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Banned Books and Cooking Classes (Wendy Wright, Smithers Public Library Director and Patricia Kolida, Smithers Multicultural Society).


[Transcript provided below]

 Welcome to C I C K News, the only news source in the North, truly dedicated to local stories on the ground. C I C K news addresses the diverse needs of the underserved communities between Burns Lake and Haida Gwaii through firsthand stories and in-depth interviews. C I C K news funding is made possible by the Community Radio Fund of Canada.

The only organization mandated to financially support campus and community radio stations in Canada, as well as the government of Canada. We are your hosts, Pam Hassen and Dan Messick, and we are on the dial at 93.9 FM Smithers Community Radio. Our call letters are C I C K, and we are broadcasting from the unseated Gitumden territory, home of the Wet'suwet'en Nation.

Follow CIC k News or follow us on Facebook or Instagram at Smithers Community Radio. Today on C I C K News, the Smithers Multicultural Society has begun a workshop series to bring more food culture awareness to the bulky Valley. Patricia Kolida is on the news talking about how to get involved in that.

And first, freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedom. Freedom to Read Week is organized by the book and periodical council. Historically, books and magazines have often been quietly removed from libraries.

Freedom to Read Week was founded in 1984 to challenge the covert nature of censorship, creating a broader awareness of these ongoing challenges to Canadian writing, and to allow Canadians to actively defend their right to publish, read, and write freely, as well as to widen their understanding of the negative effects of censorship Over the years, freedom to Read Week has become a regular feature of the annual programming of schools, libraries, and literacy groups across Canada.

In Canada, freedom to Read week is in February, and it's this week between the 19th and the 24th. Tomorrow is the local culminating event of Freedom to Read Week in Smithers at the Smithers Public Library with the presentation on the history and impact of band books in Canada, as well as a fun trivia night for ALT to join and learn A little Wendy Wright is on the news today to share some of the history and process of banning books and what this infringement in free education means for all reader.

You may have read or seen news stories about Florida's 2022 House Bill 1467, which came into effect on January 1st of this year, which quote requires school districts to be transparent in the selection of instructional materials and library and reading materials. This legislation preserves the rights of parents to make decisions about what materials their children are exposed to in.

The bill continues to state beginning January 1st, 2023. School librarians, media specialists, and other personnel involved in the selection of school district library materials must complete the online training program developed by the Florida Department of Education. Prior to reviewing uns, selecting age appropriate materials and library resources, a memorandum was sent recently to school districts calling for nominations for work group members to help develop this.

Here's a clip from a Jacksonville teacher, Andrea Phillips from C N N, speaking about the effect of pulling these books from her class.

I'm gonna start boxing out my booksand my heart really hurts. A Florida Elementary school teacher says she removed the books from her classroom library to comply with the new state law. I decided to remove the books from my classroom library. Out of necessity. It wasn't really a choice. Our district gave us an initiative, so districts are scrambling to try and keep up with this legislation.

They're already understaffed, underfunded, and it's causing a lot of chaos within the district. So my particular district was, They decided to have teachers remove access to all classroom libraries and media centers until all books could be vetted. Duval County Public Schools has directed teachers to use only approved books while media center and classroom library books are reviewed by a certified media specialist.

Uh, my students were extremely upset and they, you know, the first thing they did, they walked in and they looked to the corner where our little free library is that we keep, and they just said, where are our books at? What did you do with our books? Are you, are you moving the library? What's happening?

School districts across the state are implementing a contentious law Republican governor Ron DeSantis signed last summer. It's all part of his push to legislate what is taught in Florida classrooms, including topics related to race and sexual orientation. HB 1 4 67 calls for quote, curriculum transparency and says all library materials should be free of pornography.

It also requires that books be vetted by. Specialist certified by the state. Video showing empty library shelves went viral, but a devolved district spokesman said it didn't show, quote, the other side of the library fully stocked and open to students. I'm shocked and I'm confused, and there's so much political posturing and there's so much confusion.

I, I truly feel in my heart, like public schools are being set up to. A Dubal spokesman says during the book review period, there should not be a case when a classroom doesn't have any books. And that quote, the list of approved books grows every day. And now here's my conversation with Smithers Public Library Director Wendy Wright.

My name is Wendy Wright and I'm the director of the Smithers Public Library. Okay. Can you tell me what is Freedom to Read Week? Freedom to Read Week is an annual celebration of Canadian. Right to read whatever they want and make up their own minds about it. Mm-hmm. , it's about freely accessing a full range of opinions, perspectives, and being able to really pick and choose what you accept or reject for yourself.

Mm-hmm. . So how did it come about? And then can you also talk a little bit about what's happening on the 20? Sure. So Freedom to Read Week is uh, it's a celebration put together by the book and Periodical Council of Canada. They have a freedom of expression committee and they create some great promotional materials and media buzz around this topic because most people in Canada are surprised to learn that people are still trying to ban.

Books right here in Canada today. Mm-hmm. . And on Friday we're going to, uh, tell you about some of those books in a fun way. We're holding a band book Trivia Night here at the library. And, uh, it'll be a bit like Jeopardy. Mm-hmm.  and come on down and, and, uh, sit down with friends or new friends and have a.

Have refreshments and, and make up a team and try to guess the band books in our, in our quiz game, a lot of people have seen the library as well as Mills stationary displays about band books. So can you tell us about some of the band books in the collection? I mean, without giving away the trivia answers that are gonna be talked about on the 24th or just maybe even some examples of why.

Books have been banned. Sure. Well, the fascinating thing when you're looking at which books have been banned is you can see patterns in the reasons that people challenge books o in different areas of the country and through time. So it's really like looking at a, a picture of what people are afraid of or what people are offended by, and how those values change over time, which is fascinating really.

I mean, You can look at also the difference between smaller centers like Smithers compared to larger ones like Toronto or Vancouver. And the kinds of items that are being challenged Mm are very, very different depending on when and where you're looking at those lists. Mm-hmm. . , can you tell me what's the process of these?

When a book is challenged, what's the process? What happens? Well, we have a form. So if someone comes up and says they don't want a book in a library, or they think a children's book should actually be in the teen or adult section, then we, uh, tell them about, Our policy and, and that they're able to fill out a form explaining the reasons why they feel that way, so that we can, uh, review it critically and thoroughly and come to a decision.

The thing that's changed though is that it used it, it always used to be that a person would read a book. And something would be in it that upset them and they would come back and say, look, this book has this and this in it. I don't think it's a good book. I don't think it should be in the library, or I don't think kids should read it and.

What's changed now is that that still happens, but what's really, really different in the last two years is it's no longer largely people who've read the book. Mm. And it's not a single person, nor is it a single book. What is happening now is that organized groups are passing around lists on the internet of dozens, even hundreds of books depending on the group, and they're passing it to all of the people they know and asking them to unmask demand the removal of massive lists of books and even some of them even say, and any other books by any of these authors without.

Even having read the books, what is so powerful? Band books then, I mean like, you know, we're kind of talking then and now. I understand and I hear how this is very different now that it's more just the idea of a book or the, I guess, insidious or danger of an idea that challenges your principles or values, which is.

Kind of the point of books to bring this information, but, um, what do you think is, is powerful about a book that's been banned in the past that maybe now we call a band book, but is still readily available for people? It's, it's really powerful to me to be able to see what people used to be so afraid of and then compare it to how our culture is shifting now.

Even if there's something. Let's us, even if there's something like, let's say the classic example is Mind Kopf is a very dangerous book. Mm-hmm. , it was used as to justify horrific things, but, and it was banned in Germany after the war. Mm-hmm. . Um, but when we look at it today,  then we're unfortunately sometimes able to look for echoes in the world around us today.

Mm-hmm. , when we look at the headlines, when we look at the news, and it's a cautionary tale for us today. Mm-hmm. , it's, it was much more back then and it means different things to different people, but it's still a very valuable educational document when we. , how, what were the factors that made this horrific thing able to happen?

Mm-hmm.  and this book was a large part of that. Yeah. It was given to newlyweds in Germany during Hitler's rule. So when we look at, uh, books that have really, really disturbing aspects to them mm-hmm. , there can be many positive. Things that come out of studying those books with a critical eye. Mm-hmm. . Now, we did talk about how a book would be, um, challenged locally, but what about something that maybe is more, you know, more than one community or something that's banned, maybe even Canada-wide?

I, I'm not pulling up an example because I'm not sure. So maybe you have an example of that. , how far does that process go? I mean, is it like up to like legislature, but like who actually makes those final decisions to ban a book? What's happening these days? It's people are really, it's really changed. They are, they're working as groups.

They're exerting extreme pressure. Um, they're going to school boards, they're going to town councils.  and all kinds of people who really shouldn't be involved in the decision of whether a library carries a a particular book or not. Mm-hmm.  are stepping in and. Making decisions when they are not trained in librarian information science.

Yeah. They're not trained in literature. Mm-hmm.  and their job is, does not involve, um, com being committed to select materials that represent every facet of the community and opens people's minds to also what is beyond, uh, the community out in the wider world. Mm.  and it's disastrous. So people are showing up, they're, they're organizing through social media and they're showing up at, uh, meetings with huge petitions, right?

They're protesting, they're waving flags and things. Crazy things are happening. One, um, one mayor in Tennessee last year said that he would defund their library unless. Purged it. Mm-hmm.  of all LGBTQ plus materials. Yeah. Um, in. All kinds of places. They're actually hiring security for board meetings. People are showing up armed in the states to public library board meetings, demanding that, uh, mostly LGBTQ plus materials be removed.

And when you look at places like Florida and Texas.

it really starts to sound like some of the dystopian novels that they're banning. . Yeah, , uh, you're exactly right. That is exactly what it sounds like. Um, I was just about to speak about, uh, Florida. What is hb, uh, sorry, HB 1467. Yes. Um, the ban and basically reform in almost just education full stop because Yeah, exactly.

What's the danger of, of this sort of, Gra, you know, this kind of long arm of the law, reaching into places like classrooms where teachers just want to, oh, give their children, you know, books that represent themselves. Books that represent and challenge maybe some of their values that they're being taught, but that schools this place where you can see outside of your, your tiny little worldview.

Mm-hmm.  and kind of what's your response from a librarian, but also as someone who's obviously very passionate about this, it's horrific. It's absolutely. , it's terrifying. Mm-hmm. , it's, I never thought I'd, I'd see this happen because it's, it's not unprecedented. , but I didn't think we'd see it in, we didn't think we'd see it again.

Yeah. You know, not in my lifetime. Mm-hmm. , hopefully not ever. So what's happening is that Florida, um, librarians and teachers are emptying or covering up or blockading access to their bookshelves and libraries. Mm-hmm. . Um, so kids cannot get books. And the reason why is. A few bills that have been passed. So under Florida's house, bill 1467, all school books, including those in classrooms, must be reviews reviewed by district employee who has completed, um, a special online education right program.

Now that, that program was not made available until last month, but.  at the same time. So the law, um, the law was passed on January 1st that you had to have that online training program certification and um, and bill 1467, if you choose to violate that bill, you could be charged with a third degree felony.

Mm-hmm.  because, Bill 1467 stacks on top of a previous law, which is also limiting. Yes, it's limiting cuz it's overly broad, uh, which makes it, uh, a felony to knowingly distribute to a minor on school property, any material that is sexually explicit now.  it. When you're looking at calling something sexually explicit, it really, really depends on who's looking at it.

Mm-hmm. , um, not only who's looking at, at it with a critical eye to making it available, but also which student Yeah. Is looking at it. We don't expect three year olds. Or two year olds to be looking at the same book as a 17 year old. Yeah. But when you're talking about school, you've. Well, I guess it would be four year olds.

Four year olds to 17 year olds. Yeah. Just because a six year old a book is not appropriate for a six year old doesn't mean that a 16 year old can't relate to it. Yeah. Yeah. So the other thing is, and this is also new in Florida, kindergarten to third grade, classroom books must be free of instruction on, so sexual orientation and gender identity.

Now, the length this is being carried to is they're even banning books about things like, uh, crayons. Who wish they were a different color? Oh my God.

And the other thing is whe with all of these laws when it talks about sexual orientation, , of course what it doesn't say, but what is happening and what was the intent very clearly is it's only talking about homosexual orientation. Yeah, of course. Not heterosexual orientation. Right. So what do you think, um, and we'll kind of, you know, localize it back or at least to Canada, but what do you think, um, Canadians can do to fight this type of.

Well, yeah. Like dystopian, dystopian future that is not so in the future. It's very much right now. Yeah. Well, I, I, I guess the first thing is I, I want Canadians to know that freedom of expression is your right. Mm-hmm.  in Canada and it's everyone's right. Even those people you disagree with don't. , try to take it away from them because it can be taken away from you, depending on who's in a decision making, um, position.

Mm-hmm.  at the time. Yeah. So that's why libraries are so committed to intellectual freedom. We're not trying to decide. What's right. We're trying to stand tall and say we will have everything because we don't want one day someone who has a really narrow view of what's right. Yeah. To get everything that they don't think is right out of the library.

Yeah. Right. So freedom of expression.  is, uh, it's enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in section two B of the fundamental freedoms. It that protects freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication. And furthermore, the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19.

everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Mm-hmm. , and that's.  that is what libraries are committed to. We also, uh, believe that it's not our place or with even within our power to try to figure out why someone wants to read a book.

Mm-hmm. . Yeah. You can be reading a book, um, that you and discover you disagree with it, everything in it. You can be reading a book.  because you suspect you disagree with it and you want to find out what the arguments are so you can argue against it. Mm-hmm. , you can read a book because a friend of yours read it and said, it's really good, you should read it.

Mm-hmm.  and. , you might not agree with it, but there are a million reasons for someone to read a book and we don't assume that everyone's just going to unthinkingly immediately believe and act out on whatever is in the book they're reading. Yeah. Um, Wendy, this has been so thoughtful and I really appreciate the time.

Was there anything else that I didn't ask for that you wanted to add to this discussion? To reiterate what I said about having.  having tolerance for other people's point of points of view mm-hmm.  that you disagree with? Um, it's, it's fine to disagree, but for many reasons it's important to still be able to access those points of view and just remember that who's in power?

even in making decisions in a library on what you're going to carry, all of those people who make decisions change all the time. Mm-hmm. . So instead of deciding what's right and trying to tell people that they should only carry what's right mm-hmm.  instead, try to make sure that everyone is included so people can access everything and you can make up your own mind about what's right or wrong.

Thank you so much for speaking with me today. Oh, my pleasure. Thank you.

Hi, my name is Patricia Colita. I'm with the Smithers Multicultural Society here in Smithers, bc. So what's your role with the multicultural society? . I am chair with this society, but I also do a lot of other things like finding fundings, setting up workshops, you name it, I do it. . Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Uh, Jack of all trade sort of thing.

Yeah. Yeah. I've seen you at work. I know that you're doing a little bit of everything. What's the mission of the multicultural society? . So the purpose of our, our mission statement is to bring awareness and bringing people together in our community for increasing multiculturalism. Mm-hmm. . And that's through doing workshops, festivals, different activities and programs.

Mm-hmm. , um,  to bring community more united. Can you tell me about the workshop that the multicultural society just held? The one at the Salvation Army? Yeah. Suman was held on last Wednesday. Um, we made bannock and we had two different types of salmon that she brought. Salmon dip and also homemade huckaberry jam.

She went through a bit of history about zeban and also where she had come from and, and a bit of her family history as well. We had some other guests there. Also told us about their growing up experiences here in Suan territory and how they went to residential school and, and looking forward to connecting again.

Mel Bazo was our traditional storyteller, so he gave a story. Um, there were six of us. We had a lot of fun and it was a hand on experience, so Oh cool. It was great. And we all got to share the food together. Oh, and soap berry ice cream as well. We were about to try. That sounds so good. So what type of workshops are you offering in the future and is there a calendar?

We don't have anything set up as of yet. Mm-hmm. , we are looking for people who would like to host, uh, a cultural cooking workshop. We have four more that we'd like to put on. Mm-hmm. , if they're interested, they can get in. Contact us. We do give you an honor area. The workshops are free for people. Oh, nice. Um,  and we'd like for people to come and connect with us and to share a bit of their history, what the foods mean to them, or if they're served at certain times of year.

Yeah. That type of thing. So that's, we would like to, to promote and Okay. Encourage you. Embrace, share and celebrate your culture. Absolutely. Who is it that, um, you'd want to have attend these workshops? Or is it open to Absolutely everybody? Absolutely everybody. Okay. And where are you holding them?

There'll be two more at the Salvation Army. Mm-hmm.  and then there'll be two at ufo. How can people get involved or find out, do you have social media channels that you'd want people to follow so they can know when the next workshop is? Yes, we are on Facebook. Mm-hmm. , they can also email us at uh, multicultural smithers

Those are two main ways of getting hold of us. And from personal experience, I know that you're fast returning messages on Facebook as well. So Smithy Smithers Multicultural Society on Facebook. Yes. Was there anything that I didn't ask that you want people to know about these workshops or just about the multicultural.

We have a AGM on Friday. If you're interested to see what we're about, please come and attend it. It's gonna be held at U F O at six o'clock. Just come say hi. Mm-hmm. , if you want to, we also have a youth multicultural festival coming up April 29th. If you have youth that would be interested in attending.

Ooh, participating, singing, dance. Telling traditional stories. We'd love to hear from you as well. Awesome. Thank you so much for making the time for me today, Patricia and I thank you as well, . Thanks again for tuning in to C I C K News. If you have any hot tips or news stories you think we should cover, contact us at say c K or follow us on Facebook at C I C K News.

You can also catch our fresh shows each week at skeena strong dot. Or subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. Thanks again to our producer, Pam Hassen and all of our roving reporters. I'm Dan Messick. Thanks for listening.


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