QUÉBEC CITY, Oct 13, 2015 – In recent years, Canadian authorities have repeatedly undermined essential protections for freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and access to information, PEN International said in its Canada briefing released today. Each year, PEN International prepares a freedom of expression report on the country in which its Congress is being held. The worldwide association of writers, which gathers this week in Quebec City for the 81st PEN International Congress, calls on Canada to respect and protect these fundamental human rights.
‘Much as it pains me as a Canadian, I am obliged as International President to underline our concerns about the erosion of freedom of expression in Canada.’ – PEN International President, John Ralston Saul.
Whilst Canada is generally considered a robust democracy and has a well-deserved reputation for safeguarding the civil and political liberties set out in the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadian authorities have repeatedly undermined important protections for these freedoms in recent years.
In this briefing PEN International highlights different ways in which freedom of expression is curtailed in the country. Amongst these are restriction on freedom of assembly, blocking access to information, increasing surveillance, lack of protection of confidential sources and neglect of indigenous language rights. This erosion has manifested itself through aggressive policing; discouragement of public sector employees from open communication with the media, through a notable chill on charities; and by gathering sensitive surveillance data which has been shared with foreign intelligence agencies.
PEN International calls on Canada to restore an environment in which all citizens can exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear or repercussions, without which a democratic society is not possible.
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PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression and is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. Founded in 1921, PEN International connects an international community of writers from its Secretariat in London. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. Through Centres in over 100 countries, PEN operates on five continents. PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO. International PEN is a registered charity in England and Wales with registration number 1117088. www.pen-international.org