Magazine article Herizons

Restricted Entry: Censorship on Trial // Review

Magazine article Herizons

Restricted Entry: Censorship on Trial // Review

Article excerpt

BY JANINE FULLER AND STUART BLACKLEY

PRESS GANG

A recent visit to the new giant book store in town (proudly owned and operated by local Winnipeggers) brought home to me just how pervasive the spectre of censorship is in our lives. The store was bustling with people and the shelves seemed to hold an interesting selection of books. That is, until I arrived at the Gay Interest section. There, the shelves were virtually empty. A hand-written sign said: "The cupboard is bare. Sorry. The shipment has been held up at -- where else, customs."

It was, for me, rare though obvious evidence of the impact of censorship on my life. However for others, like the owners of Little Sister's bookstore in Vancouver, censorship has a daily impact on their lives and, indeed, on their livelihood. A gay and lesbian bookstore open since the early 1980s, Little Sister's troubles with Canada Customs began in December 1986 when every imported shipment to the bookstore was stopped at the Canadian border. "Under a regulation called Tariff code 9956, Canada Customs is empowered to block the entry of materials that are 'obscene, hate propaganda, treasonous and seditious' or child pornography." Customs has had this power, which extends to all cross-border shipments, including private mail, since 1847.

Jim Deva and Bruce Smyth, the bookstore owners, began to challenge the detention of their shipments, starting with the massive one in December '86. Within weeks they went public, launching an appeal to the community to help them fight what they considered to be a fundamental infringement of freedom. Teaming up with the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the bookstore ended up taking the federal government to court. …

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