Annoyed Librarian
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One for the Canadians

For some reason I thought Canadians were about as tolerant as it was possible to be. If you drive through Canada with a big bumper sticker saying "Canadians are Stupid Perverts," the worst that will happen is that someone will say you should have one in French as well, so as not to offend the Quebecois. Everyone is so nice, and other than their misplaced faith in socialism and Tim Horton’s about the only strong opinion ever expressed is that it’s a shame more Americans don’t realize how many famous show biz people are actually Canadian. Thus, I was surprised by this story, where we find out the Vancouver Public Library has actually banned a group from speaking.

Some group called Exit International wanted to give a public talk telling people how to commit suicide, and the library director was afraid that if anyone did commit suicide the library could be held liable. According to the criminologist in need of a haircut pictured with the article, it’s not illegal to talk about committing suicide. That should have been more or less obvious to the library director, since they have books on the subject in the library.

One might wonder why a group would talk about this, or why anyone would show up to listen. After all, it’s not that hard to commit suicide. People do it all the time. Maybe if you’re a quadriplegic, it’s difficult, but otherwise not so much. Since this is one of the few things men seem to be demonstrably better at than women, it might be worthwhile to take a lesson from them. Let’s call it the Hemingway Lesson. Load shotgun. Aim at head. Pull trigger. Messy, but effective. It’s only these touchy-feely medical types who try to make everything so complicated.

According to the article, "The group had booked library space for a public information meeting as well as a ‘practical workshop’ restricted to ‘rational people’ 50 years and older who are considering suicide. It was the second session Whitney had problems with." Maybe the librarian was afraid that the "practical workshop" would be a little too practical, that Exit International would start handing out poison or loaded shotguns, and the over-50 crowd would decide that it was much more "rational" to commit suicide in the library where their relatives didn’t have to clean up the mess.

If this were in America, I wonder if the ALA would be all over this. Is there a policy on banned speakers as there is on band books? Are theVancouverites (Vancouverians ?) in danger of losing their intellectual freedom because this group can’t speak at the library? The director of the Exit International would seem to think so. "The library is a place where one would expect the freeimpartation and discussion of ideas and information," he said.

Some Canadians apparently think it’s a problem as well: "the B.C. Civil Liberties Association will meet with the library board tomorrow [i.e., today] in hopes of overturning the decision. But what could they argue? Is it a civil right to tell people in a public library how to commit suicide? No one is actually abridging their freedom of speech. They can talk all they want, just not in this space. I’m sure there are other places in Vancouver that would love to have the suicide group. They could probably find a nursing home, for example. One thing less tasteful than talking about how to kill yourself in a library is talking about it in a nursing home, but tastefulness isn’t the top priority here. After all, Exit International has merchandise to peddle, and how can they peddle that if they can’t speak in the library?

I suggest that the Vancouver library offer a compromise and agree to buy some of the Exit International merchandise. They could buy The Peaceful Pill Handbook for $35 and make it available free for everybody! It’s already gotten a good review. According to the Exit International website, it was "described by Australian Penthouse as ‘intelligent’ and ‘reasoned,’ and there’s no better book reviewing authority than an Aussie porn magazine.

The Exit International website says that "the print edition of the Peaceful Pill Handbook is now banned from sale in Australia. A censored edition of the Peaceful Pill Handbook was finally approved for sale in New Zealand in June 2008 and may be obtained from bookstores nationally." [Note to the ALA OIF, that’s what censorship looks like.] And this despite a porn magazine unqualified approval. Though if the head of EI and author of this book is really so concerned with the "free impartation " of ideas and information, why not just post the book online for free? It’d be pretty tough for the Australian government to stop that! And while they’re at it, they can post a French translation to keep the Quebecois happy.

Regardless, if this is a question of civil liberties, it’s Exit International that’s violating them. I think the librarian should absolutely ban from speaking at the library any group that discriminates on the basis of age. Hey, Dr. Death, the public library is for everyone, buddy, not just the over-50s. How could the library possibly support a group that would so openly discriminate like that? What about the civil liberties of those under 50 to attend this fascinating workshop on suicide and get the opportunity to buy stuff from Exit International? Who cares about their rights?

I do, that’s who!


Contact the AL:



  1. leavingtheoffice says:

    A positive review by Australian Penthouse. That made me laugh out loud.

  2. Hesse-Darmstadt fan says:

    Could you please make fun of twopointopians or tick off that Regressive Librarian guy who said commenters were like the KKK because they disagreed with him, etc?

    Those made for some entertaining posts and commments.

    The last few posts and comment-collections have been, well….so-so.


  3. Most public library meeting room policies state that the meeting must be non-profit and must be open for anyone to attend. Since EI did not allowed anyone to attend they did not meet the criteria to use the room. End of story.

  4. NotASocialist says:

    I’m disappointed that you take the intellectually lazy tack of assuming that Canadians have a “misplaced faith in socialism.” We’re hardly a socialist country just because we have universal health coverage (a social program that is offered in the majority of developed countries, and one that offers demonstrable advantages over the U.S. model if you compare health indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality, as well as economic indicators like government health care expenditures as a proportion of GDP). We have a conservative government at the moment, though they’re a lot less conservative than American conservatives; still, they’re not exactly a bunch of pinkos. And as a constitutional monarchy, our official head of state is Queen Elizabeth II — also not a socialist last time I checked. The New Democratic Party, our country’s most left-leaning political party, has never come close to governing federally, and never will.

  5. What were they going to do, card everyone at the door? What if you’re 49 but about to turn 50?

  6. NotASocialist, you’re so sensitive!

  7. Truth be told, they were probably afraid it would tempt the librarians into committing suicide.

  8. I’m with AL. It’s not too hard to kill yourself. Any moron can do it. Want it peaceful, just start up your car and close the garage door. Prefer a little more gore, but not at home, jump off a building, but wait till no one is hanging out down below. Come on. The guy’s the south end of a horse walking north, who only wants to make a buck. He should be practicing his capitalist tendancies in the US and maybe Oregon, cause they don’t mind helping people die.

  9. Jay Rockefeller says:

    It’s called eugenics. They should be banned and not allowed to speak. They are attempting to mainsteam getting rid of our old people in the name of euthanasia. Sad, sad, sad is the state of our world when teaching people to kill themselves is a “right” to be supported. Stop the eugenicists wherever you find them as they try to convince us we all need to die and kill one another!

  10. And we count on old people to keep our stats up.

  11. I think that there were some things that were missed in your linked article.

    This decision was not made on his own; but by City Lawyers… in this world of litigiousness, I think they are protecting themselves.

    The session was being held for terminally ill people over 50 year of age.

    “We were told in all likelihood this program would be in contravention of Section 241 of the Criminal Code and that states that it is an indictable offence to counsel or aid or abet any person to commit suicide, and this seems sort of, fairly clear to us,” said Whitney.

    The maximum sentence if convicted is 14 years, whether a suicide takes place or not.

  12. I wouldn’t’ve minded knowing which drug. I don’t fancy being old & sick & poor in America.

  13. Well, me too, according to Suicide and Attempted Suicide: Methods and Consequences, cars today just don’t put out enough CO to properly do the job. And pills aren’t that easy either.
    Tough I agree with the AL-the meeting should’ve been open to everyone. Hell, with all the unemployed hanging around the libraries these days, it would’ve had more participants than last night’s Guitar Hero session!
    Uh, Jay Rockefeller? Eugenics is mostly concerned with offing people before they can spread their supposedly defective genes. People over 50 are generally past that point (Anthony Quinn and Tony Randall nothwithstanding).

  14. “Though.” I mean “though.”
    That’s it. The final straw…gotta go.

  15. Final Exit, by Derek Humphry, has been in publication for over 20 years and is in many public libraries – including Vancouver Public Library. I suspect (but can’t be bothered to waste time verifying) that a group called “Exit International” is associated with or based on that book.

    The method for suicide outlined is basically to put a plastic bag over your head and wrap an elastic around your neck. They recommend using a medical face mask if you find it uncomfortable having the plastic bag sucked down your throat as you gasp for the air that the bag prevents you from getting. No mess. Easy to get the supplies. There you go.

    But having the book on your shelves that describes that method, and the pros/cons/things to consider for the terminally ill … is it the same as explicitly telling them how to do it? Or demonstrating? I’m not sure. In many ways, being able to have a dialogue seems like a saner solution than just making a how-to manual available.

    But I agree with the poster who feels that VPL is covering their legal butts. Nobody deserves to have a suicide on their conscience just because they okay’d a meeting room rental. (Which, oddly, could hold true for the book itself).

    Whole lotta grey area, here.

  16. Oddly, the car talk guys were talking about suicide by car this weekend. They said you probably would still die, but from lack of oxygen rather than too much CO.

  17. A man goes into a library and asks for a book on suicide.

    The librarian says; “F**k off, you won’t bring it back.”

  18. HippieMan says:

    Jesus was a socialist. Why is it so bad?

  19. Jesus was not a socialist. Holy crap.

    I’m not saying he was a capitalist either. I’m saying he was not really driven by economic theory. Sheesh.

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