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Feminist speaker deemed ‘anti-trans’ by critics to speak at Vancouver Public Library Thursday

Global News logo Global News 2019-01-11 Simon Little
a person smiling for the camera: Meghan Murphy. © Global News Meghan Murphy.

Protesters gathered outside the Vancouver Public Library (VPL) central branch on Thursday in opposition to a controversial speaker that critics say is "anti-trans."

Self-described radical feminist Meghan Murphy, founder of the online publication Feminist Current, is holding a talk billed as a discussion on "Gender identity ideology and women's rights."

Murphy has been permanently banned from Twitter, allegedly for questioning whether people can change their biological sex, and has argued that "men aren't women."

READ MORE: Trans advocates want VPL to scrap event featuring controversial feminist

Those positions have drawn condemnation from LGBTQ groups and supporters who have labelled her a TERF (trans-exclusive radical feminist), and who argue her views have no place in a public library.

Demonstrators with the group Coalition Against Trans Antagonism say the content of the event "promotes fear, discrimination, and hatred toward trans people and sex workers."

The Library's refusal to cancel the event, they argue, "demonstrates [its] complicity with those espousing hate speech — under the guise of feminism — and specifically, hatred towards trans people and sex workers."

Murphy, for her part, says the event is sold out, indicating public interest in her opinions.

"Despite bullying from trans activists who tried very hard to have the event cancelled and who have engaged in abhorrent and astonishing libel against the speakers as well as attendees, this event is still going on," she posted on her Facebook page Thursday.

READ MORE: Senate passes Bill C-16 which defends transgender rights

"What is clear is that people want to have this conversation, and are not going to be intimidated into silence."

The VPL's chief librarian, Christina de Castell, did initially agree to an on-camera interview, but cancelled when Global News refused to provide questions in advance — a violation of its journalistic principles and practices.

The VPL instead issued a statement, writing, "This is an incredibly difficult situation and one that public libraries struggle with every day."

In a previous statement, de Castell said the VPL has zero tolerance for discrimination and does not agree with Feminist Current's views, but is committed to free speech and intellectual freedom, and that the library had no standing to cancel the event.

It's a stance backed by the BC Civil Liberties Association, which argued that libraries should not be moderating political opinions.

READ MORE: ‘No room for discrimination’ says Education Minister, school groups, amid dueling SOGI protests

"The library is doing the right thing here," said BCCLA policy director Michael Vonn.

"Their mandate is intellectual freedom and that includes very controversial topics."

Opponents of the event scheduled their protest for 8:30 p.m. Murphy's talk is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.

 — With files from Robin Gill

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