PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize


The PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize

The PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize is given annually to an individual or institution in Canada who has demonstrated courage and integrity in the interest of freedom of expression. The prize is worth $1,000.

The PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize is named in memory of Kenneth A. Filkow, Q.C., a distinguished Winnipeg lawyer, former chair of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, and an active member of PEN Canada’s Canadian Issues Committee. Ken was deeply committed to the cause of freedom of expression. He died in October 2014.

Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, states:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

In the past several years, the world has witnessed the courage of people and organizations who have taken personal and collective risk in support of freedom of speech. Edward Snowden released critical information intended to hold the US government to account for its actions. The Guardian’s coverage of the US National Security Agency leaks represented courageous journalistic efforts to expose the facts to readers around the world.

In the spirit of these and many other examples, the PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize will be awarded to an individual or group in Canada whose work has advanced freedom of speech in Canada or more broadly.

The prize will recognize the championing, protection, creation, maintenance or release of accurate, timely and important information or ideas that are important to the scientific, political, economic or cultural life of the country. The particular focus of the PEN Canada/Ken Filkow prize is freeing “information and ideas” from restraint or interference.


Eligible nominees are Canadian authors, journalists, public servants, scientists, professors, business people, editors, publishers, organizations and concerned citizens whose work meets the goals set out above.  In the case of individuals, special consideration will be given to those whose actions have demonstrated personal courage that may have involved putting personal interests (career advancement, reputation, ties of family or friendship, etc.) on the line. In the case of organizations, special consideration will be given to those who have acted in a way that could have been damaging to their or their members’ financial or other interests.

Nomination Guidelines

Nominations for this year’s award are invited from the public before May 7, 2015. All are invited to suggest a name or names of a person or organization that fit the award criteria.

Nominators should provide a short description of the candidate’s contribution, with specific details that can be verified by PEN Canada. They should also provide contact information for the candidate.

The winner will be chosen by PEN Canada’s Canadian Issues Committee, and the award will be presented at PEN’s Ideas in Dialogue event on June 2, 2015.

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