Sunday, March 11, 2007

Censorship of Both Official Languages

Take the "Banned Book Challenge" in whatever language you care to read.

Freedom to Read Poster 1998.

Freedom to Read in Canada has the following Francophone materials on their challenged book list.

  • Awashish, Basile, Lucien Awashish, Claude Lachapelle, and Christine Laniel. Carcajou le glouton fripon.
    1982—Several schools turned down these educational strips on native lore (funded by the Canada Council, the Secretary of State, and Quebec’s Ministry of Cultural Affairs) because of nudity—even though it’s part and parcel of the legends.

  • Cantin, Reynald. J’ai besoin de personne; Le choix d’Ève; Le secret d’Ève.
    1991—Because they deal with teenage sex and abortion, these books were banned in the high school of Loretteville (QC), even though the author had been teaching there for 15 years.

  • Deschamps, Yvon. Tout Deschamps.
    1998—After Deschamps, Quebec’s top francophone storyteller, and black comic Normand Brathwaite read excerpts from this book onto a cassette, a unilingual anglophone complained about a 29-year-old piece entitled “Nigger Black.” The complainant didn’t understand that the piece was anti-racist. Nonetheless, the complaint was published in Montreal’s Gazette, which ran a front-page attack on the alleged slur by Deschamps.
    Update—To offset further controversy, stores across Quebec stopped selling the cassette two days later.

  • Gauthier, Bertrand. Ani Croche and La course à l’amour.
    1995—Before the Commission des états généraux sur l’éducation (Estates General of Education Commission), the president of the Association des parents catholiques du Québec (Association of Catholic Parents of Quebec) denounced these two books for youngsters, written by a multiple prize-winner, as being “unacceptable” and borderline pornographic.” She asked the Ministry of Education to provide “better control over the selection of books found in libraries.” The news media described the recommendation as a return to blacklisting and noted that the APCQ exerted a strong influence over the Commission des écoles catholiques de Montréal (Catholic School Board of Montreal). The president of the school board said that APCQ influence would not affect the schools since Ani Croche was no longer on the list recommended by its Bureau of Teaching Materials and that La course à l’amour had not been on that list since 1990.

  • Gourdeau, Gabrielle. Clins d’oeil à Romain Gary
    2002—A professor at Laval University, who thought he was being maligned in the short story “Gros-Câlisse” (which depicts the misbehaviour of a fictional department head in an unnamed university), sued Gourdeau for libel, damages, and psychological aggravation. The professor also obtained a court order that prevents the news media from identifying him. The suit was dropped in mid-trial. The professor died and Gourdeau declared bankruptcy in July 2003.
    Update—The CBC and the newspaper Le Soleil appealed the court order that protects the professor’s anonymity.

  • Jolin, Dominique. Qu’est-ce que vous faites là?
    1995—Although young readers rated the book at the top of the Livromagie list, this illustrated book for children was kept under lock and key in a Vancouver library along with books on sex. The reason: in the final scene, two children wake up to discover that their parents, who seem to be undressed under their bedsheet, are pretending to have a pillow fight. An elementary school in Manitoba, which had ordered the book, returned it to the publisher “because it might lead some parents to protest.”

  • Kristof, Agota. Le grand cahier.
    2003—This award-winning novel, which is based on the author’s experiences in World War II, tells of the effects of a fictional war on two boys in an unnamed country. A parent of a 16-year-old girl in St-Jérôme (QC) complained about the book and took his case to the media when the school would not provide an alternative novel.
    Cause of objection—The parent complained that the book is “very violent and grossly pornographic, as it features scenes of bestiality and pedophilia.”
    Update—School administrators announced that the book would be dropped in September 2003, but they also said their decision had nothing to do with the controversy. They noted that today’s teens are subjected to much harsher realities without adult supervision. The novel is used in high schools throughout Quebec.

  • Marineau, Michèle. L’été des baleines.
    1991—When the author was invited to a school in Princeville (QC) to speak on this sequel to the novel Cassiopée ou l’été polonais, for which she received the Governor General’s Award, a group of parents objected to the visit because the book deals with, among other things, teenage sex. After a survey of the sexual habits of students revealed that the novel would not unleash a wave of traumas, the visit was allowed to take place.

  • Montpetit, Charles (ed.). La première fois and The First Time. Two volumes each.
    1992–2002—In Quebec, five secondary schools asked the anthologist to give a lecture as part of a Department of Education tour. Each school received a box full of free copies of these critically acclaimed collections, which contain true accounts of first-time sexual experiences by writers for adolescents. Even though sex education was mandatory in secondary schools, all five schools refused to pass the books to the students who would attend the lecture, and the anthologist was asked to talk about something else—in one case, less than 15 minutes before the lecture took place.

  • Pomerleau, Gervais. L’affaire du cachalot noir, Tison-Ardent, La complainte des huarts, and Les colères de l’océan.
    1995—A student was invited to set up a display in the lobby of the Polyvalente des Îlesde-la-Madeleine (Magdalen Islands High School) on the theme of the damage caused by the sunken oil barge Irving Whale. But the principal asked him to remove L’affaire du cachalot noir, a young people’s book that deals with this matter, or the display would be cancelled. The principal also prohibited the reading of other books by the author “because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about” and “because they are full of exaggerations and spelling mistakes.” (The “spelling mistakes” occur when an uneducated character or a bird whose beak is glued together is talking.) The student withdrew the book but, despite his teacher’s objections, did his end-of-term work in literature on Les colères de l’océan—and got one of the highest marks in his class.

  • Sernine, Daniel. Les envoûtements.
    1989—In Quebec, the distribution of this novel for teenagers and at least one school reading were cancelled. The author has won numerous prizes.
    Cause of objection—Sernine is believed to promote the occult—even though the “bewitchments” mentioned in the title are fraudulent and exposed as such in the story.

  • Sernine, Daniel. Les envoûtements.
    1989—In Quebec, the distribution of this novel for teenagers and at least one school reading were cancelled. The author has won numerous prizes.
    Cause of objection—Sernine is believed to promote the occult—even though the “bewitchments” mentioned in the title are fraudulent and exposed as such in the story.

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