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Thunder Bay Public Library takes steps to 'decolonize' itself

Chief librarian says 'racism exists' at the TBPL.
TBPL Chief Librarian and CEO John Pateman (Tbnewswatch file)

THUNDER BAY  — The Thunder Bay Public Library says it has taken action that demonstrates that "decolonization" of the library is "a conscious act and not a metaphor."

In the spring of 2017, in the wake of the findings of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Chief Librarian John Pateman first announced TBPL would implement measures to decolonize library operations and services.

On Tuesday, in response to what it described as a number of recent tragic and traumatic events in the community, the library made a followup announcement reaffirming its commitment to anti-racism and decolonization.

"We stand in solidarity with the Indigenous people of Thunder Bay in their continuing struggle for social justice and human rights," the statement began.

"TBPL recognizes, accepts and acknowledges that racism exists in Thunder Bay and at TBPL. Racism is based on power and access to resources. It divides us and it is unacceptable...only a strong anti-racism response is the answer," Pateman said.

Saying that actions speak louder than words, the chief librarian noted some of the measures already implemented at the library.

They include what he described as a partnership of shared power and resources with Anishinabek Employment and Training Services to create a Community Hub at the library. An Elder in Residence and an Indigenous Knowledge Centre are in place at each location.

According to Pateman, decolonization at the library is a process of "unlearning the settler colonial culture and practice...It is a sharing of space, power and resources because we are all Treaty people."

Pateman said the library will continue to look within the organization, led by the communities it serves, to address systemic racism and eliminate barriers.

In September 2017 the library board approved a reconciliation action plan developed with input from its Indigenous Liaison, Robyn Medicine, and from members of its Indigenous Advisory Council.

In addition to reflecting the TRC's Calls to Action, it reflects recommendations that came out of the inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations young people in Thunder Bay.

TBPL has made the Office of the Independent Police Review Director's report Broken Trust - Indigenous People and the Thunder Bay Police Service available to the public online and in each library location.

The library said it will examine the report to see if it contains any recommendations that pertain to its own practices.


Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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