MRU hosts event that challenges literary censorship
Freedom to Read week, an annual event, ran this year from Feb. 24 to March 1. The event is intended to unite writers, readers and librarians to raise awareness about censorship of literature in Canada.
Overall, over 50 events took place in libraries, schools and public spaces across the country. The events ranged from contests, to panels focused on discussing the issue, to ideas like banned book demonstrations.
The Mount Royal University’s library held their own banned book demonstration, which was called the Banned Book Reader Series. The event took place from Feb. 24 – 28. It involved students, faculty and staff volunteers reading passages from banned and challenged books aloud in front of the library on Main Street to demonstrate their belief in intellectual freedom.
Literary censorship is not unheard of in Canada. This is mostly due to government officials, customs agents at the border, or religious groups who decide that aspects of certain literature is too controversial to allow Canadians to read them, so the books get challenged as a result.
An example of this from Canada’s history was when Margaret Laurence published her book, The Diviners, in 1974. The book found itself banned by a number of schools because of the direct influence of parents and Christian groups that accused the book of being “obscene”, “blasphemous” and “pornographic” in nature.
Even now, literary works are still being challenged or banned completely in Canada. Whether it be hyper-violent/gory books like American Psycho, popular books with subject matter deemed controversial like the Harry Potter series, or even children’s books like And Tango Makes Three — a book about two male penguins that raise a baby chick together — can be challenged and ultimately censored as a result. In a country that promotes freedom, can clearly be seen as an issue.
There is no clear solution to the issue of banning books. On the one hand, if freedom of speech in Canada is truly going to be achieved, then the challenging/banning of books needs to stop. Everyone is going to have their own different, personal opinions about certain books because of their subject matter, but does that mean that silencing these literary works is the solution?
While some believe that creative freedom should be embraced, rather than being shut down, not everyone shares that point of view.
However, until writers can have the right to publish their works without having them being challenged in any way, events like Freedom to Read is important to keeping the conversation moving forward, so that hopefully someday we can reach a solution.