by Andrew Irvine
I am writing in response to the opinion piece by Robert M. Goldschmid in the June 9, 1998 edition of the Times Colonist and to offer the support of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) with regards to the current Greater Victoria Public Library’s (GVPL) meeting room policy. This policy permits any individual or group to use library meeting rooms regardless of the individual’s or group’s opinions or beliefs. It is our understanding that some individuals, groups and unions have called upon the GVPL to deny the Canadian Free Speech League access to library meeting rooms.
Similar to the GVPL policy, the BCCLA’s support for open access to public library facilities on a content neutral basis is not an endorsement for any particular group’s opinions or beliefs, especially those that promote hatred or discrimination. On the contrary, the BCCLA has long supported human rights legislation and the values inherent in that legislation.
However, with respect to public facilities that are customarily available to the general public, it is important that the state not deny access to public facilities solely on the basis of unpopular, even racist opinions. In a society that aspires to be free and democratic, freedom of ideas and association is vital. Indeed, the library’s special mission to promote intellectual freedom and to provide citizens with access to the widest possible range of ideas, places a unique onus on the GVPL to resist pressure to exclude particular groups due to their beliefs.
The BCCLA supports and urges the GVPL to continue to resist such pressure.