Intellectual freedom is the right of everyone to hold and express opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which the many sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored. Intellectual freedom is recognized by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, as a basic human right.
Why It Matters
Democracy is an ongoing conversation – a public discourse – about what is legitimate and what is illegitimate. That public discourse must necessarily and in important respects be exempt from majoritarian regulation as to content or viewpoint. Both the right to express ideas and opinions and to have the freedom to hear and receive others’ ideas and opinions is the foundation of meaningful public discourse and democracy.
The Centre for Free Expression promotes public discussion of the importance of intellectual freedom. In cases where intellectual freedom is being challenged, the Centre provides advice and assistance so that the issue can be resolved and the concerns leading to the challenge can be addressed meaningfully without compromising intellectual freedom. The Centre has created a Working Group on Intellectual Freedom to help guide its work on this issue. Click here to see members of the working group.
November 22, 2021 - Between January and September 2021, 24 legislatures across the United States introduced 54 separate bills intended to restrict teaching and training in K–12 schools, higher education, and state agencies and institutions.
November 15, 2021 - In Ontario, the Waterloo Region District School Board is reviewing its library collections to identify and remove any texts deemed “harmful to staff and students.”
Septe 24, 2021 - In the United States, Banned Books Week begins on September 26 and ends on October 2. The week-long event is organized by the American Library Association.
BPC Bulletin: Ontario School Board Removes More Than 4,700 Books from Shelves; Burns or Recycles Many
September 10, 2021 - In southwestern Ontario, a Roman Catholic francophone school board removed more than 4,700 books about Indigenous people from library shelves in 30 schools in 2019.
June 14, 2021 - In Nova Scotia, activists continue to disapprove of the Halifax Public Library’s decision to keep Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters on the shelves.
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