The Halifax Public Library’s decision to keep a controversial book on its shelves, containing what advocates call transphobic disinformation and hate speech, has led to local backlash and a break with Halifax Pride.

A community petition was launched last month to remove Irreversible damage: the craze for transgender people seduces our daughters by Abigail Shrier from the bookshelves.

But Thursday, Halifax Public Library issued a statement saying he decided to “not censor” the book and keep it in circulation.

In light of this, Halifax Pride announced Friday they ended their partnership with the organization. They had also urged the library to retire the book and to review its collection development policy, which guides which books are brought into the library’s collection.

This separation means that there will be no library event scheduled for the 2021 festival. Halifax Pride says it will refrain from reserving library spaces until this issue is resolved by a combination of internal review, policy change and training.

Amazon and the Ottawa Public Library are also keeping the book despite recent calls for it to be removed.

Chris Cochrane, vice chairman of the board of directors for Pride, says they are asking Halifax libraries to change their collections policy. (Halifax Pride / Chris Cochrane)

Chris Cochrane, vice chairman of the board of Pride and head of the transgender and non-binary committee, said it was not a step the group had taken lightly.

“(As a) trans person, I’m not going to debate my existence, and this book definitely discusses the existence of trans people,” Cochrane said on Saturday.

In a Perfect World, Cochrane said Pride would like to see the book deleted. But if that can’t happen, they hope acquisition policies could be changed further.

“Until they do, we’ll have to stay where we stay,” Cochrane said.

At least one author, Tom Ryan, has said he will cancel his upcoming library-sponsored presentation out of concern for the LGBTQ teens he writes about.

Mila McKay started the petition – which had more than 1,100 signatures on Sunday – to remove the “transphobic” book in April after noticing 25 people had put two copies on hold.

She said her immediate reaction was fear for children and young people who might be around people reading it, so she started conversations with the management of the Halifax Public Library about how she thought the book was a security concern.

“The impact of this book on, for example, even a child is potentially their life,” McKay said Saturday. “It’s to me, it’s like a canary in the coal mine. I’m really worried about what the request for this book means for the wider discourse and the kind of attitude that … is growing in Halifax. . “

Mila McKay has started a petition to have Halifax public libraries remove “irreversible damage” from their shelves, but this week the library said the book will stay. (Mila McKay)

Transgender Canadians are already more likely to report having been abused since the age of 15 and more likely to have seriously considered suicide in their lifetime. They were also more likely than non-transgender Canadians to have been diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder.

This is according to a Statistics Canada study conducted in 2018, published in a report by the Canadian Center for Justice and Community Safety Statistics last September.

During discussions with the library, McKay said he was told that one of the reasons the book was brought into the collection was based on Shrier’s integrity and reputation as a journalist.

The library said it decided to keep the book after evaluating it against its collection policy and the Canadian Federation of Library Associations statement on intellectual freedom.

“Public libraries exist to provide equal access to resources for all and to support the freedom of individuals to seek information and form their own opinions. When we act to remove access, we engage in censorship,” indicates the press release.

The library said it was working to identify additional resources and new ways to promote “the most recent and relevant works of trans-affirmation in our collection,” and that it was working to provide space and establish links to support the transgender community.

“We can work together, collaboratively, to raise trans voices, and create more compassion and understanding for marginalized experiences. We know our conversations will continue, ”the library said.

The Halifax Public Library turned down an interview request on Saturday.

Professor Jacqueline Gahagan of Dalhousie University in Halifax says Shrier’s book should be presented as an example of disinformation and criticized, but not removed from the library’s collections. (Brian Mackay / CBC)

Jacquie Gahagan, professor of health promotion at Dalhousie University in Halifax – whose research focuses on LGBTQ health and gender – sees the book as a nefarious ‘junk science’ that should be openly discussed, but not taken from the literature. library.

“I don’t know that removing the book from the collection will necessarily solve the biggest problem, which is transphobia and trans hatred,” they said.

Instead, Gahagan said it could be an opportunity for the library or others to organize conversations about why the book is harmful and keep the conversation in an accessible space.

“I completely appreciate how devastating it is to have books like this in public spaces. But removing it from that public space just means the conversation is taking place elsewhere,” Gahagan said.

Recent clashes between libraries, community

Other cities have experienced similar divisions between the public and libraries.

The Vancouver Public Library was banned from the 2019 Vancouver Pride Parade after hosting a conference at the central branch of controversial writer Meghan Murphy.

In Toronto, a group of writers, Mayor John Tory and other politicians expressed their disappointment at the Toronto Public Library for hosting Murphy in 2019, while Toronto Pride said there would be “consequences” to their relationship with the library.

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