Website address: http://pencanada.ca
Email address for general inquiries: email@example.com
- PEN International was founded in 1921; PEN Canada (one of PEN International’s most active chapters) was founded in 1926 (first in Montreal and in 1983 in Toronto). To date, PEN International is the only worldwide organization of writers, and it now includes 146 chapters on six continents.
- Today, PEN Canada serves many different kinds of writers: in addition to writers of fiction and non-fiction and poets, PEN includes journalists, playwrights, publishers, translators, editors, and screenwriters. Its board is made up almost entirely of writers and is open to all qualified writers, regardless of their nationality, ethnic origin, language, colour or religion.
- In the abstract, PEN Canada’s mission is three-fold: to promote intellectual co-operation and understanding between writers, to establish a worldwide community of writers to assert and affirm literature’s centrality to culture; and to defend literature against any threats to its survival.
- PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within and between all nations and is dedicated to promoting freedom of expression and protecting writers’ rights.
- In practice, PEN Canada helps persecuted writers around the world, assists writers in exile in Canada, monitors issues of censorship everywhere, and promotes literature. PEN Canada works alongside other organizations to defend writers’ freedom of expression as a basic human right, domestically and abroad.
Notable past and current activities:
- Writers in Prison Program: PEN Canada’s Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) has circulated petitions, organized letter-writing campaigns, and undertaken other forms of advocacy on behalf of a number of imprisoned writers across the world for more than 25 years. These days, it monitors hundreds of at-risk bloggers, editors, journalists, playwrights, poets, publishers, screenwriters and translators—focussing on those who have been threatened or harmed for expressing themselves. PEN does not, however, “work on behalf of prisoners who have used or advocated violence or hatred.”
- Writers in Exile Program: This provides not just solidarity but tangible support to writers who have been forced into exile and are now living in Canada. It helps them improve their professional working skills within a community of writers. It offers or connects writers to residencies, fellowships, school visits, and other forms of formal and informal support.
- PEN in the Community: PEN Canada organizes workshops with local schools where they connect writers in refugee with students in order to teach them the importance of freedom of expression
- Ideas in Dialogue literary series: They also organize literary events to discuss issues with members of the literary community (e.g. Junot Diaz’s discussion on “diaspora, globalization” and reaching out past boundaries).
- Emergency Fund for Writers-in-Peril: PEN offers “one-time emergency grants” for transportation, settlement, immigration costs and medical expenses to writers who “find themselves in danger”
- UNFCCC letter: In 2016 PEN Canada wrote a letter to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change after learning that they were not going to allow a journalist from The Rebel Press to cover the Climate Change Conference in Morocco. Due in part to this pressure the UNFCCC changed their mind.
- Canadian Issues Program: PEN Canada’s Canadian Issues Committee focuses on domestic freedom of expression issues with national import. It has fought censorship in more than 70 cases.
Ways in which people can get involved:
- In-office internships at PEN Canada are rare and competitive, however, from time to time, they do seek out event volunteers (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org). They are also currently looking for advocates for their Writers in Prison program (contact: email@example.com), as well as for supporters for its Writers in Exile program; they are looking for volunteers to accompanying refugee writers to their immigration hearings (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org).
- PEN Canada is a registered charity, so it is always looking for donations.
- PEN Canada is always accepting new member writers, who are required to pay a membership fee of $75 annually.
Information compiled by Hannah Grieve and an anonymous contributor.