Hundreds of Canadian artists warned in an open letter this week that the country’s recently passed anti-terrorism law has a “chill” effect and “directly attacks the creative arts and free expression.”
The signatories include author Margaret Atwood, musician Raffi, and filmmaker Paul Haggis.
The bill, C-51, passed in June, and has been criticized for its vast expansion of powers to spy agencies without accountability, and the BC Civil Liberties Association denounced it as “represent[ing] a massive threat to the freedoms of Canadians, without making us any safer,” adding that it “violates key constitutional rights.”
“This bill was rammed through Parliament by the Harper Conservative government, despite a huge public outcry and without due consultation,” the letter states. “As many experts have pointed out, this bill allows the government to silence dissenting voices without oversight or accountability. It criminalizes ‘advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general,’ which, because of this vague wording, could be interpreted in some very stupid ways. In effect, it gives the government carte blanche to suppress any voice they don’t like,” the authors write in their letter.
They ask if it constitutes “terrorism” if they
write a spy novel about an assassination plot?
record a song questioning our government’s agenda?
paint a mural about the conflict in Syria?
produce a documentary on security threats in Canada?
put on an art show critical of the oil sands?
make a film with an environmental theme?
David Christopher writes at Ricochet Media that the letter “is sure to remind voters of just what’s at stake over the coming weeks. Our core democratic principles are under threat, and only a complete repeal of this irresponsible bill can safeguard our rights and freedoms.”
Commenting on the massive public outcry the bill has sparked and how it’s an issue in the election next month, Christopher continued, “Tens of thousands have taken part in nationwide rallies, with thousands more writing to their MPs, senators, and local newspapers. Months after C-51 was forced through Parliament, it’s now become a major election issue. Finally, on Oct. 19, every Canadian voter will now have a chance to deliver a decisive verdict on the bill.”
The open letter appears in full below:
Dear Party Leaders,
We are Canadian artists. We have been blessed to be part of a country that does not send poets to gulags, that does not behead people for saying things a government considers critical of it, and that does not murder dissidents and journalists wholesale.
But we know that totalitarian and repressive regimes always try to shut down artists, along with any other independent voices. We are alert to the possibilities: we, and all who wish a free and open society, must strongly oppose such tendencies when they arise.
Bill C-51 directly attacks the creative arts and free expression in this country.
This bill was rammed through Parliament by the Harper Conservative government, despite a huge public outcry and without due consultation. As many experts have pointed out, this bill allows the government to silence dissenting voices without oversight or accountability. It criminalizes “advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general,” which, because of this vague wording, could be interpreted in some very stupid ways. In effect, it gives the government carte blanche to suppress any voice they don’t like.
Is it promoting terrorism if we: – write a spy novel about an assassination plot? – record a song questioning our government’s agenda? – paint a mural about the conflict in Syria? – produce a documentary on security threats in Canada? – put on an art show critical of the oil sands? – make a film with an environmental theme?
Creativity, expression, opinion, and art are not the same as terrorist propaganda. Through its “chill” effect, C-51 undermines one of the chief freedoms of a democratic society: the right of every Canadian to free speech and free expression, including free artistic expression.
In addition, Bill C-51, because of the lack of oversight and accountability, is an invitation to intellectual property theft. All creative classes, including entrepreneurs and digital creators, are threatened by it. And every citizen is subject to blackmail, due to unlimited, unaccountable access to personal information.
We agree with the more than 300,000 Canadians who have called on the government to scrap this reckless, dangerous and ineffective legislation through the petition at http://KillC51.ca.
This election we will be voting to protect our artistry, our rights, and our freedoms: we will be voting for the repeal of C-51. We hope you will join us in ensuring that all Canadians are no longer subject to the chilling effects of C-51 and targeted by government censorship.
We can defend against terrorists in much better ways than this.
Margaret Atwood, Author Mark Achbar, Filmmaker Brett Gaylor, Filmmaker Hayden Desser, Musician, Hayden Cory Doctorow, Writer John Dunsworth, Actor Zach Gray, Musician, Zolas John Greyson, Filmmaker Paul Haggis, Filmmaker Thomas King, Writer, Photographer Dan Mangan, Musician Ali Momen, Actor Judy Rebick, Writer Raffi, Musician, Author Antonia Zerbisias, Writer Aaron Carley, Musician Aaron McHattie, Musician Adam Vee, Music Producer, The Ludvico Treatment Adrienne Barrett, Writer Ah Ram Lee, CG Artist Alex Fallis, Actor, Director, Teacher Alex Kennedy, Writer Alex Leslie, Author Alex Tribe, Musician Alexander Hauka, Cellist, Good For Grapes Alexander Kennard, Writer, Musician, Communications Professional Alexandre Millaire, Musician, Moonfruits Alexis Mitchell, Artist Alexis Young, Musician Alfred Peter Gough, Artist, Vice President, Society of Canadian Artists Alice Burdick, Writer, Bookseller Alisa Gayle-Deutsch, Musician Alison Smith, Writer Alison Urquhart, Potter, Painter Allie Weigh, Musician, Performer Andrew Barrett, Theatre Practitioner, Impulse Theatre Ann Douglas, Writer Aparna Sanyal, Writer, Editor Asher Ettinger, Musician Barbara Meneley, Artist Barry Webster, Writer Beverly Taft, Musician Bill Rowat, Actor Bill Young, Musician Composer Brad Fraser, Writer Brian Bowman, Writer Brianne Nord-Stewart, Filmmaker Brittney Rand, Producer, Musician Bryan Webb, Musician Caitlin Coflin, Dancer Cameron Chouinard, Musician, Songwriter, Producer Cameron Dixon, Painter Camille Sullivan, Actor Carla Richards, Author Carole Henshall, Potter Carolyn Deby, Artist Carolyn Marie Souaid, Poet Cass Reimer, Artist-Educator Catherine Craig, Artist Cathy Gulkin, Film Editor Cecilia Oberholzer, Painter Chara Kingston, Museum Collections Manager Charles Bowie, Author Charles Demers, Comedian, Author Chris Down, Artist Christopher Majka, Writer Christopher Reiche, Musician, Composer Cindy Asoden, Videographer, YOLO Video Productions Inc/JCVDude CJ Unsworth, Lighting Designer Claire Cameron, Writer Claire Coupland, Musician Clayton Drake Musician, The Almighty Rhombus Clô Laurencelle, Art Teacher Constance Cooke, Choreographer Corbin VanderZalm, Musician Corey Redekop, Author Cory Lavender, Editor Cristina Greco, Writer D Ferguson, Actor Dafydd Palfrey, Filmmaker, Musician, Artist, Ten Pence Films/Dave Palmtree and the Palmtree Trio Daisy Morant, Writer, Visual Artist Damien Gillis, Filmmaker Damien, Actor Dave Meisner, Tour Manager David Bobier, Artist, Director, Curator, VibraFusionLab David Grenier, Artist David LeReaney, Ator David Ward, Musician Deborah Dumka, Fibre Artist Deborah Jones, Writer, Journalist, Photographer Deena Aziz, Actor Devin Gourley, Musician, Booking Agent Devon Cooke, Filmmaker Devon Urwin, Recording Artist, Film Worker Diane Scaman, Photographer Diane Schoemperlen, Writer Dionne Brand, Writer Don McKellar, Filmmaker Donn Zver, Craftsman Douglas Phillips, Musician Douglas Williams, Photographer Drew Arnott, Songwriter Duane Janvier, Food Artist, Painter, Writer Edmund Brownless, Musician Edo Van Breemn, Film Composer Elaine Carol, Artistic Director, MISCELLANEOUS Productions Elise Moser, Writer, Editor Elizabeth Greene, Poet Elizabeth Philips, Writer Elizabeth Saunders, Artist Elle Flanders, Filmmaker Elrington, Musician Emily Millard, Musician, Miss Emily Brown Endre Farkas, Poet, Playwright, Novelist Erin Donovan, Musician, Director Estee Klar, Writer Farid Noordin, Photographer, Producer, Director Farrah-Marie Miranda, Artist Farzana Doctor, Author Faten Toubasi , Visual Artist, Instructor Fiona McLean, Artist Florencia Comesana, Dancer, Singer Frances Boyle, Writer Francoise Thibault, Artist Franke James, Artist, Author Fraser Parkes, Musician, The Fuzzy Undertones Freda Guttman, Multimedia Visual Artist Fulvio Cecere, Actor Gail Chin, Photographer Gale Zoe Garnett, Writer, Actor, Arts Activist Geneviève Lajeunesse, Game Designer Gilbert Gilbert, Musician Gloria Ronalds, Art Teacher H.L. Goyer, Artist Haley Hunt-Brondwin, Visual Artist and Designer Hannah Claire Epperson, Musician, Composer Heather Birrell, Writer Heather Grant, Bassist, Singer, Crossed Wires Heather Rankin, Designer (retired) Helen Hoy, Painter Ila Crawford, Visual Artist Isaac Vallentin, Designer, Musician Jackie Dicaro, Painter James Bunton, Musician Jan Wade, Artist Jane Eaton Hamilton, Author Jane Simpson, Writer Janice Brunson, Independent Music Professional Jason Toal, Designer Jennifer Claveau, Singer, Songwriter, Watercolourist Jessica Stuart, Musician, The Jessica Stuart Few Jim Riley, Video Artist Joana Joachim, Museologist, Curator Joe Sarahan, Carpenter, Artist Jonathan Sweeting, Artist, Poet Julia Mosher, Furniture Finisher Julie Joosten, Writer Julie Picken-Cooper, Arts Educator Julie René de Cotret, Curator Julija Sukys, Writer Justine Warrington, Performer, Writer, Filmmaker Kaitlin Milroy, Musician, Moonfruits Karen Trask, Artist Karen Walton, Screenwriter Kat Cizek, Documentary Maker Kat Lanteigne, Writer Kate Hurman, Actor, Director, Writer, Teacher Kate Inglis, Writer Kate Lucyk, Artist Katherine Dodds, Filmmaker, Writer, Creative Director, Hello Cool World Kathleen Winter, Author Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Writer Kathryn Lennon, Poet Kathryn Mockler, Poet, Professor, Screenwriter Kathryn Para, Writer Katie Wright, Artist Keith Higgins, Artist, Publisher Kelly Carmichael, Graphic Artist Kelly Daniels Director, Educator Kennedy Douglas Telford, Artist, Designer Kirby Rivest, Glass Artisan Krisdy Shindler, Artist Kristian Joseph Warburton, Film Student Kyle Weber, Artist, Entrepreneur Lana Pesch, Author, Producer Lance Buan, Visual Artist Lani Ashenhurst, Actor Laura Smith, Musician Laurel L. Russwurm, Author Lauren B. Davis, Author Lauren Ray, Photographer Leigh Matthews, Author Lesley Ewen, Director, Dramaturg, Playwright, Performer, Teacher Linda Brine, Fibre Artist, String Fever Fibre Arts Lindsay Brown, Writer, Designer Lindsay Clayton Day, Writer, Teacher Lisa Ireland, Artisan Lori Montcalm, Jewelry Maker Lori Waters, Scientific Illustrator, Animator Lori Watt, Actor Lynn Beavis, Art Gallery Worker Lynn Bishop, Musician Lynn Williams, Artist M Dawn Lafleur, Graphic Artist, Actor Madeline Bassnett, Writer Maggie Tchir, Visual Artist Marcia McInnis, Mixed Media Artist Maria Elena Mesa-Mejia, Poet, Visual Artist Maria Meindl, Writer Marie Smith, Museum Assistant Mark Bentley Cohen, Writer/Performer Marney Morgan, Metalsmith Marni Binder, Artist Educator Marsha Kennedy, Professor, Visual Arts Martin Kennedy, Artist Mary Alice Downie, Writer Mary Ellen Davis, Filmmaker Mary Lou Dickinson, Writer Matias Munoz, Music Writer, Ottawa Showbox Matthew Gunkel, Musician Maureen Lyons, Photographer Megan-Magdalena Bourne, Photographer, Filmmaker, Musician Melissa Rebronja, Singer, Songwriter Mériol Lehmann, Photographer, Media Artist Michael Anstead, Painter Michael Cole, Musician Michael Greenhow, Musician Michael Harris, Author, Journalist Michael Libling, Writer Michèle Houle, Photo, Video Mikela Jay, Singer, Actor, Narrator Miles Evans-Branagh, Musician Milton Lim, Theatre Director, Multidisciplinary Performer, Hong Kong Exile/Theatre Conspiracy Molly Johnson, Dancer Mona Germain, Poet, Teacher Monica Prendergast, Actor, Writer, Poet Nancy Hiron, Visual Artist, Painter Naomi Binder Wall, Writer Neeraj Padmanabh, Film Editor Nick Roddam, Artist Nicola Morry, Teacher Nicole Yates, Musician Noah Spivak, Visual Artist Norberto Rodriguez, Visual Artist Orin Bishop, Game Designer Patricia McDonough, Custom Picture Framer Patrick Farrugia, Musician Patti Randazzo Beckett, Artist Paul Cowling, Actor Paul Walde, Artist, Professor Paul Wilfred Herbert, Actor Peter Kufluk, Actor Peter Ricq, Filmmaker, Musician, Illustrator Precious Chong, Actor Rachael Cardiello, Musician Rachel Jacobson, Director Raymonde Savoie, Writer Rebecca Northan, Actor, Director, Writer, Teacher Rebecca Salazar, Poet, Editor Rhonda Head, Musician, Songwriter, Writer Risa Horowitz, Artist Robbo Mills, Writer, Director Robert Cameron, Musician, BESTiE Robert Dayton, Artist Robin Pacific, Visual Artist Rodney Hanson, Architect Rodrigo Hernandez-Gomez, Multidisciplinary Artist Rona Altrows, Writer, Editor Rosemary Carter, Graphic Designer Samantha Reid, Writer Samantha Soo, Filmmaker Sandra Diaz, Visual Artist Sandra Mannila, Artist, Writer, Arts Administrator Sandra Nieuwenhuijsen, Art Director Sarah Comfort, Artist Sarah Dowling, Poet Sarah Sawler, Writer Sean Devlin, Comedian Sean McQuillan, Actor Seth Stuve, Audio Engineer, Musician Shari Hatt, Visual Artist Sharon King-Campbell, Theatre Artist Shawn Jordan, Artist Sheleah, Makeup Artist, SJB Makeup Shelly Cassivi, Musician Shlomit Segal, Graphic Designer Siobhan Vipond, Stage and Film Technician Sojin Kim, Independent Curator Stephanie Belding, Actor Stephanie Yates, Artist Stephany Aiken, Artist, Philosopher Steve Bays, Musician, Producer Steven Foster, Musician Steven Laurie, Visual Artist Su J. Sokol, Writer Su-Feh Lee, Choreographer, Battery Opera Performance Sue Goldstein, Artist, Activist Susan Applewhaite, Actor Susan Kendal, Choreographer,Textile Artist Susan Olding, Writer Susan Swan, Author Suzanne Dallaire, Visual Artist Tamara Szymanska, Visual Artist Tammy Gelfand, Writer, Artist Tara Mahoney, Producer, Creative Director, Gen Why Media Thad Rosenau, Visual Artist Tony Marryatt, Musician Trevor Thomas, Musician, Producer Trisia Eddy, Writer, Printmaker, Photographer Troy Nixey, Movie Director, Comic Book Creator Tuula Helin, Writer Vanessa Dandurand, Musician, The Ballantynes Veronique Mallet, Musician Victoria Ginsley, Poet Wendy Davis, Photographer William Tomlinson, Painter Winn Bray-Rathbun, Writer Zachary Gough, Artist Zack Embree, Filmmaker, Photographer Zainab Amadahy, Writer