That, in the opinion of the House, the government should introduce, as soon as possible, an amendment to 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, in order to remove the reference to public policy that is added by this bill to subsection 125.4(1) of the Income Tax Act, because this new provision opens the door to unacceptable government censorship of film and video production.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise here today to introduce this motion to counter the Conservative government's desire to censor film productions.
The motion calls on this government to introduce, as soon as possible, an amendment to 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, with a view to remove the reference to public policy that is added by this bill to subsection 125.4(1) of the act.
We must ask the question: why should the expression “public policy” be removed? Well, this expression is so vague that it is open to interpretation. I will give a few over-the-top examples to demonstrate how it could be interpreted in various ways.
For instance, would a film that shows someone burning the Canadian flag or insulting the Queen conform to public policy? That is one question. What about a film that criticizes the Conservative government or questions our presence in Afghanistan or promotes sovereignty in the middle of or prior to a referendum, for instance? Would such a film conform to public policy? We must ask the question. Thus, the words “public policy” could be taken even further still.
With respect to Bill C-10, what is the Prime Minister telling us through the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, of course?
Here is the first argument they keep repeating endlessly: given that this bill has already been passed by the House, and is presently being studied by the Senate, we should have acted earlier. That is true.
Nobody pointed out this section on criteria for film production credits. This section is buried in a 560-page bill to amend the Income Tax Act.
When I say nobody, I really mean nobody. The three opposition parties did not see it and the Senate did not see it at first or second reading. It is now at third reading stage. We can even assume—and I did say assume—that the Minister of Canadian Heritage did not see it because it was her colleague, the Minister of Finance, who was responsible for this legislation.
We must humbly acknowledge, and simply say, that a mistake was made and that we are prepared to rectify the situation. That is the important point: let us rectify the situation.
Yet we see that the government continues to make these kinds of arguments.
The second, and not the least important, of its arguments is that this government does not view it as a censorship mechanism. It would serve to prevent the state from funding pornographic movies, child pornography, hate propaganda and so forth. It is true that the state should not fund these types of productions.
We heard the Minister of Canadian Heritage blithely repeating in all the media and even in this House that we must not fund such productions and that the purpose of the section was to prevent such horrors.
I realize that the Minister of Canadian Heritage may not be aware that such movies are not funded in Canada or in Quebec. It is true that we do not have to know everything. In fact, either the Minister of Heritage is acting in bad faith or she is not aware that we have a Criminal Code that prohibits such things. Personally, I prefer to think that she just is not aware of it.
For the benefit of the Minister of Heritage, allow me to briefly summarize the offences found in the Criminal Code in this regard.
Section 319 of the Criminal Code includes provisions on hate propaganda and incitement of hatred. The maximum prison sentence is two years. Section 163 of the Criminal Code on offences tending to corrupt morals prohibits the production and distribution of child pornography and obscene publications.
I could cite other provisions. The famous subsection 163(1)(a) states: “—makes, prints, publishes, distributes, circulates, or has in his possession for the purpose of publication, distribution—”. This all has to do with child pornography.
Subsection 163.1(2) addresses the production of child pornography. Production itself is therefore covered. It also provides for maximum sentences of 10 years for the distribution of child pornography. The Criminal Code also covers other offences, such as defamation and slander.
I also want to remind the minister that the criteria for granting film certificates were changed in May 2005. Section VII, newly created by the Regulations Amending the Income Tax Regulations (Film and Video Productions), stipulates that all pornography is excluded. Child pornography is clearly defined in the Criminal Code. Under this new Section VII created by the Regulations Amending the Income Tax Regulations (Film and Video Productions), productions exclude all pornography. In other words, no tax credit is given to that type of film.
What current events have prompted us to amend the legislation in question? Why were these clarifications added? In my opinion, the question must be asked. Does this legislation not include hidden objectives that reflect the government's desire for censorship? I believe that people are inherently good and I can believe that the government is well-meaning. I am simply proposing that this bill be amended. It is not too late.
We all agree on one thing: the state must not provide funding for pornographic films. The state must not provide funding for child pornography or hate propaganda films either. We all agree on that.
I have good news for everyone: my colleague, the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, has tabled a bill to have the CRTC regulate violence on television. He would like violent programs to be broadcast after 9 p.m. when children are already sleeping. The purpose of his bill is to get the CRTC to do its job as a regulator. Broadcasters are currently required to regulate themselves voluntarily. This bill offers a way to control violence on television without having to censor anything.
I would like to bring up an interesting argument from a press release issued by the minister's office. The press release contains something I found rather unusual and it really left me wondering. So I wanted to take a closer look at it. According to this document, the creator of a film that includes content that may be subject to prosecution under the Criminal Code “could technically still be eligible for a film tax credit under the Income Tax Act.” The release goes on to say:
This is a legal absurdity; a loophole that successive governments—first Liberal, then Conservative—have worked to close.
I must admit I am rather surprised that a creator who produces a work that includes content that may be subject to prosecution under the Criminal Code could receive a tax credit. That is unthinkable. Let us assume that this creator produces pornographic movies. Child pornography is subject to prosecution under the Criminal Code. We do not pay for these kinds of things.
The creator would not receive a tax credit.
I must admit that I am rather shocked by this argument, which makes no sense, and just goes to show that the government is flailing around and saying any old thing.
I think that the Conservative government—and I am sure many members will agree—is still using the back door to impose its far-right values. The Minister of Canadian Heritage is accusing us of blowing this out of proportion, and is saying that the film industry is panicking for nothing. If that is the case, the Conservatives should reassure us and simply amend the bill. We will have been wrong, we will have blown things out of proportion, and they will have fixed this little problem.
Unfortunately, our Minister of Canadian Heritage is powerless. She does not make the decisions in her department; they are made by her colleague, the Minister of Finance. I think she is so powerless that she is strongly supporting aberrations that are taking us back to the time of censorship. Now that is really something. It is very sad, but I think this is the only concrete action the minister has taken for the film industry, which is an action against the film industry. It is truly sad.
Indeed, this minister's record when it comes to the film industry is absolutely terrible, pathetic even. Let me explain. She is a minister from Quebec and she still refuses to recognize the existence of the Quebec film industry. She is the first minister to have abandoned the International Centre of Films for Children and Young People, whose head office had been in Montreal since 1990, and which had to move to Johannesburg, South Africa.
I would also remind the House that there was absolutely nothing for the film industry in the recent budget. Out of a $240 billion budget, she could not convince her colleague in the finance department to reinvest $50 million in the Feature Film Fund or the Television Fund. Furthermore, she still does not want to establish a $10 million documentary feature film fund, as called for by the film industry. It is so unfortunate and I am very sad to have to tell the cultural community that we have a heritage minister who is merely an extra.
Yes, the cultural community should be worried. As Pierre Even, producer of C.R.A.Z.Y, said, and I quote: “Despite the numerous representations we have made over the past two years to make the government aware of our needs, there was absolutely nothing in this budget for the film industry ... The government understands nothing about culture or how cultural institutions operate”.
This is very sad, indeed.
Here is how CTVM's newsletter summarized the general impression of this community, and I quote: “Our federal minister does not appear to like our movies”. We love movies. Does the minister not like movies? We would have to ask her. What I would say to the film community is that the Minister of Canadian Heritage is not showing any leadership in this file and is merely a powerless representation of a minister in power, even though she has none. She is a powerless minister.