Pop Culture

Harper Government‘s Social Conservatism Agenda Creeps into a Theatre Near You

By Hervé St-Louis
March 27, 2008 - 09:52

A by-line (Bill C-10) was added to the 2008 budget of the Federal Government of Canada giving the Heritage Minister and the Prime Minister the right to refuse the funding of any Canadian film that is deemed to be contrary to public policy. Unnoticed by opposition parties in the House of Commons, this new regulation has drawn the ire of the Canadian film and cultural industries and with reason.

I was watching the CBC’s The Hour, last night, a late night show with host George Stroumboulopoulos (Strombo) that is aimed to a younger crowd that is often jaded by regular newscasts and other public policy affairs shows. It does a good job of packaging news and comments in short bytes that are easily understood by attention deficit viewers from Generation X and Y. Of course, Strombo is from the center of the Canadian universe, Toronto and his liberal and openness to world events is easy to see. He can’t hide his objectivity. And there is nothing wrong with that, as he’s in tune with the demographic group his show is targeted to.

His guest on last night’s show was Charles McVety, the head of the Canada Family Action Coalition, an evangelical think tank based in Calgary.  McVety was invited to discuss Bill C-10 and why he supported it and, as Strombo put it, the censorship of the Canadian film industry. McVety took credit for the measure being added to the 2008 federal budget and stated how Canadian tax payers’ money should not be used to fund “grossly offensive” films.

The problem with McVety, is that he claimed to speak for the silent majority of Canadians, and he did not want to explain in detail what was "grossly offensive". From what I watched, I understand he has a problem with sex and violence and sees nothing wrong with the Government telling film makers what they can produce or not. To his credit he claims that producers who want to fund material contrary to public policy can do so with their own financing. This approach sounds good in practice and indeed, the pornography industry cannot use public money to finance films already.

Federal Heritage Minister Josée Verner has not been visible in this debate. One would think that a Minister from Quebec, which is far more laissez-faire in terms of contents in the arts, and which usually values the public support of films – at arm’s length – would have tried to distance herself and her office from such obvious social conservatism. Instead, the Government has used and oft-used trump card. They blamed the previous Liberal regime for the bill. When the Liberal Government of the day introduced similar wordings, back in 2003, it was a populist reaction to a film about convicted murderers Karla Homolka and husband Paul Bernado, which was in production at the time.

That initial populist reaction was already a form of censorship, but back then the issue of Homolka and Bernado was fresh in the psyche of the Canadian public and instead of thinking through the logical end of where this initial censoring would lead, the Liberal Government ducked a potential crisis while brewing the ground for another one. So now we have a Conservative Government and its partner in crime, the Christian Evangelical Right, justifying further censorship based on a fly by night initial populist reaction by the previous government.

As a Canadian who supports Canadian films, in both official languages, I have serious concerns about the Government trying to tell me what it considers good or bad. State officials and elected officials make bad film critics. When a policy is championed by the Christian Right, there are even more causes for concerns.

About the Christian Right, I keep asking myself if they are not some separate religion apart from Christianity. I don’t recognize any of the teachings of Jesus Christ in what passes for the Christian Right in Canada. What about “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”? Why this constant need to judge and impose their views on the rest of us? Where in the New Testament does it say that films should be censored if they have sex and violence? Why do they have to work so hard at making all Christians look bad? What about the moral high ground which they like to occupy? Didn’t Jesus Christ preach simplicity and humility? Why is it that reading Jesus Christ’s comments, as interpreted in the Bible, sound sensible, while much of what the Christian Right says sounds deformed and abrasive? Why do they always focus on punishment instead of helping their brethren, like Jesus asked?

Easter was just last week, and I had the opportunity to watch a plethora of Christian-themed films and classics. My favourite will always be The Ten Commandments with Charles Heston. The over acting is crazy, the effects cool, for its time, and the best scene is the one with the golden calf at the end of the film. That one is a classic! Maybe the Conservative Canadian Government should ban this film from showing up on Canadian television and video stores. After all, it contains a river of blood, deaths by the thousands and a most memorable orgy.

Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15

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