Desmond Cole awarded 2017 PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize for freedom of expression

Toronto journalist Desmond Cole has written extensively about racial discrimination and injustice in Canada.
Activist Desmond Cole writes frequently about issues faced by marginalized communities and is a prominent critic of carding by Toronto police. (Martin Trainor/CBC News)

Toronto journalist Desmond Cole has won the 2017 PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize, a $1,000 award that honours those "whose work has advanced freedom of expression in Canada."

Cole has written extensively on racial injustice in Canada throughout his career. His award-winning 2015 article The Skin I'm In: I've been interrogated by police more than 50 times — all because I'm blackpublished by Toronto Life, ignited a nation-wide conversation on the practice of police carding.

Cole has become a sought-out voice on issues faced by marginalized communities. In April 2017, he was removed from a Toronto police board meeting for protesting how the police board was handling the case of Dafonte Miller.

"I'm honoured to accept the 2017 PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize for freedom of expression," said Cole on Twitter.

"I dedicate this honour to Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island who continue to face government surveillance and violence for protecting this land."

Cole will receive the prize in February at an event for Freedom to Read Week at the Toronto Public Library. He is currently writing his first book, which will reflect on the experiences of Black Canadians.

"Too often, Canada defines itself by looking out the window at its neighbour instead of looking in the mirror," said Cole in a news release. "We have to deal with our reflection, however uncomfortable that might be. I'm so honoured to receive this award."


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