|Censoring Canadian Film
The Canada eZine - Censorship
The Conservative government wants to cut tax refunds for Canadian films "Breakfast with Scot", "Crash", and many others.
Currently, the federal heritage department excludes talk shows, game shows, advertising, corporate videos and pornography from receiving tax credit support. The new bill would also exclude films containing any sexual, violent or homosexual content.
Christians influence Canadian film funding
A conservative Canadian Christian group is taking credit for lobbying the Conservative government to withhold tax credits for films that include sex or violence or anything the Christian group deems offensive.
Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, told reporters films depicting homosexuality, sex or violence should not receive tax credits.
"It's fitting with conservative values, and I think that's why Canadians voted for a Conservative government," he said, although Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a minority government hovering around 32% popularity.
Conservative Member of Parliament Dave Batters said he recently called on the Telefilm Canada funding agency to block money for "objectionable" films. Batters told the newspaper he doesn't support censorship, but he believes controversial and thought-provoking films should be made with private money. "If there's a market for that, let people pay the $11," he said.
Movie directors and actors are crying censorship while at the same time being welcomed by conservative Christians as a much-needed way to get rid of "filth" and "homosexual propaganda".
Canadian director David Cronenberg, whose most recent film was the Oscar-nominated Russian mob thriller "Eastern Promises," called the push an assault on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and blatant censorship for the sake of Christian squeamishness.
The Conservative government's proposal to cancel tax credits for any film or TV program it deems offensive, or not in the public's interest, has stirred controversy in the arts community.
The Canadian Actors group ACTRA says the changes have grave implications for artists and are morally offensive to modern Canadian society.
Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, says the arts community is concerned about who exactly would make the decision as to what would be considered offensive. Waddell wonders if the standards will be based on modern Canadian society or what he calls the "fundamentalist perspective" that has crept up from the United States.
"Does it translate to the Trailer Park Boys, because some of their material might be considered offensive to some?" he asked. "That's the whole issue. What is offensive? What does offensive mean? What is not in the public interest? Who defines that?"
"This smacks of censorship of the worst kind."
The amendment to Bill C-10 would allow the conservative Heritage Minister to cancel tax credits for projects deemed to cross the line. The cancellation could happen even if other government agencies have invested in the questionable production.
"Cultural funding program criteria have always included certain kinds of material such as hate propaganda, excessively violent material or pornography," says Heritage spokeswoman Annette Gibbons.
"It is not our intention to take a dramatically different approach than we have in the past. We don't expect this to apply to a lot of productions . . . I think it will depend case by case," Gibbons said.
Steve Hoban disagrees. The producer of Copperheart Entertainment said the current tax-benefit system works perfectly. Changing it means movie producers and directors would simply move to the United States where they can get tax credits, meaning Canada's film industry will suffer.
"There's nothing broken with this part of the system . . . Is the Canadian taxpayer paying for pornography? No. Are we paying for excessive violence? No. Are we making movies like 'Hostel' that involves taxpayers' money? No."
"There's not a problem that this is solving. But what this is going to do is potentially create a huge problem - much bigger than Canadian Heritage has realized," said Hoban, who produced the film "Ryan" that won an Oscar in 2005.
He said that if the new amendment was around when he started to finance his latest film, "Splice" starring Sarah Polley and Adrian Brody, he wouldn't have received the tax credit as there are some sex scenes.
C-10 reveals Harper's hidden agenda
It's as if the bκte noir of free expression in this country, former head of the Ontario Censor Board Mary Brown, had been resurrected as a tax lawyer. Talk about a nightmare.
Stephen Harper and the Conservative government in Ottawa continue their secret rightwing campaign with more stealth legislation, this time a little improvised explosive device buried in reams and reams of proposed changes to the Income Tax Act. Bill C-10 would allow the Minister of Canadian Heritage to deny tax credits to film and TV productions deemed offensive because of explicit sex or excessive violence, among other things, what ministry spokesperson Charles Drouin labelled as anything "contrary to public policy."
Even after funding agencies like Telefilm and the Canadian Television Fund have agreed to support a particular project the green light for any production in Canada if the ministry weighed in and denied tax credits, then funders and producers would have to make up the shortfall. Such insecurity threatens Canada's entire financing system for film and TV the whole point of the tax credit system in the first place was to encourage a more stable financing environment. Producers need to know their budgets going into any project not coming out. Without that security, filmmakers will go elsewhere. By attacking freedom of speech this bill threatens a $4.8-billion industry.
Such a far-reaching change was never discussed before the Canadian public. The relevant clause, running just 13 words in a bill tens of thousands of words long, is more proof that the Tories have a hidden agenda. The government knew those 13 words would have significant impact: guidelines had apparently been drawn up and an infrastructure in place to implement the new policy.
Hiding a censorship program in the Income Tax Act? These Conservatives are not the straight-talking honest brokers that I used to recognize as Tories when I was growing up in western Canada.
No one in Parliament debated Bill C-10's proposed changes (introduced way back in November 2006 as Bill C-33). I guess our elected MPs were too busy avoiding an election to read the fine print to be fair, the clause is well and truly hidden. No one noticed it until third reading in the Senate. The Senate!? I guess that's why they call it "the chamber of sober second thought." But the Tories feel it's a chamber of ill-repute. Harper was willing to force an election over the Senate doing its job, reviewing proposed legislation like the government's omnibus crime bill. That some senator or someone in a Senate committee raised a red flag over C-10 surely must prove to Harper that the Senate, too, is offensive and "contrary to public policy."
This backdoor censorship gambit follows an increasingly long line of procedural changes initiated by the Tory government and their backroom cronies: killing the Court Challenges program, shifting monies away from AIDS prevention and treatment, refusing organs from gay men for use in transplants.
This government is at war with Canadian culture. There was virtually no mention of the arts sector in the last budget; no mention of the $49 million repeatedly requested by Ontario's big cultural institutions; nothing coming close to the previous Liberal government's support, matched by Queens Park, to the tune of $200 million.
And yet this is the same Tory government that thinks you can promote Canadian culture in Afghanistan from the barrel of a gun.
Who and what is offensive in all this?
Taste and Decency
Existing guidelines already deny public funding to pornographic films. That list will reportedly now be expanded to include productions that feature "excessive" violence or sex or promote hate.
This broadening of the government's power to deny tax credits to films and TV shows it deems offensive is troubling. What some people find offensive, others consider art. Barring a criminal act, it is not for the state to draw that line, especially where a supposedly neutral tax credit is concerned.
Any attempt to do so has the potential to stifle creativity and artistic innovation. That possibility is particularly acute in Canada, where the economics of our small market mean few productions can be made without government support.
Would a comedy about teen pregnancy, like the critically acclaimed Juno, pass muster under the new guidelines? What about a violence-wracked film like No Country For Old Men, which won this year's Academy Award for best picture?
Prodded by evangelical lobbying, the government is giving itself the power to make artistic judgments. It's a slippery slope to censorship.
Tax credit changes are ominous for local film industry
An impending change to federal government guidelines on tax credits for movies and TV shows is a threat to artistic freedom and financial stability, critics say.
A tax bill amendment now before the Senate and poised to become law revises criteria to exclude tax breaks for shows that bureaucrats regard as offensive or not in the public interest.
Tax credits approved by the heritage and justice departments after a film is completed are a vital part of the production process. They're part of the budget plan producers take to lending institutions for up-front financing before filming begins.
Martin Gero, director of the provocatively titled Young People F------, which opens April 18, said virtually every film produced in the country relies on bridge financing from banks and banks do not like uncertainty.
If Heritage Canada toughens the criteria for tax credits as a senior official acknowledged yesterday is its intent Gero said the film industry is in big trouble.
"If it starts to get to where the banks are like, `Well, that tax credit money isn't for sure,' then they're not going to lend you money. I don't know a production anywhere (in Canada) that would be able to go on without their tax credit money."
Entertainment lawyer Michael Levine, a founding director of the Canadian Film Centre, agreed that film financing is in jeopardy.
"Bankers like predictable and measurable risk. So there is obviously a financial angle," Levine said.
"But there's also the obvious question of who's making the decisions and who's defining the standards. It's quite clear to me that we are getting into the dangerous territory of freedom of expression," Levine said, calling the legislation "very dangerous ... very ill-advised."
Annette Gibbons, a senior official with Heritage Canada, insisted yesterday that "only slight modifications" are being made to existing guidelines to explicitly deny tax credits to films promoting hate, excessive violence and pornography. At present, only pornography is excluded.
Heritage Canada officials will make final decisions, but a "transition" period will be in place, during which filmmakers will be consulted, Gibbons said.
But NDP MP Bill Siksay, the party's heritage critic, said the bill could have "a huge chilling effect" on Canadian film production.
"There hasn't been a problem with the appropriateness of film and video production in Canada. There's been controversy, but controversy isn't necessarily bad when it comes to the cultural life of a country as diverse as ours," he said.
Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, the actors' union, said the bill will add "a layer of instability and uncertainty to financing, which this industry can ill afford at this time.
"We're concerned about the censorship that would be involved. Clearly, that offends us and offends I would hope the Canadian public."
The guild representing Canadian directors also issued a statement yesterday opposing the changes.
Hockey Night in Canada Promotes Homosexual Lifestyle
Hockey Night in Canada, the Canadian cultural icon which has inspired countless youngsters in their endeavors on ice rinks across the country, and been a mainstay of national pride and unity for millions, is now promoting homosexuality in its prime time advertising.
In the November 17th broadcast of the game between Edmonton and Calgary, Kelly Hrudey, former NHL goaltender and current hockey broadcaster with the CBC, co-announcer Scott Oakes, and Ron Maclean gave a plug for the homosexual propaganda movie "Breakfast with Scot."
The movie, which was filmed on location in Toronto and Hamilton last year, portrays a Toronto Maple Leafs player who wants to proclaim his homosexuality publicly and his homosexual partnership with the team's lawyer and their "adopted" son Scot.
Hrudey commented about how the movie promoted self acceptance, and then showed a clip from the movie showing the little boy in a clothing store mincing in front of a mirror while trying on girl's clothing, while his homosexual "father" looked on approvingly.
Maclean also commented positively about the film. Don Cherry was not involved but Ron Maclean, after commenting about the film and how nice the boy's clothing was, immediately showed a still picture of Don Cherry and made a remark about how well dressed Don was. In doing this he appeared to tie Don Cherry to the film without Cherry actually participating.