Murphy v. Vancouver Public Library

The Justice Centre sent a legal warning letter to the Vancouver Public Library, requesting that the Library cease its interference with freedom of expression by rescinding a security fee to a group of citizens who organized a public lecture by Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy.  

Meghan Murphy is the founder and editor of Feminist Current, a popular Canadian feminist website. A resident of Vancouver, Murphy regularly engages in public discourse on the subjects of sex, sexuality, and gender. She holds a Master’s degree from Simon Fraser University. She has become known internationally for her coverage of women’s issues, including the Vancouver waxing cases in which female aestheticians working out of their homes refused to wax the testicles of a local Vancouverite who sometimes identifies as a woman. In that case, the Justice Centre represented one of the women accused of discrimination on the basis of “gender identity and expression” at the BC Human Rights Tribunal. The case was withdrawn.

Several Vancouver women booked the Alice Mackay room at the Vancouver Public Library in November 2018, to hold the event “Meghan Murphy in Vancouver” in January 2019. On November 28, the Library’s Chief Librarian issued a statement regarding the event in which she stated that the Library “does not agree with the views of the Feminist Current”, and that “Meghan Murphy’s opinions are concerning”.

On December 3, the Library sent a letter to organizers, which states, in part, that “[the] event has attracted significant attention and we have been advised that there will likely be public protests against the event at or near the Library.” The Library demanded that the event not start at 6:30 PM as booked, but rather start no earlier than 9:30 p.m.—after the Library had closed. It further demanded that, “to ensure safety”, Feminist Current must pay a fee of $2,047.50 for “additional security guards”.  The organizers protested the additional charge, noting that they already had retained private security.

The Justice Centre was retained to act for the organizers and sent a legal warning letter to Julia Morrison, Acting Director of Corporate Services and Facilities at the Vancouver Public Library, requesting that the Library cease its interference with freedom of expression by rescinding the security fee, which it characterized as “content-based discrimination” and a “heckler’s veto”. The Justice Centre also reminded the library that, as a government entity, the Library has a duty of neutrality, and its interference with the event infringed the Charter rights of both speakers and listeners.

After some discussion between the parties’ legal counsel, the Library agreed that the Event would proceed. The Library then reduced by over half the security fee, made no attempts to collect the fee in advance, and has not attempted to collect it since the event took place.