Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Ontario's minister of education says he has asked the Peel District School Board to immediately stop its new, and seemingly arbitrary practise of removing books that were published before 2008 from school libraries.Reina Takata/The Canadian Press

Ontario’s Education Minister scolded the Peel District School Board for removing books from its libraries, including literary classics, after concerns were raised about how school officials were assessing and throwing away older books.

In a statement on Wednesday, Stephen Lecce said it was “offensive, illogical and counterintuitive” for the board to remove library books on Canadian history and antisemitism, and literary classics.

“I have written to the board to immediately end this practice,” Mr. Lecce said.

A group made up of parents, teachers and school staff said it appears the board asked its school librarians this year to remove fiction and non-fiction books published before 2008 while assessing collections through an equity lens.

Tom Ellard of the group Libraries not Landfills said that, since then, books that include The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank have been removed from several school library shelves. He said that while he and others support issues of equity and including voices in the library collections, Peel’s decision to remove books published prior to 2008 was arbitrary.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said in a social-media post Wednesday that it was “shocked” that The Diary of a Young Girl was one of the books being removed. It called on the board to re-examine its criteria “to ensure that important historical and cultural books are not removed.”

School librarians periodically assess their collections to ensure books are in good condition, relevant and responsive to the needs of students.

Peel’s review of its library collection followed a list of directives from the Ministry of Education to the board that included “evaluating books, media, and other resources currently being used in schools for teaching and learning English, history and social sciences to ensure that they are inclusive and culturally responsive, relevant, and reflective of the student bodies and voices, and broader school communities.”

Florida’s book ban takes censorship to the next level

Controversy, frustration in Durham after David A. Robertson’s The Great Bear pulled from school shelves

It appears that the board did not properly communicate to staff how to weed library collections. The board did not take any responsibility for the confusion.

In a statement on Wednesday, Rashmi Swarup, Peel’s education director, said the board would review its staff training.

Ms. Swarup said books such as The Diary of a Young Girl and the Harry Potter series would remain on library shelves, and if the book was in a poor condition, newer versions may be purchased.

She said that teacher librarians were not given direction to remove all books that were published prior to 2008, nor was the direction received by the provincial government. The board follows the weeding guidelines set by the Canadian School Libraries Association.

“Regardless of publication date, older or damaged books that are accurate, relevant to the student population, inclusive, not harmful, and support the current curriculum may stay within the school or schools have the opportunity to repurchase newer copies of the same title to replace the damaged ones,” she said.

With a report from The Canadian Press

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe