An Adult Sanctuary: 1

Alex Henderson
After President Bush's re-election, there was much talk of many liberal Americans contemplating a possible move to Canada. The Canadian government's immigration website reported a sudden increase in inquiries from the United States from roughly 20,000 per day to 115,000, and three months after the election, Vancouver, B.C.-based immigration lawyer Linda Mark told the New York Times that the number of Americans submitting immigration papers was "three or four times higher than normal."

But how liberal is Canada when it comes to adult entertainment? And for the adult-oriented entrepreneur who fears a crackdown on adult entertainment during Bush's second term, would Canada be a better or worse place to do business?

John Ince, a Vancouver-based attorney and sexual-freedom activist who owns an erotic art store called the Art of Loving, believes that whether Canada is more or less tolerant of adult entertainment than the U.S. is a complex matter with many variables.

"When it comes to adult entertainment in Canada, it is hard to generalize and give pat answers because the regulations can vary from province to province," Ince said, adding that there can be a considerable difference between how adult entertainment is treated in Vancouver, which he describes as "by far the most liberal city in Canada," and Montreal versus the generally more socially conservative Maritime Provinces.

Randy Jorgensen, CEO of Canada's Adults Only Video retail chain, agrees, claiming that Canada and the U.S. both have their good and bad points where adult entertainment is concerned.

"On the whole, the U.S. is more liberal than Canada when it comes to adult entertainment, but I'm being very general when I say that," Jorgensen said, whose AOV chain boasts at least 55 stores in Canada.

"There isn't any part of Canada that is as restrictive as Texas and some of the Bible Belt states in the U.S., but Canada on the whole is less tolerant than the more liberal states in the U.S., such as California and New York. There are some productions that are allowed in parts of the U.S. that aren't allowed anywhere in Canada — urination and fisting and those types of things are generally edited out of Canadian productions."

Professor Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa's law school noted that the Christian Right has very little influence in Canada, so in many respects, Canada can be more socially liberal than the United States. Case in point: Janet Jackson exposing part of her right breast was never an issue and same-sex marriage has fairly strong public support. But while Canada is generally more tolerant when it comes to homosexuality and Jackson's breasts, adult industry supporters say it can become much less tolerant if one ventures into S&M-oriented material.

"The court decisions in Canada have been very clear: If there's any bondage, there cannot be sex — and if there's any sex, there cannot be bondage," Jorgensen said. "Bondage is OK and sex is OK, but you can't put them together. The same thing applies to depictions of violence. If you're depicting violence and sex together in Canada, you're breaking the law."

Los Angeles-based First Amendment attorney Gregory Piccionelli said that Vivid Entertainment and other companies creating mainstream adult entertainment probably wouldn't face much opposition from Canadian authorities if they moved to Toronto or Vancouver. But Piccionelli warned that companies providing kinkier material might face legal problems in that region where opposition would be more likely to come from a left-wing, "politically correct" perspective than a Religious-Right, moralist perspective.

As an example, on Nov. 27, 2002, Donald Smith of Woodyatt, Ontario, was found guilty on four counts of making, possessing and distributing obscene materials.

The materials in question were three films available to age-verified members of Smith's now-defunct website that showed a dramatization of male predators surprising and killing scantily clad and semi-nude women, often by shooting or stabbing them in the genitals.

More than 2,000 subscribers paid about $30 (U.S.) to view the videos after going through three pages of warnings and age verification.

Smith was fined an amount equal to roughly $60,000 (U.S.), put on probation for three years and forbidden from using the Internet or ever again being involved in an Internet venture. In addition, he was prohibited from having a computer in his home.

In part two we'll look at the realities of relocating to Canada in order to escape US laws.

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