If you’re a Canadian, do you believe you have the right to read whatever you like? If you do, you’re not alone, even though you are sadly and grossly mistaken.
Canada, believe it or not, has a long and sordid history of banning books and magazines that some unelected and unaccountable bureaucrat has decided you should not read.
You see, the Freedom to read what I like is covered by Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which reads as follows:
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
How can I possibly have the Right to “thought, belief, opinion and expression” if I have no right to read books, magazines or articles that will help me to determine precisely what it is that I believe?
That’s right… I can’t, and that is why banning books, magazines and yes, even websites, is a direct violation of my Section 2 Charter Rights.
It’s also the reason that the entire Canadian Human Rights industry violates my Charter Rights as well, but that’s a larger issue to be covered another time.
These banned books generally fall into two categories: books of a sexual nature and books that advocate individual Freedom. The former are considered perverse; the latter too dangerous to the powers that be.
Little Sisters Bookstore in downtown Vancouver, a gay and lesbian book and magazine retail outlet, has long battled with Canada’s Border Services Agency (CBA) over the banning of books destined for the store.
They fought for years to stop CBA employees from dictating what can and cannot be imported into Canada, with little success. If you want the full story of the Little Sisters Bookstore saga, you can read that on their website.
It’s not about gay or lesbian books and magazines, it’s about the freedom to read whatever I want without some government bureaucrat telling me otherwise. That’s the stuff of Nazi Germany circa 1939, not Canada circa 2012.
Challenged, Not Banned, the government cries
Naturally, the government maintains they do NOT ban books, and technically, they could be considered correct. The actual list of banned books in Canada is quite short, if Wikipedia is to be believed. They list only seven books.
However, the list of books that are routinely seized at the border and not allowed into the country is very, very long. A partial list maintained by FreedomToRead.ca (pdf link, opens in new window) runs some 38 pages long.
The government maintains that these books are not banned, they are merely challenged.
What’s the difference?
None, as far as I can tell. If the book isn’t allowed into Canada, common sense dictates that it’s banned.
If a book is routinely seized by Canadian Border Service agents, common sense says that book is banned.
Not all books that are banned make it onto the list maintained by FreedomToRead.ca for the simple reason that nobody has made them aware of it.
One such book that has been routinely seized at the border is the 800-page critique of America’s constitution-hating government, Unintended Consequences by John Ross. This book is widely considered a “must-read book” by freedom enthusiasts of all stripes, and is an imaginary look at a series of events leading America back to a true Constitutional Democracy.
Widely acclaimed by firearm owners and freedom lovers, Canada’s Border Services Agency is clearly afraid of the massive budget cuts they would suffer if such ideas ever took hold in Canada. This then is the basis for most book bans, isn’t it? Government fear of an idea.
Naturally, not all copies of John Ross’ Unintended Consequences are seized. My copy, for example, made it through unscathed many years ago, but my copy appears to be in the minority.
John Ross himself explains why his publisher stopped attempting to ship the book to Canada in the FAQ on his website, JohnRoss.net.
Didn’t I hear Unintended Consequences was banned in Canada? Why?
This is partly true. There were cases where Canadian customs agents were confiscating copies at the border (they have the authority to do this) and my publisher got fed up to the point that they no longer ship this title to Canada. As to why, don’t forget that Canada is a socialist country. You may think of them as a sort of arctic Nebraska, but they do not have a Constitution and Bill of Rights like we do. They have socialized medicine and they ban books.
Ross’ condemnation of Canada’s socialism is not tempered by the fact we currently have a Conservative-led government. That is utterly meaningless.
Like in so many other government agencies, the policies written by former Liberal governments and their socialist bureaucrats remain in place today and, more importantly, are enforced today by a Conservative-in-name-only government.
Whether a book is banned because it contains homo-erotic content or because it contains thought-provoking ideas of individual Freedom, the issue remains the same:
Should an unelected and unaccountable government bureaucrat have the power to censor what you read?
The answer is, of course, (for any rational person at least) unequivocally and emphatically “NO!”
Then again, the same answer applies to the Trudeaupian Human Rights Tribunals and Councils that terrorize our Right to Freedom of Speech across Canada, and the Conservative government of Stephen Harper has, so far, deemed that to be just fine with them.
The Canadian Library Association has an excellent Statement on Intellectual Freedom that opens with this:
All persons in Canada have the fundamental right, as embodied in the nation’s Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity, and to express their thoughts publicly. This right to intellectual freedom, under the law, is essential to the health and development of Canadian society.
Freedom of Thought, Belief, Opinion and Expression, as clearly defined in Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, demands that a truly Conservative federal government remove the unaccountable censors from the Canadian Border Services Agency as well as dismantle the entire Canadian Human Rights industry.
If we had such a government in Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms might actually be worth the paper it’s printed on.
One day, perhaps… One day…
Yes, the border services personnel have powers of seizure, but has anyone spent the money to challenge it in court? A book store isn’t likely to spend that kind of money.
Likely not as unless they have the disposable income to do that.
This is written primarily for an American audience and as it is still selling as a hard cover book. The authour has no motivation to print a lower cost more easily purchased copy.
The book is out or print currently and will be until it is reprinted. The authour is a financial advisor and by managing the supply to keep it just under the demand will make a better profit. Stories of suppression, whether the old “Banned in Boston” increased public demand for anything people believe the government doesn’t want you to read.
Where the authour to ask a Canadian publisher to print, for example, a soft cover version, I very much doubt that would generate a government seizure of the book. Obviously, there are copies here.
Has the book actually been seized from a Canadian citizen who was bringing it back from the U.S. or other country?
Christopher di Armani says
Yes, Little Sisters bookstore spent two decades (1986 – 2008) and many hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money as well as donations from people across North America to fight the bureaucratic seizure of private property and preventing it from being imported into Canada.
The full history of that battle can be found here, as well in the main body of my article:
FreedomToRead.ca’s list of books that customs bureaucrats have seized at the border runs some 38 pages. It is simply unacceptable that unaccountable bureaucrats are doing what they’re doing in direct contravention of our Charter Rights as listed in Section 2.
I used the example of John Ross’ awesome book simply because it’s one I’m familiar with and I stumbled across some recent claims of having been seized by border bureaucrats. Can I answer your final question? Of course not, but I would find it highly unlikely. If they were to seize a book at the border from an actual live human being, they’d have to give some rationale for it. When they seize a book at the border that is coming in by the mail, it’s far easier to impose their bureaucratic will.
As the Little Sisters Bookstore case makes amply clear, spending many thousands of dollars on a lawyer to recover the cost of a box of books isn’t very cost-effective. In one case cited on their website, they fought in court for years, yet all they were able to recover CBA was some $150 or so in actual book costs.
That’s just plain wrong.
When we are forced to “purchase” justice like this, something is horribly wrong with our country. Justice should not require us to have deep pockets in order to challenge the unaccountable and unelected bureaucrats imposing their personal agendas upon us at the border.
Basically, as history has shown, “bans” and “prohibitions” cause more trouble than they alleviate and are incongruous with a “free society” where people should be given “personal choices” of what products they can buy to ingest physically and mentally.
How and why did Canadians allow this once charming, ”live and let live” society to get usurped into a Marxist totalitarian mentality that only allows the masses to read Party Propaganda?
Kenneth G Ryan says
The banning of books in my opinion, is only the small end of a huge problem most Canadians aren’t even aware of. After first Diefenbaker, and then Trudeau decided to look after our Human Rights and our Constitution, most of us thought something had been accomplished. Few of us know we have neither. Any American Foreign Affairs specialist is able to explain how Britain still has the last say in all matters Canadian when it comes to the Constitution; that they haven’t is simply a lack of concern with any of our governments. Our Bill Of Rights is “almost” as empty as our Constitution. Before you claim otherwise, do your homework.. you have a lot to do!