Mr. Jacques Guilbault (Saint-Jacques):
Speaker, I am quite moved by the warm welcome I am receiving. I am pleased to say a few words on Bill C-230 introduced by the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Towers) who has just stated why he introduced this bill.
Its purpose is to amend the Criminal Code to make it perhaps even more illegal than it is already to broadcast obscene representations and matters. I would like first of all to congratulate the hon. member for his courage in introducing such an imaginative bill in this House. I appreciate that he certainly represents the views of the voters in his riding. Having recently sat on the Committee on Broadcasting, Films and Assistance to the Arts, I know for a act that several members are concerned about having received mail from their voters about dramatic programs that were shown on the national network, and particularly the English network of the CBC.
I know the hon. member certainly received mail from his constituents, and as their view corresponds no doubt to his, he moved in the direction he did today, and I can only commend him for that. However, I am not sure myself I share the same views. The hon. member's purpose is commendable in that it states in this House what seems to be a regional concern. On the other hand, the bill he introduced, if passed, would have a national bearing, and that bothers me somewhat. I also represent people from downtown Montreal, people who never miss an opportunity to let me know, as their member of Parliament and chairman of the Committee on Broadcasting, Films and Assistance to the Arts of the House of Commons, when they are not satisfied with programs they see on the national network and the private networks.
However, in the case of programs referred to, namely "Ten Lost Years" or other programs recently mentioned at the Committee on Broadcasting, Films and Assistance to the Arts such as "Baptizing" and other programs whose names I forgot, I did not receive any adverse comment from my constituents. I do not think there was much either in Ontario. It was at both ends of the country, more especially in rural areas of Canada, that those programs disturbed the people.
Now, I already see a weakness. The member is concerned by an apparently regional problem. I do not think that hon. members-after all, they do represent the entire country-will blindly pass such a bill.
For the information of some members who did not have the opportunity to attend the last sittings of the Committee on Broadcasting, Films and Assistance to the Arts, I repeat some views put forward by the CBC authorities on the lewdness or alleged lewdness of some programs. For instance, Mr. Picard said that it is difficult, in this day and age, if the corporation truly wants to discharge its mandate and depict our Canadian society as it is today, to picture only the bright side of things because, unfortunately, our society also has its dark side.
What is news? As always, more often than otherwise, violence if not obscenity. But some would have the corporation overlook, in its productions, that aspect of Canadi-
March 25, 1975
an society; still, it is very real; that was one of the points Mr. Picard made.
He made another with regard to the artistic value of some plays broadcast, on request, by the corporation. Some of those plays have undeniable intrinsic value; still, it happens that in the course of the performance sex or violence are displayed.
In my opinion, if the play as a whole is not only an excuse for sex and violence, but tells a story which is logical, which makes sense, and which has an artistic value, I do not see why it should be rejected outright simply because there is a scene here and there of sex, for sex is an integral part of our lives. This does not mean that productions must be filled with sex, but I feel that we should not fall head over heels because we see a breast on the television screen, for these are quite normal things.
Do we want our state-run broadcasting system to waste its time depicting a Victorian style society which no longer exists, which falsely tries to show us a society which is made up of angels and which has nothing in common with reality? We do not expect that from our national broadcasting system, and we do not want it to become something like Moliere's Tartuffe,, if you know what I mean.
There is a question I wish to ask all hon. members. Should we censor the media? As a matter of principle, I feel that it is important to stop there. Films are no longer censored in the province of Quebec. Once they have been screened, they are either accepted or rejected in their entirety. Films no longer get clipped as they used to be. A decision is taken as to whether the film is acceptable or not. Those which are deemed acceptable certainly contain scenes which some people can normally be expected to find offensive. Otherwise, if you do not want to offend anyone, you will not show anything daring, and you will probably end up displeasing those who would like to see daring scenes. You cannot make everybody happy. And yet, a middle-of-the-road policy is certainly not impossible bearing in mind that viewers always can exercise a control over what reaches their households through electronic media. The listener who doesn't like a program has ample freedom to turn off his set, watch another program, read his paper or even do at home what he does not like to watch on TV.
I wonder if we should censor media and run the risk of hindering creativity. In all media there are devoted people whose work it is to show people what comes out of their creative minds, to show things with an artistic value. Frequently, the shows which are programmed are based for instance on books, on novels. For example, everybody heard about a film entitled The Carpet Baggers, of course a very bold one. Yet the film was based on a novel which was a best-seller. If everybody rushes to buy that book, how could a film producer be smitten with remorse and regret or ask himself a million questions before he starts shooting his film?
Media may be censored if the matter arises, but whoever does so should wonder what the results may be from a creative point of view. It can be done, but only after it has been thought over.
Do we want to run the risk of describing an artificial society, I shall refer to it presently, a holy society that does not exist? All kinds of directions can be given to our media. Parliament can even force them, if it so wishes, to show nice things only. We know that in other countries, national television corporations used to show the people nothing but nice things; but of course those nations came to require more freedom, and certainly the intention here is not to restrict the freedom of the media.
Finally, the basic question arises; Are we to take the decisions for the people? The decision to watch or not to watch TV, to turn the radio on or not to do it is a personal decision, a matter of choice very easily exercised by the people. They can be deprived of that choice, but we should first ask listeners and the general public whether such is their wish. I do not believe that such a decision can be taken in the course of this kind of one-hour debate. I am not inferring the decision would be intrinsically bad, if a majority of Canadians were to tell us: Choose what we are going to see. Maybe that decision will be made in the future. But before acting, we should await the order to do so.
I would emphasize at this point that the Criminal Code, contrary to what the hon. member for Red Deer apparently feels, already includes a number of provisions on obscenity. Criminal charges may already be laid in cases of obscene showings on television. Through this bill, the member seeks more specific measures. This is of some concern to me, because creativity could be restricted in the process. Television and radio producers already live under some sort of threat. In addition to the Criminal Code, the Canadian Radio-Television Commission has coercive powers much more effective than amendments to the Criminal Code. The CRTC already established regulations on obscenity, and they can even suspend media licences. That is much more serious than putting an employee of the medium in prison for a month. This sword of Damocles is much more likely to make owners of media think twice than the proposed amendment to the Criminal Code.
Since provisions to that effect already exist in the code, I wonder if the bill is not more an answer to a purely
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are understandably concerned. I am willing to be tolerant and to accept their point of view, but I would also like them to accept the point of view of those who are not concerned, who watch television openmindedly, and who are able, when they are not satisfied, to turn it off without asking the government to do it for them.
Today's debate, Madam Speaker, will certainly be useful. Obviously the CBC is already aware of this debate. Its president and senior officials will certainly read carefully what was said here and will be alerted, above all after the two sittings of the Committee on Braadcasting, Films and Assistance to the Arts which were devoted almost entirely to this problem. This means that today's debate is very useful, that it will allow the concern of a part of the public to pass through, as it was presented to the House of Commons by its representatives. In my opinion, in the present democratic system, this is a good thing. Those who are concerned about something have the right to express their views. They did here today and the parties interested will certainly benefit from it.
March 25, 1975 COMMONS DEBATES 4475
Topic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic: CRIMINAL CODE