Famed Canadian authors Margaret Atwood and David Adams Richards are among novelists warning against the Trudeau government’s online censorship Bill C-11 to amend the Broadcasting Act.
“That what George Orwell says we must resist is a prison of self-censorship,” Richards said during a speech in Canada’s Senate, where he sits as a Senator. “This bill goes a long way to construct such a prison.”
As Bill C-11 moves closer to passing third reading in the Senate, writers are voicing their concerns over the bill’s regulation of Canadian media.
“The idea of any hierarchical politico deciding what a man or woman is allowed to write to fit a proscribed national agenda is a horrid thing,” Richards continued. “I am wondering if anyone on the staff of our Minister of Canadian Heritage understands this.”
“No decree by the CRTC could, in any way, tell us what Canadian content should or should not be,” said Richards, who was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2017.
Famed author Margaret Atwood shared the video in support of Richards’ speech, saying that it “needs a listen.”
Richards also told the Senate of one night in Toronto where he was approached by Irish writer Roddy Doyle and First Nations writer Richard Wagamese, who were both inspired by his work.
“Both were very kind, lived thousands of miles apart, one Irish and one First Nations. The writing had little to do with identity politics, but it did have much to do with identifying,” said Richards. “I do not know who would be able to tell me what Canadian content is and what it is not, but I know it won’t be in the Minister of Heritage’s power to ever tell me.”
“This is not opening the gate to greatness but only to compliance,” said Richards. “We will have government officials holding a book of rules telling us if we are Canadian enough or, worse, who can write what about whom.
“We have filled the world with our talent, but not because of the Minister of Heritage,” finished Richards. ”This law will be one of scapegoating all those who do not fit into what our bureaucrats think Canada should be. Stalin, again, will be looking over our shoulders when we write.”
David Adams Richards has won the Governor General’s Award for fiction and non-fiction and the Giller Prize.
The bill is expected to return to the House of Commons after the third reading in the Senate where amendments will be debated before it is voted on to become law.