cancellation of a Gaza children’s art show at the Oakland Museum of Children’s Art, attacks on Israeli Apartheid Week on Canadian campuses, and multiple similar incidents.
VPL presentations from BIAC and other organizations:
- Download BIAC presentation to Vancouver Public Library Board, November 2, 2011
- Download BC Libraries Association Intellectual Freedom Committee presentation to Vancouver Public Library Board, November 2, 2011
- Download Independent Jewish Voices presentation to Vancouver Public Library Board, November 2, 2011
- SFSC Presentation to the Vancouver Public Library Board, Nov. 2, 2011
- BC Civil Liberties Association presentation to the VPL Board, November 2, 2011
Original letters of complaint to VPL and Mayor Robertson:
- Complaint letter from the Jewish Federation to the Vancouver Public Library (posted on the VPL’s website as public record)
- Complaint letter from Gordon Diamond (posted on the VPL’s website as public record)
- Letter from the Friends of Simon Weisenthal Centre to Mayor Gregor Robertson