Free­dom to Read Week

Medicine Hat News - - ENTERTAINMENT - Keith McLean

Free­dom of ex­pres­sion is a fun­da­men­tal right of all Cana­di­ans: The Cana­dian Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms states, “ev­ery­one has the fol­low­ing fun­da­men­tal free­doms…thought, be­lief, opin­ion, and ex­pres­sions.”

Free­dom to read is a part of that pre­cious her­itage. The free­dom to choose what we read does not, how­ever, in­clude the free­dom to choose for oth­ers.

The 2015 Cana­dian Li­brary As­so­ci­a­tion’s Chal­lenges Sur­vey showed that ob­jec­tions to ex­pres­sive con­tent in pub­licly funded li­braries across Canada came from both the left and the right on the po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural spec­trums.

As Alvin Schrader, the con­venor of the As­so­ci­a­tion’s In­tel­lec­tual Free­dom Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee states, “the re­sults echo the catch­phrase, “There’s Some­thing in My Li­brary to Of­fend Every­body” which ap­peared many years ago on a sweat­shirt pro­duced by the In­tel­lec­tual Free­dom Com­mit­tee of the Bri­tish Columbia Li­brary As­so­ci­a­tion.”

Li­brary staff in all types of li­braries are among the front-line ad­vo­cates and ed­u­ca­tors for free­dom of ex­pres­sion, ac­cess, and pri­vacy. San­dra Singh, the last CLA pres­i­dent and the chief li­brar­ian of the Van­cou­ver Pub­lic Li­brary, states, “in­tel­lec­tual free­dom is fun­da­men­tal to a free and demo­cratic so­ci­ety, in­no­va­tion, and hu­man ad­vance­ment. For well over 100 years, school, pub­lic, and aca­demic li­braries across Canada have worked tire­lessly to en­sure that every Cana­dian has ac­cess to the ideas and in­for­ma­tion they need to ex­plore our world and en­rich their lives. At times, this work has in­volved help­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers un­der­stand why li­braries build broad col­lec­tions that may con­tain ma­te­ri­als con­sid­ered of­fen­sive to some, as well as tak­ing a stand against cen­sor­ship when the need arises.”

Other or­ga­ni­za­tions be­sides li­braries pro­tect and pro­mote free ex­pres­sion in Canada and beyond. Three worth check­ing out in­clude: The Free Speech Squad:IFEX ( which is a non-profit net­work of or­ga­ni­za­tions com­mit­ted to de­fend­ing and pro­mot­ing free ex­pres­sion as a fun­da­men­tal hu­man right; The Dig­i­tal De­fend­ers: Me­di­aS­marts (me­di­as­, a not-for­profit char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides teacher re­sources for stu­dents from Kinder­garten to Grade 12; and The Cy­ber-Cru­saders: OpenMe­dia (openme­, a reg­is­tered non-profit, non-par­ti­san or­ga­ni­za­tion that de­fends the au­ton­omy of the in­ter­net.

For the past 33 years the Book and Pe­ri­od­i­cal Coun­cil of Canada has or­ga­nized Free­dom to Read Week in late February, a cross-coun­try event en­cour­ag­ing Cana­di­ans to think about and reaf­firm our com­mit­ment to in­tel­lec­tual free­dom, guar­an­teed un­der the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms.

Both the Medicine Hat Pub­lic Li­brary and the Vera Bracken Li­brary at the Medicine Hat Col­lege par­tic­i­pate in the event with dis­plays; it’s im­por­tant to ap­pre­ci­ate the free­dom to read.

Keith McLean is a li­brary as­sis­tant at the Medicine Hat Pub­lic Li­brary.

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