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Niagara Falls
Saturday, July 13, 2024
Letter: Board acted appropriately in firing chief librarian
Letter to the editor. File

Dear editor:

Re: your June 27 story, “Group of residents wants library board to commit to neutrality,” I support the broad principles of neutrality in library collection selection.

This ensures our library materials represent a diversity of ideological viewpoints. But I also support the decision of the library board to fire the former NOTL chief librarian over the commentary she published under her occupational title.

According to the library board’s explanation for Cathy Simpson’s termination, her employment was not ended for her belief in library neutrality, per se.

Rather, she was fired because she unilaterally issued a public statement without submitting it for approval, contravening her terms of employment. Moreover, following subsequent discussions with the board, she refused to co-operate in a plan to try to remediate the injury caused by her error.

Her error was that her public statement was rooted in talking points developed by a not-for-profit organization called FAIR (the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism).

Library neutrality is not the only cause for which FAIR lobbies. Its advocacy campaigns have included attacking school-based anti-bullying and inclusion initiatives supporting gender identity.

They have specifically advocated in favour of misgendering youth by rejecting their preferred pronouns. This advocacy undermines schools being safe spaces and heightens LGBTQ youth suicide risks.

Our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of conscience and expression, but it also protects citizens from discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.

On that count, FAIR’s advocacy is offensive to many NOTL resident who identify as LGBTQ. For its part, FAIR asserts it is not transphobic, because it has active members who identify as LGBTQ.

Rather than accept their representations of denial, I would urge others to simply read the materials used in these other FAIR advocacy campaigns.

Simpson’s newspaper column contained messages cribbed from FAIR. So effectively her editorial associated our library with FAIR and all its campaigns, including those targeting the interests of the LGBTQ community.

She was offered an opportunity to retain her position by committing to work collaboratively with the board on a plan to redress the association with FAIR.

In the interim, her staff decided to publicly stand up against her. Without the support of her staff, it was untenable for her to continue in a position of supervision over colleagues whose confidence she had lost.  The board was left with no other alternative but to terminate her.

Our former chief librarian chose to accept a generous severance package and is now enjoying an early retirement. Property owners have borne and paid the cost of her choices.

The residents of NOTL owe her no further consideration. Our library board acted in good faith and appropriately in resolving this matter.

I have no ongoing concerns about the library collection reflecting a diversity of views, consistent with the expression of free speech, but also (and very importantly) excluding hate speech targeting LGBTQ and other vulnerable protected minorities.

Prejudice flows from ignorance and not knowledge. A key objective of a library is to redress ignorance and impart knowledge.

Steve McGuinness

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