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Courtesy of Jian Ghomeshi’s Twitter feed, I came across this story of a Vancouver band, Living With Lions (Since they are Vancouver based, I wonder if this is a reference to my beloved Lion’s Gate Bridge?) drawing the ire of  a few of the powers that be in their city, over the so-called offensive material in their new release. This is a continuation of the Harper Government’s assault on any art which is arbitrarily deemed “offensive” or not in line with so-called Canadian values.

Because of the Canadian Heritage Fund’s contribution to the funding of the album, they now feel that it is their right to arbitrarily declare whether the album is worthy of being deemed ‘art’. It’s very similar to similar stories in my native America, such as the Piss Christ, Mapplethorpe’s photography, and Diego Rivera’s Rockefeller mural. There is a similar vein of thought running through each one of these instances, that there is only one universal standard of what is worthy of being labeled art, and therefore worthy of the monetary support of the Canadian government. Interestingly, what is considered ‘offensive’ is most often quite fluid, and usually only comes about when it’s a group that Harper and his cronies belong to, such as whites, Christians, heterosexists, and conservatives, become the target of mockery and criticism.

In my mind, the very meaning of art is incompatible with the cynical war on freedom of speech in all fields waged by Stephen Harper, from muzzling of scientists at Environment Canada to this, but it is still inexcusable to me that the people at Canadian Heritage feel that because something is offensive to them, it’s unworthy. I’m not familiar with the album (But I do want to pick it up, and I am sure Living With Lions appreciates the free buzz and press, and no doubt boost to album sales this will grant them) but I will defend to the death its right to critique the structure of Christianity. I know that Canadian standards on this issue differ from my native country’s, but as an American Canadian, I feel that it is of utmost importance to the true Canadian values that we not let the Canadian government or Canadian Heritage decide what gets funding based on their own narrow idea of offense. I find those jets, the continued war in Afghanistan and questionable tactics used in it, the Toronto G20 fiasco, and the tar sands to be a far more offensive use of Canadian tax dollars than music of any genre.

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