By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

OTTAWA, April 14, 2008 ( – Bill C-10, an omnibus bill of amendments to the Income Tax Act, contains a government proposal to amend the Income Tax Act that would allow the Heritage Ministry to withhold federal tax credits to Canadian film and television projects it deems offensive.

It has been passed by the House of Commons and is now before the Senate, where Canadian film industry representatives are arguing that the amendments should be scrapped because they would restrict the kinds of movies and TV shows that can be made in the country, and would be a form of government censorship.

Conservative Heritage Minister Josée Verner has denied the accusation of censorship, saying the bill is meant simply to ensure Canadians aren’t funding graphic violence and pornography. Producers are still free to make whatever films they want, just not to expect taxpayer funding for certain types of films.

“Bill C-10 has nothing to do with censorship and everything to do with the integrity of the tax system. The goal is to ensure public trust in how tax dollars are spent,” she said.

Verner has also pointed out that the proposed bill is similar to Liberal legislation tabled back in 2003 by then heritage minister Sheila Copps.

Supporters of the amendments, including REAL Women of Canada, the Canada Family Action Coalition and Canadians Concerned about Violence in Entertainment, say that Bill C-10 is not about censorship but rather it is an issue of whether all Canadians should have to pay towards the production of films and shows they may find offensive.

“If they want to make films, as long as it is not contrary to the Criminal Code, fine, that’s their business,” said Gwen Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women, “but they shouldn’t get pubic funds to do so. It has nothing to do with censorship and everything to do with using taxpayers’ money.”

A brief submitted to the Senate by REAL Women of Canada observes, “The appropriation for cultural purposes has now been increased to $5 billion annually. The purpose of these grants is to encourage Canadian cultural content so as ‘to develop Canadians’ sense of belonging’ and ‘building the country’s national identity.’ Regretfully, the material created by the culture industry in Canada, by way of these grants, has rarely achieved these objectives. Instead, these grants have had the opposite effect, in that they have resulted in works that alienate and offend Canadians. This is because the producers represent in many cases, the views of very few Canadians.”

The brief concludes, “Other industries have to meet strict requirements and regulations to gain tax credits, so why not those undertaking artistic endeavors? Why should ‘artists’ claim to have the right to operate freely by way of taxpayer funding, yet not be held responsible for their work? If their works are detrimental to society, and/or do not appeal to the public because of their subject matter or content, why should the taxpayers support them – especially since such works only alienate or offend them, which defeats the major objective of the program? In short, the government has a fiscal responsibility to the taxpayer and this proposed amendment in Bill C-10, S.120 (3)(b) is merely an attempt to carry out this responsibility.”

Diane Watts, a researcher with REAL Women, said, “No films are banned or destroyed under this provision. Film producers can represent whatever perspective or depictions of violence or sex they wish that are not contrary to the Criminal Code – but not via taxpayers’ money.”

Rose Anne Dyson, a representative of Canadians Concerned about Violence in Entertainment, said this legislation is long overdue.

“No other industry has ever enjoyed such carte blanche immunity from corporate responsibility and public accountability,” she said in a Globe and Mail report.

She explained that the film American Psycho, based on the book of the same name that “was considered a how-to manual for convicted serial killer Paul Bernardo, received $120,000 in Canadian tax credits.”

In a report by the Hill Times, Rev. Charles McVety of the Canada Family Action Coalition warned the Conservative government that it will “pay a price”, in the way of a grassroots rebellion, if it gives in to pressure from the film and television industry and amends or waters down its provision to deny government tax credits for offensive screen productions.

“If they want to capitulate to David Cronenberg so that he can make a few hundred more million dollars, then they don’t deserve to be in government and they won’t be in government for very long,” Rev. McVety told The Hill Times. “If the government loses common sense and says that, ‘We’re going to continue funding films such as “Young People F-ing” and other such movies,’ then they will pay a price for that. That’s not good government and the grassroots will rebel.”