Friday, April 18, 2008

Response Re: Censoring Canadian Filmmakers

So, in follow-up to a previous post, I did indeed receive a prompt response to my letter to my MP. While it is clearly a form letter, I am heartened that concern for this subject is wide enough to merit the creation of a form letter. :-) Hooray, democracy!

Here is the response, for those interested. Thanks, Mr. Dewar!

Dear Karla,

Thank you for sharing your concerns with me about Bill C-10 (An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, including amendments in relation to foreign investment entities and non-resident trusts). Be assured my NDP colleagues I agree with you that the bill creates serious issues for the freedom of Canadian artistic expression and should be opposed.

My colleagues and I are very concerned about reports that a section of Bill C-10 may be used by the government to censor film and video production in Canada that it finds offensive. This section would enable the Minister of Canadian Heritage to establish guidelines for the issuance of a Canadian film or video production certificate. These certificates make the producers of the film eligible for important tax credits.

The provision was buried in Bill C-10 which is legislation primarily aimed at closing tax loopholes and limiting tax havens. Bill C-10 was approved by all parties in the House of Commons in October and is currently before a committee of the Senate.

New Democrats and I believe that it is not the role of the Minister of Canadian Heritage or the government to make subjective judgments about what is appropriate film or video content. In a country as diverse as Canada, we must rigorously protect artistic freedom. Enshrining guidelines that seek to define what is “offensive”, "odious” or “objectionable” are inappropriate. Controversy is often crucial to the creative process. Conservatives may yet again be trying to address a problem that just does not exist, or that is already appropriately addressed by established program parameters and criminal law.

I also do not support statements such as those made at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage by Conservative members this past January. One Conservative MP suggested that Telefilm Canada should be making “films for mainstream society”. Another Conservative suggested that a Telefilm-supported film that “focused more on recreational sexual activity than loving relationships…was not redeeming.” Such personal and subjective reflections should never become part of public policy. However, this appears to be where the provision in Bill C-10 lead.

My NDP colleagues and I are concerned that such guidelines may have a chilling effect on film and television production in Canada and may significantly hinder the telling of Canadian stories and Canadian artistic expression. At its meeting of February 28th, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage decided to pursue this issue. It has requested that the “updated eligibility requirements” and the “standardized and updated list of illegal and other ineligible content” developed by Heritage Canada be tabled by the Government. The Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage has agreed to provide this information to the Standing Committee.

Thank you again for sharing your concerns with me about this important issue. I trust this information will help alleviate some of your concerns regarding Bill C-10.
As I said above, be assured my NDP colleagues and I will continue to fight for the free artistic expression of our Canadian artists and will continue to oppose unfair and unnecessary censorship. I look forward to hearing from you again soon.


Paul Dewar, MP Ottawa Centre

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