Ontario Education Minister Criticizes Peel District School Board Over Book Removal

Ontario’s Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, has expressed his disapproval of the Peel District School Board’s decision to remove books, including literary classics, from its libraries. Concerns were raised about the board’s evaluation process and subsequent removal of older books.

Lecce called the practice “offensive, illogical, and counterintuitive,” particularly as books on Canadian history, antisemitism, and literary classics were among those removed. He stated that he had written to the board, urging them to put an immediate stop to this practice.

The removal of books published prior to 2008 was carried out as part of an assessment by school librarians, who were asked to evaluate library collections through an equity lens. However, critics, including library advocate group Libraries not Landfills, argued that the decision to remove books based on their publication date was arbitrary.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs expressed shock that books such as “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank were being removed. They called on the board to reassess their criteria to ensure that important historical and cultural books are not removed.

Peel District School Board’s Director of Education, Rashmi Swarup, stated that books like “The Diary of a Young Girl” and the Harry Potter series would remain on library shelves. If a book was in poor condition, newer versions might be purchased. She clarified that the board did not give a directive to remove all books published prior to 2008 and that the decision to remove books was not made by the provincial government.

Swarup acknowledged that there was confusion and committed to reviewing staff training to improve communication regarding library collections.

The Peel District School Board follows the weeding guidelines set by the Canadian School Libraries Association. According to Swarup, older or damaged books that are accurate, relevant to the student population, inclusive, and supportive of the current curriculum may stay within schools. Alternatively, schools have the opportunity to repurchase newer copies of the same titles to replace damaged ones.