The following message was sent to MLA members on April 1, 2023.
Good day MLA Members,
The MLA Advocacy team has continued to follow matters relating to censorship and defunding challenges in Manitoba Libraries, which emerged in September 2022 and have been escalating since. While primarily these challenges pertain to efforts to censor materials, harass and discredit library professionals, and eliminate municipal funding at South Central Regional Library, we are aware that Winnipeg Public Library and other regional systems are being targeted by agitator interests.
In our advocacy approach, MLA upholds:
- Library professionals and library boards in Manitoba, and throughout Canada, develop and maintain collection policies that reflect universal principles of intellectual freedom. Library boards are collectively responsible for ensuring equitable and universal access.
- Public library spaces, services, and collections are designed and curated using library professional standards with an emphasis on equitable and inclusive access to all members of the library’s community, reflecting the broad diversity of that community.
- Library users rely on their own individual decisions and judgment of what library materials to consume or not. It is not within the rights of any one user or group of users to infringe or interfere with another user’s access to the library, its services, or materials.
- Libraries are public service environments, and engagement between users and workers should take place in a manner demonstrating respect. Library workers are deserving of respect and civility in delivery of services. False accusations, including erroneous allegations of Criminal Code violations, are an abuse of process and an abuse of our professional colleagues.
With these points in mind, we express our own professional frustration with those individuals and organizations seeking to agitate the delivery of, and disrupt funding of library services. We are tired of the “freedoms for me, not for thee” attitude propagated by these groups. We are disgusted with the level of escalating disruptions faced by colleagues in targeted libraries, including our colleagues at SCRL being falsely accused of Criminal Code violations, and being referred to as “pedophiles” and “child groomers” for allowing titles on the shelf. The allegation that public libraries infringe upon parenting, or any other matter of free and personal choice, reflects inconsistency of appalling proportion; censoring materials, under the threat of defunding, in turn demonstrates a callous disregard for the freedom of other parents and readers in the community.
While MLA does not typically bring forward its own advocacy in the form of publicly-generated content, we will highlight the online, library-user generated petition in support of South Central Regional Library, also resisting agitator efforts at censorship, disruption and defunding. We feel it is important for our members to be aware that voices of support against these censorship efforts exist. From a formal advocacy approach, we do encourage Manitobans to directly petition their local council to support their library and for library boards to educate their councils and communities to the dangers of censorship and loss of intellectual freedom.
As an organization, MLA has been deeply involved in discussions with representatives from the Public Libraries Services Branch, South Central Regional Library, Winnipeg Public Library, and the Centre for Free Expression on developing a collective response to these challenges.
MLA will be continuing to develop public facing statements in solidarity with our public library members and colleagues. We are working with our partners in development of tools to support intellectual freedom and equity, diversity and inclusion in libraries. We are committed to continuing this conversation with you, our members.
Richard Bee, Director-at-Large, Advocacy
Melanie Sucha, President