Saskatoon library didn't violate Brad Trost's freedom of speech, says U of S prof

A law professor at the University of Saskatchewan doesn't believe the Saskatoon Public Library violated the freedom of speech rights of MP Brad Trost.

Library cancelled anti-abortion event featuring MP, citing safety concerns

Conservative leadership candidate Brad Trost wants an apology from the Saskatoon Public Library. (CBC)

A law professor at the University of Saskatchewan doesn't believe the Saskatoon Public Library violated the freedom of speech rights of MP Brad Trost.

Last week, the library cancelled a meeting hosted by anti-abortion supporters that featured Trost, a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. 

The library initially told protesters it wouldn't cancel the event, pointing to its freedom of speech policy. Eventually, it changed its mind, citing safety concerns when protesters vowed they would come into the library and try to shut the meeting down.​

The question remains whether Trost's freedom of speech rights were violated.

Professor Ken Norman said there are two main tests at play: That a group can't shut speech down based on its content, and that there has to be an anti-disruption policy that makes it clear that protesters can't interrupt speech they don't like.

"The library seems to check both of those boxes," Norman told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning. "They stood on their anti-disruption policy and, on the face of it, that seems proportionate and balanced."

Norman said it's not fair to ask the library to call the police in case there is trouble.

"The police couldn't possibly respond quickly enough to avoid the disruption," he said. "I think that the library can responsibly put out the policy that it already has in its safe use bylaw."

The event was eventually moved to a local hotel, which makes the issue much simpler.

"It's a private space once the room is booked. The protesters would have had to stage their protests outside," Norman said.

"However, the library's a public space. The library can't prevent anyone from entering a public meeting room."

Trost has asked for an apology from the library.

Norman said there continues to be a growing debate, especially on university campuses, about whether all speech should be protected. He said everything from anti-abortion protests to whether smudging should be allowed in a public ceremony are currently being discussed.​

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning