Toronto library refuses to stop memorial for lawyer who defended far-right activists

Published On July 12, 2017 | By Francis Commey | News, Politics

Bookshelves line the interior of the Richview public library. (Courtesy: Toronto Public Library)

By: Adam Bernards & Matt Hodder

A planned memorial for controversial Ontario free-speech lawyer Barbara Kulaszka on Wednesday night isn’t expected to attract many people.

But the gathering scheduled for the lawyer, who represented many accused anti-Semitic conspirators and hate propagandists, booked for the Richview Toronto Public Library on Islington Avenue near Eglinton Avenue is garnering much attention from anti-racist groups.

Paul Fromm, a well-known far right activist who lives in Mississauga, said the rental won’t be stopped despite efforts to have it cancelled.

And the library had no plans to stop it.

“We have the concerns that have been very seriously, and have carefully assessed this situation from a legal, library and public perspective,” a Toronto Public Library release issued Wednesday stated. “We do not tolerate hate speech. However, we cannot deny bookings from the community that are in accordance with the law and the library’s policy and rules of conduct.”

Kulaszka was called to the bar in 1980 and is responsible for, among other things, the absence in Canada of laws against false news and the absence of a ban on internet hate speech. She defended some of Canada’s most widely-known accused hatemongers and propagandists such as Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel during her career.

She died last month at the age of 64, her death was not publicized until Tuesday. She was not practising law in Ontario at the time of her death, according to records at the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Fromm, who worked as a school teacher with the Peel Region Board of Education for more than 20 years until his dismissal in 1997, said he wasn’t surprised there was a group pushing to have the event shut down.

“It’s not all that a negative of a response,” he told Humber News on Wednesday. “There are a couple of individuals who are not exactly friends of freedom of speech.”

In particular, Fromm mentioned Bernie Farber by name, a longtime crusader for diversity and head of the Mosaic Institute.

He “has probably spent almost 40 years trying to restrict free speech in Canada through one way or another,” said Fromm, a one-time mayoral candidate for Mississauga who ran on a platform of anti-immigration.

Farber told Humber News the event is “an attempt to see if the public, as represented by the library, is willing to now embrace racist groups into their bosom.”

“They have every right to say, ‘sorry, we don’t allow racist groups to rent our facilities,’ period,” he said.

“Sometimes you just have to put your foot down as a society and say no,” Farber said.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also circulated an email Tuesday seeking support for a campaign to stop the gathering.

“CIJA is voicing our strong opposition with the library, Mayor’s Office and city council,” the email by Sara Lefton, GTA vice president of the centre, stated.

Fromm said he expects the memorial will host a small gathering of about 20 people. Guests must pay a $10 admission fee, which will go toward paying the cost of the venue, he said.

Fromm was a founder of the Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform, which is against foreign aid to Third World nations. He also founded Canadian Association for Free Expression, which has actively defended the rights of accused racists against prosecution under hate crime and human rights legislation.

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