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.
Presentation to Vancouver Public Library Board, 2 Nov. 2011
My name is Anne Roberts and I am representing the Seriously Free Speech Committee, a group of people in this region who work to ensure – and encourage – free and open debate about the contentious issue of Palestine and Israel. Seriously Free Speech began in 2008 as a defense organization for three activists who were being sued by Canwest for putting out a parody of the Vancouver Sun and its one-sided Middle East coverage and support for Israel.
The letter that you received from the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver — and the even more strident letter from the Simon Weisenthal Centre — are prime examples of why our group’s work is necessary to defend the right of free speech.
The federation urged city council and the library board to shut down a discussion of Palestinian statehood that involved an analysis of the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Their reasons: 1) the discussion is intensely political; 2) it is hostile to Israel; 3) no political propaganda either for or against Israel should be allowed in the library. As well, the Federation charged that the event would 4) endanger people’s safety and physical security.
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association Submission to the Vancouver Public Library Board, November 2, 2011
RE: Room Booking Policy
Micheal Vonn, Policy Director
The BCCLA addressed this subject in 2000, at a public forum on “public meetings in public spaces” held – appropriately – at the Vancouver Public Library. Our position is now as it was then, that the library, as a public institution, must not regulate citizens’ access to meeting rooms according to the content of their ideas.
October 4, 2011
To Ms. Catherine Evans, Board Chair, Vancouver Public Library
I am writing on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee (SFSC) to express our concern regarding the letter that the Mayor and City Council received from Mr. Gordon Diamond dated Sept.14, 2011 and a letter that the Chief Librarian received from the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver to the Board regarding a program held in a rented room at VPL on September 18, 2011 entitled Beyond the Palestinian Statehood Initiative – Freeing Palestine and Delegitimizing Israel. We are also in receipt of a document wherein the Simon Wiesenthal Centre claims to have contacted both the City and the Chief Librarian regarding the same program.