National Post – -
Terry Glavin January 19, 2011
When federal Cabinet Minister James Moore intervened Tuesday to protestÂ the cancelled screening of the filmÂ Iranium at the National Library and Archives in Ottawa, he said: â€śI am disappointed that Library & Archives Canada chose not to show the film tonight due to threats of violence. . . The Iranian Embassy will not dictate to the Government of Canada which films will or will not be shown in Canada.â€ť
But the screening ended up cancelled anyway after a â€śsuspicious packageâ€ť shut down the Library. Ottawa police and a haz-mat team showed up late in the afternoon and the staff was sent home. In another version of events, most employees were already gone when suspicious letters were dropped off at the building, on Wellington Street, by a man who hurried away.
Altogether itâ€™s been a busy couple of days for my pal Fred Litwin, who runs Ottawaâ€™s Free-Thinking Film Society, the host of the event. Fredâ€™s been keeping me posted â€“ Iâ€™m a director of the society (and no, Iâ€™m neither â€ślibertarianâ€ť nor â€śconservativeâ€ť). Only two months ago I joined some Iranian comrades at the National Library to give a talk at a Film Society screening of another film about Iranian despotism,Â The Stoning of Soraya M.
The Iranian embassy confirms it was involved in the initial â€ścomplaintsâ€ť about theÂ Iranium event. The Library confirms the embassy lodged a formal request to cancel the screening. A â€śsuspiciousâ€ť package or a letter that turned out to be a false alarm â€“ thatâ€™s something I can understand as a justification for cancelling the showing. But the National Library first cancelled the screening after merely having received â€ścomplaints.â€ť It agreed not to back down to the protests, only after Mooreâ€™s office intervened. But then the Library apparently backed down again after â€ślettersâ€ť and â€śthreatsâ€ť and â€śprotests,â€ť or something.
â€śIâ€™m outraged that in the capital of Canada the Iranians have been able to shut down a movie,â€ť Fred said. â€śBad enough in Tehran, but in Ottawa?â€ť
Apparently so. Something very nasty is going on here, and I am more than a little curious to discover whatâ€™s at the bottom of it, who was involved in these â€śprotests,â€ť and what the hell the National Library was thinking by cancelling the screening in the first place. The National Library is not the Bijou. Itâ€™s a venerable, national, public institution.Â Iranium is an important film, itâ€™s a new film, and Clare Lopez, a Middle East strategic policy and intelligence expert was flown in from Washington D.C. for the planned screening. The National Library owes more than an apology and a lot more than full compensation for the Film Societyâ€™s costs. It owes every Canadian a complete explanation and full accounting of what the hell just happened.
Journalist, author andÂ blogger Terry Glavin is an adjunct professor of creative writing at the University of British Columbia and editor of Transmontanus Books. He was awarded the 2009 B.C. Lieutenant-Governorâ€™s Award for Literary Excellence.
This article was originally published here.