SummerWorks accused of using taxpayers money to support convicted criminals.

The following is an article written by Don Peat from the Toronto Sun, implying that The SummerWorks Festival should not be given public funds because of our inclusion of Homegrown, a play that gives a human voice and perspective to a convicted member of the Toronto 18. This perspective asserts that we should be censoring the art we put on our stages, and that the stories we tell cannot be ones from people who are criminals.

With this perspective, shared also by City Councillor, Norm Kelly, any piece of work that is based on the true story of someone convicted of a political crime should not be told. So, according to this, we should eliminate or block everything ever written about Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, 50% of the Shakespeare Cannon, In The Name of the Father, The Last King of Scotland (we should probably take away Forrest Whitaker’s Oscar … that was a much too sympathic portrayal) … I could continue, but lets just estimate that 50% of all works of art should be censored.

I’d like to also add that Don Peat has neither read nor seen this play, and Norm Kelly was the loudest in opposition to the new billboard tax that will (hopefully) be putting new money into the Toronto Arts Council.

If you’d like to share your opinion with Don Peat after actually reading his piece, you can do so at:

and the Sun editor:

and to Councillor Norm Kelly

And, of course, the best support of all is to see Homegrown and all the great work at this years SummerWorks Festival.

With respect,

Michael Rubenfeld
Artistic Producer
SummerWorks Theatre Festival


News Toronto & GTA
Sympathy for the devil

Taxpayer-supported play a ‘sympathetic’ portrayal of convicted terrorist

By DON PEAT, Toronto Sun

Last Updated: July 30, 2010 8:20pm

Tax dollars from the very governments he’s convicted of plotting to blow up are helping ensure the curtain goes up next week on a “sympathetic portrayal” of one of the members of the so-called Toronto 18 terror plotters.

Shareef Abdelhaleem was found guilty earlier this year of two terrorism-related charges in connection with the Toronto 18 plot to bomb downtown Toronto.

Following his conviction, Abdelhaleem told court if he ever learned of another terrorist plot, he would sit back and let it happen.

Now he is the leading character portrayed in Homegrown, one of the plays in this year’s lineup of Summerworks, a Toronto festival that has received almost $90,000 from all three levels of government within the last year including a $30,000 operating grant from the city-funded Toronto Arts Council, $24,500 in operating funding from the provincially funded Ontario Arts Council and $35,000 from federally funded Heritage Canada.

Homegrown itself received $6,000 from the city-supported Toronto Arts Council for a workshop.

The autobiographical play chronicles playwright Catherine Frid’s more than a year of visits with Abdelhaleem in jail as he waited for his trial.

Frid says the play is about raising questions around the criminal justice system that convicted him and the sweeping legislation police used to bust the Toronto 18 and charge them with terrorism crimes.

But at least one city councillor and member of the Toronto Arts Council is questioning why taxpayers’ dollars are putting a sympathetic story of a convicted terrorist on display.

“I don’t feel comfortable with that,” Councillor Norm Kelly told the Sun Friday. “Art plays a number of roles in society … but (this play) would be going too far.

“If the court was correct in its assessment of their intent, I don’t see much artistic merit in that portrayal.”

Kelly said he will bring the matter up at the next board meeting of the arts council.

“There is freedom of expression but there is nothing that says there should be freedom of investment,” he said.

Councillor Adam Vaughan disagreed with Kelly.

Vaughan said it isn’t up to politicians to decide what art should be shown in theatres or hung on gallery walls.

Homegrown’s playwright Catherine Frid says the play is a “sympathetic portrayal” of Abdelhaleem, not of a terrorist.

“He wasn’t planning to blow up Bay and Front Street with a truck bomb,” Frid said. “People don’t know the whole story behind Shareef’s conviction, I’m not speaking for all the Toronto 18, I’m just focusing on the one person I met and whose case I followed and I’m telling that story.”

Frid said she’s not condoning violence or advocating terrorism and she’s not anti-Canadian.

“I’ve never even joined a political party but this is something, because I have a background in law, that just really stuck in my craw,” she said. “If you care about Canada, and we all do and you know what we’re all proud as hell of our country … but you have to look a little bit beyond the headline and it is so easy to portray these guys as, you know, the big scary threat.”

Geneviève Vallerand, communications co-ordinator for the Ontario Arts Council, said it only funds operating costs.

“All artistic selections and production decisions are theirs,” she said, adding they would not necessarily be aware of those choices.

A spokesman for the Toronto Arts Council said it expects Summerworks to take risks in its productions.

Heritage Canada could not respond to a request for comment by Friday night.

Homegrown opens at the Theatre Passe Muraille on Aug. 5.

4 thoughts on “SummerWorks accused of using taxpayers money to support convicted criminals.

  1. This is shameful. You are casting aspersion on the judicial process that fairly convicted Abdelhaleem. Imagine a society in which the public determines guilt and flips the bird to the courts who are far more competent to rule (they have all the evidence).

    This is terrible and I hope it gets cancelled or does very poorly.

  2. Well written Mr. Rubenfeld! It’s a sad sad day for the city and Canadian arts when censorship rears its ugly head. If film, television, visual arts and theatre are not the places to tell these stories then where? Leave it to the Sun though to sensationalize it.

  3. “Vaughan said it isn’t up to politicians to decide what art should be shown in theatres or hung on gallery walls.”

    Exactly. And that’s why taxpayer money should not be given to the arts. If I’m “buying” something, I want a say in what I’m buying.

    You want full artistic freedom? Then you are completely free to fund it yourself.

  4. You are not going to find too many Canadians that will not be offended by our taxpayer money going towards funding a propagandist tool of the lunatic left, disguised as art, in their endeavour to bolster support of islamic terrorist. If something supposedly artistic can’t make it on its own without a welfare cheque propping it up, it really isn’t art.

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