Planning for a petition against pornography in public libraries

March 13, 2015
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By Lea Z. Singh |

Yesterday, I received an email response from Coun. Tim Tierney to my follow-up letter of March 10. Here is the text of his reply, which appears to have been written by him (there is no "sent on behalf of" in this email).

CC: Timothy Tierney, Danielle McDonald (CEO)
Ms. Singh,
Thank you for your follow-up questions on this matter. The Ottawa Public Library strives to strives to provide a safe and welcoming space for all our customers while balancing individual needs and rights. As previously stated, we have one of the strongest filtering systems in place for public libraries regarding our Public Internet Computers and our wifi network. However, with more and more customers using their own mobile devices, the ability to control the content within the library space, and prevent with 100% certainty content that may be considered offensive by some, becomes increasingly challenging.
The request for a technical solution to address your concern (that is, filtering all content) is difficult to achieve. Firstly, filtering is a reactive process in its very nature in that the site must exist and be found before it can be blocked. Secondly, filters are not perfect and often tend to over-filter, often blocking credible sites. Thirdly, the term objectionable is itself subjective and does not necessarily apply simply to sexual content; what is considered objectionable to one person is not to another.
Ultimately to ensure that our library space is a safe and welcoming place for all we need to rely on a number of elements such as tools, policies and practices.
With respect to the results of our investigation, I regret that I cannot share those details with you. We do not comment publicly on internal, employee matters.

Sounds like the library administration is digging in their heels at this point. Coun. Tierney is now explicit about rebutting my request of filtering pornography. Moreover, he informs me that I will never find out the results of their internal investigation of the incident at the Ruth E. Dickinson library branch.

This letter feels like the end of the road for my letter exchange on this topic with the Board of the OPL. Obviously, one person will not move that mountain, and I didn't really expect to, though I'm glad they are forced to think about this issue again as they carry out their investigation.

The next step

The time is now here to seek other avenues of redress. And what springs to mind is legislation.

Yesterday, after reading about Bill 128, 2008, I contacted Gerry Martiniuk, the former (Conservative) MPP who introduced this Private Members' Bill at Queen's Park. He wrote back to me today, and among other things, I found out that this Bill was born from the efforts of one person in Martiniuk's riding, who observed someone viewing pornography at a public library in Cambridge, and who then started a petition and collected signatures. I find this very encouraging!

Mr. Martiniuk pointed me to the Ontario Legislature's public petitions webpage, which details the format that a petition must comply with in order to be valid. 

Next step: I need to contact my (Conservative) MPP, Lisa MacLeod, and see whether she would be willing to introduce a Private Members' Bill on this topic if I collected enough signatures. 


Below are all my posts on this topic. The most recent are listed first:

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