A school district in the Canadian province of Ontario has been removing “offensive” books from its library shelves in an apparent effort to make room for more “inclusive” reads. The move, targeting books written before 2008, has sparked outrage and prompted the province’s Education Minister to intervene.
After news began circulating online that books like The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank was among those removed from Peel District School Board (PDSB) libraries, Education Minister Stephen Lecce wrote to the board asking them to stop.
“Ontario is committed to ensuring that the addition of new books better reflects the rich diversity of our communities,” wrote Lecce in a statement. “It is offensive, illogical and counterintuitive to remove books from years past that educate students on Canada’s history, antisemitism or celebrated literary classics.”
Although the school board claims they were only removing titles based on a book’s condition, the Toronto Star notes that the school board’s guidelines recommended removing all books published before 2008. In addition, an anti-book purge group, Libraries Not Landfills, explained that the weeding-out process was being done through an “equitable lens.”
Tom Ellard, a spokesman for Libraries Not Landfills, reportedly told the Toronto Star that librarians must follow a process. While the first factor a librarian considers before removing a book from the library is that it is under 15 years old, additional steps require librarians to “remove books that may have misinformation, are misleading, or reinforce racist content or information that is not gender-affirming.”
News of the school board’s process of eliminating books published before 2008 concerned many social media users, who worried this practice would erase important parts of history. Amy Eileen Hamm, a Canadian journalist and political commentator, responded to the news on X (formerly Twitter):
“Terrifying story … Ontario school board enforces ‘diversity audit’ of library books; students come back to a half-empty library. Pre-2008 books gone. Diary of Anne Frank gone,” she wrote, adding: “This is so incredibly fucked up. I can’t even believe the CBC covered it.”
Others, like The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), shared Hamm’s sentiments and took to X demanding the school board and the Ontario Ministry of Education re-evaluate its disturbing policy.
“We are shocked the ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank was among the books removed by the Peel District School Board (PDSB) as part of their ‘weeding’ libraries process,” expressed the CIJA. “We call on the PDSB & the Ontario Ministry of Education to clarify its policies & to re-examine the criteria by which books are to remain available to students to ensure that important historical & cultural books are not removed.”
Despite the backlash, CBC News said that the PDSB defended its process and admitted in a statement that it plans to continue to remove certain books as it “has always been a part of teacher librarian responsibilities” within PDSB.
“Books published prior to 2008 that are damaged, inaccurate, or do not have strong circulation data (are not being checked out by students) are removed,” explained the board in its statement.
Additionally, the board said that books with a high circulation rate that were published before 2008 will be replaced if they are “accurate, serve the curriculum, align with board initiatives and are responsive to student interest and engagement.”
“The Peel District School Board works to ensure that the books available in our school libraries are culturally responsive, relevant, inclusive, and reflective of the diversity of our school communities and the broader society.”
Reportedly, thousands of books, including Harry Potter, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and The Hunger Games, have been removed from school shelves since the purging process began last spring.