Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Theatregoers walk to their show at a Cineplex theatre in downtown Toronto on Aug. 26, 2020.

Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press

The Ontario government is out of the business of classifying movies, and the Canadian film industry is breathing a sigh of relief.

In last week’s provincial budget, Premier Doug Ford’s government introduced the proposed Film Content Information Act, which if passed will replace the Film Classification Act. The new legislation does away with the need for movies to be classified under age-appropriate labels (General, Parental Guidance, 14 Accompaniment, 18 Accompaniment and Restricted).

Instead, the burden of informing audiences about such content as violence, nudity, coarse language and substance use now falls to the industry.

Story continues below advertisement

The Film Content Information Act will not, however, change the guidelines for rating adult sex films or video games, which must still be reviewed “by an entity that is authorized to approve” such material in Canada. (Ontario currently sources its adult sex film ratings from Consumer Protection BC.)

As well, film festivals, limited-exhibition films and Canadian-produced films are exempt from having to obtain a classification rating, but will be “required to provide consumers with information on the film’s content,” according to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.

The province is making the move a little more than a year after Queen’s Park shut down the Ontario Film Authority, or OFA, a self-funded arm’s-length agency created by the previous Liberal government in 2015 in a restructuring of the Ontario Film Review Board.

The agency supported itself by relying on film-licensing fees, in which businesses distributing or exhibiting a film in Ontario were required to pay for one of seven classes of licences, and film-classification fees, which were required to distribute and exhibit a film in the province. Costs for the latter service ranged from $4.20 a minute for non-Canadian, English-language films to a flat fee of $80 for foreign-language films.

At the time, Ontario said the OFA was an “unnecessary” financial burden on the film industry, estimating that a modernization of the system would save at least $1.5-million a year in classification and licensing costs.

Lisa Thompson, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, also noted that “the major shift to digital platforms and streaming services has significantly changed viewers' behaviour and impacted the OFA’s business and revenues, making it unsustainable.” (The OFA earned $1.29-million in revenue in 2018, down from $1.9-million the year before.)

Canada is one of the few major countries in the world lacking a national film classification system. Instead, there are different systems in place for different jurisdictions, with film distributors having to pay classification fees to each. This is slowly changing, though, with British Columbia providing film-classification services for Manitoba since 2018, and Saskatchewan since 2007.

Story continues below advertisement

“As foreign-owned services continue their unregulated push into Canada, I’m pleased to see the move away from the scattered provincial approach toward national content regulation. Now we wait on what happens next,” said Mark Slone, president of distributor Pacific Northwest Pictures and past president of the Canadian Association of Film Distributors and Exporters. “We hope that deregulation in Ontario will lead to the adoption of a national content advisory system and a modernization of distribution licensing that serves consumers and ensures Canadian culture remains discoverable.”

Cineplex, the country’s largest exhibitor, also welcomed the new legislation.

“The new law reflects the reality that moviegoers are more than capable of making their own choices and now enjoy easy, instant, and ubiquitous access to the information they need to make those choices at the box office,” said Sarah Van Lange, Cineplex’s executive director of communications.

“We hope other jurisdictions follow Ontario’s lead and roll back their respective bureaucracies that unfairly burden theatres with fees and red tape that don’t apply to other sources of film content.”

As to whether there is any issue with the onus that the Film Content Information Act places on exhibitors to field consumer complaints about movie content, Van Lange said theatre owners “have always been the primary point of contact for guests, including their concerns about content, so in that respect the new legislation is nothing new.” She added that content information and ratings assigned by other Canadian jurisdictions will continue to be listed online and at the box office.

Still, there is concern that the new act could be viewed as a half-measure.

Story continues below advertisement

“The explanation that they’re keeping up with the digital times is shown to be just rhetoric when you consider they’re still insisting on review for adult sex films and video games, even if done elsewhere by another group or province. If they were really recognizing the streaming norm, they’d also discontinue the requirement of review for those, too,” said Paul Moore, an associate professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, who specializes in the history of cinema going in Ontario.

“Deliberate or not, they seem primarily to be cutting costs and red tape in Ontario by piggybacking on somebody else doing the work somewhere else.”

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies