February 19, 2021 — The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is pleased to announce that Manitoba author David A. Robertson is the recipient of the 2021 Freedom to Read Award. The award is presented annually by TWUC in recognition of work that is passionately supportive of the freedom to read. Past recipients include authors Ivan Coyote, Jael Richardson, Mohamed Fahmy, and Lawrence Hill, and bookseller Janine Fuller.
The author of twenty books, winner of the Governor General’s Award for Young People’s Illustrated Books, and the host of a CBC podcast exploring his family history, Robertson has experienced challenges to his work as the subject of study in Canadian curricula. His graphic novels 7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga and Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story have both been featured on “not recommended” lists by educational authorities in Alberta, prompting a debate about whose voices should be used to teach Indigenous history and culture.
David A. Robertson was nominated for the Freedom to Read Award by a fellow Canadian author, who wrote:
“I am moved today to nominate [David A. Robertson] because I think he is an excellent role model for freedom of expression for all of us. Robertson writes for audiences of all ages. He delves into his own life, his own truths, and with rigour, gentleness, and bravery, he creates literature to show what he’s discovering.”
Robertson himself wrote about the controversy around his works in last year’s Freedom to Read magazine, published each year as part of Freedom to Read Week:
“A growing number of Indigenous creators are writing important own voices stories that help make a teacher’s job (for example, having pre- and post-conversations with students) a bit easier. Own voices refers to marginalized characters who are written by authors from the marginalized group; they have lived experience. It’s counterproductive to have administrative bodies ostensibly take these valuable resources away.”
February 21 to 27, 2021, is Freedom to Read Week in Canada: a national annual celebration that encourages Canadians to think deeply about and value their right to read, write, and publish freely. The week has become a regular feature of the annual programming of schools, libraries, and literary groups across Canada. Freedom to Read Week is a project of the Book and Periodical Council, the umbrella organization for publishing in Canada. TWUC is a proud partner and supporter of Freedom to Read Week. For more information, please visit freedomtoread.ca.
The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is the national organization of professionally published writers. TWUC was founded in 1973 to work with governments, publishers, booksellers, and readers to improve the conditions of Canadian writers. Now over 2,200 members strong, TWUC advocates on behalf of writers’ collective interests, and delivers value to members through advocacy, community, and information. TWUC believes in a thriving, diverse Canadian culture that values and supports writers.