John Marchesan
City News
October 21, 2023

The union representing 6,000 municipal and library workers in York Region has called for the resignation of the CEO of Markham Public Libraries following the temporary removal of Islamic Heritage Month displays last week.

CUPE Local 905 called for the removal of Catherine Biss, saying it has lost all trust in her leadership adding her actions and comments affect the safety of workers they represent.

An email sent out to employees suggested the Islamic Heritage Month displays be removed in the wake of the current situation in the Middle East so that the library is not “perceived” as taking a particular side in the conflict. The email made reference that the directive came from Biss and an unnamed councillor.

“If you currently have any merchandising around this topic, please take it down for now. If you haven’t put it up yet, please do not,” the email read.

However, the displays were later reinstated with Biss apologizing and taking full responsibility, stating the email was “inaccurate” and had been sent out prematurely. She said the displays would remain present in all libraries for the remainder of October.

“This latest incident of Islamophobia from the senior management of Markham Public Library is part of long-standing systemic racism faced by our members in this workplace,” union officials said in a statement Friday.

“We call for the resignation of CEO Catherine Biss, as a first step towards rebuilding the relationship between workers and their employer.”

The National Council of Canadian Muslims has also called for an investigation into the events surrounding the decision and accountability for those involved.