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Freedom to Read Kit 2020

NOTE: The Freedom to Read Kit will not be available in 2022.

The Freedom to Read Kit is an annual review of current censorship issues in Canada, featuring provocative news articles, interviews with champions of free speech, and a Get Involved section with activities designed for classroom instruction and discussion.

Celebrate Freedom to Read Week 2022 by ordering posters.


Dear Readers,

Welcome to the 2020 issue of Freedom to Read, the annual publication of the Book and Periodical Council’s Freedom of Expression Committee. We hope you find the news stories and opinions that we present enlightening and thought provoking. We also hope you find the information and ideas in Freedom to Read useful during Freedom to Read Week (February 23–29).

In 2019, while following the news in Canada, we noted continuing challenges to Canadians who seek to exercise their expression rights. But we also noted several triumphs for Canadians who seek to secure those rights and the expression rights of others. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating those triumphs.

This year, in our “Front Lines” section, three writers consider challenges to our freedom to read and our freedom to report the news. Todd Kyle examines the latest censorship challenges to publications and services in Canada’s libraries (page 6). Grant Buckler recounts the protracted legal struggles of Justin Brake, a reporter who was charged with three offences in Labrador in 2016 after he had covered a protest (page 8). Mark Lindenberg explains the significance of a ruling of Quebec’s Court of Appeal for news agencies that post their stories online (page 9).

In our “Spotlight” section, Mark Leiren-Young profiles David Eby, the attorney general of British Columbia, who persuaded B.C.’s legislature to pass the Protection of Public Participation Act in 2019. Thanks to Mr. Eby, British Columbians who speak up about public issues enjoy more protection from vindictive, meritless lawsuits that are intended to silence their voices (page 10). Then a trio of writers — Marcus McCann, Jearld F. Moldenhauer and Dominique Bernier-Cormier — presents the 50-year history of Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop. It survived several censorship battles to become North America’s oldest LGBTQ bookstore (page 12).

In our “Perspectives” section, five writers share their views about various challenges to our freedom to read, write and publish. David Alexander Robertson, a Cree author, writes about the educational authorities in Alberta who advised against the use of some of his books in public schools (page 14). Charles Montpetit summarizes the battles—many of them legal—over expression in Quebec in 2019 (page 15). Vickery Bowles , the city librarian of the Toronto Public Library, identifies threats to intellectual freedom in the public libraries and suggests ways to cope with them (page 16).

Jaclyn Law, Freedom to Read’s editor, interviews Danielle S. McLaughlin, the author of Freedom of Expression: Deal with It Before You Are Censored. Together they explore free expression in schools, common myths and more (page 18). Then Franklin Carter , our 2019 champion of free expression, reviews Claws of the Panda, Jonathan Manthorpe’s newest book, which focuses on the threat that the Chinese communist state poses to Canada and the expression rights of Chinese people in Canada (page 20).

In our “Get Involved” section, which begins on page 21, we suggest 21 things that you can do during Canada’s Freedom to Read Week in February 2020. We list numerous challenged books and magazines. And we show how you can reach us during Freedom to Read Week or any other time of the year.

Finally, we’d like to thank Boyd Gordon and Gil Martinez for their impressive designs this year. Mr. Gordon designed the pages that you see in Freedom to Read, and Mr. Martinez created this year’s beautiful cover art and Freedom to Read Week poster. We hope you admire their artistry as much as we do.

Enjoy reading Freedom to Read, and have a happy Freedom to Read Week!