Freedom to Read Week

Freedom to Read Week runs from February 23 until March 3 this year. It's organized nationally by the Book and Periodical Council  but celebrated across Canada and around the world. PEN Canada, a group that assists writers facing censorship and persecution, also supports the week. Individual events are held at independent bookstores and libraries to draw attention to the issue of censorship, specifically banned books.

Even in Canada, books have been banned at borders, in classrooms and from libraries. Everything from Margret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale to benign children's books has been challenged in Canadian libraries. Here is an updated list of challenged books and magazines from the Freedom to Read Week organizers.

Historically the Canadian government has been caught up in censorship controversies. Some of the most infamous include the conflict between Vancouver bookstore Little Sister's and Toronto's Glad Day in getting their books across the border. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Canadian Customs shipped the GBLTQ content back to the stores with claims of "obscenity". Both stores had to take legal action on multiple occasions to reclaim their confiscated inventory. It wasn't until 2000 that the Supreme Court ruled that Customs could not withhold material that was "obscene" but that it had to be ruled to violate obscenity laws in court.

This year, organizers of the week are encouraging citizens to free a banned book, by obtaining a copy of a book off the banned list and planting it somewhere in their community.

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