I was recently notified that anti-Semitic graffiti was scrawled on a window of one of our branches. The hate graffiti on the window was quickly removed by someone in the community before even staff could take action. Nevertheless the deed was done. Police were notified. Additional hate graffiti was found at other locations within the community.
Toronto Public Library champions values underpinning a democratic society including free, open and equitable access to a diversity of information and ideas, civic engagement, intellectual freedom and freedom of speech. However, support for free speech does not translate into tolerance for hate speech.
Public libraries have been a democratizing force in the modern world, supporting a civil society. In this 21st century world in which we live, we are seeing more and more challenges to our democratic values and principles in Canada and throughout the world. Now, more than ever, it is important for all of us to stand up to defend those values, especially when challenges come knocking at our door.
I never really thought I would have to write a statement such as this because I never really anticipated such a challenge would come to the public library in this great city.
I am standing up to say that defacing the public library with messages of hate will not be tolerated. This isn’t just about the public library, this is about the community, the city and country in which we live, work and raise our families. These kinds of messages threaten everything a civil society stands for, everything the public library stands for. The public library is a welcoming, inclusive public space that supports the social justice principles of equity and inclusion. I will – indeed all of us at Toronto Public Library – will stand up against hate speech whenever it comes knocking at our door. This city, this country, our democracy, are too valuable to do otherwise.