LONDON, Ontario (LifeSiteNews) — An Ontario library system has been exposed for refusing to rent space for an author to give a presentation on biological sex and freedom of speech as it could “test bounds of hate speech.”
According to internal communications published October 25, management at London Public Library decided not to grant house room to prominent British author Joanna Williams due to her gender-critical beliefs. Williams, the author of such works as Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity and How Woke Won: The Elitist Movement That Threatens Democracy, Tolerance and Reason, was to give a talk titled “Sex, Gender, and the Limits of Free Speech on Campus.”
“She’s definitely controversial and would draw protests and attention,” London Public Library CEO Michael Ciccone wrote in an internal email obtained by Canadian media outlet True North under freedom of information laws. “She considered [sic] a TERF and leans far-right without totally going there.”
“TERF,” or “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” is a derogatory term used by transgender activists for someone, usually a woman, who does not accept their ideology.
The scandal began in May when the library refused to allow the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (SAFS), a Canada-based group dedicated to free speech and academic freedom, to book space for Williams to give a talk.
The library had previously told SAFS that the booking violated its policies on workplace and sexual harassment. They further argued that it would pose a risk of property damage or personal injury but failed to explain how, even when SAFS pointed out that Williams’ events had never had such issues. The decision not to host the event was later discovered to have come from the board of directors.
The internal emails revealed that the true reason for cancelling the event was because library management took issue with Williams’ ideas.
Ciccone requested his staff to “ask around a bit” to discover if SAFS had been denied space anywhere else, before sending out an email to other library heads, asking, “Has anyone else received this request for a room booking? The author appears to be of the Megan Murphy (sic) ilk.”
Ciccone was referring to Megan Murphy, a feminist speaker who routinely exposes the dangers of the transgender agenda. Murphy’s events have also been censored as community centers refused to host her because of her pro-woman views.
Williams herself was honored to be compared to Murphy, posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, “New FOI requests reveal I was stopped from speaking because I ‘appear to be of the Megan Murphy (sic) ilk.’ What an honour!”
New FOI requests reveal I was stopped from speaking because I “appear to be of the Megan Murphy (sic) ilk.” What an honour! https://t.co/zjHfyvm2NB
— Joanna Williams (@jowilliams293) October 25, 2023
Management debated how to avoid hosting the event, especially when SAFS had rented space from the London Public Library in 2019.
Library spokesperson Ellen Hobin responded that SAFS and Williams must be “made aware of the code of conduct/no hate speech” if the event were permitted.
“Tricky to see how we can say no especially when we hosted them in 2019,” she pointed out.
Ciccone considered denying SAFS the space on a technicality, since SAFS said they did not have third-party insurance, a requirement of booking space, on the booking form.
However, Hobin pointed out that the library offers “a package through the City [of London] for this which I think most renters utilize.”
Hobin then reconsidered denying entry over the “hate speech” provision, saying, “Looking at her work though, it’s hard not to imagine that it could test the bounds of hate speech.”
The decision to deny the event space was roundly condemned by Williams who said, “Justifying censorship on the basis that defending women’s rights is a ‘far right’ position is a slur not just against me but against a century of feminism. The London Public Library has behaved shamefully.”
Ironically, the day after William’s talk would have taken place, the library accepted a booking by Palestinian comedian Amer Zahr, who has given explicit support for violence and designated terrorist groups.
However, library officials, the same ones who would not allow Williams to speak, worked to ensure Zahr’s event would not be cancelled, arguing it would be “an insult to the London Muslim community” and “possibly be in violation of the performer’s charter [sic] rights.”