Association of Canadian Publishers

Association of Canadian Publishers

March 05, 2008 19:06 ET

Canadian Publishers Urge Senate to Stop Bill C-10

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 5, 2008) - The Association of Canadian Publishers joins filmmakers and other cultural creators and producers in asking members of the Senate to take action against Bill C-10, which gives the Department of Canadian Heritage wider powers to withhold tax credit support for productions that it deems to be offensive. Though this change does not directly affect book publishers, for whom no federal tax credit program exists, we are alarmed at the longer-term implications for freedom of expression in Canada that will result from the passing of Bill C-10.

One source of our concern is the claim of a religious fundamentalist to have brought this legislation forward. Charles McVety is known to publishers for his efforts to stop publication last year of a book by highly respected Annick Press of Toronto. The Little Black Book for Girlz: A Guide to Healthy Sexuality was the target of an aggressive campaign by McVety, which included a letter blitz from McVety's followers to the publisher, a press release, a blogging campaign, and lobbying of individual MPs, all aimed at stopping distribution of the book. Despite these efforts Annick continued to sell the book, and The Little Black Book for Girlz went on to receive international acclaim. Not a single complaint has been lodged by any parent, teacher, librarian, or, for that matter, member of the clergy.

Over the years Canada has carefully built an effective set of criteria to measure the appropriateness of funding cultural works, factoring in both the value of work in artistic terms, and the fiscal responsibility of creators and producers. These criteria have fostered a wide range of artistic development in all sectors and a climate in which Canadians can engage the full spectrum of Canadian experiences and ideas as presented through the arts. The Criminal Code already places restrictions on the distribution of hate literature, pornography, and other material, and the courts have established limits through due process. Additional instruments, such as the measures specified in C-10 are superfluous, and serve only to gladden the hearts of those who oppose intellectual freedom.

If, as McVety claims, he is responsible for these changes, then intolerant interests are shaping our political processes. If, as the Minister of Heritage claims, these changes had nothing to do with McVety, the fact remains that he and others like him see in this legislation a valuable instrument with which to further his agenda of restricting Canadians' access to ideas with which he disagrees.

The power to make these decisions for films will rest ultimately with the Minister of Heritage, under the terms of C-10. The same is already true for books, under the guidelines of the Heritage program that governs federal investment in book publishing (Book Publishing Industry Development Program). This fact alone is disquieting: any step toward a closer relationship between political influence and artistic merit is a step away from intellectual freedom. That freedom is a cornerstone of democracy, and it must be protected. We urge the Senate to defend freedom of expression by refusing to pass Bill C-10 in its current form.

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