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Liberties group backs Glad Day

Getting on board

Credit: Xtra files

Glad Day Bookshop has a new friend and ally in its fight against censorship in Ontario.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Union (CCLU)has obtained intervener status in Glad Day’s appeal of its conviction under the Ontario Theatres Act for the unauthorized distribution of the gay porn video Descent.

“We’re glad the CCLU has realized that it’s important to intervene in this case because this is about censorship, and censorship affects everyone, gay or straight,” says Glad Day’s manager Toshiya Kuwabara. “We were hoping they would intervene and argue along side us, and now they have.”

“We have long wanted to challenge the [powers] of the censor board and this is our chance,” says Alan Borovoy, the CCLU’s executive director.

The bookstore and its owner John Scythes were charged in

2000 after undercover agents of the Ontario Film Review Board (OFRB) entered the store and purchased an unstickered VHS copy of Descent. The video was imported to Canada legally, but had not been screened or approved by the OFRB. Glad Day has already been convicted on the charge by a lower court, but the Ontario Superior Court Of Justice has agreed to hear the appeal for three days starting the end of October.

The Ontario Theatres Act requires all adult films sold to be submitted for review and approval by the OFRB before they can be sold to the public. The person or company submitting the film must pay the OFRB fees by the minute to screen the title.

The CCLU argues in its brief to the court that the Theatres Act is unconstitutional and contrary to the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms because it requires that films be submitted in advance for approval; that they have the power to censure and refuse to approve films for circulation or sale; they have the power to ban circulation of unapproved films; and that the act targets portrayals of constitutionally protected representations of sexuality.

Borovoy says film review board powers are an anomaly in Canadian law.

“We don’t have to check with anyone before we publish defence secrets, but we must have adult sex films approved before we can look at them,” he says, “which sends the message that sex is more explosive than national security…. It’s just damned silly.”

Kuwabara says that the court case has cost the store more than $100,000 so far, and the cost keeps going up.