A school library in Mississauga, Ontario has made the move to remove all books from its shelves that were published before 2008, as part of a school board policy to ensure that books in school libraries are equitable and “inclusive.”
Students at Erindale Secondary School were reportedly shocked to find shelves in the library entirely empty upon returning for the start of the school year earlier this month, with one student claiming that as many as half of the books that were present last year, were now gone, the CBC reports.
The school is part of the Peel District School Board (PDSB), which has recently implemented a new process to meet a directive from the Ontario Provincial Minister of Education Stephen Lecce to ensure library books are inclusive.
However, Minister Lecce, a member of the Progressive Conservative government under Premier Doug Ford, stated Wednesday that he has asked the school board to change their policy:
Ontario is committed to ensuring that the addition of new books better reflects the rich diversity of our communities. It is offensive, illogical and counterintuitive to remove books from years past that educate students on Canada’s history, antisemitism or celebrated literary classics.
While the process of “weeding” books in libraries is a standard practice in order to replace or remove damaged books or those that contain out-of-date information, such as atlases that still list the USSR as a state, some groups are concerned that the added element of inclusion and equity could lead to the removal of books based on individual interpretation.
The weeding process is a three-step one, involving books at least 15 years or older that are examined for damage, misleading or outdated information among other facts. The second step is an audit of books to qualify books based on how well they “promote anti-racism, cultural responsiveness and inclusivity.”
The third and final step involves making sure the books in the library reflect the diversity of the students who attend the school.
The PDSB policy was widely criticised on social media, with the Canadian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) noting that the Diary of a Young Girl by Holocaust victim Anne Frank had been one of the books removed by the board.
“We are shocked the ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank was among the books removed by the Peel District School Board (PDSB) as part of their ‘weeding’ libraries process,” the CIJA wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“We call on the PDSB & the Ontario Ministry of Education to clarify its policies & to re-examine the criteria by which books are to remain available to students to ensure that important historical & cultural books are not removed,” they added.
Canadian psychologist and writer Dr. Jordan Peterson commented, “Burn a book for equity!” while Canadian columnist Lorrie Goldstein highlighted the book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, also missing from the school’s shelves, as a book with a history of being targeted by “woke” activists.
Goldstein cited an article published in 2022 by the British newspaper, the Express, which claimed “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” was “outdated” and even detrimental, according to childhood researcher Dr. Helen Adam from Edith Cowan University’s School of Education.
“Purely and simply this research shows, there’s a lack of representation of boys and girls in non-traditional gender roles in these books. This can contribute to children from these families and backgrounds feeling excluded or marginalised,” Dr Adam said.
Canada has a history of banning books not deemed to be inclusive enough, with a 2021 Telegraph newspaper report noting that school boards in Ontario have been removing books deemed to have “negative stereotypes,” including France’s Asterix and Belgium’s TinTin, since at least 2019.
In one case last year, Ontario teacher Carolyn Burjoski was expelled from a Waterloo Region District School Board meeting for expressing her own concerns regarding the removal of books deemed “harmful.”
“In fact, some of the books filling our libraries make it seem simple or even cool to take puberty blockers and opposite-sex hormones,” she said and went on to discuss a book that seemed to glorify a child taking puberty blockers and testosterone, claiming it did not address other long-term issues, such as infertility.