Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Snow Falling on Cedars/Falling off School Shelves in Canada

PEN Canada critical of school board’s decision to pull award-winning novel from library shelves
By: Press Release - PEN Canada


The bestseller has been removed from school library shelves and English class reading lists by the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board after a single parental complaint about the book's sexually explicit content. The Board is said to be setting up a committee to review the book and determine whether to put it back into circulation.

“While the School Board stresses that this is not a ban but rather a temporary removal of the novel, the fact of the matter is that this action is tantamount to censorship,” said PEN Canada’s National Affairs Chair Christopher Waddell. “It disturbs us to see this rash and unnecessary action taken on the basis of a single complaint from the community.”

Waddell added that pulling Snow Falling on Cedars on the basis of that complaint is the equivalent of being considered guilty until proven innocent. If someone objects to a book then the Board can set up its committee, he said; however, it should remain on the shelves until the Board rules otherwise. That could take months; and, during that time, the book is out of circulation based on that one complaint.

Snow Falling on Cedars was the winner of several literary awards, including the 1995 PEN/Faulkner Award, the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award and the Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association Award. Waddell therefore wondered why one complaint carried more weight with a school board than the various expert panels of judges who deemed the novel an exceptional piece of work.

The action by the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board is reminiscent of the decision taken in March 2006 by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) decision to restrict access for younger children to Deborah Ellis’s award-wining book, Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak. The Board, in reaction to a protest by the Canadian Jewish Congress, decided to remove the book from school libraries serving children below grade seven.

Commenting then on the TDSB’s move, PEN Canada president Constance Rooke called it a “dangerous precedent” that “might well encourage future protests against a wide-variety of books whose subject matter is objectionable to one group or another.”

About PEN Canada:
PEN Canada is a centre of International PEN that campaigns on behalf of writers around the world persecuted or exiled for the expression of their thoughts. In Canada, it supports the right to free expression as enshrined in Section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


For more information, please contact David Cozac, 416-703-8448 x24 or dcozac@pencanada.ca.
Web site: www.pencanada.ca.

4 Comments:

Blogger superstar said...

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2:01 PM  
Blogger Brent Hartinger said...

I'm going to beat my head against a wall.

And OF COURSE a "disputed" book should be kept on the shelves during a dispute! It's a LIBRARY! You err on the side of ACCESS TO INFORMATION!

7:54 PM  
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