Position Statement

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.

“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 judgments; 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

Reaffirmed by the Book and Periodical Council, February 28, 2017


See also: Canadian Library Association Statement on Intellectual Freedom