“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.”
-Albert Camus (French author, journalist and philosopher)
Libraries across Canada celebrate Freedom to Read Week in February each year. During Freedom to Read Week, our attention turns to raising awareness about the impacts of censorship and informing the community about how and why books are challenged. Hundreds of mainstream and little-known books, movies, magazines and more have been challenged in Canada over the last 40 years. During that same time, Richmond Public Library has reviewed and resolved over 100 customer challenges.
We hope you enjoy this interactive collection of some of the most popular challenged books.
2000 – A parent in Corner Brook, Nfld. objected to the depiction of wizardry and magic in the Harry Potter series and wanted it removed from the elementary school. The school principal sided with the parent and ordered the books to be removed. Neither the parent nor the principal had read the novels.Has this book caught your interest? Click here to borrow.
2008 – In Toronto, a parent formally complained that this novel’s “profane language”, anti-Christian overtones, “violence” and “sexual degradation” probably violated the district school policies that require students to show respect and tolerance to one another. In 2009, a review panel of the Toronto District School Board recommended that the schools keep the novel in the curriculum in grades 11 and 12.Has this book caught your interest? Click here to borrow.
1978 – School Boards in Richmond and Langley removed this book, which describes a teenage girl’s experiences with narcotics and sex, from their high schools. In Richmond, students petitioned the school board to protest the ban, and the Richmond Teacher-Librarians’ Association supported them. In Langley, school trustees, librarians and parents recommended keeping copies in counsellors’ offices. These efforts failed; both bans stayed in effect.Has this book caught your interest? Click here to borrow.
2007 – Ontario’s Halton Catholic District School Board voted to ban Philip Pullman’s trilogy of fantasy novels – The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass – from its schools, objecting to the “atheist” themes in the series.Has this book caught your interest? Click here to borrow.
1994 – A member of Alberta’s legislature called for the removal of Of Mice and Men from Alberta’s schools with a petition signed by 811 Albertans who wanted schools to withdraw books that “demean or profane the name of God and Jesus Christ.”
2000 – A member of the Reform party asked that this book should be removed from schools in Winnipeg’s River East School Division, due to Steinbeck’s use of “God”, “God-damned”, and “Jesus” as profane and blasphemous language. The school division took no action.
1991 – An Ontario high school student asked that the novel be removed from the English curriculum because a scene in which a Canadian soldier is raped by fellow officers was said to pressure students to accept homosexuality. School board retained the book at the Grade 13 level.
2011 – A group of parents in Ontario wanted the book removed from Grade 12 English classes due to its depictions of sex, violence and gang rape. Teachers, staff and students recommended that The Wars be kept in the secondary school curriculum.
1991 – A Black Canadian organization called PRUDE (Pride of Race, Unity and Dignity through Education) in Saint John, N.B. tried to have To Kill A Mockingbird removed from school reading lists citing its portrayal of racial minorities. It was eventually removed from the learning resources list. It has been challenged several other times in Canada.Has this book caught your interest? Click here to borrow.
2008 – Challenged at Richmond Public Library for portraying inappropriate behaviour and using complex language, sarcasm and dark humour deemed to be beyond the grasp of the preschooler. The book was retained but re-catalogued in the “Storytime Favourites” section which is aimed at older children.Has this book caught your interest? Click here to borrow.
2007 – A customer at Richmond Public Library challenged this book, citing graphic sexual content and arguing that the work has no literary or historical merit of any kind. The book was retained in the adult fiction collection.Has this book caught your interest? Click here to borrow.
2002 – Black Canadians lobbied the Tri-County District School Board in Nova Scotia to remove Underground to Canada from classrooms. The book is a historical novel about the Underground Railroad that operated during the slave trade, but complainants objected to its depictions of black people. The school board rejected their request.Has this book caught your interest? Click here to borrow.
2013 – A Richmond Public Library customer objected to the scary imagery in the book, calling it inappropriate for young children. The book was retained, but removed from the “Concepts” category and placed in the non-fiction poetry section for older children.Has this book caught your interest? Click here to borrow.
2006 – The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) in Ontario objected to author Deborah Ellis’ portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although the Ontario Library Association had recommended this book as part of its Silver Birch reading program, at least five Ontario school boards set restrictions on the text, including restricting access to students in grade 7 or higher, removing it from school library shelves, and withdrawing it from the Silver Birch program.Has this book caught your interest? Click here to borrow.