“Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms…freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication…” (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, The Constitution Act, 1982)
Freedom to Read Week kicks off in Canada tomorrow (February 24 – March 2, 2013). It is an annual event organized by the Freedom of Expression Committee of the Book and Periodical Council to encourage Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is constitutionally guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Despite the fact that Canadians enjoy the constitutional freedom and protection to read what they choose, reading materials in all forms (books, magazines, graphic novels, etc.) are removed from the shelves of Canadian libraries, schools and bookstores, or confiscated at Canadian borders on a regular basis. More recently free speech on the Internet has also come under attack. As with similar organizations in countries around the world, the Canadian Library Association in partnership with the Book and Periodical Council publishes an annual list of challenged works in Canada.
I consider myself quite fortunate and am extremely grateful that I was raised in a family that not only encouraged and nurtured my love of reading, but more importantly never censored what I chose to read even as a child. In perusing the list of challenged/banned works in Canada along with others published by organizations in the United States and elsewhere in the world, I was unfortunately not surprised to find that several of my favourite written works have been challenged or banned at some point in time. This includes works by authors that were staples of my reading life in childhood and adolescence, books I formally studied in high school and university, or that I have read for personal pleasure as an adult:
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
1984 by George Orwell
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Week-long activities celebrating the freedom to read have been planned by schools, libraries and community groups and organizations across Canada. Visit the Freedom To Read web site to find out more about the campaign and planned events.