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Toronto library board revising room-booking policy after controversial memorial

Last Updated Dec 12, 2017 at 2:00 am EST

TORONTO – The Toronto Public Library board voted Monday evening in favour of changing its rental policy following a controversial memorial at a west-end branch this summer.

The memorial was held in July for Barbara Kulaszka, a lawyer whose clients included Marc Lemire, the leader of the now-disbanded white supremacy group Heritage Front.

An announcement for the July event also said Paul Fromm, a former teacher whose ties to racist groups cost him his licence, were among those expected to speak at the event, which cost $10 to attend.

Members of city council and such advocacy groups as the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, expressed outrage that organizers were allowed to book a space “despite their long record of promoting bigotry and their disturbing ties to the Neo-Nazi movement.”

Under the changes approved by board members, library staff will be able to deny or cancel bookings “when the library reasonably believes the purpose of the booking is likely to promote, or would have the effect of promoting, discrimination, contempt or hatred of any group.”

The report said key goals of the new booking policy, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, include maintaining a “welcoming and supportive environment free from discrimination and harassment.”

The board added that while the public library supports freedom of speech, that support “does not translate into tolerance for hate speech.”

The board said it had consulted with lawyers and was initially told it could not refuse the booking based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other policies. Staff subsequently consulted external lawyers as it reviewed the community and event space rental policy.