Timmins Public Library reverses decision on boys-only robotics event after girl's petition

Daily Brew
Timmins Public Library has reversed a decision that only allowed boys to participate in a robotics summer program after a nine-year-old girl started an online petition.

When nine-year-old Cash Cayen tried to sign up for a summer robotics session at the Timmins Public Library, she was told it was for boys only.

So, with the help of her mom, she started a Change.org petition asking the library to let girls participate too — and it worked thanks to the public's support.

“She will be allowed in the program, as will any others wishing to take part,” Timmins Mayor Steven Black told Yahoo Canada News.

The controversy began when Cash, an avid participant in local library activities, tried to sign up for a July 20 robotics event, but was turned away because of her gender.

The library's summer newsletter describes the event, hosted by Science Timmins, as "Robotics For Boys ONLY!"

“Even after speaking to the Assistant Library Director Elaine De Bonis, where I explained that I have been participating in library programming since I was only a few months old I was still turned away,” she explained in her Change.org petition, which netted more than 9,000 signatures by Thursday afternoon.

Cash said De Bonis told her the program would only be offered to boys because their "academic and literacy skills don't improve over the summer break."

"I explained that it was unfair that I was being denied this opportunity simply because I am a girl, but she insisted I could not register," she said in her petition.

De Bonis did not comment on the issue, but the library’s board of trustees’ chair Michael Doody issued a statement Thursday changing its mind.

"The Timmins Public Library Board and staff wish to apologize to the public and Science Timmins for the misunderstanding related to the Robotics event which was designed to encourage improved literacy through reading," Doody said.

He said the event will now be open to all children between the ages of nine and 12.

Cash’s mom, Caroline Martel, told Yahoo Canada News she’s happy for the victory, but she still takes issue with Doody's statement.

“We are happy that they are opening it up to everyone, but this was not a misunderstanding. It was gender discrimination. I am disappointed that no one thought to apologize to my daughter, but that they have no problem naming and apologizing to Science Timmins and the public," she said in an email.

She said the library is just doing "damage control," and that CEO Carole-Ann Churcher called her at home Wednesday and asked her to take the petition down. She refused.

“I feel like the Timmins Public Library are [sic] not taking accountability for their actions," Martel said. "We need to change the way our society thinks, and we as a society need to send our girls messages of support and encouragement.”

Mayor Black said he will meet with Martel on Monday to discuss the matter.