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Letter sent from the Manitoba Library Association to the Municipal Council of the City of Winkler

Posted in Advocacy, and Intellectual Freedom

July 21, 2023
To the Mayor and Municipal Council of the City of Winkler:

The Manitoba Library Association (MLA) has significant concerns stemming from the July 11, 2023 City of Winkler Council meeting, where the Council chose to officially appoint Councillor Don Fehr to serve as the Council Representative to the South Central Regional Library (SCRL) Board. Further, Council also passed a resolution that called on both Board representatives of the City of Winkler to “exert influence as members of the SCRL Board of Directors to create policy whereby graphically sexually explicit books be moved from the children’s section to another section of the library as appropriate so that children will not stumble across them but they remain available to parents who wish to use them as an educational resource”.

On June 2, while attending the political event for CPC candidate Branden Leslie at the Meridian Exhibition Centre in Winkler, Mr. Fehr was recorded having a conversation with a local anti-government conspiracy theorist Karl Kreb.

In the audio (which can be made available upon request), Don is clearly heard to say the following:
● He identified himself as being a SCRL Board member.
● He told Karl he spoke with two other people, with the full name of one person being Rick Wall, and told them to “hang off with the protesting…to let us do our thing inside”.
● He told Karl he “does not want any media attention on me because I would like to do this in a way that is, methodically done, to, have the final end result that we can have.”

In addition to saying these things on camera during a live-streamed political event, Mr. Fehr’s name also appears on one of the petitions submitted to the City Council for the July 11 Council meeting.

Given Mr. Fehr’s personal views in favour of censoring library materials, and the fact he has articulated his willingness to abuse his authority as an elected official to force his personal views onto the SCRL Board, MLA is deeply disturbed that the City of Winkler Council felt it was appropriate to appoint Mr. Fehr to serve as their representative to the SCRL Board. We are even more disturbed that the Council saw fit to give full support to Mr. Fehr to effectively bully the SCRL Board into forcing SCRL to take action that not only violates the library system’s autonomy, but also forces the views of a few people onto the over 44,000 people SCRL serves.

MLA calls upon the City of Winkler Council to immediately revoke its appointment of Councillor Don Fehr as Council Representative to the SCRL Board, and for the Council to issue an official apology to the other funding councils of SCRL for attempting to force those communities to accept the de facto censorship practices called for in the City’s recent resolution.

Richard Bee, MLIS
Director-at-Large, Advocacy
Manitoba Library Association