Film would contravene library policy against promoting discrimination, councillor says
The screening of an anti-Islam film at the main branch of the Ottawa Public Library has been cancelled after an e-mail campaign by residents who argued it would violate the library’s own policies around hate speech.
Coun. Catherine McKenney, a library board member, said she raised concerns about the film after being contacted by residents.
“If you look at the content of what was going to be shown, it really does go against our policy,” she said. “We will not rent space to groups that promote discrimination against others and this [screening] clearly contravened that.”
The room at the library’s main branch at 120 Metcalfe St. was booked by the group ACT! for Canada to show a screening of the film Killing Europe on Saturday, Nov. 25. The group’s Facebook page says they aim to speak out “against the rise of Islamism.”
The trailer for the film includes interviews with right-wing commentators, anti-immigrant rhetoric and violent imagery. Representatives of ACT! for Canada did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.
‘These are taxpayer-funded facilities’
Fareed Khan, an activist who organized the writing campaign against the event, said public space should never be used to promote hatred.
“These are taxpayer-funded facilities. They represent the entire community,” he said. “Groups that go out and promote hate against any identifiable group should never be allowed to use public facilities.”
The Ottawa Public Library’s rules say the library will not provide space to an “individual or group that supports or promotes views, ideas or presentations which promote … discrimination, contempt or hatred to any person on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour [or] religion.”
Officials at the Ottawa Public Library did not respond to requests for comment on Friday. Khan said the fact that the event was approved by library officials in the first place is worrying.
“Going forward, I would hope that the people who accept groups applying to city facilities do their research,” he said.
Councillor to push for clear policy
McKenney said she will raise the issue with the library’s board of directors and suggested the library’s policy may need to be revisited.
“We need to have a clear policy on room bookings,” she said. “The rise in intolerance is happening here as well, it’s not only happening south of the border. We need to take a stand against that type of hateful and intolerant content.”
Khan estimated hundreds of people participated in the writing campaign, sending emails to city councillors, library officials and the mayor’s office in an attempt to draw attention to the nature of the event.
The activist group Ottawa Against Fascism had organized a protest against the event outside the main branch from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the day of the screening. It is unclear whether the protest will still take place in light of the screening’s cancellation.