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Theatrical Censorship In Canada History Essay
We also use this information to show you ads for similar films you may like in the future. In its more extreme form, censorship could be imposed through the War Measures Act and the Official Secrets Act to protect the integrity of the state.
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Provincial and municipal governments could also restrict gatherings, performances, exhibitions, demonstrations, public speaking, and displays of texts and pictures on billboards. When censorship was imposed by the state, its agents could include police, customs officers, post office workers, censor boards, and public prosecutors.
Police banned demonstrations, dispersed public gatherings, and arrested people on picket lines; customs officials seized films, books, and magazines at the border; the post office refused to forward obscene material; censor boards banned obscene films and regulated content; and prosecutors indicted people for speech offences. The federal customs bureau was a primary tool in the service of censorship, but no list of its proscribed titles was ever made publicly available, and thus we do not know the full scope of its banned literature.
Censorship generally focused on two categories: depictions of behaviours that undermined public morals mostly sexual material and expressions of unpatriotic ideas. During both world wars, the state imposed severe limits on the publication of materials that could undermine the war effort, and in the early years of the Cold War, it censored institutions such as the National Film Board for perceived pro-communist sympathies. In that year, the Alberta Social Credit government passed the Act to Ensure the Publication of Accurate News and Information , as part of a major legislative package to regulate the provincial economy.
Papers that violated the law could be punished with a large fine and a ban on publishing restricted information. The Accurate News and Information Act was unquestionably the most blatant peacetime attempt to gag the press. In , the Supreme Court of Canada found that the law was ultra vires beyond the powers of the Alberta government, ruling for the first time that provinces could not unilaterally restrict fundamental freedoms.
Such barefaced attempts to censor speech, however, have been rare in Canada. Restrictions on speech more commonly take the form of laws that regulate film and literature. The board convinced the four main magazine wholesalers to submit to its decisions regarding the publication of unacceptable material. Within ten years, it had censored magazines.
In Ontario, a similar arrangement was reached between the provincial government and civic and religious organizations to form an Obscene Literature Committee in to censor published materials in the province. Distributors, who feared prosecution for carrying obscene material, welcomed the board as a way of avoiding expensive legal proceedings and submitted to its decisions; by , the board had recommended the banning of periodicals and 97 pocketbooks.
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Quebec was the only other province in Canada to possess a censor board for literature, and like its Alberta and Ontario counterparts, it was operated by private citizens who advised dealers with the support of the provincial government. Although the remaining provinces had no censor boards, informal censorship mechanisms existed there during the early s. The attorneys general of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick had managed to ban twenty-eight books simply because they had been banned elsewhere.
In Nova Scotia, a magazine publisher removed eighty publications following a threat by a popular gospel preacher, Perry Rockwood, to drag him to court.
At the time, only British Columbia had no plans to ban obscene books. The case challenged the federal Criminal Code provisions on obscenity, and though it reached a confusing decision, with seven separate judgments, it nonetheless resulted in a partial liberalization of the contentious obscenity laws by allowing experts to testify on the merits of impugned literature. During the s, provincial film censors were far more prolific than those who dealt with literature. The degree of censorship varied considerably from province to province.
By , as Malcolm Dean notes in Censored!