BAKAN, Joel (1959- )




Author Tags: Business, Essentials 2010, Film, Law

Joel Bakan is the 2013 recipient of the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature. He was selected for his critical exposé Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children (Penguin / Free Press 2011).

The other finalists for the prize, sponsored by Okanagan College and B.C. BookWorld, were Michael Christie's short stories focussed on Vancouver Downtown Lower East Side neighborhood, The Beggar's Garden, and Howard White's labour history of unionist Bill White (no relation) A Hard Man To Beat.

In Childhood Under Seige, Bakan reveals the callous and widespread exploitation of children by profit-seeking corporations and society's failure to protect them. The book painstakingly shows and analyses how corporations pump billions of dollars into rendering parents and governments powerless to shield children from a commercial assault designed to exploit their unique needs and vulnerabilities.

Bakan was moved to write this book when he began asking questions as a parent of two young children, now teenagers.

“The animating idea behind my book was inspired in part by Nelson Mandela who once said that the keenest revelation of the soul of a society is the way it treats its children,” he says. “My hope is that this book not only illuminates the issues about childhood today, but holds up a mirror to ourselves as a society – a first step for understanding how we can do better.”

Childhood Under Siege is Bakan's second controversial release in a row. Perhaps no book by a British Columbian has stirred as much critical debate as his hard-hitting bestseller The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (2004), the print version of a feature film that won the top documentary award at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival.

Having co-developed the notion of a program that traces the origins and history of corporations with filmmaker Tom Shandel, Joel Bakan and his creative partner Mark Achbar, one of the makers of Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, attended the Banff Television Festival in 1999, ostensibly as reporters for B.C. BookWorld, so they could pitch their project.

“Achbar and I brought a 25-page treatment document to Banff, a model of concision,” Bakan recalls. “Few wanted to read it. ‘Get it down to two pages,’ was the straight-faced advice from one Canadian broadcaster heavy. That seemed generous compared to the high-brow BBC, which wanted only one page. Television people want to hear you, not read you.” Miraculously, the film appeared in a timely fashion—boosted by a publishing contract with Penguin Books.

The Corporation was partially sparked by the anti-APEC protests at UBC in 1997, during which Bakan looked out his office window, grabbed his library card—to identify himself as a professor—and took his copy of the Constitution of Canada with him to monitor the Sgt. Pepper Spray demonstrations. It proved to be a memorable day. The mounting frustration of demonstrators as they tried to scale a fence made a strong impression on Bakan: Canadians who were protesting the presence of dictators in their own country were portrayed on the evening news as anti-social elements. Bakan and Mark Achbar roamed the UBC campus with Achbar shooting proceedings with his video camera. That day became a turning point in their efforts to make The Corporation.

“Most students in the mid-1990s were building investment portfolios, not social movements,” writes Bakan in The Corporation. “Yet here they were, thousands of them, braving pepper spray and police batons to fight for ideals. Even more unusual, the students were protesting against corporations—against their destruction of the environment, exploitation of workers and abuses of human rights.”

Anti-globalization protests followed in Seattle, Prague and Geneva. Wall Street scandals—at Enron, WorldCom and Tyco—confirmed suspicions that large corporations were often corrupt and largely out of control. “There’s a sense out there today that because corporations can be socially responsible,” says Bakan, “they can regulate themselves, and we no longer need regulation from the government in the form of laws. There’s a real pairing of deregulation on the one hand and the appearance of social responsibility on the other, and that’s the point to which I object. It’s fine if CEO guys and gals want to be decent, but corporate benevolence is not a replacement for legal standards that constrain what corporations can and should do.” Or, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, “it is better to ask why we have tyranny than whether it can be benevolent.”

Born on May 13, 1959 in Michigan, Joel Bakan arrived in Canada in 1971. He studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and served as Law Clark to the Supreme Court of Canada for Chief Justice Brian Dickson in 1985. He became Associate Professor for the faculty of Law at UBC in 1990 and teaches constitutional law and theory. He has won the Faculty of Law’s Teaching Excellence Award and a UBC Killam Research Prize.

Bakan also wrote Just Words: Constitutional Rights and Social Wrongs (University of Toronto Press, 1997) and edited Social Justice and the Constitution: Perspectives on a Social Union for Canada (Carleton University Press, 1992). In Just Words, Bakan argues that the Canadian Charter of Rights has failed to promote social justice and may even impede it.

BOOKS:

Social Justice and the Constitution: Perspectives on a Social Union for Canada (Carleton University Press, 1992). Editor.

Just Words: Constitutional Rights and Social Wrongs (University of Toronto Press, 1997)

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (Toronto: Viking 2004).

Childhood Under Siege (Penguin 2011--subsequently Canada/Penguin; US/Free Press, Simon and Schuster; UK/The Bodley Head, Random House)

[BCBW 2013]

Pitching 'The Corporation' in Banff
Article



In 1999, Joel Bakan attended the Banff Television Festival with Mark Achbar, one of the makers of Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, to propose a new documentary series about the history and nature of large corporations. From his perspective as a neophyte in Television Land, here is Joel Bakan’s report on pitching The Corporation to television executives from around the world.

--------------Pitching 'The Corporation' in Banff----------------

Pitching The Corporation often seemed futile. After two days and a dozen pitches, I felt like Sanchos, with Achbar playing Don Quixote, tilting at satellite dishes. During each pitch we had to convince a distracted and over-booked broadcaster representative that our show was more exciting than all the others she or he had been pitched about. The problem for me, an academic non-fiction writer, was that most television people don’t get turned on by ideas and analysis. Even the documentary side of television often seemed to be driven by entertainment concerns, with ideas taking a back seat or having to stand in the aisle. “That sounds like a great book idea”, was a typical response. “But who are the characters? What are the stories? Where’s the drama?” I quickly learned to adjust the pitch, trotting out interesting stories and characters first, and then, slipping in an idea, an analysis, maybe even a statistic, as though it was an afterthought . The academic in me bristled. But this was showbiz.

Some television people seemed almost hostile to thought. Accepting his award for Ally McBeal, David E. Kelly told the adoring crowd how unfair it was that people criticized him for the show’s portrayal of women. “It’s just a story about a woman”, he complained, “it’s not meant to say anything about what women are or should be”. Semioticians be damned! During this event I saw the back of Michelle Pfeiffer’s head. In one session a big wig American producer snorted that the key-note address of the Festival, a graceful and constructive critique of television delivered by Mark Kingwell—-Canada’s hippest intellectual—-reminded him again why he abhorred intellectual analyses of TV. Such anti-intellectualism is a strong voice in TV land, but not the only one. Some pitch sessions—-such as ours with TV Ontario, the National Film Board, Vision TV and BBC, to name a few—-were thoroughly engaging. In them I met TV people who were deep thinkers, and more intellectual fun than most of my academic colleagues. Perhaps the greatest frustration for me as a writer in TV land was the apparent irrelevance of writing—-at least when pitching. Achbar and I brought a twenty-five page treatment document to Banff, a model of concision. Few wanted to read it. “Get it down to two pages”, was the straight-faced advice from one Canadian broadcaster heavy. That seemed generous compared to the high-brow BBC, which wanted only one page. Television people want to hear you, not read you.

There was a certain irony in pitching The Corporation at Banff. Banff, after all, is hyper-corporate. Corporate logos, corporate sponsorships, corporate people were all over the place. At one event, Michael MacMillan, head of Atlantis Alliance Inc., was treated like some kind of demi-god, escorted to the stage by four Mounties (their appearance licensed by corporate rival, Disney) and a piper, to receive an award. Many of the people I spoke with seemed concerned about television’s increasing corporatization. Partly to blame, according to some of them, is the Canadian funding structure. Outside of the slashed and burned CBC, private sector corporations, driven primarily by their—-and their advertisers’—-bottom-lines, decide what we see on TV, and make lots of money for showing it. Public agencies subsidize the system by providing taxpayer cash, and the use of the publicly-owned air waves. To take one example of the absurdity of this system, Atlantis Alliance, touted as a Canadian private-sector success story, and the eleventh largest production house in the world after Time Warner, felt compelled to kill Justice, its flagship show for next season, when public money from Telefilm Canada did not materialize.

Despite its dependence on public subsidies, Canada’s TV industry, along with the rest of the corporate media, gripes constantly about government’s overbearing presence. Saltspring denizen Mort Ransen, who made the critically acclaimed film Margaret’s Museum, told me a chilling tale about his own experience with the media’s bias against anything public. Ransen got his start in film at the National Film Board, but eventually left to make his own films. After his departure from the NFB, a reporter asked him what it had been like working there. He spoke briefly of some of the frustrations, but then went on at length about what a great institution it was. The resulting story - Ransen Criticizes the NFB. Twenty years later Ransen was again asked about the NFB, this time by a reporter from a major Canadian newspaper. He told the reporter about his previous experience, and said he did not again want to be misrepresented. The reporter told him point blank that if he were to write anything positive about the NFB, or any other public agency, it would not get printed. And if he persisted in such writing, he would be fired.

But its not all gloom and doom in television land. The independent television artists I met are reason for a cautious optimism about television’s future. These mainly young writers, directors and producers are creative and tenacious, intensely committed to making challenging and edgy TV. Despite all its warts, television is pretty tempting. When I finally got him to stop schmoozing and sit down, Vancouver’s own Mark Leiren-Young (now living in Toronto) summed up television’s lure: “Television is incredible fun—it combines the adrenaline of journalism with theatre, and it’s mindboggling to think of the audiences you can reach.” But, he added, you can’t be just a writer in television land. “Frustrating as it may be, if you want to write your own stuff, you have to declare yourself a ‘writer-producer’.”

Some great projects were being pitched at Banff by BC filmmakers—a vegan docu-comedy cooking show, a historical documentary about a Chinese leper colony on one of the Gulf Islands, a humorous magazine show dealing with social issues and a sit-com about temp work. The team responsible for this latter one wore hard-hats to their pitch sessions as “protection from falling interest” and cordoned off their sessions with yellow emergency tape. Even I-—a mere tourist in TV land—-was tempted to stay at Banff. I was transfixed by one session, titled “Two in a Room”, a cross between the one-day novel writing contest and Wheel of Fortune. Two executives, each representing a different broadcaster, one Canadian, one foreign, sit on a stage and negotiate criteria for an international co-production in front of 500 people. Once the criteria are set, audience members are given two days to write up and submit proposals. The winning proposal gets a $10,000 development deal and a shot at having the show produced. After much drama and suspense, the two executives agreed the show should be about music, related to youth, entertaining, interesting and highly visual. My idea was Hoof Dreams, a documentary about the resurgence of tap dancing among African-American Youth. I think I could have smoked the winning idea, Piano Lessons, a film about the relationship of pianists to their pianos, but I never got around to writing up my proposal. I was too busy pitching.
[Joel Bakan / BCBW Autumn 1999]


The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (Penguin $37.00)
Interview



During anti-APEC protests at UBC in 1997, a young law pro-fessor named Joel Bakan looked out his office window, grabbed his library card—to identify himself as a professor—and took his copy of the Constitution of Canada with him to monitor the Sgt. Pepper Spray demonstrations.

It proved to be a memorable day. The RCMP defined where protestors could respond. It was automatically impossible for leaders of China and Indonesia to witness the protestors, and vice versa. The mounting frustration of demonstrators as they tried to scale a fence made a strong impression on Bakan. Canadians protesting the presence of dictators in their own country were portrayed on the evening news as anti-social elements.

Having just begun to develop a film project with Tom Shandel and Mark Achbar, maker of Manufacturing Consent with Noam Chomsky, Bakan and Achbar roamed the campus with Achbar shooting proceedings with his video camera. That day became a turning point in their efforts to make The Corporation, the controversial documentary that has won the top documentary award at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival.

“Most students in mid-1990s North America were building investment portfolios, not social movements,” writes Bakan in The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (Penguin $37.00). “Yet here they were, thousands of them, braving pepper spray and police batons to fight for ideals. Even more unusual, the students were protesting against corporations—against their destruction of the environment, exploitation of workers, and abuses of human rights.”

In the wake of that APEC demonstration at UBC, anti-globalization protests followed in Seattle, Prague and Geneva. Then Wall Street scandals—at Enron, WorldCom and Tyco—confirmed suspicions that large corporations were often corrupt and largely out of control.

Bakan and Achbar, later joined by Jennifer Abbot, proceeded to gather interviews with CEOs, activists and philosophers—including Noam Chomksy and Michael Moore. They canvassed opinions across the corporate divide, from the likes of Michael Walker, head of the arch-conservative Fraser Institute, to Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman; from Oscar Olivera, who organized people’s protests to water privatization in Bolivia, to Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, the world’s largest carpet manufacturer.

Now the film version of The Corporation has played to sold-out audiences across Canada. It won audience awards at the Vancouver, Toronto and Sundance festivals, along with the Joris Ivens Special Jury award at Amsterdam—the most prestigious documentary film festival in the world. It opens in U.S. and U.K. theatres in June.

Whereas Bakan’s first book called Just Words: Constitutional Rights and Social Wrongs was an academic work about the protection of free speech under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, The Corporation is intended to be more provocative. As in the film, corporations are compared to Frankenstein, sharks and psychopaths.

To grab attention, Bakan has incorporated the work of Dr. Robert Hare, an expert on psychopathy, whose checklist to identify psychopathic behaviour is used around the world. By referencing that list, Bakan and Achbar have determined corporations are, by their nature, essentially psychopathic. They allege that corporations often exhibit a callous unconcern for the feelings of others, they lack the capacity to maintain enduring relationships, they often show a reckless disregard for the safety of others, they can be deceitful through repeated lying and conning others for profit, and they rarely have the capacity for guilt.

Bakan contends the legal structure of the corporation is to blame for bad behaviour in the corporate world. That is, when a business chooses to ‘incorporate,’ the people running the show get a benefit called ‘limited liability.’ It means a director of a corporation can’t get sued for wrongs committed on the job, so long as they’re done in the ‘best interests of the corporation.’ Those interests are defined, quite simply, as making profits for shareholders.

Bakan showcases the anti-social record of General Electric, a corporation with repeated environmental violations and hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. But even more telling is the example of Henry Ford. In 1916 the car-maker learned an important lesson. He had decided to return some of his company’s handsome profits to his workers, with the idea that they could use their higher wages to buy a Ford motorcar along with more wealthy Americans. Ford’s major shareholders, John and Horace Dodge, took Ford to court for this socialist concept and Ford was summarily rebuked by the judge for forgetting that a corporation could not be run “for the merely incidental benefit of shareholders and for the primary purpose of benefiting others.”

This case is still taught as an introduction to corporate law: students learn that it’s illegal for a corporation to do anything but make money for shareholders. Hence causing environmental damage or violating workers’ rights, can be justified in the interests of capitalism as a necessary part of doing business, particularly when profits can outweigh the costs of defending a lawsuit or paying a clean-up fine.

These days sophisticated marketing departments understand that people are disenchanted by companies that destroy the environment and exploit child-workers. The resultant new phenomenon of the socially responsible corporation is central to Bakan’s scrutiny. The likes of Kathie Lee Gifford and Puff Daddy have recently scrambled to press conferences to denounce their involvement with foreign sweatshops. Shell Oil currently has a series of television commercials portraying employees who look more like foreign aid workers than oil executives. The message about these bright and compassionate people is clear: “they don’t fight the oil company, they are the oil company.”

“There’s a sense out there today that because corporations can be socially responsible,” says Bakan, “they can regulate themselves, and we no longer need regulation from the government in the form of laws. There’s a real pairing of deregulation on the one hand and the appearance of social responsibility on the other, and that’s the point to which I object. It’s fine if CEO guys and gals want to be decent, but corporate benevolence is not a replacement for legal standards that constrain what corporations can and should do.”
Or, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, “it is better to ask why we have tyranny than whether it can be benevolent.”

The Enron scandal shows what can happen when legal standards are eroded. In Bakan’s book, the Enron story isn’t just about worthless stock and lost pensions. Bakan traces how Enron began as a pipeline company, but soon moved into the more lucrative energy trade business. In the 1990s, Enron officials led by former CEO Kenneth Lay focused on political lobbying efforts to deregulate the trading of energy futures. Bakan describes a remarkable process of political fumbles as Enron succeeded in getting rid of government supervision of its business, by way of the Commodity Future Modernization Act. Once that law was passed, Enron used its newfound freedom to begin manipulating the California energy market.

Over the next six months, there were 38 blackouts in California. “The company helped manufacture an artificial energy shortage that drove the price of electricity, and consequently its profits, sky high,” says Bakan. Ultimately on December 7, 2000, millions of Californians were suddenly without power. California residents had to pay outrageous power bills for what power they could get. In June, 19, 2001 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission finally responded by imposing price controls on California’s energy market. Enron was caught by surprise, left with billions of dollars of contracts worth way less than what they had paid. Enron filed for bankruptcy four months later.

Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, points out that modern-day activists protest in front of Nike Town instead of Parliament. Bakan maintains it’s time to return to government, and that the answer lies in changing the laws that regulate corporations. He cites Franklin D. Roosevelt’s depression-era New Deal as the first package of regulatory reforms aimed at “curbing the powers and freedoms of corporations.” That era came to an end with Ronald Reagan, and for the next 20 years the mantra of privatization and deregulation took over.
Since then, corporations have been vying with government to take over public services. Claims for greater ‘efficiency’ abound, but the privatization of essential public services is riddled with problems. Bakan looks at the example of Edison Schools, a U.S. business with 133 schools under its control. When Edison’s stock price fell it cut back on staff – 600 students in each school would make up for it with one hour of office work per day. When its Philadelphia schools weren’t making enough money, the company sold off textbooks, computers, supplies and musical instruments.

Michael Walker of the Fraser Institute has advocated for more private control of the planet and its resources on the theory that when you own something you take better care of it. “What about when the most profitable way to exercise your ownership might be to exploit your property?” Bakan asks. “Or when taking care of the things you own means causing harm to those around you?”

The guy who carried a copy of the Constitution of Canada into a public demonstration is not a radical Bakan is a former Rhodes Scholar and law clerk to Chief Justice Brian Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada. He doesn’t advocate the destruction of the corporate structure, nor does he seek to vilify the business men and women who spend their working lives in the service of a profit-seeking enterprise. His work simply sheds light on the motives of corporations, in order to instigate public awareness about the need for regulated industries.

But the huge success of The Corporation – a three-hour documentary that has sold far more tickets than most Canadian movies – has put Bakan and Achbar into the spotlight, and spotlight has brought them some heat. The Vancouver Sun’s Katherine Monk was among those who criticized Bakan and Achbar for their acceptance speech at Sundance, a speech in which they noted moviegoers had voted for their film on a Coca-Cola-sponsored ballot. They thanked Coca-Cola, sponsors of their prize, for a taste of the future, when corporations sponsor everything including elections.

Bakan thought the crowd at Sundance appreciated the irony of the situation and they “took it in the spirit in which it was given, a bit of light-hearted ribbing from a couple of filmmakers who were standing there receiving an award for a film called The Corporation which was critical of the corporation in a context that was totally overwhelmed by corporate sponsors.”

But some commentators have accused Bakan and Achbar of impudence. Such a response reaffirms to Bakan a major treatise in their film, and his book—soon to be published in the U.S. and beyond. When corporations show their benevolent side, critical voices are expected to fall silent. 0-670-88976-8

--by Lisa Kerr

[BCBW Summer 2004]


Childhood Under Siege
Publicity Materials (2013)



Focusing on the United States in particular, Bakan demonstrates in Childhood Under Siege how:

Marketers target children with increasingly devious methods to manipulate their vulnerable emotions, cultivate compulsive behavior, and addle their psyches with violence, sex, and obsessive consumerism.

More and more children take dangerous psychotropic drugs as pharmaceutical companies commandeer medical science and deploy dubious and often illegal marketing tactics to boost sales.

Children's chronic health problems are rising dramatically as corporations dump thousands of new chemicals, in increasing amounts, into the environment, usually with the blessings of industry-influenced governments.

Children as young as six are working illegally on farms, getting injured, becoming ill, and dying on the job, while the legal age for farm work remains a shockingly low 12 years old in the U.S.

America's schools are becoming private-sector markets for profit-seeking companies, harnessing education to the needs of industry and promoting increasingly regimented and standardized learning.

PRAISE

"Joel Bakan’s powerful, well-documented polemic is just what we need to hear right now, if we are to even begin to reverse the toxic consumerist legacy we are bequeathing to future generations."
Literary Review of Canada

"The information in Bakan's book is...stunning....The book sounds alarms about issues that go under most parents' radar."
USA Today

"Childhood Under Siege" is an essential read for anyone who works for or cares about children because we simply can't advocate for and teach them effectively if we don't know what we are up against. As a mother and a teacher, it was sometimes overwhelming to read this book, but for my own work and parenting I forced myself to keep going. At times it was deeply frightening--and I do media literacy training as part of my work. It's very simple: If you want to be relevant in a child's life, you need to read this book."
Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabees

"Childhood Under Siege" outlines the powerful strategies at play in the corporate war against children.
This engaging, carefully researched and important book is a call to action to those who believe we have a responsibility to protect all our children with our laws and public policies as well as our hearts."
Mary Pipher, author of The Shelter of Each Other and Seeking Peace

"The assault on childhood in our corporate-dominated and profit-driven society, painfully dissected in this penetrating study, is a tragedy not only for the immediate victims but for hopes for a better future. It can be resisted, as Joel Bakan discusses. And it is urgent not to delay."
Noam Chomsky

"Our new century of unlimited private profits has put an end to the era of publicly protected childhood. Separated by corporate design from their parents, kids have become capitalism's newest, most lucrative, consumers. Joel Bakan offers an angry but careful analysis of how the market flourishes today by selling our children everything from dangerous drugs, toxic plastics and unhealthy snack foods to violent and addictive video games and for-profit standardized tests. If they read Bakan carefully, once they get over their rage, both parents and policy makers may be ready to lift the corporate siege that is threatening not just our children but childhood itself."
Benjamin R. Barber, author of Consumed: How Markets Infantilize Adults, Corrupt Children and Swallow Citizens Whole

"Childhood Under Siege" is a compelling call to arms in the covert war for our children's minds, health, and future. Joel Bakan empowers us all to stop lamenting the destruction of childhood and do something to rescue it."
Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., Educational Psychologist and author of Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems

To be a child today, even in affluent countries like ours, is no longer a time of innocence, idyll and discovery, as Bakan reveals in "Childhood Under Siege". Most children today grow up on a planet in which billions of tons of toxic chemicals have been poured into the air, water and soil; in a big city where the opportunity to encounter nature has been replaced by concrete, fast cars, video games and shopping malls; in a world in which childhood represents a marketing challenge and opportunity. Read this important book and then start working for change."
David Suzuki, Co-Founder, The David Suzuki Foundation

In "Childhood Under Siege", Joel Bakan documents and depicts a modern disaster-in-the-making as ominous as our society's assault on the natural environment: the social and economic destruction of the conditions for healthy childhood. An eloquent and prophetic work we need most urgently to heed.
Gabor Maté M.D., author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

Bakan offers passionate argument and copious research in this compelling call for parents to stand up for their children.
Vanessa Bush, Booklist, starred review

Childhood Under Siege wins 2013 George Ryga Award
Press Release (2013)



Joel Bakan, author of Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Your Children, is the winner of the ninth annual George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature, sponsored by Okanagan College and BC Bookworld.

The award was announced at the Word Ruckus event, which took place Saturday at the Laurel Packinghouse in Kelowna.

“The aim of the George Ryga Award is to acknowledge B.C. authors whose books shed light on important social issues and urge us to take action,” said Okanagan College English and Women’s Studies Professor Norah Bowman-Broz, who organizes the award.

“Bakan’s book helps the reader understand how much businesses – like the pharmaceutical industry, multimedia organizations, and manufactured food companies – have gained access to our children’s bodies and minds, and reminds us of the responsibility we have to our children today.”

Childhood Under Siege, published by Penguin Canada and now available in both the U.S. and the U.K, was one of more than 50 entries in the competition.

“I am honoured and humbled to be receiving this award, especially because of my admiration for George Ryga and his remarkable ability to deliver powerful messages about social justice through art and literature,” Bakan said.

Bakan appeared in Kelowna on April 8 to hold a reading and discuss his book at the Bohemian Café.