Artists take protests to the Hill

Oscar nominated actress/writer Sarah Polley and other prominent members of Canada’s entertainment industry arrived on Parliament Hill on Thursday to denounce Bill C-10. Appearing before the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, they will insist the Senate stop censorship and amend the proposed legislation.

Prior to testifying before the committee, Polley and Wendy Crewson, who co-starred in Polley’s directorial debut Away from Her, held a press conference.

“If there’s something artists fear, it’s censorship,” Polley told reporters.

“Part of the responsibility of being an artist is to create work that will inspire dialogue, suggest that people examine their long-held positions and, yes, occasionally offend in order to do so.”

The amendment is buried in an omnibus bill that is primarily intended to implement the taxation of non-resident trusts and foreign-investment entities and implement amendments to the Income Tax Act. If passed, it will give the Heritage Minister power to deny tax credits to Canadian productions deemed contrary to public policy, even after government agencies have invested.

“If you pull public financing from the arts, we will lose it. We will have no Canadian voice,” Crewson said.

Polley said the government should respect the decisions of the arm’s-length agencies Telefilm Canada and the Canadian Television Fund.

It’s not credible to suggest artists can make whatever film they want using private funding since virtually all programming in Canada requires some public cash, she added.

If Bill C-10 is passed, artists will either be forced to self-censor or work abroad. The uncertainty it would create would cost thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity, effectively crippling one of Canada’s most important cultural sectors

“When censorship, historically, has ever been introduced – and always with the best of intentions – it never goes right,” Crewson said. “We do not want to open that gate in any capacity, under any government”

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