Banned books in Canada face prohibition or restrictions by the authorities, limiting public access and circulation. This censorship takes many forms, including complete bans, distribution restrictions, and challenges to specific books in schools or libraries. The rationale for banning books in Canada varies greatly. However, it usually centres around content deemed objectionable, contentious, or detrimental to societal principles and standards.
The debate over banned book regulations in Canada strikes the heart of freedom of expression and the right to information. Opponents contend that barring books restricts opportunities to explore many perspectives and debate significant societal matters. They argue that these actions could impede intellectual progress and obstruct the cultivation of an enlightened and open-minded population.
Banned books in Canada often question established societal norms. Covering themes spanning from sexuality and race to religion and politics, these books test the limits of acceptable conversation. They incite readers to face unsettling realities. Although banning books may strive to preserve specific values or demographics, it can also draw attention to these works. They generate significant interest and dialogue among the public.
Explore the list of books banned in Canada. Please note that these book bans may not be nationwide since different rules apply across Canadian schools. Also, many titles have lifted their bans over time as societal norms evolve. Others remain challenged by Canadian lobby groups and various parties. Regardless of their current status, these book bans are still included on the list to serve as a warning of the past.
Why are books banned in Canada?
This list of banned books is based on materials from Freedom to Read. Often, books are banned by Canadian schools for several reasons:
One common reason for banning books is age-appropriate content. Educators and parents might fear that certain publications contain explicit language, violent episodes, or sexual themes unsuitable for specific age groups. The motive behind these bans frequently involves shielding young readers from potentially disturbing or perplexing material.
Books encouraging hate speech, racism, or inciting violence can be banned in Canada. These works may endanger social harmony and provoke discrimination or violence towards specific groups. Canada has stringent laws against hate speech. Books violating these laws could face censorship.
Religion & morality
Books that question or oppose a religion’s beliefs or moral values can encounter challenges or bans in Canada. This often sparks conversations about balancing freedom of expression and the right to safeguard religious or moral sensibilities. Objections might originate from religious organizations, parents, or individuals.
Books may be banned from schools if they are politically or ideologically contentious. Educational institutions often strive to maintain an impartial or balanced academic atmosphere. Books perceived as excessively biased or politically driven might be banned to circumvent potential prejudice or disputes among students and parents.
List of banned books in Canada
- Three Wishes
- The Handmaid’s Tale
- Lives of Girls and Women
- The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
- Barometer Rising
- Snow Falling on Cedars
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- To Kill a Mocking Bird
- And Tango Makes Three
- The Golden Compass
- Such Is My Beloved
- Different Seasons
- Lethal Marriage
- Women on Top
- The Boys: Volume Five: Herogasm
Banned book by Deborah Ellis
Three Wishes, penned by Deborah Ellis, is a captivating non-fiction book for children that delves deep into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It presents young readers with a multifaceted outlook on this complex issue. This is done by weaving together the personal stories and perspectives of children living in the region.
Through the heartfelt voices of Israeli and Palestinian youngsters, the book sheds light on their experiences and viewpoints, striving to nurture understanding and empathy.
Why was Three Wishes banned in Canada?
Despite its merits, Three Wishes encountered hurdles in Canada, more specifically in Ontario, where it was met with apprehension by the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). The CJC maintained that the book portrayed a skewed historical background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and depicted Israeli soldiers as ruthless. They claimed it fuelled ethnic animosity and lionized suicide bombing.
Consequently, at least five school boards in Ontario restricted the book. These measures included discouraging its use among younger students, limiting access to higher-grade levels, and removing it from school library shelves. Despite appeals from literary organizations and publishers, these limitations persisted, underscoring the contentious nature of the book’s representation of the conflict.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Banned book by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale unveils a chilling portrayal of a futuristic society called the Republic of Gilead. Immersed in a despotic regime, the tale revolves around Offred, a woman coerced into becoming a “handmaid” tasked with bearing children for the elite. It is penned by Margaret Atwood, one of the most famous Canadian authors.
This world is marked by extreme religious dogmatism, women’s oppression, and an inflexible caste structure. Offred’s fight for survival and quest to regain her identity and liberty weave the story’s core narrative. The novel masterfully delves into themes such as gender dynamics, power, and political radicalism’s repercussions.
Why was The Handmaid’s Tale banned in Canada?
Challenges and prohibitions have confronted The Handmaid’s Tale in numerous places for various reasons. In 2008, a Toronto parent expressed dissatisfaction with the book’s inclusion in Grade 12 English lessons. This was due to concerns about offensive language, anti-Christian undertones, violence, and sexual degradation.
Opponents argued that it breached school district policies supporting respect and tolerance among pupils. Despite this objection, the Toronto District School Board’s review panel endorsed retaining the novel for Grades 11 and 12 in 2009.
Why was The Handmaid’s Tale banned worldwide?
The Handmaid’s Tale has also faced opposition and censorship globally. In 2021, a Texan legislator aimed to remove 850 books from educational institutions – The Handmaid’s Tale among them – because they could distress or unsettle students. Kansas saw 29 books, including this one, removed from school libraries in 2021 due to their contentious nature in other states.
Furthermore, a Persian translation of Atwood’s novel in Iran expunged material related to feminist activism while modifying the original text – signifying censorship attempts extending beyond North American shores.
Lives of Girls and Women
Banned book by Alice Munroe
Lives of Girls and Women, penned by Canadian author Alice Munro, unfolds as a bildungsroman in a quaint Ontario town. Witnessing life through its main character, Del Jordan, the novel delves into the trials, tribulations, and intricacies of blossoming into a young woman. This is amid conservative and traditional values prevalent in mid-20th century society.
The story takes readers on a perceptive journey through Del’s life experiences. It touches upon family ties, personal connections, and her metamorphosis. Munro carefully weaves the tapestry of her characters’ inner thoughts and emotions in a manner that paints an exceptionally lucid portrait of Del’s world.
Why was Lives of Girls and Women banned in Canada?
In 1976, Lives of Girls and Women encountered resistance in Canada when a Peterborough, Ontario high school principal removed the novel from the Grade 13 syllabus. The principal expressed unease regarding the book’s appropriateness due to its candid language and depiction of intimate scenarios.
This move subsequently sparked a discourse surrounding literature’s role within education and the liberty to probe intricate narratives. Despite the ban, Alice Munro’s insightful work remains applauded for its literary prowess and valuable contribution to Canadian literature.
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Banned book by Mordecai Richler
The celebrated Canadian novel, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler, is set mainly in Montreal during the 1940s. It follows Duddy Kravitz, a driven young Jewish man seeking material wealth at any expense.
The narrative deeply explores themes like aspiration, moral values, and the quest for the American Dream, masterfully depicting its leading character’s struggles and ethical problems as he weaves through the intricate web of business and personal relationships.
Why was The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz banned in Canada?
In 1990, this literary work stirred up quite a debate when parents from Essex County, Ontario, called for its removal from high school reading lists. Their main concerns revolved around crude language, sexually suggestive phrases, and innuendos in the text.
The book received support from distinguished Canadian authors like June Callwood and Al Purdy. Nonetheless, the Essex County Board of Education recommended that educators exercise caution by avoiding novels that may provoke unnecessary controversy in the classroom.
Banned book by Hugh MacLennan
Barometer Rising, a captivating novel by renowned Canadian author Hugh MacLennan, takes readers on a journey set against the dramatic backdrop of World War I and the catastrophic Halifax Explosion of 1917.
The protagonist, Neil Macrae, is a young man caught in the web of chaos post-disaster. Throughout the narrative, powerful themes of love, self-discovery, and the profound influence of historical events on personal lives are skillfully woven together.
Why was Barometer Rising banned in Canada?
In 1960, the novel faced a hurdle in Canada when the Manitoba School Trustees Association unanimously demanded its removal from high school curricula. The trustees expressed concern over perceived indecency and strong language within the book’s pages.
Interestingly, many who advocated for its removal had not personally read the novel. It is a stark reminder of how easily works of literature can be misjudged based on rumours or assumptions alone.
Snow Falling on Cedars
Banned book by David Guterson
Snow Falling on Cedars, a captivating novel that brought David Guterson the esteemed PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1995, transports readers into a murder trial on a quaint island in the Pacific Northwest.
Set in the aftermath of World War II in America, the narrative delves into the intricate lives of its diverse characters. These characters include the jurors, the accused, and the diligent newspaper reporter covering every detail of the case. Enriched with motifs of love, prejudice, and enduring war repercussions, this novel examines the multifaceted nature of human connections. It unravels the enigma of murder.
Why was Snow Falling on Cedars banned in Canada?
In 2006, this celebrated piece of literature encountered hurdles in Canada when the Dufferin-Peel (ON) Catholic District School Board removed it from high school library collections and ceased its use in Grade 11 English classes. The board’s decision derives from an anonymous complaint letter addressing concerns about the novel’s sexual content.
In response to this letter, a committee was assembled. This committee included school trustees, parents, and educators representing primary and secondary library associations and educational advisors. After extensive evaluation, the committee ultimately reinstated Snow Falling on Cedars within school libraries and preserved its place in the Grade 11 English curriculum.
They suggested sending letters to parents of students participating in the course to accommodate concerns expressed earlier. These letters would explain the novel’s significance and acknowledge its sensitive nature. They would advocate thoroughly examining novel selection procedures for educational use in schools.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Banned book by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a timeless American novel by Mark Twain. Situated in the era preceding the Civil War, this captivating story follows young Huck Finn and his companion Jim, a fugitive slave. They traverse the Mississippi River on a makeshift raft.
Throughout their expedition, readers are exposed to themes such as liberty, camaraderie, and the ethical quandaries Huck faces as he wrestles with societal expectations and his moral compass. Through Huck’s eyes, we gain a deeper understanding of racism’s intricacies and the hardships endured by African Americans in those times.
Why was Adventures of Huckleberry Finn banned in Canada?
Even in Canada, disputes and protests surrounding The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have arisen. In 1991, a group of concerned parents within Saint John School District 20 worked to eliminate the novel from suggested reading materials.
The chief concern was racism in character portrayals and dialogue throughout the story. Opponents claim that racial slurs and generalizations in the novel can be both offensive and harmful. This sparks ongoing discussions about its appropriateness for school curricula. This ongoing controversy highlights the delicate balance between acknowledging the book’s historical value and considering its potentially offensive content.
To Kill a Mocking Bird
Banned book by Harper Lee
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is a popular American novel. It delves deep into the heart of racial injustice and moral evolution in the divided South of the 1930s. Narrated by young Scout Finch, who resides in fictional Maycomb, Alabama, this story brings to life the harsh realities of racism, prejudice, and social disparities through her innocent lens.
With Atticus Finch, Scout’s father and conscientious lawyer at the helm, readers are engulfed in Tom Robinson’s tale – a black man wrongly accused of assaulting a white woman. As a testament to human complexity, this powerful narrative drives themes of empathy and justice while still captivating global audiences. It garners immense critical recognition for its unapologetic exploration of significant societal issues.
Why was To Kill a Mocking Bird banned in Canada?
In 1991, a Canadian movement led by PRUDE (Pride of Race, Unity and Dignity through Education) arose from Saint John in New Brunswick. This Afro-Canadian organization took exception to Harper Lee’s interpretation of racial minorities, particularly African Americans.
Urging schools to withdraw To Kill a Mockingbird from their curriculum, PRUDE highlighted perceived negative stereotypes and questioned the novel’s limited view of black experiences. Their efforts to ban this classic generated broader conversations surrounding race representation in literature and readers’ subsequent understanding of these diverse portraits.
And Tango Makes Three
Banned book by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell
And Tango Makes Three is a charming children’s picture book penned by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, featuring illustrations by Henry Cole. The book draws inspiration from the touching story of two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who call New York City’s Central Park Zoo their home.
The close bond between Roy and Silo becomes evident as they exhibit behaviours like a committed pair. As they witness other penguin couples hatching and caring for their young, Roy and Silo’s longing for parenthood intensifies. Their story takes a delightful turn when a compassionate zookeeper provides them with an egg to tend to.
With unwavering commitment and affection, Roy and Silo assume the roles of doting fathers, incubating the egg until it hatches into their lovely baby penguin, Tango. This book exquisitely demonstrates themes of love, acceptance, and the heartwarming non-traditional family that Roy, Silo, and Tango establish.
Why was And Tango Takes Three banned in Canada?
However endearing its message, And Tango Makes Three has encountered opposition in various locations, including Canada. The book’s critiques generally stem from religious perspectives, with specific individuals and groups expressing concern over its portrayal of same-sex parenting. They maintain that illustrating a same-sex penguin couple raising a chick contradicts their beliefs and values.
One parent’s grievance in the Calgary Catholic School District in Canada prompted the Religious Education Department’s central office to review the book. Ultimately, the library removed it from its collection due to these objections. This incident underscores the ongoing discourse regarding LGBTQ+ themes’ representation in children’s literature. It also highlights the challenges authors face in advocating diversity and inclusion in storytelling.
The Golden Compass
Banned book by Phillip Pullman
The Golden Compass, penned by British wordsmith Philip Pullman, marks the debut of His Dark Materials. Set in a world parallel to ours, the novel delves into the escapades of Lyra Belacqua, a spirited young girl who sails toward the Arctic to save her abducted friend. Through her journey, she unravels an enigmatic scheme surrounding an extraordinary particle called Dust.
The book expertly delves into intricate themes such as consciousness, determinism, and the entanglement of science and spirituality. It crafts a story rich in enchantment and profundity.
Why was The Golden Compass banned in Canada?
In 2007, Ontario’s Halton Catholic District School Board banned Philip Pullman’s trilogy – including “The Golden Compass” – from its scholastic sanctuaries. The crux of this decision was born out of concerns regarding prominent “atheist” undertones laced throughout Pullman’s literary creations.
Consequently, this prohibition ignited fervent discourse on literature’s indispensable role in exposing minds to diverse beliefs and worldviews. Although this ban impacted access to Pullman’s masterpiece in specific academic institutions, it simultaneously fueled essential dialogue surrounding censorship.
Such Is My Beloved
Banned book by Morley Callaghan
Such Is My Beloved, by esteemed Canadian author Morley Callaghan, unfolds in the early 1900s in Toronto. At its heart are two women, Annie and Francie, grappling with poverty and despair.
Driven to the edges of survival, they resort to prostitution and confront the brutal consequences of their choices. This literary work explores the complex tapestry of love, sacrifice, and moral quandaries that colour their quest for a better life.
Why was Such Is My Beloved banned in Canada?
In 1972, a storm of controversy arose in Canada when a pair of Christian ministers attempted to banish the novel from an Ontario high school. Their grievances were rooted in the book’s portrayal of prostitution and what they considered “strong language.”
This contentious episode underscores the delicate balance between addressing challenging societal issues through literature. It also underlines the inclination for some to limit access due to potentially objectionable content.
Banned book by Stephen King
Different Seasons encompasses four distinct novellas penned by Stephen King. Contrary to his widely recognized horror works, this assemblage highlights King’s adaptability by presenting tales steeped in various genres, such as drama, crime, and coming-of-age. King’s remarkable storytelling ability radiates through this compilation.
Each story in the anthology unveils a singular narrative: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption chronicles the life of an unjustly imprisoned man; Apt Pupil delves into the chilling bond between a youth and an aged Nazi war criminal; The Body portrays a band of friends embarking on a path to self-discovery; and The Breathing Method spins a mysterious yarn enveloping childbirth.
Why was Different Seasons banned in Canada?
In 1995, Ontario’s Lanark County School Board determined to omit Different Seasons from its roster of endorsed reading materials for senior students at Carleton Place High School. The opposition to the book originated from apprehensions about its language and sensual content.
Several board members who participated in the vote had not read the book. Reacting to this resolution, a Lanark County bookseller joined forces with Stephen King’s publisher to distribute 600 complimentary copies of the book across three distinct communities. Following these events, the school board acknowledged the significance of implementing a consultative procedure involving educators and community members to determine future literary selections.
Banned book by Nick Pron
Lethal Marriage, crafted by a Toronto Star journalist, explores the spine-tingling saga of the infamous Bernardo-Homolka murders. This true crime novel delves deep into the terrifying deeds perpetrated by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, a notorious Canadian criminal duo.
As the narrative unfolds, it reveals the shocking details of their nefarious acts – from abductions and sexual assaults to gruesome killings that left the country reeling. The book offers a thorough and hair-raising glimpse into the sinister happenings surrounding these heinous incidents.
Why was Lethal Marriage banned in Canada?
Lethal Marriage encountered hurdles in Canada, specifically at the St. Catharines (ON) Public Library. The library board opted to withdraw the book from its collection following objections raised by community members. Detractors maintained that the book was riddled with inaccuracies, prompting visits from the police morality unit and a victim’s mother.
These apprehensions fueled the notion that retaining the book in the library could be too distressing for residents. Consequently, this controversial work remained absent from St. Catharines public libraries, mirroring its contents’ delicate and contentious nature.
Banned book by Sylvie Rancourt
Melody, an illustrated autobiography by Sylvie Rancourt, delves into an exotic dancer’s life and experiences. This graphic novel provides readers an exclusive glimpse into adult entertainment through its author’s lens.
Melody offers a personal narrative that combines storytelling with visual artistry. While the book provides an autobiographical account of the author’s life and dance career, it has been surrounded by controversy and faced challenges in Canada.
Why was Melody banned in Canada?
In 1990, despite the author receiving a grant from the Quebec Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Melody came under scrutiny and condemnation. Family Circle magazine labelled it “pornography” presented in cartoon form. This characterization triggered legal action when a mother in Toronto complained to the police after recognizing the book’s cover in a comic store.
Subsequently, four store employees were charged with “possession and sale of obscene material.” The Toronto Morality Squad also conducted raids on other comic stores, resulting in the seizure of several magazines, including Melody. Despite some stores displaying signs indicating that “adult” titles would not be sold to minors, the police pursued charges of possession and sale of obscene materials.
Women on Top
Banned book by Nancy Friday
Women on Top, penned by Nancy Friday and unveiled in 1991, delves into women’s private and candid sexual dreams. The book gathers insights from interviews with women who openly share their fantasies and yearnings.
The primary grievance against Women on Top revolved around its pornography classification due to its graphic portrayals of women’s sexual daydreams. Even though it was published in 1991, charges against the book never materialized.
Why was Women on Top banned in Canada?
In 1997, controversy stirred in Canada as Winnipeg police stormed into city libraries, demanding an immediate removal of the book or legal consequences. This aggressive stance originated from guidance from the Crown attorney’s office, which acted upon an anonymous tip received during a radio call-in programme.
Additionally, the police released their plan to prosecute book distributors, including local bookstores. Concurrently, RCMP officers in British Columbia embarked on missions to raid three libraries for the book.
Within a week of this initial uproar, the Manitoba Crown Attorney’s office rescinded their stance, deeming successful prosecution improbable. Civil rights groups and the B.C. Library Association in British Columbia opposed the RCMP’s heavy-handed approach to librarians.
The Boys: Volume Five: Herogasm
Banned book by Garth Ennis
The Boys: Volume Five: Herogasm, penned by Garth Ennis, dives into the gripping world of graphic novels, exposing the darker and contentious side of the superhero genre. This series adopts a satirical and unpolished stance in a realm where superheroes roam. It unveils the debauchery and depravity lurking within the superhero sphere.
Herogasm, the captivating fifth volume, delves into the secretive yearly event where superheroes indulge in decadent and salacious acts hidden from society’s view. The tale reveals the indulgences and excesses of these so-called heroes, prompting readers to question conventional concepts of heroism and morals.
Why was The Boys: Herogasm banned in Canada?
Although adored by graphic novel enthusiasts, The Boys: Volume Five: Herogasm encountered opposition and prohibition in Canada, particularly in Surrey, British Columbia, in 2010. Disputes against the book arise from concerns regarding sexism and explicit sexual depiction.
An employee at a Surrey public library postulated that the book breached community values, ultimately resulting in its removal from the library’s collection. This intriguing event underscores the enduring discourse surrounding censorship in comics and graphic novels.