Off the Page

A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between

Latest Blog Posts
Book Cover County Heirlooms

Summer Eats: Kohlrabi Slaw, from COUNTY HEIRLOOMS

By Natalie Wollenberg and Leigh Nash

"I’ve always been impressed that seeds will produce all the food you need to live. It’s miraculous."

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Book Cover Cedar and Salt

3 Great Recipes from the 2020 Taste Canada Awards Shortlist

By Kerry Clare

Foodies, take note! Great recipes from celebrated cookbooks.

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Book Cover On Nostalgia

Launchpad: On Nostalgia, by David Berry

By Kerry Clare

"Berry’s subject is a wide-ranging one, but he pulls off the impressive feat of covering plenty of ground in a concise …

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Literatures, Communities and Learnings

Literatures, Communities, and Learning

By Kerry Clare

9 conversations with Indigenous writers about the relationship between Indigenous literatures and learning, and how thei …

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The Chat with Faye Guenther

The Chat with Faye Guenther

By Trevor Corkum

Swimmers in Winter (Invisible Publishing) is Faye Guenther’s debut collection of short fiction. These six stories expl …

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Book Cover Little Secrets

Summer Reading Starts Here

By Kerry Clare

Summer is not cancelled, and summer reading isn't either. We've got thrillers, epics, drama, historical fiction, and so …

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Cover Summer Feet

Picture Book Sneak Peek: Summer Feet, by Sheree Fitch and Carolyn Fisher

By Kerry Clare

Summer starts HERE with this glorious celebration of childhood...and filthy feet.

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Book Cover Mr. Frank

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Texts on Textiles

By Julie Booker

Exploring the art of sewing? Here are some tales to comfort and inspire.

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Pondering the “What If” with Shari Green & Caroline Pignat

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Pondering the “What If” with Shari Green & Caroline Pignat

By Erika MacNeil

During this time of self-isolation and social distancing, books can sometimes be our only companions as the days stretch …

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Book Cover Good Mothers Don't

Launchpad: Good Mothers Don't, by Laura Best

By Kerry Clare

"An unlikely page turner replete with hushed surprises, unexpected crescendos, endless love and boundless vitality."

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Susan Swan on Self-Censorship and Freeing One's Expression

Freedom to Read Week 2013 image

Throughout Canada, it's Freedom to Read Week, February 24–March 2, 2013. Presented by the Book and Periodical Council, Freedom to Read Week is "an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

We talk to Susan Swan, author, writers' advocate, and a participant in Freedom to Read, about self-censorship and some of the authors she most admires.

Julie Wilson: In Canada, we have it much better than writers in Turkey. South Sudan has just become a pilot country for the UN Plan of Action on the safety of journalists. So as a country seen from abroad as one of the most progressive in terms of free expression how does censorship to your mind play out in Canada?

Susan Swan: The Western publishing world is heavily mercantile now. Then, too, our Canadian reading audience tends to be fairly genteel. Both these factors encourage authors to write to please readers. Some of the younger writers like Sheila Heti, Natalee Caple, Stacey May Fowles,  Annabel Lyon, Karen Connelly, and Sam Bernstein (to name just a few) write original books that make you question the way you think about yourself and the world around you, and I admire that. But a lot of book …

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Freedom to Read Week: A List of Challenged Books in Canada

Freedom to Read Week Poster 2012

"Burning books is designed to intimidate people. It underestimates the intelligence of readers, stifles dialogue and insults those who cherish the freedom to read and write,” wrote Lawrence Hill in a 2011 Toronto Star op-ed piece in response to threats made against his award-winning novel The Book of Negroes. On February 22, Hill received the Writers' Union of Canada 2012 Freedom to Read Award. The prize was awarded, according to Writers' Union Chair Greg Hollingshead, "on the basis of [Hill's] reasoned and eloquent response to the threat to burn his novel," and was granted in conjunction with Freedom to Read Week, an initiative by the Book and Periodical Council that urges Canadians to affirm their commitment to intellectual freedom. Events are being held across Canada to mark the week, in particular the first Salt Spring Words Without Borders Festival.

To underline the relevance and importance of Freedom to Read Week and censorship issues, we have created a list of Canadian books that have been challenged in Canadian schools and libraries recently and in past decades. This list has been adapted from the Freedom to Read Week "List of Challenged Books and Magazines", which you can read in its entirety here.

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Freedom to Read Week: Mark Bourrie on our Right to Know

Freedom to Read Week Banner 2015

Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to celebrate and reaffirm our commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed to us under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is also an opportunity to discuss and debate threats to free expression on all levels (from the library book objected to in a small town to a tragedy played out on the world stage, such as the shootings at Charlie Hebdo). 

In conjunction with Freedom to Read Week 2015, we discuss censorship and information-access issues with Mark Bourrie, author of Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know. Mark Bourrie appears this Friday, February 27, at the Toronto Reference Library as part of The Decline and Fall of Investigative Journalism event, with all proceeds going to PEN Canada. 


49thShelf: In Canada, Freedom to Read Week has always been rung in with a note of triumph. We don’t ban books here, and it’s funny to learn about the reader in Edmonton who challenged Ziggy Piggy and the Three Little Pigs because of porcine bad behaviour. But your book suggests that Canadians shouldn’t be so smug. How is our freedom to read (to learn, to know) being infringed upon by government policy?

Mark Bourrie: Books and articles do get printed, but the …

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"We Need to Keep Talking About Our Rights": Ken Setterington on Freedom to Read Week

Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This year is the 30th anniversary and there are more than 50 events taking place across Canada.

49th Shelf spoke to author and children's librarian Ken Setterington about his own experiences with censorship, and the broader issues behind the Freedom to Read campaign. 

See Also: Freedom to Read List of Challenged Books in Canada


Ken Setterington

49th Shelf: As an author and a children’s librarian, can you explain your own connections to the issues surrounding Freedom to Read Week and why these issues are important to you?

Ken Setterington: As someone who cares about children I have long been a supporter of Freedom to Read Week. Quite simply I know the pleasures and rewards that children and youth discover through reading. Reading makes children think and imagine—and as a children’s librarian I know that is something that I want. We want children to see their ow …

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