Library meeting to remember lawyer who represented Holocaust deniers stirs controversy
Joshua Freeman, CTV News Toronto
Published Wednesday, July 12, 2017 10:10PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 13, 2017 8:01AM EDT
Police and Toronto Public Library staff kept a close eye on a gathering held at a library branch in Etobicoke Wednesday to honour a lawyer who represented several well-known white supremacists.
A handful of people attended the gathering at the Richview Library to pay tribute to the recently deceased lawyer, Barbara Kulaszka, who defended a number of people associated with far-right causes, including Holocaust-denier Ernst Zündel.
While some people ventured inside to monitor what the group was saying, there were no protests outside and the meeting was held without incident.
Some groups had called for the booking to be cancelled, however city officials said they were not able to reject the request.
In a statement, Mayor John Tory said he was “deeply concerned” about the meeting and said he has expressed those concerns to library staff.
“Following a request I made to consider the cancellation of this event, I was informed that the library has received legal advice that it cannot reject this room booking request,” Tory said in the statement. “I have asked the library to ensure this event is closely monitored.”
He said his office will also be asking the library board to review its room rental policies in the wake of the event.
In a statement, Coun. James Pasternak said he is “deeply disturbed” by the meeting and called on the library to cancel the permit.
“It is truly shocking that individuals who spread hatred, deny the Holocaust and have ties to neo-Nazi groups are being provided a permit by the Toronto Public Library to host an event inside a public building,” Pasternak said in the statement.
Speaking with reporters after the gathering, one man who participated said it was “completely harmless.” He said nothing took place at the meeting that was counter to diversity, which he said is a “reality” of Canada whether he likes it or not.
When asked if Holocaust denial took place at the meeting, he said “there was no Holocaust denial going on and if there was, what of it?”
More than six million Jews were systematically murdered by the Nazi regime during World War II as part of a program of ethnic cleansing and genocide.