Canadian Issues Committee

Canadian Issues Committee

From its inception, PEN Canada has defended the right to freedom of expression enshrined in article 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our Canadian Committee has fought censorship in more than 70 cases—from book seizures at the border and censorship in schools and libraries, to legislation that threatens the freedom of expression of all Canadians.

We supported Derek Finkle, Juliet O’Neill and Stephen Williams in their battles for journalistic integrity. We stood with Little Sisters Bookstore in its long struggle against customs censorship. We campaigned successfully against the Bill C10 proposal to deny government support to films deemed “contrary to public policy.”

The efforts of PEN activists spread awareness of what had happened around the world and helped trigger a tidal wave of protest and support, bolstering me personally and throwing up a guard around the principles at stake.”
- Juliette O’Neill, reporter for The Ottawa Citizen whose home and office were raided by the RCMP in January 2003

We have intervened in landmark free expression cases such as Grant v. Torstar and Quan v. Cusson, which led the Supreme Court of Canada to establish “responsible communication” as a new defence against defamation, and we have fought against the restrictive bail conditions imposed on some G20 protesters. PEN Canada regularly publishes public statements on freedom of expression issues to ensure that Charter rights to free speech and freedom of the press are interpreted broadly and vigorously maintained.

Every February, in partnership with the Toronto Public Library, PEN Canada holds a Freedom to Read Week event that emphasizes the central role that free speech plays in any open and democratic society.

You can read the biographies of the Canadian Issues Committee members here.

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