- January 1995
A student at Guelph University faces disciplinary action
for starting a
- February 1995
A regional library board in Abbotsford, B.C. bans all free
from its branches that contain paid advertising, because of pressure
from local politicians who objected to advertisements in XTRA! West,
a gay newspaper.
It subsequently reinstates the free publications, including Christian
Info News, but puts XTRA! West out of children's sight.
Meanwhile, during Freedom
to Read Week, L'Androgyne bookstore is
notified that 55 books have been seized and prohibited by Customs -- by
far the largest detention in the bookstore's history. Most of the
books have been available in Canada for years, and some have been
previously detained and released as admissible. Customs claims the
books contain "child sex," a claim the bookstore adamantly denies. "We
seriously doubt they have been read by Customs officials," say the
store owners. Most are part of a line of gay male erotica called
"Badboy" and do not contain illustrations. The books the store does
receive are damaged. L'Androgyne faces a $1000 invoice for books not
- April 20, 1995
Mr. Justice David McCombs finds that Eli Langer's artwork
is not illegal, having artistic merit, and urges that in future
police should have to get a judge's permission before closing down
a gallery or bookstore. (This would involve changing a word in the Criminal Code,
so that instead of saying a judge "shall issue a warrant authorizing
seizure" the law would say that the judge "may" do so.)
However, the judge does not strike down the so-called child pornography
law as unconstitutional. Langer's lawyers attempt to have this issue heard in the
Supreme Court of Canada, but the court declined to hear the appeal.
- May 1, 1995
After consulting with Ontario censors and the police, the Showcase
cable-tv channel "temporarily" cancels a May 4 showing of
which was to have been part of a series on forbidden cinema.
The channel's representative tells the Toronto Star
that it had received anxious calls and letters from potential viewers,
even though the movie contains no explicit sex scenes;
viewer feedback by Internet, however, had supported
the festival of censored movies.
In its place it schedules In
Praise of Older Women,
a movie about, among other things, the sexual initiation of
a teenage boy by an older woman.
Showcase also cuts part of a masturbation scene from
Bad Lieutenant. (Pretty Baby does eventually run in
- May 25, 1995
- The CRTC (Canadian
Radio-Television and Telecommunications
Commission) pulls the plug on a 30-second commercial for Labatt
Genuine Draft. The commercial featured "Joel" and other youthful
actors promoting the "Genuine Party CD Pak'' giveaway. The CRTC
decision said the advertisement "depicts persons that [sic] could
reasonably be mistaken for persons under the legal drinking
- June 1995
- Toronto artist J.B. Jones receives a notice of detention from
Canada Customs. The prohibited books: five copies of the catalogue of
an exhibit of her own work, sent from her SoHo dealer. Jones is
unsuccessful in appealing the ruling. One of the drawings she exhibits
in Toronto's Power Plant Gallery the same summer portrays two girls in
a library filled with about 100 seized books.
- August 1995
- The Metro Toronto Separate School Board imposes a moratorium on the
purchase of books from the
Impressions series on the grounds of "violent images " and
"satanic verses" , despite pleas from both Mike O'Gorman, the board's
language arts co-ordinator, and the deputy education director.
Replacing the books, used in 77% of the board's elementary schools,
could cost $1 million.
- July 1995
- The Supreme Court upholds a multi-million dollar libel award in Hill v.
Church of Scientology , where the injured party was a public official. Critics of
the decision, while often (like the justices) repelled by the facts of the test case,
argued the principle that in a democracy, critics of government should not face
- September 1995
- The Financial Post reports
that the CRTC is considering ordering Canadian cable
operators to "black out" offensive foreign television programs. The
plan provokes strong protests from Rogers Cable, which vows to replace
any blackouts with a screen message explaining that the CRTC is
responsible for the lost signal.
Eli Langer abandons plans to remount his 1993 exhibition at Mercer Union
gallery in Toronto.
And in Vancouver, Guerrilla Media members are arrested but not charged when
they hang an anti-Molson banner off a public bridge that faces the Molson Indy. They
try again in 1996 and are escorted out of the area. Police claim they are
disturbing the peace, an peculiar accusation during a deafening car race.
- October 1995
- The Status of Women Committee of the Toronto Board of Education
complains to Pepsi-Cola Canada that its ads on school vending machines
contain "subliminal sexual imagery" such as an ice cube that resembles a
breast. A baffled Pepsi spokeswoman explains that the photo was an
undoctored picture of actual ice.
And in Alberta, the government proposes to roll the Alberta Foundation
for the Arts into an umbrella Lotteries Foundation, and to give local
communities the right to establish community standards for arts
grants. The move responds to Tory backbenchers who have been harshly
critical of several exhibits and performances.
More than 300 people picket the Vancouver Art Gallery to protest its
acquisition of two cibachrome prints by Andres Serrano, showing the
Pope immersed in urine. A group calling itself the Interfaith
Coalition Against Hate Art targets the gallery's corporate sponsors.
One, a senior vice-president of the Bank of Montreal, sends the gallery
director a letter stating his belief that while the gallery should be
able to purchase art independent of the controls of sponsors, he
believes "it is equally important that a public gallery be sensitive to
the views of its patrons."
- November 1995
- The Public Library in St. Catharines, Ontario removes Lethal
Marriage by Toronto Star reporter Nick Pron from its
shelves, after an appeal by Donna French and a visit from the Niagara
Regional Police -- a force that has come under public fire for its
spectacular bungling of the case described in the book. Lethal
Marriage is an account, based largely on public records, of the
crimes of convicted murderers Paul
Bernardo and Karla Homolka; Mrs.
French is the mother of one of the victims. The book had had a waiting
list of several weeks and is freely available in bookstores. The mother
of another victim, Debbie Mahaffy, asks the Burlington Library Board to
ban the book or alternatively to reduce public access, but they refuse
by a vote of 8-3. The Burlington decision adheres to the policies of
Meanwhile, at the Women in Media conference in Toronto, anti-porn
crusader Judy Steed (who had previously written that porn was to blame
for the Bernardo murders) successfully calls for Ryerson Polytechnic
University to investigate Gerald
Hannon, a National Magazine
Award-winning sessional instructor in journalism who in his career as a
freelance writer who has written articles sympathetic to gay teenage
sexuality. Hannon claims not to use those particular articles in the
classroom and objects to the university administration's "McCarthyist"
investigation. Acting Dean Don Obe says the faculty has not received a
single complaint about Hannon's classroom conduct. Hysteria mounts as
the tabloid Sun mounts a campaign against him, and Hannon is
suspended indefinitely with pay over vociferous protests from his
students. The university subsequently reinstates Hannon and clears him
of any breach of the limits of academic freedom, but issues him with a
disciplinary letter warning him not to engage in "discourse" or media interviews
about his sexual activities as a prostitute. When his contract expires in
June 1996, it is not renewed.
Also this month, the Supreme Court of Canada acquits adult-video
retailer Randy Jorgenson; the charges related to three movies that had
previously been passed by the Ontario Film Review Board. In a complex
the court declares that retailers must have a general idea that
products are obscene if they are to be found guilty of knowingly
selling obscene materials.
And Little Sisters finally receives copies of Forbidden Passages: Writers Banned in Canada. Three Canadian printers, including Best Gagne and
Metropole Litho, refused to print the Canadian edition of the anthology;
Kromar Printing of Winnipeg eventually took the job. Publisher Cleis Press of
Pittsburgh also had to find another Canadian distributor for the book when its
regular one balked. The book includes writings by Jane Rule, Dennis Cooper, Pat Califia and others.
- December 1995
- The Sisterhood of the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue in Winnipeg, claiming
a "scheduling conflict," abruptly withdraws a speaking invitation to
award-winning children's fiction author Carol Matas. The most recent of
Matas' 15 books, The Primrose Path, is a story about
child sexual abuse by a rabbi. The story has some similarities to a police
investigation in Winnipeg in the 1980s, but is based on research on
such incidents across North America. (Indeed, on Matas' book tour,
people in at least two other cities told her they realized it was a
thinly disguised account of some incident in their community.) Although
no litigation is pending against the book, the congregation received a
legal opinion it could be sued for publication of a libel if it
permitted Matas to speak.
- January 19, 1996
- Mr. Justice Kenneth Smith hands down his judgement in the Little
Sisters Case, more than a year after the end of the trial. He finds that
Canada Customs has used its mandate to censor books and other
materials in a manner contrary to the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The unconstitutional conduct was a "grave systemic problem." The
ruling is, however, disappointing insofar as it fails to declare that the
statute that allows Customs to censor books is itself unconstitutional.
Little Sisters and the BCCLA plan to appeal this aspect of
the decision. and seeks an injunction to enjoin Customs from seizing materials
bound for any bookstore in Canada pending the appeal.
- January 28, 1996
- The Edmonton Journal pulls a comic strip, "Us and Them," by Wiley
Miller and Susan Dewar, and runs instead a repeat from 1995. The strip
dealt with a female character's embarrassment about being examined
in a teaching clinic.
- February 1996
- A Liberal MLA is denied permission to move that Freedom to Read Week be
declared in Alberta. (A similar motion had been moved and passed 53-40 in
1995, although a second part of the motion, acknowledging the negative
impact of censorship on lifelong learning, did not pass.)
- March 1996
- Mr. Justice Smith orders Canada Customs to take Little Sister's off its
"lookout" list and orders the government to pay almost $170,000 of the store's
$261,000 in costs.
- May 1996
- A renowned experimental theatre group in Montreal stages Nudité, a
non-sexual performance that requires everyone to be naked, from the
ticket seller to the comedians, including the audience. The police close it
down on the second night.
- July 1996
- Calgary Herald publisher Ken King refuses to include
the latest issue of Saturday Night with
the newspaper, because it includes nude pictures of an 80-year-old woman.
Saturday Night editor Kenneth Whyte protests that "This is the
kind of thing that only happens to
lesbian and gay stores." The magazine has run full nudity before without
incident, but the models were
- August 1996
- Julius Yankowski, an Alberta PC MLA, calls for the provincial
government to ban
How Do You Spell Abducted, a novel by Edmonton
author Cherylyn Stacey
that is aimed at readers aged ten to 14 and
deals with the subject of parental abduction. Yankowski, in keeping
with the tradition ofAlberta book-banners, has not read the novel, but bases his
opinion entirely on a vitriolic July 31 column by right-wing Toronto columnist
Michael Coren. The MLA further criticizes the fact that Red Deer College
Press, the award-winning publisher of the book, receives an
annual grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Yankowski subsequently
apologizes to Merle Harris, organizer of Edmonton's annual Freedom to Read
Week event (while reiterating his desire for content guidelines associated with
publishing grants). But he does not apologize to the publisher or author,
who are forced to fall back on soaring book sales as solace.
On the 19th, the Ontario Court of Appeal upholds the federal law prohibiting
publishing opinion polls, including republication of previously issued polls,
during the three days before a federal election.
On August 25, Metro Toronto Police bar anti-smoking protesters from
the du Maurier Open Tennis Tournament at York University, at the
request of York President Susan Mann. The protesters approach incoming
motorists at a public corner off campus and hand out anti-duMaurier paper fans,
welcome in the hot weather, until police ticket them and seize the fans.
A similar protest by Artificial Intelligence Media at the du Maurier Downtown
Jazz festival in June had provoked a similar response, with protesters
evicted from public places and threatened with arrest.
- September 1996
- Wal-Mart Canada, like its parent company in the U.S., refuses to
sell the eponymous CD, Sheryl Crow, by the Grammy-winning artist. The album
includes an anti-violence song that criticizes Wal-Mart for selling guns.
- October 1996
- An irate citizen lobbies the residents of Milton, Ontario because Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, by Joyce Carol Oates, is
optional reading for Grade 12 students. With the assistance of Rev. Ken
Campbell, a well-known pro-censorship agitator, he distributes a home-made
broadsheet tirade containing about 100 phrases, all taken out of context, and
circulates a petition to have the book removed from the curriculum. Students
circulate their own counter-petition in support of the book. As the dispute
becomes public in Feb. 1997, the NDP and others say it calls into question the
Tory plan to devolve curriculum decisions to local parents' advisory committees,
who like the Foxfire petitioners may or may not have read the books
concerned or who could be dominated by religious special-interest groups.
Missing from press coverage is the fact that parents in Ontario already have the
right to select alternative texts for their own children, and Milton further extends the
choice to students themselves. so the challengers in this case are trying to
eliminate parent choice, not promote it.
On October 25, director John Greyson, attending the premiere of his award-winning film Lilies
in Toronto, is arrested for trespassing after the theatre management call the police.
Greyson had taken the opportunity of distributing leaflets urging the audience to
protest against government cutbacks. Lilies was one of the last films
funded by the Ontario Film Development Corporation before the Ontario government
cut its budget to $1.6 million from $25.5 million.
On the 26th, a Famous Players Cineplex in Halifax plans a showing of A Clockwork Orange as a benefit for Christmas Daddies, a charity that
raises money to help children living in poverty at Christmastime. The Mail-Star
runs a front-page story that quotes one 59-year-old woman from Dartmouth who
has never seen the movie, but says it is an inappropriate vehicle to raise money
for this organization; the woman, after polling five of her friends, declares
that she will not be giving any money to Christmas Daddies this year. A day later,
the newspaper reports on its front page that the fund-raiser has been cancelled after
the associated telethon had second thoughts about being associated with the
controversial Kubrick movie.
- January 21 1997
- Mr. Justice Irwin Lampert of New Brunswick's Provincial Court finds Halifax
performance artist Christopher Yorke guilty of committing an indecent act, after a
show at Owens Art Gallery at Mt. Allison University in November 1995. The 15-minute
performance, dealing with mating rituals, included simulated oral sex
as well as poetry reading, guitar playing etc. Yorke is sentenced to 100 hours
of community service.
- February 1997
- During Freedom to Read Week, an unknown number of parents ask teachers at
St. Peter's Separate School in Cornwall Ontario to review Mystery at Lake
Placid, a peewee hockey novel for teenagers by Roy MacGregor. The
objectionable paragraph: "Nish, the team pervert, giggling that two of the
rounded hills in the distance looked like boobs...Nish was so crazy he once said
that the face-off circles reminded him of two big boobs in front of the net."
Meanwhile, The Maritime Film Commission Board bans
Bastard out of Carolina, Anjelica Huston's acclaimed made-for-pay-tv
movie about child abuse. The ban applies to theatrical and video release in Nova
Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. The film is based on Dorothy
Allison's best-selling autobiographical novel and is rated R in Ontario.
Foxfire duo in Milton appeal to Heritage Minister Sheila Copps to
support their cause, notwithstanding the fact that education is a provincial
responsibility, because the book supposedly imports American cultural values.
- May 1997
- Based on a complaint from a caller to an open-line radio show
in February, Winnipeg police order the Winnipeg Public Library to remove
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Sexual Fantasies,
by Nancy Friday, or face criminal charges if it remains. The book has
been in the collection since it was published by Simon & Schuster in 1991,
and was a Canadian best-seller in 1993.
Winnipeg police also notify other Canadian police departments
that a crown opinion considers the book to contravene Criminal Code sections
dealing with obscenity and child pornography. Vancouver RCMP in turn forward
the Winnipeg memo to all B.C. police detachments. As a result, police enter
three B.C. libraries asking staff to remove the book. In Merritt, the mounties claim
to have a court order to seize the book, but won't produce it, so the director
advises staff not to comply.
After national press attention, the Manitoba Attorney General steps in and
halts the harrassment in his province, declaring that the whole thing was a
Meanwhile, in British Columbia, Doug Collins, whose columns for the obscure
community newspaper North Shore News have drawn criticism for racist and
content, is charged under the B.D. Human Rights Act after a complaint from
the Canadian Jewish Congress. The B.C. Press Council intervenes in the
case, hoping to get 1993 amendments to the Act struck down as
unconstitutional. The amendments are much broader than hate provisions in the
Criminal Code, set no limit for fines and do not provide for a defence for the