Friday, February 29, 2008

"The horror, the horror": Canada's Reform Party Government threatens to stop offensive "gay" films?

Tired after years of corruption under the Liberals and unimpressed with Paul Martin's leadership skills, Canadians turned to the only viable governing alternative in January 2006 and, two years later, we see that in fact we've got what appears to be a Christian fundamentalist/Republican government by stealth, intent on bringing Canada's "offensive" film community to its knees.

Isn't it particularly insidious how this new law has almost come to pass? Tory Prime Minister Stephen Harper tucked away an amendment inside Bill C-10, now facing final reading in the unelected Senate, that would change the Income Tax Act to allow Canada's Minister of Canadian Heritage to deny eligibility to tax credits of productions determined to be "contrary to public policy. " Under journalistic questioning, the Harper government now admits films they deem "offensive" will see their tax credits denied, even if other public bodies like Telefilm Canada have offered financial support. The denial of tax credits could presumably occur after production, when money is still owed and payments pending.

Now today, anti-gay fundie Charles McVety is taking credit for this latest attack on Canada's film industry, claiming he's successfully bent the ear of a number of friendly Conservative cabinet ministers and backbenchers.

"We're thankful that someone's finally listening," McVety said yesterday. "It's fitting with conservative values, and I think that's why Canadians voted for a Conservative government."

Voters wanted to punish the Liberals, not convert our country into a theocracy!

'We Move To Canada' nicely sums up how this change could be disastrous for Canada's film industry and the LGBT community:

"Changing the film tax credit guidelines to exclude films that a small group of people consider offensive is clearly bad for the film industry, both economically and artistically. But it's bad news for all of us, if we don't want the government meddling in personal morality, or especially, pandering to the warped values of the religious right.

"I notice, too, that the story about McVety specifically mentions homosexuality as an exclusion: "Mr. McVety said films promoting homosexuality, graphic sex or violence should not receive tax dollars, and backbench Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers support his campaign."

"As we know, to those people, "films promoting homosexuality" means anything with a queer theme. I haven't seen this in any other story about the tax credit change. If the Heritage Canada tries to exclude gay-themed films solely on that basis, they'll have a huge human rights and Charter issue on their hands."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Not all conservative bloggers are on side, thankfully. This post seems rather reasonable.

The issue for proponents of this change is why should Canadian taxpayers fund through tax credits films and other productions they deem objectionable or offensive. The problem here is that, under the Harper government, we will be sure that "offensive" will be interpreted as "offensive to our conservative religious base." The ability of artists to "offend" is an important part of the creative process, enabling an audience to question some of their own prejudices and assumptions.

What's really annoying here is the fact that most of the conservative religious base of the Conservative party probably has never bothered to view most Canadian films, offensive or not. Most probably exclusively screen big-budget American, Disney-esque, G-rated fare, fantasizing they live in the American bible belt, not a progressive country like Canada. Asked if they liked 'The Sweet Hereafter', most would probably respond, "What the heck are you talking about, I'm still alive the last time I checked...hardy har har..." without a tinge of irony.

If this new Department of Justice panel merely aspires to vet out productions that violate obscenity laws or hate laws, why aren't Canada's existing laws enough to deal with these productions? What other "offensive" content does this mysterious panel intend to weed out? It remains a scary mystery and I'm afraid to see the ending.


For another great post on this issue, check out unrepentant old hippie.

Also, this issue is getting press in Hollywood. Check it out. Of course, U.S. producers who create much work and economic benefit with productions that shoot in Canada could see their tax credits dry up too if their films are deemed "offensive" by this new committee of bureaucrats. This could effectively kill the Canadian film industry, which suits Charles McVety and his types just fine.


KC said...

The ability of artists to "offend" is an important part of the creative process

If only you applied the same standard to Danish cartoonists you might have some credibility on the matter.

Matt Guerin said...

so, kc, I see you're still obsessed with comparing hate speech with other non-criminal expression.

Tell me, do you oppose these new rules then because they offend artistic freedom?

As for Danish cartoonists, I support them wholeheartedly. I never said I didn't, nor did I say Ezra Levant is guilty of hate speech. That was you (once again) putting words in my mouth. No worries, I'm used to it from folks like you...

Matt Guerin said...

Furthermore, it's been reported "Bill C-10 would extend that programming exclusion to film and TV projects considered overly sexual, violent or hateful."

I'm all for cracking down on hate propaganda, but I think our existing laws do enough in that regard.

kc, do you support creating another gov't-appointed committee to police "hate propaganda" in our country after speaking out against the HRA and other anti-hate protections so vociferously?

Miles Lunn said...

It is one thing to argue that films should not get government funding, which I think there are both good and bad points for. At least it is not discriminatory even if there good reasons not to go there. But trying to pick and choose based on one's morality is wrong. I think here the Tories either need to leave it alone or cut tax credits across the board if they are opposed to government funding of films and TV shows rather than base funding on their religious beliefs. And I think Charles McVety is a complete wacko who thinks he was a wide following, but in reality even most on the right cannot stand the guy.

As for KC's comments, I fully agree. I am for free speech whether I agree with the view or not. I believe hate speech should only be illegal if it advocates violence or genocide towards a certain group. Besides the more bigots and homophobes speak out, the more people realize just how backwards their ideas are. In the US, the religious right getting more vocal is starting to create a backlash as many realize how ridiculous their views are. Also, I would rather challenge these types head on, then silence them. They aren't going to change their views, but at least if their views are exposed, we can hopefully convince others not to follow them.