Call to Action by the Canadian Jewish Congress, Pacific Region

Posted: 2/23/2008 10:43:00 AM
Author: Gerry Cuttler and Romy Rittler
Source: This announcement was originaslly posted on the CJC website on Feb. 21, 2008.

Call to Action by Canadian Jewish Congress, Pacific Region

Dear Friends,

As you may know, Greg Felton is scheduled to speak at the Vancouver Public Library on February 25, 2008. He was invited to talk about his book, “The Host and the Parasite. How Israel’s Fifth Column Consumed America”. Canadian Jewish Congress, Pacific Region, in close consultation with the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and the Canada-Israel Committee, developed a strategy for working on this issue since we learned of the event weeks ago. From time to time CJCPR engages in quiet but effective advocacy. Such is the case with the Felton matter, which we deem a serious communal issue.

Upon learning about the event, Canadian Jewish Congress, Pacific Region immediately contacted the Vancouver Public Library to request a meeting. At the meeting, CJCPR raised our concerns and provided the senior library staff with a collection of quotes from Mr. Felton’s book and articles, and a copy of the transcript of his recent appearance on the Sean Leslie Show at CKNW. CJCPR stressed that the principled and appropriate course would be for the Library to immediately and unequivocally condemn Mr. Felton’s book and the hatred it espouses, and admit that an error was made in inviting Mr. Felton.

CJCPR continues to communicate with the library and the library Board on this issue and will be attending the event to monitor his talk. We have also been in contact with both the local Vancouver Police Department Diversity Relations Unit and the B.C. Hate Crime Team to request their presence at the event.

There have naturally been concerns expressed within our Jewish community about Felton’s appearance, and some have called for a public protest at the time of his appearance.

We are cognizant that this is an emotional issue for our community. However, CJC, Pacific Region is not calling for a public protest of the event and does not believe that such a response is in the best interests of our community.

While everyone has the freedom to express themselves, a public gathering will only provide Mr. Felton more publicity than he deserves, and also the possibility of a confrontation with his supporters. Public protest will only provide him with more legitimacy and a larger platform from which to spread his message. There is no advantage to engaging Mr. Felton in a debate, as there is no debating what he has to say. To do so would only legitimize his views and opinions.

While a public protest will not be helpful, it is important to let the Vancouver Public Library Board and the Library know how we feel about their choice of Mr. Felton to highlight the “freedom of speech” issues.

Many members of our community are fully aware of Greg Felton and his history. A recent Op-Ed in the Vancouver Sun will provide you all the necessary background.

We urge those who feel motivated to e-mail or call the Board of the Vancouver Public Library at 604-331-4003 or contact Paul Whitney, City Librarian, VPL at 604-331-4007 or email. Information points have been included below for your reference, as you might want to include one or two of them in your letter.

If you require further information, contact Romy Ritter, Director, Canadian Jewish Congress, Pacific Region at 604-622-4240 or email.

Gerry Cuttler, Chair
Romy Ritter, Director
Canadian Jewish Congress, Pacific Region Canadian Jewish Congress, Pacific Region

Information points:

Mr. Felton is well known to the Jewish community. Many members of our community find his statements under the guise of “free speech” to in fact constitute hate speech aimed at Jewish people.
Not attacking free speech or a person’s right to free speech, there is however a thin line between free speech and the promotion of hate. Free speech is not, and was never intended to be, an absolute.
Mr. Felton is entitled to his thoughts and beliefs and to express them as we live in a free society but free speech does not entitle him to be provided a public forum at a publicly funded institution.
While we may support the right of Mr. Felton to express himself, his freedom of expression does not negate the freedom of good people to speak out in favour of understanding, empathy and traditional Canadian values of acceptance and mutual respect.
Why was this particular author chosen for an event to promote reading? What other controversial speakers have been invited to speak?
What other controversial topics will be covered in Freedom to Read Week at the VPL?
Mr. Whitney stated that the role of the public library is to provide a forum for an open and public exchange of contradictory views and to make materials available that represent all points of view. Does that mean the Library will open its doors and allow speakers who espouse hatred towards other religious, ethnic or minority groups?
VPL needs to have a process in place for the vetting of potential guest speakers. Re-evaluate the process by which speakers are invited.
Want an explanation as to why it is fitting for the Vancouver Public Library, a publicly funded institution, to offer a forum to an author whose body of work is full of libels, Holocaust revisionism, and antisemitism to symbolize the cause of free speech.
Mr. Felton’s views are more than just “controversial”. He vilifies a group of people, engages in Holocaust revisionism, and diminishes the horrors of the Holocaust.
Principled and appropriate course is for the Vancouver Public Library to unequivocally condemn Mr. Felton’s book and the hatred it espouses and admit that an error was made in inviting Mr. Felton.