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Book cover of a Canadian Copyright: A Citizen's Guide

 

Canadian Copyright: A Citizen's Guide

 
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Laura Murray is an Associate Professor in the English Department of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and creator of the website www.faircopyright.ca.

 

Samuel Trosow is an Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. He is jointly appointed in the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies.

Recent Decisions


Censorship concerns raised in Question Period, but remain unanswered PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 05 March 2008


The censorship concerns raised by Bill C-10 have been raised directly during question period over the last week. Unfortunately, the government is not answering the questions.

 

Here is the Hansard transcript of yesterday's exchange between Maria Mourani (Ahuntsic, BQ) and the Minister: 
 

Mrs. Maria Mourani (Ahuntsic, BQ):  
Mr. Speaker, to justify its desire for censorship, the government—

Some hon. members:
Oh, oh!

The Speaker:
Order, please. We are now on to another question. The hon. member for Ahuntsic.

Mrs. Maria Mourani: previous intervention next intervention
Mr. Speaker, to justify its desire for censorship, the Conservative government is trotting out its old line that people who disagree with the government are promoting child pornography, defamatory libel and hate propaganda. These are already prohibited by the Criminal Code. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages is even accusing the industry of creating a tempest in a teapot.

Will the Minister of Finance agree to amend Bill C-10 to ensure that these new provisions do not lead to any censorship?
 
Hon. Josée Verner (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, there is no issue of censorship here. Our government firmly believes that freedom of expression is one of our great Canadian values.

That said, four months later, the Bloc members are changing their minds. The leader of the Bloc gave us 24 hours to change our minds, but now they have four months. They supported this bill, but now, four months later, they are asking questions.

Mrs. Maria Mourani (Ahuntsic, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, once again, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, who is powerless, is not answering questions. The solution is for the government to introduce an amendment to Bill C-10 as soon as possible to remove the reference to “public policy”, which opens the door to censorship.

Will the government promise to do so immediately?

Hon. Josée Verner (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, once again, the Bloc members' mantra is that anyone who is not a sovereigntist is not a true Quebecker. Anyone who does not share the opinion of the Bloc leader gets nothing but insults in this House.

Our objective here is to be in line with the provinces.

Hon. Denis Coderre:
That has nothing to do with this.

Hon. Josée Verner:
Mr. Speaker, I would like very much to answer the Bloc member, but the member for Bourassa will not stop yapping.


Last Friday,  NDP House Leader Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP) raised the qustion of censorship directly. Here is the Hansard transcript of the Davies-Abbott exchange:

 

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): 

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats are deeply concerned by reports that the Conservatives are planning to censor film and video production in Canada to suit their friends from the religious right.

Will the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages confirm that her office is working on “updated eligibility requirements” and the “standardized and updated list of illegal and other ineligible content”?

Could the minister assure the House and Canada's cultural community that her department will not place any new barriers to accessing film tax credits in Canada? Will she give that assurance today?

Hon. Jim Abbott (Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, filmmakers are free to make movies as they see fit as long as they are within the law. However, the Canadian taxpayer should not be forced to pay for material that is gratuitously violent or denigrating to identifiable groups.

The government simply reintroduced the same tax measure in an omnibus bill. By the way, that party, along with all parties, voted in favour of the law. next intervention previous intervention   

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary knows full well that the bill in question does not reveal the Conservatives' plan to censor Canadian films. Rather it is the guidelines that the department is drafting that would create a Canadian film censorship board, a board that would decide what film and video content would be worthy and what would not.

Therefore, does the minister agree that there can be no role for government censorship in the Canadian film industry? Will she assure Canadians that any plans to curtail artistic freedom will be stopped immediately? No censorship.

Hon. Jim Abbott (Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, it is regrettable that the NDP member is trying to make something out of nothing. The fact is the tax measure is nothing new. The fact is that party, along with every party in the House, passed the bill. She should have known what was in the bill in the first place.

I should note that it originally came to the House in 2003, under the Liberals at that point. There is nothing new. What is the story here? I do not understand.


Earlier in Friday's session, NDP Industry Critic Peggy Nash made the following Statement

 

Ms. Peggy Nash  (Parkdale—High Park, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, today the front page of the Globe and Mail confirms what Canadians saw quite clearly in this week's budget; that the Conservative government does not care about our cultural sector and it is actively undermining our artists and their capacity to create.

The headline article includes the boasting of evangelical lobbyists who successfully convinced Conservative ministers and MPs to root out artistic works with which they disagree. Canadian heritage officials confirmed yesterday that they would be expanding the criteria used for denying tax credits to artists. What they are doing is called censorship. They are trying to silence voices that diverge from their political agenda.

We can stop this attack on our artists. Unfortunately, as the Toronto Star says today, the “official opposition has repeatedly turned itself into a Conservative doormat”.

It is time to stand up for Canada's artists and Canadian culture against ideological attacks by the government.

 

I will reiterate the point I made yesterday that the government should release the
the guidelines that are presumably being drafted.  But rather than answer the simple and  direct questions posed by opposition MP's, the government seems intent on evading the point. 

 

There are some interesting parallels emerging between how the government is handling this issue with their handling of the copyright file.  I’ll expand on this point in a subsequent posting. 

 


Tags:  Bill C-10 Censorship
 

UGC Report

I am an Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario jointly appointed to the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS).

 

Before coming to Western, I was a law librarian at the Boalt Hall Law Library at the University of California at Berkeley and before that I was in private law practice in California. My doctoral work in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA focused on information policy issues.

 

I am currently a Network Investigator and Theme Leader with the GRAND NCE and also serve on the Librarians Committee of the  Canadian Association of University Teachers.



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