As any one of my real life, non-cyberspace, corporeal friends will attest, I’m a Facebook hater. Mostly because I’m a stubborn, reactive cuss and when people, especially large groups of people reeking of trendy tell me that I have to do something, it’s pretty much a guarantee that I’m going to be doing anything but. (Anyone want to get into a conversation about whether or not a historical grounding in theatrical forms is essential in the creation of a new work? Nope? Nobody? There you go.) Now, before you leap to the comments section, I have heard all the arguments. Many, many times. I know it’s a valuable networking resource and a smart business tool. And I guess I’ve always secretly known that jumping into the pool was inevitable, seeing as how the art form that I’ve invested my life in is by necessity a social one and I have a magazine that I’m interested in getting a lot of people to actually read. And, like, everybody’s doing it. I’ve probably just been waiting to see what impetus would actually make me jump, and thus be forced to eat crow from all my grinning toldjaso friends.
Well, that impetus turned out to be the Harper government’s C-10 bill, a nasty bit of legislation now in its 3rd reading before the senate that has been lovingly crafted to enable the censoring of the creative process in Canada. The Facebook group organized in opposition of the bill garnered 5000 members its first day up, and now has over 41,000. So, what’s the deal with C-10 you ask? And well you may…
The bill itself is a long, dry omnibus of changes to our existing tax laws, but tucked neatly in the middle somewhere is a new provision that would allow the federal Heritage Department, led by minister Josée Verner, to judge a film or TV project based on a personal and undisclosed set of criteria and deny federal funding if they see fit. After the project has been shot. Basically this squad of bureaucrats get to play critic, and if they don’t like the work, for any reason, they can deny them their tax credits, which most artists have to rely on to be able to make the work in the first place. This can be done regardless of whether or not federal agencies such as Telefilm or the Canadian Television Fund have already invested in the production. To quote David Cronenberg: “It sounds like something they do in Beijing?”*, referring, of course, to the Chinese government’s abiding love of censorship.
The rhetoric that the bill’s proponents are touting is centred around some redundant nonsense about protecting us, the highly suggestible and naive citizens of Canada, from criminal content: child pornography, hate mongering, that sort of thing. Of course, we already have measures in place to protect us from such vileness. Called the Criminal Code of Canada. And Canadian Heritage has to date received exactly zero applications for projects that contain this sort of criminal content.** So apparently they’re continuing to push through a piece of legislation designed to fix a problem that doesn’t even exist.
There are things that we as artists need to engage with our government in, and stand up and be counted, and this, for me, is one of them. After all, if they’re allowed this much power over our work, what’s next?
There’s much more info about this, and the things you can do about it at the aforementioned Facebook page. Have a browse and judge for yourselves whether it’s a battle worth fighting. Or at least giving in to social networking peer pressure.
*ref: CBC News
**ref: the Toronto Star