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FREEDOM TO READ WEEK marks its twenty-third anniversary in 2007. Each year, Freedom to Read examines current issues of intellectual freedom. This educational kit is designed to inform and assist booksellers, librarians, students, educators, and the community at large, particularly during Freedom to Read Week.
This year, we explore the impact of technology on issues of free expression as well as the delicate interplay between cultural sensitivities and literary freedom. An excerpt from Val Ross’s book You Can’t Read This illustrates how even Superman was subject to censure and censorship, from both fascists and anti-fascists. The Get Involved section provides exercises and resources for teachers and students, including a guide to generating both ideas and effective publicity for your Freedom to Read Week events. Back issues of Freedom to Read plus other resources are available on our Web site at www.freedomtoread.ca.
NOTE: If you have any suggestions for future issues of Freedom to Read, please send them to the Book and Periodical Council, Suite 107, 192 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M5T 2C2. Phone: (416) 975-9366 Fax: (416) 975-1839. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Book and Periodical Council (BPC) would like to thank the following for their generous sponsorship of Freedom to Read Week 2007:
The BPC would also like to thank the following organizations and individuals for their support and in-kind donations:
Nunavut Public Library Services
Canadian Library Association
Saskatchewan Learning Provincial Library
Atlantic Provinces Library Association
Manitoba Library Association
The following people contributed an incredible amount of time and energy producing the kit and poster and maintaining the Web site at www.freedomtoread.ca: Benita Aalto, Helena Aalto, Franklin Carter, Ron Giddings, Peggy McKee, Scott Mitchell, Marg Anne Morrison, Reva Pomer, David Wyman, and the members of the Freedom of Expression Committee. The BPC, along with the Freedom of Expression Committee, thanks all writers, photographers, and illustrators for their contributions to the Freedom to Read kit of 2007. The BPC gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and its member organizations.
4 Position Statement: Freedom of Expression and Freedom to Read Book and Periodical Council 5 News Bytes By Franklin Carter and Benita Aalto 8 The Blogosphere: Free Speech Limits in an Uncharted World By Benita Aalto 10 Restricted Access: The Dispute Over Three Wishes in Ontario’s Schools By Deborah Ellis, Len Rudner, the Toronto District School Board, and Peggy Thomas 13 Internet “Hacktivism”: Digital Davids v. Global Goliaths By Greg Simpson 15 Drawing the Line: Canadians Debate the Dissemination of Denmark’s Mohammed Cartoons By Ezra Levant, Dan Dunsky, Tony Burman, and Wade MacLauchlan 17 Varieties of Censorship By Franklin Carter 19 Book Excerpt: You Can’t Read This By Val Ross 20 Rushdie Redux: A Global Conflict Over Danish Cartoons Echoes the Crisis Over The Satanic Verses By Franklin Carter 22 The Retail Challenge: Booksellers and Freedom to Read By Emily Sinkins 23 2006 Awards for Freedom of Expression/Freedom to Read
freedom to read
25 PEN Canada: Seventy Years in the Fight for Free Expression By Aidan Johnson 26 Reflections on Press Freedom in 2006 By Julie Payne 27 There’s a Chill in the Air By Ron Brown 28 The Human Rights Police By Franklin Carter
30 Foreword 31 Challenged Books and Magazines 33 Activity: Organize an Essay Contest During Freedom to Read Week: Winning Student Essays from Calgary’s Public Library 34 BookCrossing 35 Freedom to Read Photo Competition: Your Chance to Be a Shutterbug! 36 Activity: Write a Killer Press Release and Get Publicity! 37 Activity: Organize In-Class Debates! 37 Activity: Display Challenged Books! 38 Activity: Host a Reading Marathon! 38 Activity: Organize a Public Debate! 39 The Internet: Netlinks 40 Event Sponsors of Freedom to Read Week 2006
Benita Aalto, Helena Aalto
C O N S U LT I N G E D I T O R
Freedom of Expression and Freedom to Read
A statement of the basic tenets of the Freedom of Expression Committee of the Book and Periodical Council
Ron Giddings, David Wyman
Benita Aalto, Ron Brown, Tony Burman, Franklin Carter, Dan Dunsky, Deborah Ellis, Anne Jayne, Aidan Johnson, Barbara Lake, Ezra Levant, Wade MacLauchlan, Spencer Moore, Julie Payne, Val Ross, Len Rudner, Greg Simpson, Emily Sinkins, Peggy Thomas.
© Book and Periodical Council 2006 The Book and Periodical Council is the umbrella organization for associations involved in the writing, editing, publishing, manufacturing, distributing, selling, and lending of books and periodicals in Canada. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the Book and Periodical Council or, in the case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright). Please credit the Book and Periodical Council on any copies of kit materials. Forward all suggestions for future Freedom to Read kits to the Book and Periodical Council in Toronto. The opinions expressed in Freedom to Read 2007 do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Book and Periodical Council or its member associations. ISBN 0-9739099-1-9
“Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms . . . thought, belief, opinion, and expression.”
— Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Freedom of expression is a fundamental right of all Canadians, and freedom to read is part of that precious heritage. Our Committee, representing member organizations and associations of the Book and Periodical Council, reaffirms its support of this vital principle and opposes all efforts to suppress writing and silence writers. Words and images in their myriad configurations are the substance of free expression. The freedom to choose what we read does not, however, include the freedom to choose for others. We accept that courts alone have the authority to restrict reading material, a prerogative that cannot be delegated or appropriated. Prior restraint demeans individual responsibility; it is anathema to freedom and democracy. As writers, editors, publishers, book manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and librarians, we abhor arbitrary interpretations of the law and other attempts to limit freedom of expression. We recognize court judgements; otherwise, we oppose the detention, seizure, destruction, or banning of books and periodicals— indeed, any effort to deny, repress, or sanitize. Censorship does not protect society; it smothers creativity and precludes open debate of controversial issues. Endorsed by the Book and Periodical Council February 5, 1997
TO ORDER KITS
Kits may be ordered from the Book and Periodical Council for $15 plus shipping and handling charges. Orders for 10 kits or more, shipped to a single address, receive a 20 per cent discount and may be accompanied by a purchase order. Flat, rolled, full-colour posters are available for $10 plus shipping and handling charges. GST is included in all prices (GST#R106801889). All orders are subject to a shipping and handling charge.
Book and Periodical Council 192 Spadina Avenue, Suite 107 Toronto, Ontario M5T 2C2 Phone: (416) 975-9366 Fax: (416) 975-1839 E-mail: info@theBPC.ca Web site: www.freedomtoread.ca Web site: www.bookandperiodicalcouncil.ca
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BY FRANKLIN CARTER and BENITA AALTO
JUSTICE MINISTER DECIDES AGAINST APPEAL; OTTAWA JOURNALIST GOES FREE
ON NOVEMBER 3, 2006, JUSTICE Minister Vic Toews declared that he would not appeal a court decision that struck down part of Canada’s secrecy law and tossed out police warrants that were used to search a journalist’s home and office. Two weeks earlier, Madam Justice Lynn Ratushny of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice had struck down three sections of the Security of Information Act and had quashed the warrants used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to search the home and office of Juliet O’Neill, a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen, in 2004. Ratushny’s decision and Toews’s announcement meant that O’Neill no longer faced prosecution for using “a security source” and a leaked document to write a news story about Maher Arar in 2003. Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was wrongly suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda and was deported to Syria by U.S. authorities in 2002. In Syria, he was imprisoned for more than a year and tortured before being returned to Canada.
a panic and an anti-Arab backlash at Concordia after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. According to Bernans, he received permission in June 2006 to read at Concordia on September 11, 2006, but was later denied permission from the university’s risk assessment committee. Bernans said that he received no explanation for the cancelled booking. According to Michael Di Grappa, a university vice-president, the cancellation was a mistake, and the risk assessment committee hadn’t discussed Bernans’s request. On September 5, 2006, Di Grappa invited Bernans to read at Concordia; on September 11, 2006, Bernans read his novel to a small crowd at an offcampus bookstore.
North of 9/11 by David Bernans (Cumulus Press, 2006)
MAN JAILED FOR PROMOTING ANTI-SEMITISM ON WEB
ON SEPTEMBER 1, 2006, JUSTICE Philip Clarke of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench sentenced Reni Sentana-Ries to 16 months in prison for promoting anti-Semitism on a Web site. Clarke also prohibited Sentana-Ries from using the Internet for 36 months and ordered the Web site shut down. Sentana-Ries—who styled himself the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and named his Web site The Federation of Free Planets—blamed Jews for fabricating the Holocaust, creating the deadly AIDS and Ebola viruses, and destroying the World Trade Center and space shuttle Columbia. Sentana-Ries claimed that Jews sought world domination. The 16-month sentence is the longest ever imposed in Canada for promoting race hatred on a Web site.
CRTC TURNS DOWN ANTI-RACIST LAWYER’S REQUEST
ON AUGUST 25, 2006, THE Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declined to ask Internet service providers (ISPs) to block two U.S. Web sites that promote race hatred and incite violence against a Canadian citizen. The CRTC said that it would be inappropriate to authorize ISPs to block the Web sites without first seeking comment from the companies and the public. Richard Warman, a lawyer and antiracist activist in Ottawa, had asked the CRTC to authorize the ISPs to block the Web sites. Warman said that the Web sites—which belong to a Nazi sympathizer in Roanoke, Virginia—urge people to “take violent action” against Warman and provide Warman’s home address.
AUTHOR AND OFFICIALS CLASH AT CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY
THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER OF 2006, David Bernans, author of North of 9/11, clashed with officials at Concordia University in Montreal over whether he had permission to read his novel on campus. North of 9/11 describes
“OBSCENE” LESBIAN NOVEL SEIZED BY CUSTOMS
CANADA CUSTOMS SEIZED COPIES of Cherry, a novel written by British author Charlotte Cooper, reported Out in America, an online news source for homosexuals, in August 2006. At least
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two bookstores in British Columbia— Bleeding Rose in Victoria and Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium in Vancouver—were importing the novel. Officials at Canada Customs said that Cherry, which depicts the sexual adventures of a lesbian in London, was obscene.
INTERNET RACIST JAILED FOR CONTEMPT OF COURT
ON JULY 13, 2006, POLICE ARRESTED and jailed Tomasz Winnicki, a white supremacist in Ontario, for contempt of court. Winnicki had ignored an order (dated October 6, 2005) of the Federal Court of Canada to stop spreading race hatred over the Internet. On July 12, 2006, Justice Konrad von Finckenstein of the Federal Court of Canada declared: “[Winnicki’s messages] have the same vile content and the unrelenting message of hatred for Jews and contempt for people of the Black race and/or immigrants. He has shown no remorse for his contempt.” Winnicki received nine months in prison.
also said that Indigo and its subsidiary companies would inspect future issues to determine their suitability for sale. In late May, Indigo withdrew the June issue of Harper’s from newsstands. The American magazine had reproduced all 12 of the cartoons about the Muslim prophet Mohammed that had appeared in Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, in September 2005. Harper’s had also published a critical essay by famed cartoonist Art Spiegelman about controversial cartoons. On May 26, Indigo instructed its managers by e-mail on how to respond “if customers question Indigo’s censorship” of Harper’s: “the content about to be published has been known to ignite demonstrations around the world. Indigo [and its subsidiaries] Chapters and Coles will not carry this particular issue of the magazine but will continue to carry other issues of this publication in the future.”
tion of ownership has reached levels that few other countries would consider acceptable.” The report’s summary said: “an important element of a free press is that there be a variety of different sources of news and opinion. This can only be guaranteed if there is a plurality of owners. The country will be poorly served if as few as one, two or three groups control substantial portions of the news and information media in particular markets or within the country as a whole. In simple terms, there is a public interest in having a plurality of owners.” The report recommended that the federal government reform the Competition Act to require automatic reviews of big media mergers, but the report explicitly rejected government “interference in the editorial or internal working of news gathering organizations.”
SASKATCHEWAN COURT CLEARS CREATOR OF ANTI-GAY AD
ON APRIL 13, 2006, SASKATCHEWAN’S Court of Appeal ruled that Hugh Owens, a Christian, did not violate the province’s human rights code when he placed an anti-homosexual ad in Saskatoon’s StarPhoenix in 1997. The ad displayed two stick-men holding hands within a circular “banned” symbol and cited four anti-homosexual verses in the Bible. The newspaper ran the ad during a gay pride celebration in Saskatchewan.
GAY FAIRY TALE SPARKS NEW DISPUTE IN SURREY, B.C.
IN APRIL 2006, A COMMITTEE OF Surrey’s school board rejected the proposed use in the earliest elementary grades of a children’s book with a homosexual theme. The book, King and King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, tells the story of two princes who get married in a fairy-tale kingdom. Doug Strachan, a spokesman for the school district, said staff rejected King and King because the writing and style of the book were too sophisticated for readers in kindergarten and the first three grades. Strachan said that staff had not rejected King and King for its “sensitive content.” “The idea that this book is too sophisticated for these kids is ridiculous,” said Joan Beecroft of Egale Canada, a gay advocacy organization. “Is Hansel and Gretel too sophisticated because it deals with a witch wanting to eat little children? Is Snow White
INDIGO REJECTS SALE OF CONTROVERSIAL MAGAZINES
ON JULY 6, 2006, INDIGO BOOKS and Music, Canada’s largest book and magazine retailer, declared that it had accidentally dropped the June-July issue of Free Inquiry, a magazine published in the United States. The issue of Free Inquiry contained an essay entitled “The Freedom to Ridicule Religion—and Deny the Holocaust” by Peter Singer, a professor at Princeton University. Joel Silver, Indigo’s senior vice-president of print procurement, apologized to Tom Flynn, Free Inquiry’s editor, for the accident and pledged to sell the issue. Earlier in the week, however, Flynn had reported that Indigo had refused to stock the June-July issue without giving him a reason. Flynn
SENATORS WARN OF FEWER OWNERS AND FEWER VOICES
ON JUNE 21, 2006, THE CANADIAN Senate’s Standing Committee on Transport and Communications released its Final Report on the Canadian News Media. The two-volume report, which was the result of more than three years of study, said that in some parts of Canada “the concentra-
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too sophisticated because the Queen attempts to murder Snow White? How can the love of two princes be too sophisticated for primary learners?” James Chamberlain, a primary schoolteacher in Surrey, had submitted King and King for use in Surrey’s schools. From 1997 to 2002, Chamberlain and others successfully challenged the Surrey school board in the courts when the board refused to use three similar children’s picture books with homosexual themes in kindergarten and Grade 1.
charge was dropped in January 2006. In 1989, Pamuk was also the first prominent writer in the Muslim world to defend Salman Rushdie for publishing The Satanic Verses. In February of that year, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran condemned Rushdie and his publishers to death for producing the novel.
DR. RAMIN JAHANBEGLOO
RUSSIAN JOURNALIST MURDERED
ON OCTOBER 7, 2006, ANNA Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist whose work criticized the Russian war in Chechnya and Russian President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down in Moscow in apparent reprisal for her reporting. No arrests were made. In 1999, Politkovskaya began writing for Novaya Gazeta about the war in Chechnya. By her own admission, she became obsessed with exposing the killings, torture, and beatings of civilians by Russian soldiers there. In 2003, she published A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya and, in 2004, she published A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya. She received many death threats. Politkovskaya won numerous international awards for her courage, including Sweden’s Olof Palme Prize in 2004. The prize honoured her work for the “long battle for human rights in Russia.”
Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo
Immediately after his release, Jahanbegloo said to Iranian student journalists that his scholarly work had been misused by foreign intelligence agencies hostile to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iranian authorities may confiscate Jahanbegloo’s house and his mother’s house if he violates the conditions of his release.
NEW INVESTIGATION DEMANDED IN PHOTOJOURNALIST’S DEATH
ON JULY 10, 2006, REPORTERS Without Borders called for a new and proper investigation into the death of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in Iran. In 2003, Kazemi, an Iranian-born Canadian citizen, was imprisoned for taking photographs of a student-led demonstration outside Evin prison in Tehran. She died in prison on July 11, 2003, after having been raped and tortured by Iranian authorities. On November 16, 2005, a court of appeal in Tehran upheld the acquittal of Reza Aghdam Ahmadi for murdering Kazemi.
JERRY BAUER Orhan Pamuk
CONTROVERSIAL TURKISH AUTHOR WINS NOBEL PRIZE
ON OCTOBER 12, 2006, THE SWEDISH Academy awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature to Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk. His best-known novels include Snow and My Name Is Red. Pamuk is also known for his clashes with Turkey’s government and Turkish nationalists. In 2005, he told a Swiss newspaper that “thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands, and nobody but me dares to talk about it.” Pamuk was charged in a Turkish court with “insulting Turkishness” and faced a possible three years in prison, although the
IRANIAN-CANADIAN INTELLECTUAL FREED FROM PRISON
ON AUGUST 30, 2006, IRANIAN authorities released Ramin Jahanbegloo, an Iranian-born Canadian citizen, on bail from Evin prison in Tehran. They had detained Jahanbegloo four months earlier for drafting a proposal for the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an institution that promotes co-operation between the United States and Europe. Jahanbegloo had compared Iranian and Eastern European intellectuals, and he had discussed the role a civil society could play in the overthrow of a government.
LIBRARIANS NAME THE MOST CHALLENGED BOOK IN AMERICA
ON MARCH 7, 2006, THE AMERICAN Library Association reported that public libraries and schools in the United States had received 405 formal, written challenges to books in 2005. The most frequently challenged book was Robie Harris’s It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, an educational book for kids. •
FREEDOM TO READ 2007
P E R S P E C T I V E S
BY BENITA AALTO
OLICY OPTIONS declared 2006 the “year of the blog.” The magazine noted that Canadian blogs broke major stories, zapped politicians, and became a form of digital newsroom that sometimes outperformed its print and broadcast counterparts. “Blogs are certainly part of the future of journalism,” claims Nick Packwood, who blogs at Ghost of a Flea. “‘Blog swarms’ provide massively distributed/networked editing expertise that should improve both journalism as a profession and journalism as the output of that profession.” One such swarm happened at the end of 2005 and heralded the beginning of the “year of the blog.” On Mike Klander’s blog, photos of New Democratic candidate Olivia Chow and a chow chow dog were posted above the caption “Chow and Chow Chow” and below the headline “Separated
Free Speech Limits in an
at Birth II.” The tastelessness of the “jest,” as Klander called it, was magnified by his role as the executive vice-president of the Ontario Liberal party and by bloggers digging through Klander’s previous posts to—as the CBC’s John Bowman put it—“publish more information on the topic than any newspaper ever could.” As the “year of the blog” wound down, Garth Turner, the MP for Halton, Ontario, was ousted from the federal Conservative party caucus, in part because of his comments on his blog about party policies. One of Turner’s constituents in Milton attended the press conference the day after Turner’s ouster and blogged on the event. “Blogging is about a conversation with the masses ...” he wrote. “It is what I want from my elected officials. I do not want press releases and filtered fluff.” The constituent’s post on The Nears expressed what some people feel is the strength of blogs:
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the democratization of information through technology and the importance of the “citizen journalist.” Some blogs attempt to go beyond the contraints of the mainstream media (or MSM as it’s called in the blogosphere) to provide in-depth information. How’d They Vote? gave readers the complete voting and speaking records of every MP. Cory Horner, an electrical engineer in Kamloops, British Columbia, designed software that lets readers find out how many words their MP uttered and how many times their MP missed a vote during the 2004–05 sitting of the House of Commons. Another blogger, going only by the handle Buckets of Grewal, laboriously studied transcriptions of conversations recorded by Germant Grewal, the Conservative MP who claimed that he had been offered rewards for crossing the floor to join the Liberals. The Liberal party denied the allegations: tapes and transcripts were released to the press, and Buckets began the arduous task of comparing and contrasting the various transcriptions in circulation. Bending the customs of the mainstream press by electronically publishing arcana such as Hansard data, audio tapes, or Photoshopped dogs is one thing, but bloggers are discovering that their amateur efforts are held to the same legal standard as anything printed with ink on dead trees. Sometimes it’s not the content of the blog, but comments posted about the content, that cause trouble. Comments Please—a page devoted to posting comments by readers of bloggers such as Maclean’s political columnist Paul Wells, Toronto Star media columnist Antonia Zerbisias, and comedian Rick Mercer—closed up shop in March 2006 because of host Andrew Clark’s fear of legal reprisals. Zerbisias quoted Clark in her blog (Azerbic at thestar. blogs.com/azerb) as saying, “I’ve had
enough hassle lately that puts the whole site in jeopardy. I will be looking into a registration process ... but I also do not have the time or inclination to check for increasing libellous material so (I’m) not even sure that will solve the problems.” As Michael Geist, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa, notes: “In Canada, under common law, the third party can be held liable if the content is found to be defamatory. The ISPs [Internet Service Providers] will take content down based merely on an allegation that the content is defamatory.” Geist believes this legislation creates a free speech chill in cyberspace because it is less risky for ISPs or Web sites to remove content than to keep it up and attract legal action. Geist points to the example of People to People (at p2pnet.net), which was sued by the owner of Kazaa for posting allegedly defamatory comments about Kazaa by People to People readers. Geist calls for a change in the law to provide immunity for ISPs and bloggers “who are contributing to a robust online dialogue but today are vulnerable to lawsuits whose primary purpose may be to suppress free speech.” Mark Bourrie became famous amongst Canadian bloggers for legal run-ins with political blogger Warren Kinsella in February 2006. It is beyond the scope of this article to fully delineate their entanglements, which were reported in the Ottawa Sun on February 15. Suffice it to say: a settlement was eventually reached. Kinsella—a lawyer, author, and former advisor to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien—became famous amongst bloggers for his rigorous pursuit of what he perceives to be defamatory statements about him in the blogosphere. Ted Betts, a lawyer who blogs at canadiancerberus.blogspot.com, posted a primer on Canada’s defamation
laws in response to Kinsella’s lawsuit. He also wondered, “Is this an attempt at suppressing criticism? Is it therefore a threat to all bloggers and commenters? ... This will be a big wake-up call: defamation suits can stem from conversations too, and so every post and every comment on a blog is subject to the same defamation laws.” Steve Janke gained notoriety for using his blog, Angry in the Great White North, to circumvent a press ban issued during closed testimony of the Gomery inquiry—a ban that included the Internet as well as print and broadcast media.1 Janke linked to Captain’s Quarters, an American blog that was posting leaked transcripts of Gomery testimony. Although many bloggers and mainstream journalists knew of Captain’s Quarters, none posted links or mentioned the name of the blog on air for fear of reprisals. “At first, I dropped my links like just about everyone else. I was worried about the legal ramifications of breaking the ban,” says Janke. “But most of all, I wanted to take a stand that might change the way Canadian authorities in government and in the judiciary deal with issues that affect our right to judge for ourselves. And so the links went back up, as did the commentary.” Justice John Gomery eventually lifted most of the ban, leading at least one columnist, Rondi Adamson in the Christian Science Monitor, to speculate that the blogosphere played no small role in changing his mind. And while there are challenges for people who hit legal walls in their pursuit of on-line freedom, the potential for renewed debate and journalistic vigor has returned to the people who stand to benefit the most. •
1 Justice John Gomery chaired the Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities in 2004–06. – FC
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P E R S P E C T I V E S
The Dispute Over THREE WISHES in Ontario’s Schools
N FEBRUARY 8, 2006, THE Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) sent a letter to the Ontario Library Association (OLA) strongly objecting to the use of a children’s book called Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak in the OLA’s Silver Birch reading program in schools. Three Wishes is a non-fiction book. It records the thoughts and feelings of Israeli and Palestinian children who live in a world of strife and violence. The book’s author, Deborah Ellis, is a winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award. The Silver Birch reading program encourages children in Grades 4–6 in Ontario’s schools to read from a list of 20 books. Professional librarians select the books for their quality. Schools do not require students to take part in the Silver Birch program, but more than 40,000 students do. In May, children vote for their favourite book. The CJC’s letter said that Ellis provided a flawed historical introduction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The letter also said that some children portrayed Israeli soldiers as brutal, expressed ethnic hatred, and glorified suicide bombing. The effect on Canadian readers in Grades 4–6, the letter concluded, was “toxic.” The CJC asked the OLA to withdraw Three Wishes from the Silver Birch program. The letter also said that the CJC would be notifying school boards across Ontario about its concerns. Not long afterward, school boards began to review the use of Three Wishes. By
March 15, 2006, at least five school boards had set restrictions on readers of the book in the elementary grades. The news media covered the controversy for weeks. Here, the participants explain their views.
Deborah Ellis, Author
NOT ALL VICTIMS ARE EQUAL, AND not all children are equal. We mark and mourn military deaths, but the deaths of civilians go unnamed, uncounted, and passed off as extra-collateral damage, part of the acceptable risk of achieving our objectives. Some children are so precious, we would gladly die rather than see them harmed. Other children are considered worthy only of slavery, eating garbage, and being human punching bags. This is the world that we, as a human community, have created. We’re happy with it. If we weren’t, we would have changed it, since we certainly have the ability to do so. We like being ignorant. We like being greedy, and we like having an underclass of throwaway children. We created this mess, so why be delicate about having our handiwork reflected in our literature for young people? If children are tough enough to be bombed and starved, then they are also tough enough to read about it. I believe anything we subject children to should be reflected in our literature for young people, limited only by the skills of the writer to present these
Three Wishes by Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books, 2004) Cover photographs by David Turnley (Corbis/Magma) and Micah Walter (Corbis/Magma)
crimes in a sensitive, respectful way. Otherwise, we are adding to the silence and the disappearance of the victims. The books we read as children stay with us our entire lives, taking root in our minds, helping us to decide who we will become. Free access to information, to a wide variety of voices and experiences, is essential to us being able to decipher the complexities of a crazy world—and to understand that the world is complex. I have done many school talks around my books about children in war. Kids can handle the truth about what is being done to other children. It’s adults who get squeamish. They say, “We must protect our children from such things,” when really they are protecting themselves from having to answer the question: “What are you doing to make the world better?”
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Len Rudner, Canadian Jewish Congress
IN FEBRUARY 2006, A TEACHER AT the York Region District School Board approached the Canadian Jewish Congress, Ontario Region (CJC), expressing concerns about the appropriateness of including the book Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak as an entry in the Ontario Library Association’s (OLA) Silver Birch independent reading program for children in Grades 4 through 6. CJC professionals as well as lay leaders with extensive background in public education reviewed the material and agreed. The CJC then wrote a letter to the OLA and English-language school boards in Ontario expressing its concerns about the book’s appropriateness for the age group in question and requesting that it re-evaluate its classification. While some have characterized the CJC’s intervention as being censorious, the facts are contrary to that conclusion. The goal was to promote a discussion and have school boards actively review whether the book was appropriate for promotion to kids between the ages of 9 and 12. That many did so was a positive outcome. The CJC’s position was that the effect of the statements made by the children in Ms. Ellis’s book would demonize both Palestinians and Israelis and that comments made in some interviews could be seen as supportive of suicide bombing. Following a careful and extensive review, the CJC felt such a message was inappropriate for students in the primary grades to which it had been promoted, particularly because the Silver Birch program does not require teacher involvement to provide information or context on the books in the program.
Canadian Children Speak
“SWEARING IN BOOKS doesn’t encourage people to swear, drugs in books don’t encourage people to take drugs, and suicide bombing and other violence in books don’t encourage people to be violent! [The book] just tells them that there are such things and makes them aware of the facts, not the fictional.” —J., A GRADE 5 STUDENT “WHY IS THIS BOOK being taken off the lists? There is nothing wrong with it. It is a great book! As far as I am concerned, it’s totally unfair. Would it not be more appropriate to simply leave it up to the parents as to whether or not their children should read this book? I think this is a mistake by the school board in removing this book. If parents say no, then it is a no! “By the way, some people have said that it’s not accurate information as it comes from the children, not the adults. This is not an information book! If you look at the cover, it says Children Speak! ... And children can relate to each other much better than a child can relate to an adult.” —B., A GRADE 4 STUDENT “USUALLY I PICK UP A BOOK and read it from cover to cover without putting it down. But this book, like Anne Frank’s Diary, is so sad, I had to read it in short little chunks, maybe four stories at a time. It’s really hard to read because you don’t know if these kids are still alive, or if they will be for much longer, and you want to understand how scared they are, but you can’t really because you’ve never been through as much as they have. “Everybody should know about war, and it shouldn’t be censored. It prepares you for real life, when you’ll have to learn things like this.” —C., A GRADE 6 STUDENT As a result of the CJC’s request to examine the age-appropriateness of Three Wishes, a number of school boards conducted their own assessment and stopped promoting the book as part of Silver Birch or placed certain conditions on its use. Others determined no changes were required. Regardless of outcome, the CJC accepted each board’s judgment on the matter. It is unfortunate the debate that developed around Three Wishes was inaccurately portrayed as a struggle between freedom of expression and censorship. It is a pity that a goodfaith request to have a particular book moved to a higher shelf was interpreted by some as a demand that it be removed from the shelf completely. Len Rudner is national director of community relations for the Canadian Jewish Congress.
The Toronto District School Board
WHEN COMPLAINTS BY GROUPS OR individuals are made to the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) regarding the appropriateness of learning resources in school libraries or classrooms, a formal process begins to open dialogue. This process is in accordance with established Board
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policy: Operational Procedure C-007, Handling Concerns About Learning Resources as outlined in A Teaching Resource for Dealing with Controversial and Sensitive Issues in Toronto District School Board Classrooms. In 2006, such a complaint and process was followed by the TDSB regarding Three Wishes by Deborah Ellis, a nominee in this year’s OLA Silver Birch Award program. A Review Committee must weigh several factors (e.g., the complainant’s arguments, previous decisions, the Board’s criteria for selection of learning resources) against the perceived appropriateness of the resource. As in most school settings, the right to read is not absolute and must be measured against whether learning resources match the learning needs and abilities of students (e.g., age, maturity, curriculum relevance, and Board values). The TDSB does not ban materials, but it reserves its right and responsibility in making them accessible in the most appropriate way in diverse school settings. After due deliberation, the Review Committee recommended the following: 1.THREE WISHES IS A SIGNIFICANT and controversial book that depicts the effects of conflict on children. The author’s purpose is to promote dialogue and empathy for the children of the conflict by giving them a voice. While questions have arisen about particular details the author includes or excludes in Three Wishes, TDSB students have demonstrated that they have understood the author’s larger purpose. 2. THE AGE APPROPRIATENESS OF such complex and sensitive material remains an important issue in TDSB schools. Three Wishes, therefore, is
recommended, with reservations, as appropriate only for students in Grades 7 and up. 3. ANY GRADE 7 OR 8 STUDENT WHO wishes to read Three Wishes may do so by requesting a copy from the teacherlibrarian who, in consultation with the principal, will place copies of Three Wishes in the library office. 4. IN K TO 5 AND K TO 6 SCHOOLS, THE teacher-librarian, in consultation with the principal, must redistribute copies of Three Wishes to elementary schools with Grade 7 and 8 students or to secondary schools. 5. WHEN INTRODUCING THE BOOK and encouraging discussion, teachers and teacher-librarians will provide context and diverse resources from the library collection. 6. THE TDSB SUPPORTS THE ONTARIO Library Association in its Silver Birch program and requests that non-fiction selections be added in its Forest of Reading programs at upper grades.
my family perished in the Holocaust. Those who survived emigrated to either the United States or Israel after the war. All this happened prior to my birth, but I have been raised with an awareness of the issues surrounding being Jewish and the formation of Israel as a sovereign state. I bring this background to any and all reading that I do on this subject. This book is not about who is right and which side started the aggression, but about what the effect is on our most vulnerable members of society, namely children, when conflict and war erupt. The book could be set in any number of places around the world—the Sudan, the Balkans, Northern Ireland, Rwanda, and—it could be argued—“hot spots” within North America. It shows that children raised in conflict are conflicted in their views and that, if they live in hate-filled atmospheres, they learn to hate. As an educator reading the book for the selection committee, I felt that Deborah Ellis did not purposefully leave out any details to skew the view of the book; the book is not an attempt to provide the complex historical facts surrounding the current situation in Israel and Palestine. The book attempts, rather, to provide a framework or context of conflict and war, and the effect that they have on the children living the reality of that conflict. Three Wishes gives children, at the time when they are constructing their views of the world, a chance to explore and relate to how they can start to make positive changes in a world fraught with conflict, and how they can choose to lead lives formed in peace. • This is an edited version of an article written by Peggy Thomas for the Ontario Library Association’s Web site. Thomas is a teacher-librarian in Ontario.
Peggy Thomas, Ontario Library Association
THREE WISHES: PALESTINIAN AND Israeli Children Speak by Deborah Ellis was nominated for the 2006 Silver Birch non-fiction award. The Ontario Community Relations Committee of the Canadian Jewish Congress challenged the selection of Three Wishes and asked that the book be removed from consideration for the Silver Birch award. They forwarded this request to the Ontario Library Association and to the directors of education of all the school boards in Ontario. I chaired the selection committee for Silver Birch this year, and this is my personal reaction to that challenge. I am Jewish, and a good portion of
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Digital Davids v. Global Goliaths
“Hacking used to mean that you were interested in technology and what was behind the surface—you didn’t accept things at face value,” says Deibert. He wants to reclaim the positive ideas behind hacking in the same way he wants to reclaim the original ideals of the free exchange of information that are the underpinnings of the Internet. “We live in a world surrounded by computers, cell phones, and televisions,” he says. “There are all kinds of points in the system where governments and corporations can exert control over us if we don’t question it and try to understand it.” As the Internet revolution spreads into developing nations, many governments want to control their citizens’ access to the increased flow of information. Governments use filtering (censorship) and monitoring (eavesdropping) tools, many purchased from Western software companies. The most prominent of these official censors is Chinese Premier Hu Jintao with his “Great Firewall,” which restricts Internet access for China’s more than 150 million surfers. However, filtering and monitoring happen in many other countries too, including Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Burma. Professor Deibert and his student Nart Villeneuve run the Citizen Lab at U. of T. where they research and try to combat Internet censorship all over
BY GREG SIMPSON
ROFESSOR RON DEIBERT of the University of Toronto is proud to be called a “hacker.”
the world. Deibert started the lab in 2001 with a grant from the Ford Foundation and hired Villeneuve— based on his student papers on Internet censorship in China—as the lab’s technical director. Deibert, 42, is a self-professed expunk from East Vancouver turned political science professor. He is very concerned with the acceleration of censorship on the Internet. “The Internet is not this seamless frontier anymore,” he says. “It is a network that has all sorts of filters, choke points, and other areas where governments and corporations can control, intercept, and block access to information.” He and Villeneuve have joined researchers at such prominent universities as Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge to form the OpenNet Initiative, which just received a US$3 million MacArthur Foundation grant to research what gets filtered on the Internet, in which country, and by whom. Diebert and Villeneuve were the catalysts for the creation of this international project, and they act as the technical team in the coalition. OpenNet’s research has revealed extensive censorship affecting millions of people around the world. Millions might have access to the Internet with cheaper and more accessible technology, but their governments are doing everything to limit what citizens see when they log on. Citizen Lab has another project that it hopes may combat these increasing restrictions. CiviSec is the activist “flipside” of the research focus of OpenNet; CiviSec’s purpose is to raise awareness among citizens about Internet censorship and surveillance, and to help them fight it. A software program, called psiphon, was developed to allow users in censored countries to link up with the computers of trusted family members or friends in uncensored countries and to use those computers as servers or proxies to surf the Internet. When people use psiphon, no government official can discover what sites are being accessed, and there is no sign of the program on the computer if it is ever seized. Deibert and Villeneuve launched psiphon in December 2006, creating personal electronic “social networks” between those in developed and developing countries and those living under censorship and the comparatively free. Deibert sees Canada, with its multicultural communities and their many links to other countries, as the perfect place to create these electronic “helping hands.” Psiphon was designed so that the average person can easily use his or her computer to foster Internet freedom for friends and relatives back home.
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even compared to the U.S. with all its security concerns since 9/11.” No one is keeping track of what is being filtered and for what reasons, Deibert claims, and there is little democratic control over these activities in Canada. “We need to lift the lid off the Internet and hold those who set the rules of the game accountable for what they’re doing because these activities are going on largely in secret.” Once a country has implemented Internet censorship with initially “good” intentions, it becomes tempting to use the same technology to restrict other information. Thailand brought in filtering programs to block sites about its notorious sex-tourism trade and soon afterward blocked sites about human rights and government corruption. Villeneuve says that it’s difficult for Western governments to pressure other nations to keep the Internet free and open when Western governments are using many of the same censoring tactics, although not in quite such a repressive fashion. He believes the West would have more credibility if it cleaned up its own government censorship and monitoring. According to Deibert, protecting freedom on the Internet is especially important because “it is the one unique medium that links individuals to other individuals worldwide, unlike television, radio, and newspapers, which all send information one way and only have certain points of views expressed.” “In light of all the problems that face humanity—from nuclear weapons to environmental degradation—we need to have a free space to exchange information if we’re going to have any hope of solving those problems.” • Greg Simpson is a Toronto writer with an interest in arts, culture, and media.
“THE PROBLEM WITH INTERNET FILTERING IS NOBODY IS WATCHING THE WATCHERS ...”
— RON DEIBERT, Professor, University of Toronto
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Villeneuve, the creator of this anticensorship software, is a decade younger than Deibert and, coincidentally, spent some of his formative years in rough East Vancouver. He was a self-admitted lousy student who, upon graduation, worked at a deadend printer’s job. His reading of Noam Chomsky and Karl Marx opened his eyes to global repression. He became an anti-globalization activist, taking part in many protests, including the 1999 protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organization. When Villeneuve first signed on to the Internet using an ancient free dialup service, a hacker was born. He and a roommate taught themselves how to get rid of the banner advertisements that came with the service and how to extend the hours to allow unlimited surfing time. These primitive attempts to “fight the power” made them members of the on-line communities of hackers and Internet freedom advocates. This initial pushing against the boundaries opened a new world for Villeneuve. Before he knew it, he was back in college taking peace-and-con-
flict studies. He eventually transferred to the University of Toronto, where he became a student of Professor Deibert’s. Villeneuve now travels all over the world studying and combatting Internet censorship. Villeneuve is extremely concerned about the creeping government filtering and monitoring tactics that are being used all over the world. Even in Western nations such as Canada and the United States, the wars against child pornography, hate speech, and terrorism are being used to justify increased blocking of sites and monitoring of Internet traffic. Both Deibert and Villeneuve agree that child pornography is indefensible, but filtering the Internet is a crude and easily abused technique. Some attempts at restriction lead to “overblocking” where sites unrelated to the targetted sites are blocked: in Pennsylvania, for example, attempts to block 200 sites resulted in the blocking of more than two million innocent sites. “The problem with Internet filtering is nobody is watching the watchers,” says Deibert. “There is little citizen oversight in Canada over governmental Internet censorship and surveillance,
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DRAWING THE LINE:
Canadians Debate the Dissemination of Denmark’s Mohammed Cartoons
N SEPTEMBER 30, 2005, Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, published 12 cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. One image showed him wearing a turban shaped like a bomb. Many Muslims, who regard any depiction of their prophet as sacrilegious, were outraged or upset.
The cartoons were reprinted in many countries in January and February 2006, prompting deadly protests throughout the Muslim world. In Syria, Iran, and Indonesia, mobs destroyed Danish embassies; in Lebanon, a mob destroyed the Danish consulate. Peaceful Muslim demonstrations also occurred around the world, and Muslims boycotted Danish products. In Canada, journalists debated whether to show the cartoons in the news media. In this section, four Canadians—three journalists and one university president—present their arguments for and against showing the cartoons to the public.
“ WHY SHOULD WE INSULT AND UPSET AN IMPORTANT PART OF OUR AUDIENCE FOR ABSOLUTELY NO PUBLIC VALUE?”
—TONY BURMAN, editor-in-chief, CBC News
Why the Western Standard Published the Cartoons
BY EZRA LEVANT
THE WESTERN STANDARD HAD NO complex rationale for printing the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed. The cartoons were news; we are a newsmagazine. That’s about it. We did not print them as an expression of our own views on Mohammed
or Islam. The cartoons were Exhibit A in the biggest news story of the season: the riots around the Muslim world, riots that had as their “official” raison d’être the cartoons themselves. In fact, that was the sole newsworthiness of the cartoons: that they were the “cause” of riots. The cartoons are, by any Western standard, bland. One simply depicted a man in the desert with a donkey—a picture that would not be out of place in a child’s Bible. Several had a political edge to them, but nothing more ribald than is seen in daily newspapers across the West. But soon the larger story emerged: that other media censored themselves out of fear for their physical safety or
financial health, or simply out of fear of a politically correct backlash. Other excuses were proffered: the cartoons were too disrespectful, or too juvenile, or unimportant to the story. None of those excuses is credible. Criticisms that the cartoons were poorly drawn or juvenile are not a rationale for censorship—they actually magnify the newsworthiness of riots in the face of such trivial offences. The media, which is liberal to the point of libertine when it comes to offending religion, became quite fundamentalist on the subject of Islam. There are two possible explanations: the first is that the cartoons were so outrageous that even a media culture
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saturated with sex and violence was pushed too far. The other explanation is that a media culture that so bravely fights against harmless foes like longdead Senator McCarthy is actually terrified of radical Islam, and when it is time to prove their freedom bona fides, hides under a smokescreen of “respect for religion” bromides. No, the Western Standard doesn’t have to explain how we handled the newsworthy cartoons. But a lot of other editors and producers do. Ezra Levant is the publisher and cofounder of the Western Standard, a political journal in Calgary.
to our panelists in the studio for their reactions. Viewer reactions were mixed: we got plenty of supportive and some negative e-mail. Most of the outraged people were non-Muslims. The story did not die, and we faced the decision of whether to air them again. We did not. By that time the story had subtly shifted to whether or not it was good to publish them. By airing them a second time, we’d be making a political statement and, as a public broadcaster, we’re not in the business of making political statements. We’re not idiots; we knew we were going to offend people. But you can’t have the right not to be offended in this world. Journalists can’t walk around with a list of what’s offensive or forbidden. My belief is, you interfere as little as possible with a story. Other than direct incitements to murder or mob violence, I say lay off the limits to freedom of speech. Dan Dunsky was senior producer of Diplomatic Immunity on TVOntario and is now the executive producer of The Agenda with Steve Paikin on TVOntario.
Christ or the Virgin Mary engaged in unspeakably offensive acts? Had they been Christian protesters, would the media have treated them differently? Would we, perhaps, have understood their rage a bit better? At the CBC, we decided not to show the original cartoons in our extensive coverage of the controversy. We felt that we could easily describe the drawings in simple and clear English without actually showing them. This was intended, without embarrassment, as an act of respect not only for Islam but for all religions. Why should we insult and upset an important part of our audience for absolutely no public value? We wouldn’t have done that if it involved overt examples of racism or antiSemitism or libel. Where do we draw the line? Shouldn’t the media be part of the solution, not the problem? One of the main U.S. networks highlighted the most egregious of the cartoons in its news report and repeated these images in the headlines and promotion during its evening newscast. During the debate that led to this decision, I suspect there was a lot of talk about “freedom of speech” and “the public’s right to know” and about the threat of “self-censorship.” Had I been there, I would have reminded this crowd that the multi-billion dollar company that owns their news organization muzzles stories from entire parts of the world, such as South America and Africa, each and every night of the year by not having any journalists posted there. When will they get around to discussing that form of media “censorship”? We need to be held accountable for what we choose to include or exclude. For how we frame the issues or dodge them. This is an edited version of an article
Why TVOntario Broadcast the Cartoons
BY DAN DUNSKY
DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY AIRED ON Fridays, and the episode that week was about Iran’s nuclear program. But the story about the cartoons was starting to break, so by Wednesday, we started researching that story. On Thursday, the story made the evening news, and by Friday the issue was the protests about the cartoons, so I told another DI producer to find the cartoons on the Web for use on air. I think we were the only major broadcaster in Canada who did air the cartoons. It was never a big decision at all. I discussed it with the show’s executive producer for about 20 seconds. This was a news story: people were rioting over something; if we knew what that something was, of course we were going to show it. That’s 100 per cent in keeping with journalistic principles and guidelines. We still did our show about Iran, but we gave the last five to ten minutes to the cartoons. Steve Paikin, the host, introduced them and we showed about seven of them and went
Why CBC News Drew the Line
BY TONY BURMAN
THE 12 CARTOONS IN QUESTION WERE originally printed in a Danish publication last September  and reprinted recently in other European newspapers. Not only did they depict the Prophet in drawings, these cartoons equated him with terrorists and suicide bombers among other things. Looking at them in their crude portrayal, they seem more an act of stupidity than an act of satire, but—whatever they were intended to be—they are not subtle. What if those cartoons had instead focused on Christianity? And on Jesus
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posted on www.cbc.ca. Tony Burman is the editor-in-chief of CBC News.
Why the University of PEI Blocked a Newspaper’s Distribution
[The Cadre, a student newspaper at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI), was one of the few Canadian newspapers to reprint the cartoons. But the university’s administration acted to prevent distribution of The Cadre.—FC]
BY WADE MACLAUCHLAN
WHEN THE NEWS BROKE ON CBC THAT the cartoons were in the February 8th issue of The Cadre, making it the first Canadian paper to publish them, I was shocked. Why should we choose to repeat an act that had caused so much offence and trouble around the world and that was considered a religious insult by Muslims everywhere?
My assessment was that there were great risks for UPEI and for our learning environment and that the publication of the cartoons was a reckless invitation to disorder and humiliation. Based on this assessment, it was decided not to permit the distribution of The Cadre on UPEI property. Fewer than 100 copies of the paper were gathered up by UPEI security personnel. There were approximately 200 in circulation by that time. Seventeen hundred copies of the paper remained in the hands of The Cadre or the Student Union. By late Wednesday, the Student Union, as owner of The Cadre, indicated its opposition to the publication of the caricatures and requested the return of the papers. UPEI could defend the editorial autonomy of the student newspaper, or it could take a stand that we would not permit the circulation on our campus of images that have caused religious offence and significant disorder all over the world. It is not an easy
call: press freedom versus public disorder and religious humiliation. Some will say that we made the wrong call. ... While I respect others who take a different view on this, I am absolutely convinced that our learning environment is better for having limited the publication of the caricatures. Students and colleagues are talking, in and out of class, about religious beliefs and differences and about press freedom and responsibility. We are more alert to how intricately UPEI and PEI are laced into the global context and to the incendiary nature of our world. However we come out on the publication or non-publication of the caricatures, we cannot avoid the conclusion that things are very fragile. In a context of such fragility, we do not have the luxury of justifying every act by saying: “Let the chips fall where they may.” • Wade MacLauchlan is the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Prince Edward Island.
Varieties of Censorship
BY FRANKLIN CARTER
ENSORS HAVE BEEN WITH us for a long time.
In ancient Athens, the philosopher Plato recommended that the guardians of society censor literature, art, and science to protect public morals and piety.
In the Bible, the author of the Book of Acts described the Ephesians in Greece destroying books of magic in a public bonfire.1 And in Egypt, Archbishop Theophilus of Alexandria burned down the temple of Serapis in 389 to destroy its library of pagan manuscripts.
Censors are with us today too. But they usually don’t describe themselves as such because censors have reputations for being illiberal, dogmatic, and anti-intellectual. Fortunately, censors can be easily identified because they tend to think and act in predictable ways. First, censors think of themselves as enlightened, moral, and public-spirited (like Plato and Theophilus). They want a better society. Censors also believe that other people are foolish, ignorant, or easily misled. These “other people” cannot be trusted to behave responsibly or lawfully if they are exposed to “dangerous” ideas and images.
Censorship is therefore necessary, the censors believe, to protect society from itself and to prevent moral decline. Second, censors use certain methods to deny public access to “dangerous” or “objectionable” ideas and images. If the censors are in the government, they will ban the production, distribution, display, or sale of certain books or magazines.2 The censors will pass restrictive laws and confiscate the offending publications. In some cases, government censors license publishers and printers who must then seek the censors’ permisCONTINUED ON PAGE 18
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sion to publish. The censors deny permission to people who seek to publish “objectionable” books or magazines. The English poet John Milton condemned the government licensing of books in his essay Areopagitica in 1644. The essay remains a classic defence of free expression. Some censors intimidate writers. Intimidation includes threats of prosecution in court, threats of job loss, and even threats of physical injury or death. The censors’ threats encourage writers to censor themselves. In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran urged Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses, for publishing “blasphemy.” The threat sent Rushdie into hiding for years and discouraged other writers from fictionalizing the Koran. In extreme cases, government censors authorize libricide: the systematic state-sponsored destruction of books and libraries. In 1933, the German Nazis burned more than 20,000 books in a bonfire in Berlin. They destroyed literature by Roman Catholic, Jewish, communist, and “unGerman” authors. The Nazis talked about purging society of degenerate ideas. In 1992, during the siege of Sarajevo, Serbian soldiers shelled the National Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In destroying most of the library’s 2.5 million books, the
Serbs destroyed evidence of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s multicultural history. These instances of censorship are obvious and appalling. But in other times and places, censors use subtler techniques. One alternative to banning or destroying a publication is expurgation. Censors delete the objectionable passages from a book or magazine. Casual readers cannot tell if any text has been omitted. In England, the Rev. Thomas Bowdler (1754–1825) expurgated the Old Testament and the plays of William Shakespeare. He deleted and altered words that he considered “unfit to be read by a gentleman in the presence of ladies.” Today, people use the term bowdlerization as a synonym for expurgation. Another subtle method of censorship is Internet filtering. Censors use special software to prevent the users
of computers or networks from seeing specific ideas and images. Governments around the world (e.g., in China and Iran) use Internet filtering to prevent political activists from communicating news and information to other people. Most people lack formal powers of censorship; nonetheless, some of these citizens also try to limit public access to “objectionable” ideas and images. These people challenge books and magazines in public schools and libraries. In a challenge, a citizen complains in writing about a publication in a library or school. The citizen often requests that the item be removed too. The person may act alone or represent a group. In North America, most challenges probably go unrecorded; most challenges recorded by the American Library Association—the world’s largest and oldest library association—fail. All censors threaten the intellectual freedom of readers and writers. Intellectual freedom includes freedom of inquiry, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and the freedom to read. These freedoms are the foundation of a civil, democratic society. •
1 See Acts 19:19 in the New Testament. 2 In fact, censors ban more than books and magazines. They also ban newspapers, Web sites, films, musical recordings, plays, photographs, paintings, sketches, sculptures, maps, cartoons, speeches, statistics, official documents, and other items.
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YOU CAN’T READ THIS
Travelling from ancient Rome to modern North America, award-winning journalist Val Ross tells the true stories of censors, forbidden books, and writers on the run in her new book, YOU CAN’T READ THIS: FORBIDDEN BOOKS, LOST WRITING, MISTRANSLATIONS & CODES. Her message: books are powerful, and reading unlocks that power.
The Evil World of— Comic Books?
BY VAL ROSS
NLY A REMARKABLE publication could be hated by two groups of mortal enemies, the Nazis and the anti-Nazis. Only something outrageous could provoke demands for censorship from Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini—and United States senators, and writers such as George Orwell (author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four). Well, the politics of censorship makes for strange banfellows; all these people disliked comic books—and one in particular, Superman. ... For the Nazis, what mattered was not what Superman did, but what he was: a wise-cracking hero dreamed up by two JewishAmerican kids from Cleveland, Ohio. ... By the end of 1941, with war raging, Superman was reaching about 35 million people, by either radio or print. ... Over in England, the anti-Nazi writer George Orwell warned that Superman fans had much in common with the “bully-worship” that had brought Hitler and Mussolini to power. Yet Hitler and Mussolini weren’t Superman fans
either. Das Schwarze Korps, the magazine of Hitler’s ruthless Schutzstaffel police, or SS, published an article describing [Superman creator] Jerry Siegel as “intellectually and physically circumcised,” and added that “American youth ... don’t even notice the poison they swallow” when they read Superman. ... The war ended in 1945. So did the golden age of superhero comics. ... Instead of selling in the millions, an issue of Superman would sell a mere 700,000 copies. ... Comic book publishers scrambled frantically to figure out what to try next. Some had already shifted during the war to heavy crime comics such as Crime Does Not Pay (a particularly violent strip ...). By 1947, Crime Does Not Pay was outselling Captain Marvel and Superman. ... Not everyone was amused. Frederic Wertham had emigrated from Germany in the 1920s to work in New York as a psychologist specializing in troubled kids. ... When he noticed that many juvenile delinquents read comic books, instead of concluding that maybe tencent comics were all the kids could
You Can’t Read This by Val Ross (Tundra Books, 2006)
afford, he began to write articles claiming that comic books were pushing modern American youth into juvenile delinquency. In conferences and magazines, Wertham kept up his attack. In his eyes, even the Man of Steel was disgusting—in fact, he was a closet Nazi. “Superman (with the big S on his uniform—we should, I suppose, be thankful it is not an SS) needs an endless stream of ever new sub-men, criminals and foreign-looking people,” he wrote. “Superman has long been recognized as a symbol of violent race superiority. ... [He] explicitly belongs to a super race.” ... Wertham’s anti-comic campaigns were having an effect. In 1948 the city of Los Angeles announced that there
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would be a $500 fine or six months in jail as penalty for selling crime comics to kids under eighteen. In 1951 Canada passed a law against importing U.S. crime comics. ... One early 1950s EC comic, Crime SuspenStories, featured a cover showing an axe murderer, hatchet still dripping, standing over a headless woman’s body. ... This particular issue became one of [Wertham’s] major pieces of evidence in his crusade against comics. He used it in his book Seduction of the Innocent, published in 1954. Things came to a head in May of
that year. The U.S. Senate decided to hold a special session on links between mobsters and the comics industry. ... Wertham spoke to the Senate hearings first. He told chilling case histories of psychopaths who loved horror fantasy. ... When it came to teaching violence and race hatred, he declared, “Hitler was a beginner compared to the comicbook industry.” ... In the end, the Senate decided that it couldn’t do much about comics without infringing on constitutional principles of free speech. It agreed to stop short of banning comic books
after the industry agreed to police itself by adopting a new Comics Code. ... In his old age, Frederic Wertham had a change of heart. In 1974, in his last book, The World of Fanzines: A Special Form of Communication, he explained that comic book fans were very nice kids after all. The book didn’t sell nearly as well as his earlier hysterical, scare-mongering shockers. • This excerpt appears in You Can’t Read This: Forbidden Books, Lost Writing, Mistranslations & Codes by Val Ross (Tundra Books, 2006) and is reprinted with the publisher’ permission. s
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A Global Conflict Over Danish Cartoons Echoes the Crisis Over
THE SATANIC VERSES
BY FRANKLIN CARTER
N SEPTEMBER 30, 2005, a Danish newspaper called Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons that depicted the Muslim prophet
10 Muslim states urged Denmark’s Prime Minister Rasmussen to “take all those responsible to task.” When Rasmussen refused, saying that “freedom of expression is the very foundation of the Danish democracy” and that the “government has no means of influencing the press,” Danish Muslims filed a criminal complaint against Jyllands-Posten. In 2006, a prosecutor declined to press charges. Stymied in Denmark, Danish Muslims toured the Middle East with the 12 cartoons and other offensive images to urge Muslim leaders to pressure
MOHAMMED. THE CARTOONS lampooned Mohammed, Muslim terrorism, and the newspaper’s portrayal of Muslim immigrants. Flemming Rose, the newspaper’s editor, knew that many Muslims regarded images of their prophet as blasphemous, but he said that he published the cartoons anyway because he wanted to provoke a debate about the taboo on drawing Mohammed in Denmark. In the following weeks, insulted Muslims tried to punish JyllandsPosten. In October, ambassadors from
the Danes for redress.1 In December 2005, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League condemned the cartoons. In January 2006, the European news media began reprinting the Danish cartoons and defending their right to publish blasphemy. On January 30, Jyllands-Posten apologized for offending Muslims but reaffirmed its decision to publish the cartoons. As the conflict worsened, JyllandsPosten received bomb threats and the cartoonists received death threats. Throughout the world, Muslims demanded the censorship of the cartoons, boycotted Danish goods, and marched in demonstrations. Across Asia, Muslim rioters burned Danish flags, attacked Western embassies, and clashed with police. Numerous arrests, shootings, and deaths occurred before the violence petered out in March 2006. But no observer should have been surprised by this outburst. A similar conflict between Muslims and liberal advocates of free expression had occurred only a few years before. This conflict was caused by the publication of a novel. On September 26, 1988, Salman Rushdie—an Indian author born to a Muslim family—published The Satanic Verses in Britain. The novel—a complicated fantasy set in London, Bombay, an Indian village, and seventh-century Arabia—explores the consequences of emigrating from one culture to another. The novel also fictionalizes people, places, and events in the Koran. Muslim politicians in India immediately condemned The Satanic Verses as obscene and blasphemous, and the Indian government banned it on October 5, 1988. In the ensuing months, many countries with large Muslim populations (e.g., Egypt
and Pakistan) banned the novel. Even Venezuela—a country with few Muslims—criminalized possession of the book. In Britain, the Union of Muslim Organizations asked the government to prosecute Rushdie for blasphemy. The U.K. Action Committee on Islamic Affairs demanded the destruction of The Satanic Verses, an apology, and payment of “damages” to a Muslim charity. When these attempts were rebuffed, British Muslims burned copies of the book in Bolton (December 1, 1988) and Bradford (January 14, 1989). On February 14, 1989, after deadly anti-Rushdie riots in Pakistan and India, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa. He ordered “all zealous Muslims” to kill Rushdie and his publishers for publishing The Satanic Verses. In Britain, Rushdie went into hiding. He escaped death, but in the early 1990s zealots bombed bookstores that sold the novel, injured the novel’s Italian translator and Norwegian publisher, and murdered the novel’s Japanese translator. In the conflicts over The Satanic Verses and Jyllands-Posten’s cartoons, orthodox Muslims protested against the publication of “blasphemy.” Some Muslims condemned—and even died in riots over—works that they had not seen.
The Rushdie File edited by Lisa Appignanesi and Sara Maitland (Syracuse University Press, 1990)
include secular liberals and Muslims. The Rushdie File helps explain the conflict. The secular liberals argue that free expression includes the right (but not the obligation) to commit blasphemy. The orthodox Muslims argue that free expression excludes the right to commit blasphemy. For them, blasphemy—however defined—must be censored and punished. Compromise between these two viewpoints is difficult, if not impossible. Reading The Rushdie File today helps one understand the conflict over Jyllands-Posten’s cartoons of Mohammed. Reading the book also helps one see why similar disputes will probably occur again. •
1 The Danish Muslims who toured the Middle East compiled a 43-page booklet of Danish anti-Muslim images. The booklet contained cartoons that Jyllands-Posten did not publish. See “Alienated Danish Muslims Sought Help from Arabs,” Spiegel Online English Site, February 1, 2006.
THE RUSHDIE FILE
N 1989, TWO AUTHORS IN Britain—Lisa Appignanesi and Sara Maitland—published a book called The Rushdie File. It is a collection of documents about the conflict over The Satanic Verses. The documents’ authors
FREEDOM TO READ 2007
P E R S P E C T I V E S
THE RETAIL CHALLENGE:
Booksellers and Freedom to Read
BY EMILY SINKINS
OOKSELLERS BELIEVE in the power of the written word—its ability to educate, to inspire, to persuade, and to provoke. Often, it will also offend, enrage, and insult. Bookstores exist to offer access to reading material, but when it comes to potentially offensive titles, where do booksellers draw the line?
Have you ever chosen not to stock a particular book based solely on the fact that it offends you or might offend some of your customers? “The Anarchist Cookbook. We won’t carry it or bring it in, but we will give customers the publisher information so they can get it themselves.” “There was a book about sex travel in Thailand that we all found quite offensive.” “I will not stock or special order any illegal hard-drug manufacturing titles, although I have special ordered several pot-growing books.” “Books like David Hamilton’s attract customers we do not want to encourage. We are concerned with the depiction of children and draw our line there.” “We carry or will order almost anything that our customers are interested in. We may not promote these [books] (i.e., make them highly visible), but they can exist in our inventory.” Have you ever received customer complaints about your decision to carry a certain title? “Madonna’s book Sex, any Paul Bernardo books, the Koran, cookbooks with meat recipes, Lennart Nilsson’s A Child Is Born (which presents both sides of the choice/right-to-life argument).” “I was asked to remove a Karla Homolka book out of the window.” “Most recently, a customer yelled at me for carrying Bitch in the House, a book about the issues working women/mothers deal with. She said her young child should not have to see such filth on our shelves.” “On Bullshit. [A] customer felt it ...
should be sandwiched in a bookshelf and hidden from children’s eyes.” “I had one customer upset over Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Voice of Knowledge, but she wouldn’t explain what offended her. She just bought out my entire stock of it! I hope all my offended customers act this way!” Have you ever received a customer complaint about your failure to stock a particular title? “We have had a couple of minor complaints that we didn’t carry any or enough gay or feminist content books. ... [T]here doesn’t seem to be a lot of demand for those books in this town, so we chose not to carry them for that reason, not for [reasons of ] censorship.” “I was personally insulted and attacked, as was my then nine-year-old daughter, for not carrying Murder in Canada. This is an extreme anti-abortion book.” Have you had shipments delayed, tampered with, or turned back at the border because Canada Customs deemed the material questionable? “A company called Morning Glory Press was frequently targeted for opening. It sold books on teen pregnancy.” “It was long ago ... for some Palladin Press titles [about] anti-personnel weapons and combat material.” “During the 1980s, I began dealing with Naiad Press in the United States ... and, [because it is] predominantly a lesbian publishing house, I did have some shipments stopped and searched.” • Emily Sinkins is the communications manager of the Canadian Booksellers Association and the editor of Canadianbookseller.
The Canadian Booksellers Association (CBA), a national trade organization representing trade, campus, chain, and specialty booksellers from coast to coast, recently distributed a survey to our members to find out how they react when faced with controversial works both at the ordering stage and when challenged by customers. Booksellers acknowledged that catering to the interests and desires of their communities can sometimes mean electing not to stock titles that are likely to alienate them. In fact, 60 per cent of booksellers admitted to not stocking a particular book solely because it might offend some of their customers. (Of that 60 per cent, the majority said they did so very rarely.) More than half of the booksellers that the CBA surveyed have received customer complaints about certain titles. A bookseller from Cranbrook, British Columbia, had this succinct response: “This is a community bookstore to serve the community as a whole—diversity in interests is respected here.” Selected responses from the CBA’s Book Challenges Survey, which was distributed to 400 booksellers in August 2006, follow.
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2006 AWARDS for Freedom of Expression/Freedom to Read
N OCTOBER 2006, PEN CANADA awarded the PEN Canada/Paul Kidd Courage Prize to Kim Bolan. She is a journalist for The Vancouver Sun and the author of Loss of Faith: How the Air India Bombers Got Away with Murder. The award recognizes writers and journalists who have displayed exceptional courage and integrity in the interest of free expression. Bolan received the award for her investigation of the Air India bombing of 1985. “Kim Bolan has devoted much of her career to the Air India affair, which is probably the biggest criminal story in Canada of the past 20 years,” the award jury said. “She had the courage to continue to do important work under dangerous conditions.” Bolan’s investigation led her into British Columbia’s Sikh community, and her reporting prompted anonymous threats against her life. “She was on a death list and, after the assassination of Tara Singh Hayer, she had every reason to believe the Sikh militants would not hesitate to kill her, too,” the award jury said.1 “We don’t know how many other journalists would have had the guts to persevere.” The PEN Canada/Paul Kidd Courage Prize is named after Paul Kidd, a Canadian journalist who died in 2002. He reported from more than 70 countries, braving street violence, gunfire, arrest, and threats from various regimes. In August 2006, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) announced the winners of its International Press Freedom Awards. CJFE, which usually
Hollman Morris and Abeer Al-Askary
were assaulted while covering demonstrations against a referendum on constitutional amendments. Female journalists were also sexually harassed. CJFE also honoured Hollman Morris of Colombia. He has received numerous threats such as funeral wreaths and letters of condolence delivered to his home. For uncovering atrocities committed by all sides in Colombia’s armed conflict, Morris was deliberately and wrongfully accused of being a spokesman for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
names two winning journalists per year, named three in 2006. CJFE honoured Hayat Ullah Khan, a freelance journalist and photographer who covered military conflicts in Pakistan’s tribal areas. He was abducted in December 2005; his dead body was found in North Waziristan in June 2006. Khan’s family in Pakistan will receive $3,000 in award money; CJFE hopes the money will help them fight for justice in his case. CJFE also honoured Abeer Al-Askary of Egypt. She has published investigative reports on corruption, election fraud, and the torture of prisoners. Because of her journalism, she has been attacked by state security officers. On May 25, 2005, for example, Abeer Al-Askary and other journalists
“This year’s winners come from some of the toughest regions in which to practise journalism,” said Carol Off, chair of CJFE’s awards committee. “They are truly remarkable people, committed to speaking out and telling the stories of the world’s most vulnerable citizens.” Each winner received a $3,000 cash prize. In June 2006, the Canadian Library Association (CLA) bestowed its Award for the Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada on June Callwood. Callwood is one of Canada’s most distinguished journalists, social activists, and free-speech advocates.
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FREEDOM TO READ 2007
P E R S P E C T I V E S
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 23
Callwood helped found more than 50 organizations that play a vital role in Canadian life, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, PEN Canada, Feminists Against Censorship, The Writers’ Union of Canada, the Periodical Writers Association of Canada, and the Electronic Rights Licensing Agency.2 “Long before they were safe or fashionable, June Callwood was a courageous and principled pioneer in many social justice causes, especially those involving children and women,” said CLA President Barbara Clubb. “Her efforts have paved the way for others to follow.” Callwood was also an early chairwoman of the Book and Periodical Development Council’s Freedom of Expression Committee. In 1995, she chaired the Book and Periodical Council. In May 2006, the National Press Club of Canada honoured Dr. John Hoey and Anne Marie Todkill with the World Press Freedom Award. Hoey and Todkill are, respectively, the former editor and the former senior deputy editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Hoey and Todkill were dismissed from their jobs in February 2006, six weeks after they revealed in an editorial that the publisher and the Canadian Medical Association had suppressed part of an investigative report on how pharmacists across Canada were dispensing emergency contraceptive pills. The award jury noted one of the principles espoused by the World Association of Medical Editors, of which the Canadian Medical Association Journal is a member: “Editors should be free to express critical but responsible views about all aspects of medicine without fear of retribution, even if these views might
conflict with the commercial goals of the publisher.” The award jury also noted another meritorious nomination. The Hamilton Spectator, which for the past year and a half had been at the forefront of the battle to defend journalists’ right to protect their sources of information, was nominated by PEN Canada. In February 2006, The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) announced that writer and publisher Charles Montpetit of Montreal won the Freedom to Read Award. Montpetit is a member of the Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois and a past winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for children’s literature. “Charles has worked tirelessly to help preserve the freedom to read and write in this country, most recently to ensure that the controversial childporn bill passed by the last government contained adequate defences for legitimate writers,” said Brian Brett, chair of the Writers’ Union. TWUC bestows its Freedom to Read Award each year as part of Freedom to Read Week in Canada. Previous winners have included anticensorship activists Janine Fuller of Little Sister’s bookstore in Vancouver and Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby.
In February 2006, the Calgary Freedom to Read Week Committee presented the Calgary Freedom of Expression Award to Catherine Ford. The award was sponsored by Fast Forward, a weekly entertainment journal. Ford’s career as a journalist began when she joined the Calgary Herald in 1964. She has been a commentator on radio and television, and she has written articles for other newspapers and magazines such as Chatelaine. She is the author of Against the Grain, published by McClelland & Stewart in 2005. Ford was a national columnist for CanWest News Service and throughout her career she made a commitment to her readers: to speak honestly. In a column on censorship, she said: “All I’ve got worth fighting for is the promise that what you read is what I honestly believe.” • Anne Jayne, Julie Payne, Spencer Moore, PEN Canada, The Writers’ Union of Canada, and the Canadian Library Association supplied information for this article.
1 Tara Singh Hayer, the publisher of the IndoCanadian Times, was shot to death in Surrey, British Columbia, in 1998. 2 The Periodical Writers Association of Canada is now the Professional Writers Association of Canada.
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Seventy Years in the
EN CANADA, THE NATIONAL organization of Canadian writers and readers for free expression, marked its seventieth anniversary in 2006. Since its inception, PEN Canada has encouraged freedom of literacy, education, and thought by supporting writers facing oppression—be it torture, imprisonment, exile in a foreign country, or censorship—from hostile governments. International PEN was founded in England in 1921 to foster literary community and freedom of expression. Joseph Conrad and George Bernard Shaw numbered among PEN’s early members. In 1947, the United Nations reviewed PEN Charter’s declaration of free-speech and thought rights during the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, there are 144 PEN Centres in 101 countries.
FIGHT FOR FREE EXPRESSION
BY AIDAN JOHNSON
countries find refuge as writers-in-residence at Canadian universities, libraries, and other community organizations with an interest in literature and reading.1 The network links writers to readers and Canada to the world. Vancouver that caters to lesbians and gays—clashed in court over the government’s seizure at the border of purportedly obscene publications imported by the bookstore. PEN Canada took an interest in the dispute: in 1994, Nino Ricci, PEN Canada’s president, testified on behalf of Little Sister’s at the trial in Vancouver. In 1996, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled that Canada Customs’ actions had violated both the equality and free-speech rights of gays and lesbians, although the court also upheld Canada Customs’ legal power to censor. Ricci said: “Canada is perhaps the only democratic country in the world that lets its Customs officers choose what people will be allowed to read. Now that a court has ruled that, that has led to some pretty arbitrary and nonsensical decisions. The next logical step is to put the choice back where it belongs, in the hands of Canadian citizens.” Ricci’s words echo Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”2 Because of PEN, free expression is defended and flourishes here in Canada. • Aidan Johnson is a PhD student in the University of Chicago’ Human Rights s Program and a former Fulbright scholar. He is completing a Human Rights Program work period at PEN Canada.
1 For more information on the Writers in Exile Network, visit www.pencanada.ca. 2 The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.
FREEDOM TO READ 2007
The National Archive
PEN Canada also continues its work on behalf of censored writers in Canada. In fact, PEN Canada has set out to document this specifically Canadian work in its new National Archive. As PEN and other defenders of free expression in Canada plan strategy for the future, they must know PEN’s history. They must be aware of PEN’s past campaigns and public arguments about some of the most controversial issues in Canadian politics. The new archive will be valuable not only to PEN’s board, membership, and staff, but also to other Canadian civil-liberties activists and students interested in Canada’s history of free speech and censorship. The archive will consist of PEN Canada’s legal briefings, policy documents, and government communications. Case summaries will include detailed chronologies of events and descriptions of PEN Canada’s responses. Paper documents will be converted into easy-to-access electronic files and, in time, they will appear on PEN Canada’s Web site.
In 2006, after a vigorous PEN campaign, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran released Ramin Jahanbegloo from prison. Jahanbegloo—an Iranian-born philosopher with Canadian citizenship—had been imprisoned for four months in Tehran for, among other thought crimes, contradicting the Iranian president’s denial of the Holocaust in World War II. In 2006, the Congress of International PEN also re-elected PEN Canada to the chair of the Writers in Exile Network. This network helps writers who are censored in their home
A Highlight from the National Archive
Throughout the 1990s, Canada Customs and Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium—a bookstore in
P E R S P E C T I V E S
REFLECTIONS on PRESS FREEDOM in 2006
BY JULIE PAYNE
AM WRITING THIS ARTICLE on November 1, 2006—a day when Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) holds its International Press Freedom Awards. It’s a day when we celebrate and, in some cases, mourn journalists from all over the world who have shown great courage in doing their jobs.
This year, our three award winners were Abeer Al-Askary, a determined young woman from Egypt who has been assaulted by the police for covering protests; Hollman Morris, who hosts the TV show Contravia in Colombia and who has received more death threats than he can count for telling the stories of marginalized Colombians; and Hayat Ullah Khan, a Pakistani journalist whose integrity and uncompromising commitment to telling the truth led to his death in June 2006.
Hayat Ullah Khan (right) working on the construction of the school with a friend
crime in Quebec), Guy-André Kieffer (who disappeared while investigating corruption in Ivory Coast), and Zahra Kazemi (who was tortured and killed in a prison in Iran). Now you have some idea of why we are happy not to present the award! This year, however, we did present the Vox Libera Award which recognizes a person’s sustained defence of free expression. Alan Borovoy, a Toronto lawyer who has worked tirelessly at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to defend all of our civil rights, including freedom of expression, received the award. After reading this far, you might have the idea that although press freedom is embattled in other countries, press freedom in Canada is doing fine. But it’s not true. In its press freedom index, Reporters Without Borders ranked
Canada in 16th place this year. This rank isn’t terrible, but Bolivia—where press freedom is increasing from year to year—tied for 16th place with Canada. For Canadians, this rank should be a stark reminder of how easily these rights can be taken away. We must pay attention. Every time a judge demands that a journalist reveal his or her sources, every time the government withdraws a little further from media (and therefore from public) scrutiny, every time university students are refused the right to assemble, every time books and magazines are seized at our borders, we must pay attention and speak out. Freedom of expression is far too precious—far too fundamental—to all our other rights. We must remain vigilant. • Julie Payne is the manager of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression in Toronto.
GLENN BROWN Alan Borovoy
CJFE didn’t give a Tara Singh Hayer Award this year. This award, named after the murdered editor of the IndoCanadian Times, honours Canadian journalists who have been physically attacked or murdered on the job. Past winners include Michel Auger (who was shot for investigating organized
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There’s a CHILL in the AIR
BY RON BROWN
OUT-AND-OUT CENSORSHIP is not the only issue to pose a problem for Canada’s writers. Indeed, there are many issues that can have a “chilling” effect on writing. Chill simply means there is a law or an implied threat that holds the writers back from exercising their full freedom of expression. The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) has become concerned with three.
“Son of Sam” Laws
In 1997, the federal government considered legislation that would have prevented convicted criminals from earning royalty income by writing about their crimes. Royalties would have gone into a victims’ fund.1 That bill died, but various provincial governments have passed similar laws. Such laws exist in Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba. One such measure was recently passed in Alberta; another bill in Nova Scotia died on the order paper. While many Canadians justifiably feel that criminals such as Clifford Olson should never be allowed to profit from their crimes, very few authors would likely come from the ranks of such criminals.2 Indeed, many people in the justice system recommend writing as part of the rehabilitation process. First-person accounts of a crime or of a criminal’s life story can be beneficial to understanding the evolution of a criminal mind or action. “Son of Sam” laws have the effect of punishing a person twice for the same crime. Indeed, since the writing of a book is not a crime, how could the royalty be a “proceed” from a crime? In Alberta and Manitoba, even agents or co-authors are required to turn royalty income over to a “victims’” fund or face being charged with an offence. The difficulty is that many of these laws are introduced with little fanfare. The Alberta law went through three readings in the legislature before most writers became aware of the measure.
SLAPP is the acronym for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” It occurs when a government, or a quasi-governmental body, brings a libel action against the government’s critics. California and other U.S. states have enacted legislation to protect writers and other groups against such legal action, but this is not the case in Canada: a SLAPP lawsuit was brought by the Toronto Port Authority against Community Air for comments that the group had made. While some might feel that this issue does not directly affect writers, TWUC has long been concerned about the effects of libel chill and has lobbied to have Ontario’s libel laws changed. While anti-SLAPP legislation would not apply to individual litigants, it would help to protect writers who wish to publish critical reviews of quasigovernmental groups. (A book on the Toronto Port Authority, for example, is not an unlikely prospect.)
possessing secretly obtained government information about Maher Arar.3 Many have argued that the wording of the law is too broad and has a chilling effect on the ability of a writer or journalist to obtain pertinent information from confidential informants.4 The Writers’ Union of Canada will continue to monitor these and other issues as they arise and to guarantee our writers’ freedom to write and criticize. Canada is cold enough as it is. We don’t need another “chill” in the air. • Ron Brown is the chair of the Rights and Freedoms Committee for The Writers’ Union of Canada.
1 The bill, dubbed “Son of Sam legislation,” referred to serial killer David Berkowitz. In 1977, Berkowitz was convicted in New York for murdering six people. He called himself “Son of Sam.”—FC 2 In 1982, Clifford Olson pleaded guilty to the murder of eight girls and three boys in British Columbia. He was sentenced to life in prison.—FC 3 In 2002, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) suspected Maher Arar—a Syrian-born Canadian citizen—of having ties to al-Qaeda. On September 26, 2002, while in an airport in New York, Arar was detained by U.S. authorities and deported to Syria. In Syria, Arar was imprisoned for more than a year and tortured. On November 8, 2003, O’Neill wrote a news story in the Ottawa Citizen about the RCMP, Arar, and the Syrians. On January 21, 2004, the RCMP raided O’Neill’s home and office to discover the name of the government employee who had supplied O’Neill with information for her story.—FC 4 On October 19, 2006, a court in Ontario struck down three sections of the Security of Information Act as unconstitutional. The court also quashed the warrants used by the RCMP to search O’Neill’s home and office in 2004. On November 3, 2006, Minister of Justice Vic Toews declared that he would not appeal the court’s ruling.—FC
The Terrorism Bill
Canada’s Security of Information Act makes the possession of information related to terrorism, which the government feels should be “secret,” a criminal offence. No effort has been made to define “secret,” and a proceeding has been launched against Ottawa Citizen journalist Juliet O’Neill for allegedly
FREEDOM TO READ 2007
P E R S P E C T I V E S
The Human Rights Police
BY FRANKLIN CARTER
FEW DECADES AGO, provincial governments passed human rights codes to protect Canadians from discrimination in jobs and housing. Provincial governments also created human rights commissions to enforce the codes.
Both publishers knew that Muslims regarded the cartoons as blasphemous. But the publishers reprinted the cartoons anyway because they helped illustrate an important news story: the violent Muslim protests taking place around the world. Syed Soharwardy, an outraged Muslim, complained to the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission. He demanded an apology from the publishers and a pledge that they won’t blaspheme again. The publishers are fighting to retain their editorial independence.
Three men complained to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. In 2001, a tribunal ruled that the ad exposed gay people to hatred. The tribunal forbade Owens and the newspaper from publishing the ad again, and ordered them to pay damages. Claiming that his right to religious expression had been infringed, Owens appealed. In 2002, a provincial court upheld the tribunal’s decision. But Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal overturned the ruling in 2006—nine years after the ad ran.
In recent years, however, the commissions have broadened human rights offences to include “discriminatory speech.” The commissions have arrogated the right to judge Canadians for the expression of unpopular opinions and images. The commissions now pose a threat to freedom of the press in Canada. To launch an inquiry, some commissions need only to receive a complaint from a person who has been offended by something in print. If the commission decides that the complainant has been “exposed to hatred or contempt,” the writer or publisher may be fined and forced to apologize. In Alberta, the complainant does not need to prove that the offending article or image caused harm. The complainant does not even need to show that the publisher or writer intended to incite hatred or contempt. The following cases illustrate attempts by the commissions to police controversial expression in Canadian publications.
2. A Public Letter
In 2002, Rev. Stephen Boissoin published a letter in the Red Deer Advocate. The letter, entitled “Homosexual Agenda Wicked,” accused gay activists of promoting pedophilia in schools. Boissoin urged heterosexuals to resist the gay “victimization” and “recruitment” of children. Darren Lund, a gay teacher, filed a complaint with Alberta’s human rights commission. Lund claimed that the letter fostered anti-gay stereotypes and encouraged an assault on a gay teenager in Red Deer. In 2005, the commission decided to hear the dispute. Boissoin could be punished for expressing an opinion rooted in his Christian faith.
4. Contrarian Columns
In 1994, Doug Collins, a writer for Vancouver’s North Shore News, penned several opinion columns that offended readers. Four articles offended Jews by questioning the number of dead in the Holocaust and by criticizing the prosecution of anti-Semites such as Ernst Zundel. In 1999, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal censured Collins and the newspaper for perpetuating damaging stereotypes of Jews. The tribunal fined Collins and the newspaper $2,000, and forbade them from publishing similar opinions again. Collins said the ruling was “the biggest threat to press freedom to arise in many years.” He appealed, but he died in 2001 before any court could hear him. In free societies, people distinguish between the right to express an opinion and the opinion itself. The former should be inviolate; the latter may be criticized. The best response to offensive expression is more and better public criticism—not censure imposed through human rights commissions. •
1. Danish Cartoons
In February 2006, two publications in Alberta reprinted several of the 12 Danish cartoons about the Muslim prophet Mohammed. The Western Standard reprinted eight; the Jewish Free Press reprinted four.
3. A Newspaper Ad
In 1997, Hugh Owens placed an ad for car bumper stickers in Saskatoon’s StarPhoenix. The ad depicted two stick-men holding hands in a circle with a slash through it. The ad cited four Biblical passages that condemn homosexuality.
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FREEDOM TO READ 2007
G E T
I N V O L V E D
Ideas for Educators
THE GET INVOLVED SECTION IS DESIGNED TO give teachers, librarians, retailers, and members of the public ideas to help raise awareness of freedom of expression in Canada through in-class debates, special displays, and public events. The ideas and activities are aimed at high school, college, and university students and would suit studies in politics, history, law, and languages and literature. Media and dramatic arts courses will also find dynamic areas of discussion and study in this section. This year, the Get Involved section includes a guide to generating publicity for your Freedom to Read Week event, from writing a noteworthy press release to accommodating a camera crew. As always, the objectives of this section are to • highlight freedom of thought and freedom of expression as universal human rights; • examine the educational value of controversial texts; and • emphasize tolerance of other people’s viewpoints as a vital principle of democratic education. We encourage you to use these tools and resources to Get Involved in your community.
CANADA’S EVENT CALENDAR FOR FREEDOM TO READ WEEK • A LIST OF BOOKS RECENTLY CHALLENGED IN CANADA • TIPS ON HOW TO OBSERVE FREEDOM TO READ WEEK • A CHRONOLOGY OF BOOK BANNINGS AND BURNINGS IN WORLD HISTORY • POSTER ART FOR 23 YEARS OF FREEDOM TO READ WEEK • LINKS TO OTHER ON-LINE RESOURCES • AND MUCH MORE . . .
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES VISIT FREEDOM TO READ ON-LINE
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Challenged Books and Magazines
The list below features titles that have been banned or challenged in Canada. For more information on these titles and our complete challenged publications list, please visit www.freedomtoread.ca.
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler Clins d’œil à Romain Gary by Gabrielle Gourdeau A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess Dance Me Outside by W.P. Kinsella Deliverance by James Dickey Different Seasons by Stephen King The Diviners by Margaret Laurence Le grand cahier by Agota Kristof The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro Man Sitting in a Corridor by Marguerite Duras Metallic Memories by Moebius (Jean Giraud) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie Tout Deschamps by Yvon Deschamps The Turner Diaries by William Pierce The Wars by Timothy Findley The Young in One Another’s Arms by Jane Rule
Marie Tempête: Le secret d’Emilie by P. Cothias and P. Wachs (Editions Glénat) In 2001, the city council of Hull, Quebec, resolved to “exclude all visual documents (movies, films, comic books, magazines) that trivialize and/or condone acts of sexual aggression or sexual violence” from public libraries. The city council—which had been lobbied for months by a woman who opposed depictions of sexual violence—also ordered its libraries to restrict access to 180 graphic novels. But Quebec’s writers and others campaigned for people’s freedom to read. The graphic novels were returned to the open library shelves and, in 2002, Hull’s city council repealed the policy.
Greasy, Grimy, Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Children by Josepha Sherman and T.K.F. Weisskopf Lethal Marriage by Nick Pron On Chapters From My Diary by Leon Trotsky Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth Century Art by Richard Meyer Pornography: Men Possessing Women and Woman Hating by Andrea Dworkin Scrambled Brains: A Cooking Guide for the Reality Impaired by Pierre LeBlanc and Robin Konstabaris Sex by Madonna Suffer Little Children by Dereck O’Brien Under the Gun: Inside the Mohawk Civil War by Rick Hornung The Valour and the Horror by Merily Weisbord and Merilyn Simonds Mohr Waging War From Canada by Mike Pearson
CHALLENGED YOUNG ADULT AND CHILDREN’S BOOKS
The Adventures of Tintin: The Blue Lotus by Hergé L’affaire du cachalot noir by Gervais Pomerleau Ani Croche by Bertrand Gauthier Asha’s Mums by Rosamund Elwin and Michele Paulse Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block Black Like Kyra, White Like Me by Judith Vigna Bumface by Morris Gleitzman Carcajou le glouton fripon by Basile Awashish et al. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger Le choix d’Ève by Reynald Cantin Les colères de l’océan by Gervais Pomerleau
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Banksters and Prairie Boys by Monier M. Rahall Black Looks: Race and Representation by bell hooks By Way of Deception: A Devastating Insider’s Portrait of the Mossad by Claire Hoy and Victor Ostrovsky Courting Disaster by Malcolm J. Barker and T.C. Sobey
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Maxine’s Tree by Diane Carmel Leger (Orca Book Publishers, 1990) This children’s picture book features a five-year-old girl who tries to protect an old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island from loggers. In 1992, an official of the International Woodworkers of America in Sechelt, British Columbia, asked the local school board to remove the book from elementary school libraries. He claimed that the book indoctrinated children into accepting an extremist, antilogging viewpoint. The school board rejected his request.
Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying by Derek Humphry (Hemlock Society, 1991) In 2005 during Freedom to Read Week, the Lethbridge Public Library in Alberta created a display of books that had been challenged in North America. The inclusion of Final Exit in the display prompted a library patron to formally request the removal of the book from the library’s collection. The library’s board considered the request but decided to keep Final Exit.
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Hey, Dad! by Brian Doyle Hold Fast by Kevin Major How Did I Begin? by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom I Saw Esau by Iona and Peter Opie I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks J’ai besoin de personne by Reynald Cantin Moonkid and Liberty by Paul Kropp Noah’s Cats and the Devil’s Fire by Arielle North Olson Not the Only One: Gay and Lesbian Fiction for Teens by Tony Grime On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder Ouch by Natalie Babbitt
La complainte des huarts by Gervais Pomerleau La course à l’amour by Bertrand Gauthier Les envoûtements by Daniel Sernine L’été des baleines by Michèle Marineau The First Time by Charles Montpetit (ed.) Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates Goosebumps and Fear Street series by R.L. Stine Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Outrageously Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor La première fois by Charles Montpetit (ed.) Qu’est-ce que vous faites là? by Dominique Jolin Le secret d’Ève by Reynald Cantin Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak by Deborah Ellis Tison-Ardent by Gervais Pomerleau To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker The Waiting Dog by Carolyn and Andrea Beck We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier Who is Frances Rain? by Margaret Buffie
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Organize an Essay Contest During Freedom to Read Week
Winning student essays from the Calgary Public Library
remove the Harry Potter books from bookshelves in 16 states. Before that book I never knew that reading was so entertaining, and that was when I got into books. If the Harry Potter series had been removed, I would never have discovered the enjoyment of reading, and that is why the freedom to read is so important to me.
SECOND PRIZE ESSAY “The Magic of Books” By Sara (Grade 9)
EVERY DAY, MANY PEOPLE AROUND the world are discovering a timeless magic. This magic is not something that can be found in any ordinary item but in the wonderful literature that is supplied. No matter what language these ink words are formed in, they all contain the same spellbinding experience that can only be discovered in the heart of words. If even a little bit of these miracles is taken away, then we cannot fully experience the wonders that each page holds because, “Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.”1 With every word we read, we gain knowledge and imagination that prepares us for a land of untold tales. There is no purpose to destroying books when they were written by authors who wished to share a little piece of their mind and those “... who destroy a good book kills reason itself.”2 Agreed, some depictions may be vulgar, inappropriate, and contain language that does not appeal to other individuals; but was there not a time when they also had their choice of books? If not, then they should not limit the freedom of choice for other readers. Everyone should have the decision to read or not to read, and just because
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FIRST PRIZE ESSAY “Freedom to Read” By Evan (Grade 9)
I FIND THE LIBERTY OF READING extremely important to just about every book lover—in particular, people like me. I consider reading as an essential of my way of life, but there is always the issue of gaining the freedom to read. Yet I am one of the few that is extremely fortunate considering the fact that Canada is indeed a free country by world standards. Nevertheless, the freedom to read is still constantly under attack by individuals who wish to remove practical information from our shelves of knowledge. I think that we should make sure those individuals don’t get their satisfaction from the despair of others by taking away our freedom to read. I think the individual who wants to take the freedom away has a lousy
motivation partly because people always have choices about the books they read. So if someone finds a book offensive in any way they could simply ignore it; I don’t see why it’s so important to confiscate the freedom to read. Freedom to read is not just important to the readers; it is also vital to the writers. When someone writes something they hope to bring someone else’s enjoyment, and by removing books they’re also putting the writers in despair knowing their hard work has just been a waste of time. That is another reason why the freedom to read is important. For some people, a book can change their life. For example, at first I despised reading, but that was before I read Harry Potter. The book’s interesting plot along with its fascinating theme held my attention like a magnet, yet there were still 26 challenges to
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some individuals cannot accept these certain books, it doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t explore these epics. Stories expand the human mind more than anything learnt in a classroom— excluding reading itself—and they are the life that brings out the world that you never knew existed. Without them, not only I, but many of us would be left unsheltered with an uneasy feeling that such magic is wasted. For, “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends: they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”3 Quotations 1 Mortimer J. Adler 2 John Milton 3 Charles W. Eliot Reference Logan, Deb. Quotations about Libraries, Books, and Reading! http://www.deblogan.com/quo2.html (accessed January 29, 2006).
THIRD PRIZE ESSAY “Freedom to Read” By Jake (Grade 9)
THE WRITTEN WORD IS ONE of man’s greatest achievements. It is how we record and communicate our thoughts, ideas, and history. Contained in a book can be the thoughts of a great thinker or the acts of a civilization that no longer exists. From a book we can gain a new perspective or escape to a place far away. Those who want to restrict what can be put in public libraries are most likely trying to save young children’s minds from some “evil” they should not be seeing or thinking. The fact is that you can’t shelter people from the world and what’s in it. No one should be allowed to decide what we can learn. Ignorance won’t save anyone from making the wrong choices; only by educating yourself can you know what is right.
One person cannot possibly hope to learn what this world has to offer all by oneself. But we have books to share knowledge with us, so we do not have to figure life out for ourselves, which would be impossible in our short life spans. For instance, a scientist in Japan may be researching how to fight a disease, and then publish his/her findings in a medical journal. A doctor in Canada could read this research and use it to cure one of his/ her patients. In a library you can see the freezing heights of the Himalayas and the scorched sands of the Sahara, and listen to the thoughts of people from both lands, without leaving the room. Would it be fair to take out the book on the people of the Sahara because someone deems their history too violent? The world is round as we now know. A sphere is impossible to see from one side.
SPREAD THE WORD about challenged and banned books in Canada! The Freedom of Expression Committee invites you to find a title you care about from our list of challenged literature and release the book into your community through BookCrossing’s Web site at www.BookCrossing. com.
Here’s how it works: 1. Find a title from your bookshelf that appears on our list of “Challenged Books and
and print one from our Web site at www.freedomtoread.ca/docs/booklabel.pdf. 3. Go to www.BookCrossing.com and follow the directions to register the book. 4. After you’ve tagged and registered the book, release it into your community for someone else to read. You can leave it on a bench, in a café, on public transit, or even in a bathroom stall. 5. Log on to BookCrossing’s Web site often to see who finds your book, what they think, and where they release it next. BookCrossing’s goal is “to turn the whole world into a library.” During this year’s Freedom to Read Week, make it your goal, too!
Magazines.” (See page 31.) You may also purchase a book for this project. 2. Tag the book with a special BookCrossing label. You can download
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Freedom to Read Week Photo Competition: Your Chance to Be a Shutterbug!
Freedom to Read Week (FTRW) is about choice. It’s about choosing to be intellectually free and never forgetting how important your freedom to read is. It’s about celebrating that freedom.
This contest provides you with an opportunity to visually capture our freedom to read. Photograph challenged books, FTRW events, the FTRW poster, or anything that promotes the written word. You can download the challenged books list or a list of events in your community at www.freedomtoread.ca. Show us how your community celebrates its freedom to read! Eligibility: The FTRW photo competition is open to all amateur and professional photographers. Entry Details: A maximum of five entries will be accepted per entrant. Digital Images: Images must be 800 by 600 pixels at 72 dpi. Please keep your file sizes down to no more than 800–900 kilobytes per image. Competition winners will be contacted if higher resolution images are required for publication. Prizes: Enter to win one of our great prizes! 1st Place: $100! 2nd Place: Three challenged books! 3rd Place: A Freedom to Read survival pack with poster and annual review!
The Giver Is Taken (1st Prize, 2006)
Pet Habit (2nd Prize, 2006)
Identification: Each image must be labelled with the photographer’s name, address, and telephone number. Each image must include its title and location. Ownership: Entrants must own all rights to the works submitted. Model releases are the entrant’s responsibility and must be provided to the Freedom of Expression Committee if requested. Entrants shall indemnify the Freedom of Expression Committee for any loss or damage arising from
any breach of copyright. The photographer retains ownership of all submitted images. Images entered must not have been digitally altered in any way other than necessary burning, dodging, and cropping. Return of Images: Images will be returned only if entered with a self-addressed envelope with sufficient postage. Publication: Submission of an entry constitutes agreement to allow photographs to be reproduced, published, and/or exhibited only for promotional purposes of the Freedom of Expression Committee’s Freedom to Read Week. Judges: The winning entries will be selected by a panel of judges. The photos will be judged according to their originality and their pertinence to the spirit of Freedom to Read Week. All decisions by the judges are final. Deadline: March 31, 2007 Entry Fee: Free! Contact: Adrian Galwin at (416) 975-9366 or email@example.com
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Write a Killer Press Release and Get Publicity!
So, you’ve organized a fantastic Freedom to Read Week activity. But how can you make sure it gets media attention? Writing a press release is the logical place to start, but you need to target your message and your audience carefully to have a chance at generating press interest and coverage.
Follow these basic rules: KEEP THE PRESS RELEASE TO ONE PAGE. In the top left corner, type “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.” On the next line, centre the headline in 14-point type. Centre the sub-headline on the line below. Use boldface type on both headlines. THE FIRST PARAGRAPH opens with the release date in brackets. The rest of the paragraph declares when Freedom to Read Week will happen, who sponsors the Week and why, and that the Week is nationwide. This paragraph mentions your event, date, and location. THE SECOND PARAGRAPH provides more information about your event, its participants, special or unusual activities, etc. If celebrities or politicians are going to be present, mention them here. THE THIRD PARAGRAPH might elaborate on the importance of freedom of expression and how your event supports it. If there have been recent book or magazine challenges in your community, refer to them here. THE FINAL PARAGRAPH lists the contact information with your group’s name, phone number, and e-mail address set in boldface type. Your press release is ready. Now what? FIND YOUR AUDIENCE. Don’t send press releases “to whom it may concern.” Get the name of the relevant writer, producer, news director, or editor, and send your press release directly to his or her attention. Follow up with the person a day or two before the event by making a telephone call and by re-sending the release. THINK IN THE MEDIUM. If you’re asking for television coverage of your event, think about what a camera crew will shoot. Television needs pictures, not just interviews. Potential shots could include book jackets, event posters, Freedom to Read Week posters, etc. Have these materials well-mounted and displayed. If you’ll have celebrity guests, have them available for oncamera interviews. Preparing for radio and print coverage of your event will be less complicated than preparing for television shows, but make sure to have potential interview subjects available when the reporters will be around. If you know in advance when a newsworthy guest will arrive, tell the reporter or producer when you make your follow-up phone call. THINK LIKE A PRODUCER. Reporters from television or radio programs might not be able to come to your event, but they might still promote your event beforehand in a studio interview. To generate public awareness, suggest a panel discussion on freedom of expression. Suggest guests and discussion points to the producer, emphasizing the potentially wide-ranging nature of the topic—from the arts to technology to politics to parenting. ON THE DAY OF THE EVENT, set your VCR to tape the television segment. Save your press clippings too. You’ll want to review the coverage before next year’s event!
FREEDOM TO READ WEEK 2007
FIND OUT WHAT’S HAPPENING OR LET US KNOW WHAT YOUR COMMUNITY IS DOING BY VISITING THE EVENTS PAGE OF OUR WEB SITE AT
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Organize In-Class Debates!
Make a controversy come alive for your students and help them expand their understanding of freedom of expression by organizing an in-class debate. Go to page 31 for a list of challenged books and to the resources section at www. freedomtoread.ca to aid your research and book selection.
While the sample topics listed below are aimed at an older audience, younger kids can enter the fray too! Many kids already have a basic understanding of censorship—even Arthur, keep To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee out of classrooms because, they claimed, the book’s use of the word “nigger” promoted racism and endangered black students’ self-esteem. Create two teams to debate the motion. One team should support it, and the other team should challenge it. Make sure that both sides back up their arguments with quotations from the text. • Many objections to books are based on the author’s use of profanity in the text. For your next in-class debate, ask a basic question: will reading a book with profanity encourage kids to swear? • If people want to remove an “objectionable” or “offensive” book in the school library (e.g., R.L. Stine’s horror novels, Deborah Ellis’s Three Wishes or Joyce Carol Oates’s Foxfire) in the name of protecting children, should the challengers’ views be supported? And here’s a question for students to ponder: what’s wrong with wanting to protect children?
Display Challenged Books!
• Put copies of banned and challenged books on a shelf, and seal off the shelf with yellow “Caution” tape. • Create a display within the stacks of your library or bookstore by making shelf-talkers or visible bookmarks for banned or challenged books in your collection. Use a stop-sign template with “STOP! This book has been banned or challenged” printed on it.
the popular children’s animated series, addressed book-banning in the episode “Arthur and the Scare-Your-PantsOff Club.” The challenged books list in this guide and on the Freedom to Read Web site have lists of children’s books, including picture books, that have faced censorship. Here are some ideas to get you started: • Research book challenge cases and recreate them in the classroom. For example, in 2002 parents and teachers in Nova Scotia instigated a motion to
• Cover a section of wall with wallpaper made from enlarged photocopies of pages from challenged books. Make the copies legal or poster size, and black out words and phrases.
Somebody Else’s World (3rd prize, 2006)
• Put coloured pushpins into a map of the world, showing countries where authors have been jailed for their books. Arrange photographs and biographies of the authors around the map, and connect each photo to its appropriate pin with coloured string. • Put challenged books (paperbacks would work best) into a large-mouthed
jar, and seal the lid. Put a poison label on the front of the jar, and place it near the check-out desk or cash register. • Beside any display, leave a stack of pre-addressed postcards and contact information for appropriate government ministers (education, foreign affairs, etc.) to draw attention to the importance of freedom of expression.
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Host a Reading Marathon!
A reading marathon draws attention to the issue of literary freedom and energizes democratic debate and discussion. Readers get the chance to judge controversial books for themselves without the censor’s filter.
To organize your own marathon, find a venue that will allow you and an audience to “camp out” for the required amount of time (e.g., from an evening to 24 hours). You can approach bookstores, theatres, cafés, nightclubs, or even comedy clubs to provide a location. If your marathon is going to last 24 hours, plan to feed both your readers and the audience! A club or café might be willing to keep its kitchen staffed for the duration of the marathon. Choose compelling and well-known books with long histories of challenges ning or several books over a 24-hour period. Send out a press release a week before the marathon, as well as a reminder the day before, to generate media interest. Include in the release the titles of the books you’ve chosen, a brief history of their challenges, and the list of guest readers. (See “Write a Killer Press Release and Get Publicity!” on page 36.) Send releases to the English, communications, drama, and political science departments at local high schools and colleges. You can also contact the Manitoba Writers’ Guild at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free Six Weeks to a Reading Marathon kit. The kit provides additional tips for a successful event. Talking about freedom of expression is one thing, but reading a banned or challenged book in its entirety, in public, is a completely different experience.
to read such as Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women, Kevin Major’s Hold Fast, Joyce Carol Oates’s Foxfire, or J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Invite local politicians, actors, musicians, activists, authors, and journalists to read chapters. You can choose to read one book over the course of the eve-
Organize a Public Debate!
Open debate is one of the hallmarks—and safeguards— of democratic society. Do your part by organizing a debate about a challenged book and get people talking!
If a book is being challenged in your community, approach the people making the challenge. Offer them the chance to present their reasons and debate the opposing position. If there’s no book being challenged, research a book that has been challenged in the past and find appropriate people to debate. (See the list of “Challenged Books and Magazines” on page 31 for ideas.) Set an agenda for the debate. First, allow the challenger to make an opening statement and read contentious passages. Next, the book’s defender makes a statement to support the book. After both sides have made their statements, they may refute each other’s claims and then present their closing remarks. The keys to the debate’s success are a strong moderator who can keep the discussion lively but respectful, a dependable public address system with sufficient microphones, and a space with good acoustics. Be sure to publicize the debate, and make it a part of Freedom to Read Week in your community.
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IF YOU ARE INTERESTED in learning more about censorship and free expression, here are some Web sites to get you started.
writers around the world who are persecuted for the peaceful expression of their thoughts. Visit this Web site for information about action campaigns, upcoming events, and profiles of members of the Writers in Exile program. Reporters Without Borders http://www.rsf.org This international organization works to restore people’s right to be informed in countries where there is no press freedom. The Web site, which is updated several times daily, keeps track of attacks on press freedom as they occur and serves as a forum where journalists who have been silenced may voice their opinions. Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois http://www.uneq.qc.ca/dossiers/liberte/liberte.html L’Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois est un organisme sans but lucratif, une association professionnelle et un syndicat. Le document ‹‹Liberté d’expression›› trace un portrait de la censure au Canada et explique quoi faire dans un cas de censure.
GOVERNMENT WEB SITES
Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/ Canada Customs Memorandum on Obscenity (D9-1-1) http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/E/pub/cm/d9-1-1/d9-1-1-e.html Canada Customs Memorandum on Hate Propaganda, Treason, and Sedition (D9-1-15) http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/E/pub/cm/ d9-1-15/d9-1-15-e.html
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION ACTIVISTS
Article 19: The Global Campaign for Free Expression http://www.article19.org Named after Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this organization campaigns for free expression by monitoring and protesting against censorship wherever it occurs. The Web site features information about major free expression cases, papers about free expression standards, and useful tips on getting involved. Book and Periodical Council’s Freedom of Expression Committee http://www.freedomtoread.ca The Book and Periodical Council (BPC), which represents Canadian professional associations in the book and magazine industries, formed its Freedom of Expression Committee in 1978 to resist attempts to ban classic Canadian novels. On this Web site, you will find information about censorship in Canada and resources for organizing your own Freedom to Read Week event. Canadian Civil Liberties Association http://www.ccla.org The CCLA is a private non-profit organization that defends the civil liberties and human rights of people who live in Canada. On this Web site, you will find information about the CCLA’s efforts to protect Canadians’ freedoms through law reform and information about membership in the CCLA. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression http://www.cjfe.org CJFE is a non-governmental organization supported by Canadian journalists and advocates of free expression. The organization defends the rights of journalists and helps develop media freedom throughout the world. PEN Canada http://www.pencanada.ca PEN (Poets, Essayists, and Novelists) Canada campaigns for
GOOD SOURCES OF INFORMATION
American Library Association http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/bannedbooksweek.htm This Web site provides information about Banned Books Week in America. The site features links to the ALA’s most challenged books list and provides extensive information on celebrating freedom to read throughout the United States. International Freedom of Expression Exchange http://www.ifex.org IFEX is a clearing house for news about the activities of free expression groups around the world. Its Action Alert Network co-ordinates and circulates news of attacks on free expression. Through outreach and development, IFEX supports fledgling free expression groups in developing countries, and IFEX’s weekly e-mail communiqué keeps subscribers informed about global censorship. kidSPEAK http://www.kidspeakonline.org This Web site started after various groups tried to ban Harry Potter novels but soon broadened its content to include other free expression issues that affect youth. kidSPEAK is not useful for Canadian youth who want to understand their rights under the law—the Web site is American and U.S. laws are different— but is an excellent source for free expression news and information aimed at a young audience. Visit the BPC’s Web site, www.freedomtoread.ca, for a more extensive list of freedom of expression resources on the Internet.
FREEDOM TO READ 2007
EVENT SPONSORS OF FREEDOM TO READ WEEK 2006
THANKS TO ALL who participated in Freedom to Read Week 2006 by hosting an event or creating a display at the following locations: The All’s Well Mixture at Fair Trade Country Café (Truro, NS) Readings by Dr. N. Kilbey, R. Gariepy, C. Hingley, and C. Norman Buchanan Library at Lethbridge Community College (Lethbridge, AB) Display of banned and challenged books from the library’s collection Calgary Freedom to Read Committee and Writers’ Guild of Alberta (Calgary, AB) Presentation of the official book of Freedom to Read Week to Calgary’s city council Calgary Public Library (Calgary, AB) Freedom to Read essay contest for Grades 7–9 Canadian Children’s Book Centre (Toronto, ON) Sex, Lies, and Children’s Books Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (Toronto, ON) Music and dance party featuring Carole MacNeil, co-host of CBC News: Sunday CJSR Radio FM 88 at the University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB) Interview with Dr. Antonia Samek about librarians and the freedom to read Edmonton Public Library (The Banned Books Café) and The Teen Advisory Board at Stanley A. Milner Library, Centre for Reading and the Arts (Edmonton, AB) Debates and putting books on trial Faculty of Media and Information Studies at the University of Western Ontario (London, ON) Reading Out Loud! readings and discussion Geist and the Vancouver Public Library (Vancouver, BC) Take Back the Page panel discussion with Janine Fuller of Little Sister’s, author Dan Gawthrop, journalist Norbert Rubessat, and Sarah Leavitt Global Importune Inc. and London Central Library (London, ON) Readings and lectures on and by persecuted writers Lumby United Church (Lumby, BC) Freedom to Read Used Book Sale and photo contest Manitoba Writers’ Guild and McNally Robinson Booksellers (Winnipeg, MB) 24-hour Freedom to Read Marathon McNally Robinson Booksellers (Calgary, AB) Reading and signing of The Sledding Hill, and speech on free expression by Chris Crutcher McNally Robinson Booksellers (Calgary, AB) 24-hour Freedom to Read Marathon Pembroke Public Library (Pembroke, ON) Freedom to Watch film festival PEN Canada and the Toronto Public Library at the Toronto Reference Library (Toronto, ON) Interviews with exiled writers from Asia Quinte Writers’ Guild and Belleville Public Library (Belleville, ON) Speeches on self-censorship by Richard Grove and R.D. Roy Red Deer College Library (Red Deer, AB) Freedom to Read Week contest Red Deer College Library and Red Deer and District Museum (Red Deer, AB) Panel discussion on censorship, and display of challenged and banned books Red Deer Public Library (Red Deer, AB) Display of challenged and banned books Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs and Lethbridge Public Library (Lethbridge, AB) Discussion with Dr. B. MacKay, Dr. J. von Heyking, and Dr. T. Robinson on Denmark’s cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed University of British Columbia Bookstore at Robson Square (Vancouver, BC) Robson Reading Series with writers Aaron Bushkowsky and Linda Rogers University of Guelph at McLaughlin Library (Guelph, ON) Discussions, display, on-line resources, and movie screenings University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge Public Library (Lethbridge, AB) Lectures by Ken Nicol and Trudy Govier, and exhibition of banned books University of Manitoba and University Libraries (Winnipeg, MB) 24-hour Freedom to Read Marathon
Access Copyright Association of Canadian Book Wholesalers Association of Canadian Publishers Canadian Book Manufacturers’ Association Canadian Booksellers Association Canadian Library Association Canadian Publishers’ Council Canadian Science Writers’ Association Editors’ Association of Canada League of Canadian Poets Literary Press Group of Canada Magazines Canada Periodical Marketers of Canada Playwrights Guild of Canada Professional Writers Association of Canada The Writers’ Union of Canada
ASSOCIATE MEMBERS 2006–07
Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia Association of Manitoba Book Publishers Book Publishers Association of Alberta British Columbia Library Association Canadian Children’s Book Centre Canadian Copyright Institute Manitoba Writers’ Guild Inc. Ontario Library Association Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario The Writers’ Trust of Canada
Disticor Magazine Distribution Services Fraser Direct Distribution Services Georgetown Terminal Warehouses Ltd. Pal Benefits Inc. Sameday Right-O-Way Universal Logistics Inc.
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