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PEN Canada concerned about parliamentary bill provisions that could subject film and television productions to censorship

(PEN Canada/IFEX) - The following is a 4 March 2008 PEN Canada letter Canadian Senator W. David Angus:

Senator W. David Angus
Chair - Senate Committee on Bank, Trade and Commerce
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Angus,

On behalf of the 1100 members of PEN Canada, I am writing regarding Bill C-10: An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, including amendments in relation to foreign investment entities and non-resident trusts, and to provide for the bijural expression of the provisions of that Act.

PEN Canada strongly urges the Senate to hold hearings on Bill C-10, with witnesses from the arts community, and to present an amended bill to the House of Commons removing those provisions that would subject film and television productions to censorious and redundant assessment according to so-called "public policy" criteria.

PEN Canada (the Canadian centre of International PEN) is a leader in the fight for freedom of expression internationally and in Canada and in that context we find extremely disturbing provisions of the bill that suggest agreement with public policy is a test for any kind of tax benefit for artistic productions.

This marks a major departure from past practice and is simply not acceptable as a policy to be applied in determining which film projects can receive favourable tax treatment. Equally concerning, particularly for our members who are authors and journalists, is the prospect that if this principle were established in one piece of legislation, there would then be the inevitable attempt to expand it beyond film to other works of art or publications that could equally be requesting beneficial tax treatment.

There is a longstanding principle that in funding the arts, government does not interfere in artistic expression. Nor does it dictate what has artistic merit; that has wisely been left in the hands of artists themselves, which is where it should reside.

Although the offensive provisions of this bill got through the House of Commons and most of the way through the Senate before they were noticed and publicized, fortunately there is still time to act to ensure that Parliament does not end up as the agent restricting freedom of expression in Canada.

We strongly urge the Senate to amend Bill C-10 and return it to the House of Commons where there could be a real debate about the reasons for and the impact of this attempt by government to restrict freedom of expression and artistic merit in Canada.

We urge you and all others Senators to support and vote for freedom of expression on this issue.

Sincerely

Christopher Waddell
National Affairs chair
PEN Canada

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