Library won't partner with group planning to screen films about police brutality
'The insistence that I include specific speakers had never happened before'
Halifax Public Libraries has decided not to sponsor the screening of two films which look at issues of brutality, racism and militarization within police forces.
Alex Khasnabish has arranged several film screenings at the library in the past and had been allowed to use the space for free.
But he said he got an email from the program manager at the library saying there were concerns about this year's film choices and asking that a police representative be added to the accompanying panel discussions.
"I was told that unless I was willing to do that, that the programming would be reconsidered," said Khasnabish, chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Mount Saint Vincent University.
"If the police want to come and attend as individuals they are welcome to," he said in an interview with CBC's Mainstreet.
He chose the two films because there's a "lively debate" about the role of policing in the community right now.
Library's goal is balance, CEO says
The province placed a moratorium on random street checks in April, after the black community pushed for police accountability for years. A report released in March found black people in Halifax are street checked at a rate six times higher than white people.
When Khasnabish stood firm, he said library officials told him they wouldn't give him the space for free, but that he could pay to rent a library space instead if he wished.
The library suggested bringing in a voice from the police or the Halifax Regional Municipality, said Asa Kachan, Halifax Public Libraries CEO, in an emailed statement on Friday.
"The library suggested this because of the importance of facilitating an open and uncensored community conversation around the issues of policing, injustice and violence," said Kachan.
The library's goal when it partners with a group is for a balanced perspective that provides the public with many different viewpoints, she said.
"Libraries are democratic, inclusive spaces."
Khasnabish said the option of including an HRM representative on the panel instead of a police representative only appeared in the last email he received from the library, which was in the context of withdrawing the partnership.
Looking for new venue
He said he told the library's program manager having someone from the police force in the room could have a "chilling effect" on discussions, especially for marginalized people who want to share their encounters with police.
Past film screenings have covered topics of misogyny, climate change, decolonization and militant protest, but haven't generated concerns from the library, he said.
"The insistence that I include specific speakers had never happened before."
Khasnabish is looking for a new venue to screen the documentaries.
One is called Profiled, a film that focuses on police brutality and racial profiling in the United States. The other is episode 18 of the Trouble series, A.C.A.B. or All Cops Are Bastards, which examines alternatives to policing.
With files from Mainstreet