Saturday, March 01, 2014


Canada's Freedom to Read Week takes place annually during the last week of February. Dates of this year's official observation ran from February 23rd through today.

The strangest part of writing about this is that no matter which route or back door I try to take, I'm unable to open the Freedom to Read website, thus no link embedded in this post (for future efforts, their site is generally available at Every time I go there -- even just trying to check on scheduled events -- I get an 'authentication required' box telling me to fill in a user name and password. Huh??

On Wednesday, I was part of a Freedom to Read event at the Gibsons (BC) public library. (I'm relieved to see that their link at least still exists.)

Readers at the event presented portions of books that have been challenged for various elements of their content. These ranged from a children's picture book, Maxine's Tree, to Margaret Laurence's Jest of God and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

As I always do at these events, I presented news items I'd gathered over the course of the year, including one reporting on "a slump in global media freedom." This article stated that, of the 197 countries and territories rated, Canada ranked 29th, a number that didn't give me much cause to cheer.

But to me, even worse than this is the fact that our government -- while not exactly banning materials -- is limiting (to put it kindly) access to materials in DFO libraries. Seven of these libraries across the country, many of them holding records going back over a century, are having their materials "consolidated," a move that has been labeled by many as a "disaster" and a "national tragedy."

As if that isn't enough, this country's scientists -- especially those who study environmental concerns -- are being prevented from speaking out or publishing.

So, it's not too surprising that winners of this year's Freedom to Read Award (presented by The Writers' Union of Canada) went to scientist Eric Marshall, namesake of the Eric Marshall Aquatic Research Library, one of those DFO libraries that's been shut down. Co-winner of the award was Chris Turner, author of the book, The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper's Canada.

It will be interesting to see what news next year's Freedom to Read Week will bring. It'll also be interesting to see when that website will again be open for anyone to view.

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