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New Brunswick

Bill C-11 Takes Us Into the Very Realms We Have Fought to Depose Over the Last 70 Years


The following speech on Bill C-11 was delivered by the Hon. David Adams Richards in the Senate on January 31, 2023.

Dear colleagues,

There is a particular essay by Cicero called The Second Philippic that was written to expose the power of the state against freedom of speech and thought – and the power of one man, Marc Antony. It is a brilliant proclamation and shows Cicero at his best and bravest. It was given to the Roman Senate and Cicero paid with his life. His hands were cut off and taken to Marc Antony as proof that Cicero would never write again.

Cicero lived in dangerous times.

When Vasily Grossman finished his great novel “Life and Destiny” about the Battle of Stalingrad, it had to be approved by the Culture Department of the Central Committee, the wise Soviet think tank for art and culture.

It took them a year to reply – and said it was anti-Soviet. They did not accept it for publication. It is out now and of course a wonderful book that shows fascism and communism as mirror images of each other in depravity and contempt for human freedom.

There is a great scene in this book where, in January 1943, an elderly babushka, when she sees a German youth coming out of the last nest of German defenses, is ready to yell at him, spit and curse him for what he did to her people has done. But when she sees the 19-year-old boy, a soldier of destiny, now frightened, starved and alone, she stops and says, “Okay, here then,” and hands him a piece of bread.

Nothing in the book is more meaningful than this moment. Because this moment shows that it is absolutely Russian and absolutely universal for all mankind. That the way to combat such mechanized violence and hate is with simple compassion and forgiveness.

Something that is far too rare today, in Canada and elsewhere.

We have become a land of scapegoats and pointers offering blame and shame, believing we are an awakened society.

Cultural committees are built on bias and fear as much as anything else. I’ve seen enough artistic committees to know that. According to George Orwell, this is what we must resist – the prison of self-censorship. This bill contributes significantly to the construction of such a prison.

Solzhenitsyn’s In the First Circle was also smuggled out of the Eastern bloc. One of the great scenes in it shows a writer, one of Stalin’s favorites, sitting down to write a novel and saying to himself, “I’m going to write the truth now.” But feeling Stalin’s eyes on him, he decides he can’t and says, “The next novel will be the real one.”

The idea of ​​any hierarchy deciding what a man or woman can write to conform to a forbidden national agenda is a terrible thing.

I wonder if anyone on our Heritage Minister’s staff understands this? In Germany it was called the Ministry for National Enlightenment, and each radio was headed by Joseph Goebbels.

Total ideological manipulation in the name of national purity.

No edict from the CRTC could in any way tell us what Canadian content should or should not be, or who should be allowed to lift their heads from the new darkness we have created.

Like Orwell’s proclamation, the bill itself proposes a platform that resolves, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” And Bill C-11 certainly spells out who they are.

I’m not just talking about the internet because I’m too old to know it. However, this will affect every performance we perform, and we will have government officials holding a book of rules that will tell us if we are Canadian enough. Or even worse, who can write what about whom.

Look, I’m not Canadian enough – I never have been. Growing up in a place east of Canada called Maritimes, I fought for every inch of ground in my fictional world that for years rejected who I was and more importantly, who I wrote about. I did it with no complaints, but I know who the gatekeepers are. They’re still here, telling us in C-11 that we’ve made progress, are more understanding, and our value system has evolved into an inclusive system. This declaration is a transparent gift to those whose support they need and who they wish to influence. But it is a terrible insult to the great writers of my country that I know.

This does not open the door to greatness, only to docility.

The writers I know don’t need to evolve to fit an agenda, and neither do the songwriters or bloggers. When this bill mentions how we have evolved, that is just a suggestion to stick with it.

Some of those who have become the new Canada have torn away books and dismembered many of the writers I so admired. An evolution in hypocrisy and an advance in suppressing the voices we disagree with.

With this bill, we have entered the very areas that we have fought to overthrow for the past 70 years. C-11 may be more subtle than the German Stasi or the former Soviet Union’s Cultural Committee, but never think that they aren’t intertwined.

The very draft legislation hints at a kind of favoritism fueled by a fictitious knowledge of what Canada should be and which groups we can now blame.

It also suggests that there is no communication or interaction between writers of different ethnicities. This identity politics is positive because it teaches new voices to a boring society. Or about trauma that only certain people are allowed to say they know. It is a balkanization of free speech; it is so narrow-minded that it nullifies exactly what it proposes and destroys the principle established by Terence over 2,000 years ago: “I am human, therefore nothing human is alien to me.”

That is, we understand because we identify, not because we are being taught a lesson.

One night after my reading at Toronto’s Harbourfront, two people approached me. One was the great Irish writer Roddy Doyle, who told me he had long admired my work. The other was First Nation author Richard Wagmesse, who told me that he started writing because he was influenced by my work. Both were very nice, living thousands of miles apart, one Irish and one First Nation, and the writing had little to do with identity politics – but it had a lot to do with identification.

I don’t know who could tell me what is and isn’t Canadian content. But I know it’s not in the power of the Minister for Heritage ever to tell me.

We still don’t have a great film about hockey, a great film about Juno Beach, a great film about Dieppe, or a great film about the young Canadians fighting in Hong Kong. Our actors, singers and writers have also left – because they had to. Because too many in power have no knowledge of these things.

We filled the world with our talent, but not because of the Heritage Minister.

We’ve spread our books and films all over the world, but it’s not because of some formulaic law. We have offended so many of our writers and singers, our actors and painters by not paying them attention and then claiming them when they go elsewhere. They come back to claim the Order of Canada and be celebrated at Rideau Hall.

Drake is not known worldwide because of the CRTC. Thank God Drake was no match for them. Or Leonard Cohen or Gordon Lightfoot, either.

You see, we have returned to the age of Cicero without even knowing it. In this era, finding a scapegoat was considered a blessing, and mob action against a person was considered justice.

In fact, it was Christ who taught us that scapegoating is a big lie. And begged us by his death never to return to that state.

This law will scapegoat all those who don’t fit into what our bureaucrats think Canada should be. Stalin will look over our shoulder again when we write.

We have come such a long way from Cicero.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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