BPC Bulletin: Guest Authors Henein and Murad Unsuitable for Student Book Club, Toronto School Official Says

News Reports and Commentary Selected by Franklin Carter of the Book and Periodical Council’s Freedom of Expression Committee.


In late October 2021, a superintendent of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) told the organizer of a book club for female students that the students wouldn’t be allowed to take part in two events with the authors of two books.

Helen Fisher, the superintendent, told Tanya Lee, the book club organizer, that the authors — Marie Henein, a leading criminal defence lawyer, and Nadia Murad, a survivor of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize — would send the wrong messages to students.

The TDSB would not promote these two events, Ms. Fisher reportedly said, because Ms. Henein had defended former CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi at his sexual-assault trial and because Ms. Murad’s book would foster Islamophobia.

When Caroline Alphonso, a Globe and Mail reporter, began asking questions about the incident, she learned that senior officials at the TDSB had overruled Ms. Fisher.


In The Globe and Mail, Caroline Alphonso reports:

Toronto school board rejects Marie Henein book club event - The Globe and Mail

Colleen Russell-Rawlins of the TDSB responds:

Article Details Page (tdsb.on.ca)

In Le Devoir, Étienne Lajoie reports:

Des criminalistes déplorent le traitement réservé à l’avocate Marie Henein | Le Devoir

In Droit-Inc, Didier Bert reports:

Écartée pour avoir défendu Jian Ghomeshi | Droit Inc. (droit-inc.com)


In the National Post, Rex Murphy comments:

Rex Murphy: Toronto school board's profoundly ignorant rejection of book club event with Nobel Prize winner | National Post

In the Toronto Star, Rosie DiManno comments:

The Toronto school board lost the plot and misguidedly rejected these books | The Star

The Toronto Star’s editorial board comments:

Toronto school board should trust its students to learn from accomplished women | The Star

In The Epoch Times, Michael Zwaagstra comments:


In The Globe and Mail, Naomi Buck comments:

Opinion: Curiosity is at the core of education. Canada’s largest school board has showed a stunning lack of it - The Globe and Mail

In The Hub, Marie Henein comments in an interview:

Marie Henein speaks out about 'outrageous' disinvitations - The Hub

In the National Post, Kathryn Marshall comments:

Kathryn Marshall: Shameful that Toronto school board opposed Marie Henein event | National Post

The Globe and Mail publishes letters to the editor from Bruce Sutherland, Marian Kingsmill and Gilda Berger:

Letters to the editor: Nov. 15: ‘This is a form of censorship, one I fully support.’ Toronto school board rejects Marie Henein book club event, plus other letters to the editor - The Globe and Mail

The Toronto Sun editorializes:

EDITORIAL: Censorship at Canada's largest school board | Toronto Sun

Thanks go to Ron Brown, Anne McClelland and Elizabeth Raymer who forwarded articles.


The Book and Periodical Council was formed in 1975 as the Book and Periodical Development Council to provide a venue for members to discuss industry issues, address mutual concerns and undertake projects for the benefit of Canadian writing and publishing.