Many of our previous champions of free expression have been celebrated for their staunch defence of anyone’s and everyone’s right to expression. But Desmond Cole—the Toronto activist and author who is our champion for 2021—wants us to consider how language can be dehumanizing and even deadly.
We talk a lot about the freedom to read and the importance of free expression, but threats to these essential freedoms don’t always come from censorious governments or inflexible ideologies. Sometimes they come from global disaster.
It would’ve been easy to get upset, but I’ve been doing this work long enough to know the reason these things happen. I, and others, have more work to do. It’s a question of readiness, and the answer can be found in the history of representation.
The concept of freedom to read doesn’t accurately capture the dynamic between Indigenous languages and Canada. There is a history in this country of privileging one type of knowing and one type of “reading.”