Outrage Continues Following the Toronto Public Library's Decision to Allow Gathering of Neo-Nazis

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Outrage Continues Following the Toronto Public Library’s Decision to Allow Gathering of Neo-Nazis

Mayor John Tory, several City Councillors, and other librarians called for the event to be cancelled.

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Three members of Toronto’s anti-fascist and anti-racist community that showed up at the Richview public library. Photo by Vice’s Rachel Brown (@rp_browne on Twitter)

The old-guard of Toronto’s neo-Nazi movement went forward with their memorial service at a Toronto Public Library Etobicoke branch last night, despite widespread objection from Jewish organizations, Toronto City Councillors, and members of the public.

The event was a memorial for Barbara Kulaszka, who acted as legal counsel for members of the group and fought against hate speech laws. Some 25 people attended, and media were not allowed to attend, according to the Toronto Star.

After Torontoist broke the news that the Toronto Public Library wouldn’t cancel the planned neo-Nazi event, the response on social media was swift and overwhelmingly negative. Jewish groups like the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and online communities like the Bunz Helping Zone on Facebook encouraged people to make their objections heard by the Toronto Public Library and Toronto City Council.

The Toronto Public Library Workers Union also tweeted out their opposition to the event, as did several librarians on Twitter.

A statement released by the Toronto Public Library before the event said it “cannot deny bookings from the community that are in accordance with the law and the library’s policy and rules of conduct . . . should the group act in a manner that is not consistent with the law or our rules of conduct, please be assured that we will take immediate action.”

While there was no protest or demonstration—likely due to how shortly before the event the story broke—several people wrote on social media that they wished they could do more to oppose the event. At least three members of Toronto’s anti-fascist and anti-racist community went to Richview Library, but there are no reports that they disrupted the event and they declined to be interviewed.

While they couldn’t enter the event, several members of Toronto’s media waited outside to conduct interviews with event attendees, including Canada’s most prominent white supremacist, Paul Fromm. He framed this as a free speech issue and celebrated the library’s decision.

The person being interviewed here is Max French, a member of the Heritage Front who was present at the bloody fight between the Heritage Front and Anti-Racist Action members in front of Sneaky Dees in 1993. After dancing around the question, he told CP24, “There was no Holocaust denial going on in there. And if there was—what of it?”

Patrick, who says he was opposed to the event and went in to observe, says otherwise.

 

Another person who attended wore his neo-Nazi allegiances on his sleeves, literally.

Blood and Honour is a violent neo-Nazi organization in Canada that is linked to racially-motivated assaults and was formed out of the Aryan Guard.

In a statement, Mayor Tory said that the event couldn’t be cancelled for legal reasons, and that his office would ask the Library Board to review its policies that allowed a neo-Nazi aligned organization, the Canadian Association for Free Expression, from booking space at a Toronto Public Library.

Before the event, Councillors Campbell, Matlow, Pasternak, and Wong-Tam spoke out against it, saying it should be cancelled.

While the event was widely condemned, some people on social media, and a column by Marcus Gee, argued that trying to make the library cancel the event constitutes an attack on free speech. Others pointed out that the library, as a public institution, is also responsible for upholding Charter rights against discrimination, and that it was providing a platform for hate by not cancelling the room booking.


Evan Balgord is a freelance journalist covering the anti-Muslim, alt-right and alt-light movements in Canada and Toronto. You can follow his work on Twitter at @ebalgord.

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