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Finding freedom in reading

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Canada’s annual Freedom To Read Week, which took place Feb. 24 – March 2, 2019, continues to encourage every citizen in the country to gain awareness of the censorship threats that still take place in Canada, and to celebrate every citizen’s right to read. The week long event was created in 1984 by the Freedom of Expression Committee of the Book and Periodical Development Council, who monitor censorship issues around the country and advocate for various materials to be published, regardless of pushback.  

Throughout the years since the development of the event, the committee has taken censorship matters into their own hands.

According to a pamphlet published by the Freedom of Expression Committee, “We have resisted attempts to ban books and magazines from public schools and libraries. We have protested the legal ban on imported gay and lesbian literature and attempts to censor the internet. We have criticized government bills and judicial decisions that restrict Canadians’ freedom to publish and read.”

Canada has had pushback on tons of materials in the nation from citizens against the publication of certain pieces and organizations, like schools, who don’t want specific books in their library. The beloved book Bridge to Terabithia has even been challenged, because plenty of critics didn’t like that a child dies (spoiler alert).

Alongside their attacks against censorship, the committee recognizes the right every Canadian citizen has to read, whether that be magazines, blogs, Twitter, novels, cookbooks, or memoirs. Unfortunately many Canadians do not have easy access to literature. Author Katy Anderson explained in aforementioned pamphlet that even in this day and age, “Many Canadians are missing the educational and economic benefits that come with affordable internet access.” She said that this could be changed only if the federal government would implement a national broadband strategy.

The federal government could do plenty of things to improve the country, but the committee feels that since it is the right of everyone to read, we need access to the literature in order to exercise our right. If everyone was able to have better access to libraries and internet at home, the chances for obtaining a higher education could improve, which is always a good thing.

In Abbotsford, we should continue to be grateful that we have quick connection to the internet at home, on our phones, and at UFV. We also have oodles of reading materials right at our fingertips. The Fraser Valley Regional Library has three locations in Abbotsford alone, with plenty others around the Valley.

The reason we need to continue reading and exercising our right to do so, whether that be for pleasure or academic purposes, is perfectly said by the National Reading Campaign: “Without access to reading that engages us as individuals, we lose the vital opportunity to develop a comprehensive world view. Reading is an indispensable tool, and diverse choices are the key to a well-rounded society.” This means that each of us must connect with literature that interests us (such as LGBTQ2+ materials, satirical political cartoons, foreign novels, or memoirs) because the more we read the more empathetic and open-minded we become, which will lead to a community that supports each other.

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