Heritage Minister James Moore addresses film-goers prior to the Free Thinking Society’s screening of Iranium at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. The screening was cancelled several weeks ago stirring up much controversy.
Photograph by: Mike Carroccetto, Ottawa Citizen/Postmedia News
OTTAWA — Library and Archives Canada was crawling with police officers and had 17 security guards on duty Sunday as the venue held the screening of a controversial documentary on Iran that had previously been cancelled and has become a symbol for free speech activists.
In the end the most rowdy people who showed up for a screening of the documentary Iranium, which critiques Iran’s nuclear program, were those who were cheering free speech.
Heritage Minister James Moore, who ordered Library and Archives to reschedule the screening after cancelling because it received threatening phone calls and complaints from the embassy of Iran, received a standing ovation when he addressed the crowd.
“The Iranian Embassy will never dictate what movies we watch in Canada,” Moore told the crowd. “President Ahmadinejad, you have no right to extend the theocratic bullying arm of your government onto Canadian soil in a building, an agency of the government of Canada, a stone’s throw from the Parliament of Canada. You will not tell the government of Canada, you will not tell a single Canadian, what movie we can or cannot watch.”
Organizer Fred Litwin, president of the Free Thinking Film Society, thanked everyone for coming and also thanked the Iranian Embassy.
“I want to send them a case of the finest Israeli wine,” Litwin said. “I really owe them a debt of gratitude.”
Litwin guessed that if the screening hadn’t been cancelled, they may have had 200 people turn up. Instead, they sold their capacity of 370 tickets ahead of time and had to turn away about 60 more who showed up without tickets.
Security was tight with a mandatory coat check, which eventually had to be eliminated because they ran out of hangers, and a woman quickly checking bags after tickets were presented.
Security guards circled the perimeter of the building while police officers stood outside the front doors, in the lobby, in the reception area and in the theatre.
Vincent Turgeon, a spokesman for Library and Archives Canada, wouldn’t comment on how much they had increased security and reiterated that the reason for the cancellation was because of “suspicious letters.” Asked to respond to the minister’s charge that his organization made a mistake, Turgeon said: “It’s entirely within his prerogative to make those comments. Library and Archives just chose to take the necessary precautions to make sure the collection, staff and public would be perfectly safe.”
Many who bought tickets talked about the importance of free speech.
Brian Crowley, head of the MacDonald-Laurier Institute said Sunday night: “I’m here because we live in a country where foreigners don’t get to determine what films we watch.”
James Cohen, a founding member of the Free Thinking Film Society, was impressed with the turnout.
“We sold out a documentary on Super Bowl Sunday,” Cohen said. “Every one of these people who came tonight did so as an act of defiance.”
MP David Kilgour, who addressed the group before the film, said the Iranian Embassy should be considered a sponsor of the event.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen