Toronto journalist and activist Desmond Cole has won the 2017 PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize. The $1,000 annual award is presented to “an individual or group whose work has advanced freedom of expression in Canada.”
At an April 2017 Toronto Police Services Board meeting Cole protested against the practice of police carding, which resulted in his departure from the Toronto Star after being told that his activism was not aligned with his role as a columnist.
In a press release, PEN Canada Canadian issues committee chair Carmen Cheung says, “PEN Canada understands that exercising the right to free expression often comes at personal cost. With the Filkow Prize, PEN Canada recognizes Cole’s integrity in putting aside personal interests to speak out about racial injustice in Canada.”
The prize is named in memory of Winnipeg lawyer Kenneth A. Filkow, former chair of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, and an active member of PEN’s Canadian issues committee. Cole will receive the prize in February during Freedom to Read Week at the Toronto Public Library.