For the past five years, X-rated videotapes have been readily available in British Columbia, but recently such explicit films as Deep Throat have become available in franchised specialty stores, and citizens in several cities are asking whether one of Canada’s most tolerant guidelines on adult material has at last exceeded the bounds of excess.
The videotapes are intended for viewing in private, on TV sets. But that restriction does not go far enough for the Victoria City Council. It is about to pass a bylaw with a fine of $1,000 for anyone convicted of selling or renting a film showing sexual intercourse or subjects such as sadism and incest.
The new bylaw would be considerably tougher than the guidelines on pornography issued by the provincial government in 1977. The province’s attorney general,
Garde Gardom, introduced the rules in order to help judges apply community standards to the vague definition of obscenity in the federal Criminal Code. The new guidelines banned — among other things— films showing sexual acts coupled with violence and sex scenes involving child actors or animals.
The tapes have been unobtrusively available in stores that also stocked sexual aids and sexy magazines. Because customers had to be at least 19 years old, the system created little controversy—until recently. Now, videotapes, which fall within the guidelines but can also be offensive, are being peddled openly in the nine stores of Red Hot Video, a franchise operation that is quickly expanding in the province. Victoria’s bylaw would effectively put one Red Hot store out of business. At the same time, North Vancouver wants the province to ban the distribution of hard-core material, and Burnaby is concerned about some of the films being sold within its municipal boundaries. “This stuff has been around for years, and now Red Hot is being attacked for the sin of going public,” says Mark Dwor, a lawyer
who acts for the operation.
Most of the hard-core films, including the ones allowed under B.C. guidelines, are made in the United States and, theoretically, should never have been allowed to cross the border. Canada Customs has a list of forbidden items, which range from mongooses to used mattresses, and explicit films also fall
under Ottawa’s vague guidelines of immoral or indecent material: anything that unduly exploits sex, crime, horror, cruelty or violence. A smuggled film could be tracked down and its owner charged by the RCMP—but that is not happening in British Columbia.
For his part, Dwor believes any attempt to block the films at the border would have little or no effect. “The border is a sieve,” he says. “Apart from that, though, this is an area where the law is lagging behind technology. My clients are not importing any of the films they are selling anyway.” They do not have to. With thousands of readily available prints already in the country, copies can be run off that are almost as good as the original.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.