An open letter from Artists Against C-51

Some prominent Canadian artists fear bill C-51 “directly attacks the creative arts and free expression in this country.”

Content image

People protest on Parliament Hill during a day of action against Bill C-51, the government’s proposed anti-terrorism legislation, Saturday, April 18, 2015 in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/CP)

CAMBRIDGE, MA - MAY 01:  Canadian Author Margaret Atwood receives the 2014 Harvard Arts Medal at Harvard University on May 1, 2014 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  (Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, MA – MAY 01: Canadian Author Margaret Atwood receives the 2014 Harvard Arts Medal at Harvard University on May 1, 2014 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Paul Marotta/Getty Images)

More than 200 Canadian artists say they fear the government’s new national security law, C-51, attacks free expression. The artists signed the letter below, which was provided to Maclean’s by Open Media, an organization that advocates on issues of privacy, open internet and digital rights.

September 29, 2015

Dear Party Leaders,

We are Canadian artists. We have been blessed to be part of a country that does not send poets to gulags, that does not behead people for saying things a government considers critical of it, and that does not murder dissidents and journalists wholesale.

But we know that totalitarian and repressive regimes always try to shut down artists, along with any other independent voices. We are alert to the possibilities: we, and all who wish a free and open society, must strongly oppose such tendencies when they arise.

Bill C-51 directly attacks the creative arts and free expression in this country.

This bill was rammed through Parliament by the Harper Conservative government, despite a huge public outcry and without due consultation. As many experts have pointed out, this bill allows the government to silence dissenting voices without oversight or accountability. It criminalizes “advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general,” which, because of this vague wording, could be interpreted in some very stupid ways. In effect, it gives the government carte blanche to suppress any voice they don’t like.

Is it promoting terrorism if we:

  • write a spy novel about an assassination plot?
  • record a song questioning our government’s agenda?
  • paint a mural about the conflict in Syria?
  • produce a documentary on security threats in Canada?
  • put on an art show critical of the oil sands?
  • make a film with an environmental theme?

Creativity, expression, opinion, and art are not the same as terrorist propaganda. Through its “chill” effect, C-51 undermines one of the chief freedoms of a democratic society: the right of every Canadian to free speech and free expression, including free artistic expression.

In addition, Bill C-51, because of the lack of oversight and accountability, is an invitation to intellectual property theft. All creative classes, including entrepreneurs and digital creators, are threatened by it. And every citizen is subject to blackmail, due to unlimited, unaccountable access to personal information.

We agree with the almost 300,000 Canadians who have called on the government to scrap this reckless, dangerous and ineffective legislation through the petition at

This election we will be voting to protect our artistry, our rights, and our freedoms: we will be voting for the repeal of C-51. We hope you will join us in ensuring that all Canadians are no longer subject to the chilling effects of C-51 and targeted by government censorship.

We can defend against terrorists in much better ways than this.


Margaret Atwood, Author

Mark Achbar, Filmmaker

Hayden Desser, Musician

Cory Doctorow, Writer

John Dunsworth, Actor

Brett Gaylor, Filmmaker

Zach Gray, Musician, Zolas

John Greyson, Filmmaker

Paul Haggis, Filmmaker

Thomas King, Writer, Photographer

Dan Mangan, Musician

Don McKellar, Filmmaker

Raffi, Musician, Author

Judy Rebick, Writer

Kathleen Winter, Author

Antonia Zerbisias, Writer



Aaron Carley, Musician

Aaron McHattie, Musician

Adam Vee, Music Producer, The Ludvico Treatment

Adrienne Barrett, Writer

Ah Ram Lee, CG Artist

Alex Kennedy, Writer

Alex Leslie, Author

Alex Tribe, Musician

Alexander Hauka, Cellist, Good For Grapes

Alexander Kennard, Writer, Musician, Communications Professional

Alexandre Millaire & Kaitlin Milroy, Musicians, Moonfruits

Alexis Mitchell, Artist

Alexis Young, Musician

Alfred Peter Gough, Artist, Vice President, Society of Canadian Artists

Alice Burdick, Writer, Bookseller

Alisa Gayle-Deutsch, Musician

Alison Smith, Writer

Brad Fraser, Writer

Brian Bowman, Writer

Brianne Nord-Stewart, Filmmaker

Brittney Rand, Producer, Musician

Cameron Dixon, Painter

Camille Sullivan, Actor

Carole Henshall, Potter

Carolyn Deby, Artist

Carolyn Marie Souaid, Poet

Cass Reimer, Artist-Educator

Catherine Craig, Artist

Cathy Gulkin, Film Editor

Chara Kingston, Museum Collections Manager

Charles Bowie, Author

Charles Demers, Comedian, Author

Chris Down, Artist

Christopher Reiche, Musician, Composer

Cindy Asoden, Videographer, YOLO Video Productions Inc/JCVDude

CJ Unsworth, Lighting Designer

Claire Cameron, Writer

Claire Coupland, Musician

Clayton Drake Musician, The Almighty Rhombus

Clô Laurencelle, Art Teacher

Corbin VanderZalm, Musician

Corey Redekop, Author

Cory Lavender, Editor

Dafydd Palfrey, Filmmaker, Musician, Artist, Ten Pence Films/Dave Palmtree and the Palmtree Trio

Damien Gillis, Filmmaker

Damien, Actor

Dave Meisner, Tour Manager

David Bobier, Artist, Director, Curator, VibraFusionLab

David Grenier, Artist

David Ward, Musician

Deborah Dumka, Fibre Artist

Devin Gourley, Musician, Booking Agent

Devon Urwin, Recording Artist, Film Worker

Diane Scaman, Photographer

Dionne Brand, Writer

Donn Zver, Craftsman

Douglas Phillips, Musician

Drew Arnott, Songwriter

Edmund Brownless, Musician

Edo Van Breemn, Film Composer

Elaine Carol, Artistic Director, MISCELLANEOUS Productions

Elise Moser, Writer, Editor

Elizabeth Philips, Writer

Elizabeth Saunders, Artist

Elle Flanders, Filmmaker

Emily Millard, Musician, Miss Emily Brown

Endre Farkas, Poet, Playwright, Novelist

Erin Donovan, Musician, Director

Farzana Doctor, Author

Faten Toubasi , Visual Artist, Instructor

Fiona McLean, Artist

Francoise Thibault, Artist

Franke James, Artist, Author

Fraser Parkes, Musician, The Fuzzy Undertones

Fulvio Cecere, Actor

Gail Chin, Photographer

Gale Zoe Garnett, Writer, Actor, Arts Activist

Gilbert Gilbert, Musician

H.L. Goyer, Artist

Haley Hunt-Brondwin, Visual Artist and Designer

Hannah Claire Epperson, Musician, Composer

Heather Birrell, Writer

Heather Grant, Bassist, Singer, Crossed Wires

Heather Rankin, Designer (retired)

Helen Hoy, Painter

Ila Crawford, Visual Artist

Isaac Vallentin, Designer, Musician

Jan Wade, Artist

Jane Eaton Hamilton, Author

Jane Simpson, Writer

Janice Brunson, Independent Music Professional

Jennifer Claveau, Singer, Songwriter, Watercolourist

Jessica Stuart, Musician, The Jessica Stuart Few

Jim Riley, Video Artist

Joana Joachim, Museologist, Curator

Joe Sarahan, Carpenter, Artist

Jonathan Sweeting, Artist, Poet

Julia Mosher, Furniture Finisher

Julie Joosten, Writer

Julie Picken-Cooper, Arts Educator, Council of Canadians

Julie René de Cotret, Curator

Justine Warrington, Performer, Writer, Filmmaker

Karen Trask, Artist

Kate Hurman, Actor, Director, Writer, Teacher

Kate Inglis, Writer

Kate Lucyk, Artist

Katherine Dodds, Filmmaker, Writer, Creative Director, Hello Cool World

Kathryn Mockler, Poet, Professor, Screenwriter

Keith Higgins, Artist, Publisher

Kennedy Douglas Telford, Artist, Designer

Kirby Rivest, Glass Artisan

Krisdy Shindler, Artist

Kristian Joseph Warburton, Film Student

Kyle Weber, Artist, Entrepreneur

Lana Pesch, Author, Producer

Lance Buan, Visual Artist

Lani Ashenhurst, Actor

Laura Smith, Musician

Lauren B. Davis, Author

Lesley Ewen, Director, Dramaturg, Playwright, Performer, Teacher

Lindsay Brown, Writer, Designer

Lindsay Clayton Day, Writer, Teacher

Lisa Ireland, Artisan

Lynn Beavis, Art Gallery Worker

Madeline Bassnett, Writer

Maggie Tchir, Visual Artist

Marcia McInnis, Mixed Media Artist

Maria Meindl, Writer

Marie Smith, Museum Assistant

Mark Bentley Cohen, Writer/Performer

Marney Morgan, Metalsmith

Marsha Kennedy, Professor, Visual Arts

Martin Kennedy, Artist

Matias Munoz, Music Writer, Ottawa Showbox

Maureen Lyons, Photographer

Michael Harris, Author, Journalist

Michèle Houle, Photo, Video

Mikela Jay, Singer, Actor, Narrator

Miles Evans-Branagh, Musician

Milton Lim, Theatre Director, Multidisciplinary Performer, Hong Kong Exile/Theatre Conspiracy

Naomi Binder Wall, Writer

Neeraj Padmanabh, Film Editor

Nick Roddam, Artist

Nicola Morry, Teacher

Nicole Yates, Musician

Noah Spivak, Visual Artist

Patricia McDonough, Custom Picture Framer

Patrick Farrugia, Musician

Patti Randazzo Beckett, Artist

Paul Walde, Artist, Professor

Peter Kufluk, Actor

Peter Ricq, Filmmaker, Musician, Illustrator

Rachael Cardiello, Musician

Rachel Jacobson, Director

Raymonde Savoie, Writer

Rebecca Salazar, Poet, Editor

Risa Horowitz, Artist

Robert Cameron, Musician, BESTiE

Robert Dayton, Artist

Robin Pacific, Visual Artist

Rodney Hanson, Architect

Rosemary Carter, Graphic Designer

Samantha Reid, Writer

Samantha Soo, Filmmaker

Sandra Diaz, Visual Artist

Sandra Mannila, Artist, Writer, Arts Administrator

Sandra Nieuwenhuijsen, Art Director

Sarah Comfort, Artist

Sarah Sawler, Writer

Sean Devlin, Comedian

Sean McQuillan, Actor

Seth Stuve, Audio Engineer, Musician

Sharon King-Campbell, Theatre Artist

Shawn Jordan, Artist

Sheleah, Makeup Artist, SJB Makeup

Shelly Cassivi, Musician

Shlomit Segal, Graphic Designer

Sojin Kim, Independent Curator

Stephanie Yates, Artist

Stephany Aiken, Artist, Philosopher

Steve Bays, Musician, Producer

Steven Foster, Musician

Steven Laurie, Visual Artist

Su J. Sokol, Writer

Su-Feh Lee, Choreographer, Battery Opera Performance

Sue Goldstein, Artist, Activist

Susan Applewhaite, Actor

Susan Kendal, Choreographer,Textile Artist

Susan Swan, Author

Suzanne Dallaire, Visual Artist

Tara Mahoney, Producer, Creative Director, Gen Why Media

Thad Rosenau, Visual Artist

Tony Marryatt, Musician

Trevor Thomas, Musician, Producer

Troy Nixey, Movie Director, Comic Book Creator

Tuula Helin, Writer

Veronique Mallet, Musician

Victoria Ginsley, Poet

Wendy Davis, Photographer

Zachary Gough, Artist

Zack Embree, Filmmaker, Photographer

Zainab Amadahy, Writer