Dear Sandra Singh*,
We, as longtime activists for women’s liberation here in the United States, would like to commend you for standing firm for free speech and the right of assembly against the pressures to censor your program for November 30th. This event has been organized by the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter to commemorate the slaughter of 14 women engineering students in Montreal two decades ago. The gunman said he was killing these women because they were “feminists.”
The commemoration organizers engaged Janice Raymond, a well-known author and radical feminist analyst, as one of the program’s speakers. A political clique in the community charged that Janice Raymond is “transphobic” and demanded that the Library prohibit the use of its space for such a speaker. Your public explanation is eloquent: “This commitment to free speech and intellectual freedom are the fundamental core values of public libraries and are bedrock values for democratic society.”
It should not take courage for a woman to be an engineering student or for a public library to offer gathering space for a feminist event, but it sometimes does. We honor you for defending freedom of expression and assembly. Most especially, we thank you for bravely keeping open the Library’s doors to a feminist commemoration of the victims of the Montreal Massacre. Whether or not these women individually considered themselves to be feminists, they fell in the cause of women’s right to be engineers and scientists. We honor them as well.
*Sandra Singh is the Chief Librarian at the Vancouver Public Library