Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Canada's Freedom to Read Week - 22-28 February, 2009

Freedom to Read Week 2009

This week is Canada's 25th annual Freedom to Read week - February 22-28, 2009. What books, newspapers and other publications did your ancestors read? What weren't they allowed to read? Was their ability to write or to publish their opinions or information ever threatened? Why and how?

The pieces below were published after members in the government Assembly complained about a letter printed in the Vancouver Island newspaper, The British Colonist, 29 November 1860, p. 2, signed by 'Elector'. One member called for the Editor to be summoned to appear "to answer for the publication of the article". His motion was amended and the Assembly voted instead "to appoint a Committee of Privilege to inquire into the matter." The British Colonist, Victoria, Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada) 7 December, 1860, p. 3 'House of Assembly, Thursday, December 6, 1860.

The British Colonist was Printed and Published by Amor de Cosmos (born William Alexander Smith), 1825-1897.

By our legislative report it appears to be the intention of the Assembly to call the COLONIST to account again. Our advice is, to pass an act to prohibit free discussion altogether, or at least institute a censorship over the press. The people need not trouble themselves about anything then, the Assembly or the censor would think for them. What member will volunteer to bring in a bill for the purpose? Don't all speak at once.

— The British Colonist, Victoria, Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada), Saturday morning, 7 December, 1860, #115, p. 2 'Free Discussion'

"It is far too late in the day to stop men from thinking. If they are allowed to think, they will speak. If they speak, they will write, and what they write will be printed and published. A newspaper is only a thought-throwing machine; a reflex of the popular mind. If it is not, it cannot live.... We are not disposed to send our proof sheets to any one to correct..."
The British Colonist, Victoria, Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada), Saturday morning, 8 December, 1860, #116, p. 2 'Breach of Privilege'

Tough words about the freedom of the press from a fearless Editor and Publisher. One of British Columbia's greatest historical characters, Amor de Cosmos later would be elected to government himself and lead the campaign for British Columbia's joining Canada. He became the province's second premier and also served as a member in the Canadian parliament.

This week is Canada's 25th annual Freedom to Read Week - February 22-28, 2009. The Canadian Book and Periodical Council "encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which [today] is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

BookCrossers are participating in the Freedom to Read Week events this year and TheMarina has a photo contest at her blog, Obsessions. Have a look - but quickly, quickly - her contest closes this Friday.


Amor De Cosmos, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online:

Read all about it! The British Colonist, 1858-1910, is on-line free:

Freedom to Read Week 2009

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