Toronto movie filming exposes Canada’s guns for money policy
September 15, 2008
by Joseph P. Tartaro
On Aug. 26, John Spears, of The Toronto Star’s City Hall Bureau, wrote a commentary entitled “Shooting blanks on guns policy.” In it, Spears focused on how the filming of “Flashpoint,” a new television series on CTV, in the Canadian city’s Nathan Phillips Square contradicts the announced city’s anti-firearms position.
It was not the first time that a journalist commented on the absurdity of some of Toronto Mayor David Miller’s approach to firearms and the growing problems of drug- and gun-related street crime.
Indeed, several commentators in Canada have pretty much declared the overall nation policy on guns to be a total bust. But Miller has done some extra stupid things.
First, however, let me quote Spears’ column on the recent filming of a “Flashpoint” episode.
“In a peace-loving city that officially hates handguns, it was hard to keep track of all the weapons being waved in Nathan Phillips Square last Friday (Aug. 19) morning as the workday began,” Spears wrote.
“The two cops sheltering just outside the front door of City Hall each brandished a gun; they were easy to spot.
“But it seemed pretty certain the police were trying to locate an armed bad guy across the square, somewhere beyond the Toronto police cruiser parked beside the Archer (a city statue).
“The activity, of course, was a television shoot for the new CTV program “Flashpoint,” which follows the activities of a special-tactics police squad modeled on the Toronto Police Service’s Emergency Task Force.
“The best place to view the action might have been from the window of the mayor’s office, right above where the officers were standing,” Spear continued.
“As startling as the presence of unholstered weapons might have been to ordinary citizens walking through the square on the way to work, at least in Friday’s filming there were no bodies on the ground.
“Earlier in the week, when the same crew shot another segment of the same scene, passersby were treated to the sight of an apparent gunshot victim, lying clutching his leg in mock agony in mid-square.
“ ‘Flashpoint’ is ‘set proudly in Toronto’ and features weapons such as sniper rifles, ‘flash-bangs’ and Tasers, according to the show’s publicity material,” Spears noted.
“Toronto residents are long familiar with TV and movie shoots on the streets.
“It’s an industry the city has wooed for years, with great success.
“What was striking about this particular episode was the presence of so many naked firearms in the signature square of a city where the leaders explicitly abhor guns.
“It was only in June that City Council pronounced a tough new stand against firearms.
“New gun manufacturers or wholesalers are not welcome to set up business in Toronto, councillors declared.
“In a largely symbolic act,” Spears noted, “the city also terminated the leases of two target-shooting clubs that use city property.
Councillors declared that having gun clubs on city property sends a bad message.
“But a depiction of gunplay in Nathan Phillips Square, under the windows of the councillors who passed the anti-firearms policy?
“Well, that’s different. Come on down. We’ll give you the square in broad daylight. We’ll even supply Toronto police cruiserscomplete with a city crest on the doorsto be used as props. Please go ahead and film your shoot-’em-up,” Spears wrote.
However, The Star later added that Toronto police did not supply its cruisers to be used as props in the shooting of “Flashpoint” as was stated in Spear’s article.
“Now, of course, it’s fiction,” Spears continued. “Of course, the bad guys with guns are portrayed as negative characters, or at the very least, misguided ones. And no doubt the good guys winpartly, perhaps, because they have even better firearms than the bad guys.
“City policies probably would have forbidden the use of exotic animals or helium balloons in the film shoot. They’re banned from Nathan Phillips Square at all times, along with beauty pageants.
“But the square’s guidelines are silent about firearms, real or pretend.
“The city’s firearms policy is sincere. The problem of guns on the street is real,” Spears conceded.
“But Friday it did seem odd that a city so resolutely opposed to the presence of guns in real life would so enthusiastically embrace the portrayal of guns in fiction.”
Spear’s commentary drew a record number of reader comments on The Star’s website, and all 21 that I read seemed to be unanimous in their criticism of Mayor Miller.
A ColinP posted the following: “Miller’s morals end at his wallet, he will shut down lawful gun clubs to cover up the failures to deal with the real street crime under his watch. Yet he will ignore this gunplay under his very nose because it brings in money, I wonder what else he will do for money? TV gunplay is likely a real contributor to drug-related gun crime as it encourages youths to use guns in crimes. If you don’t believe me, then ask why advertisers will pay so much for 30 seconds of TV. Lawful and responsible use of firearms never seem to make it on to TV, I guess it’s too dull and not politically correct enough.”
Another Canadian post from someone signed “akston” said “Something tells me that the citizen disarmament plan that Mayor Miller is borrowing from Mayor Daley is doomed to faillook how well it’s been working out in Chicago, where it’s been in place for years. Now they want to have the National Guard inspect people’s private homes for guns in Illinois. Where will this madness end? At least we won’t have to worry about any potential Olympians training in Union Station. Close call, that.”
One of the gun club ranges closed on Miller’s order was located in the city’s huge Union (railroad) Station on Front Street.
And “Perplexed Citizen” wrote “Toronto Gun Policy is a farce. We restrict those who are responsible only because those who are not manage to get their greasy hands on guns and point it at others. I know the movie industry is quite profitable, so I cannot disagree on the decision to allow movie/show production that includes firearms. To educate and curb gun violence via media is impossible as that’s action. Humans are savage and competitive by nature. If not guns, people will use knives, swords, blunt objects, you name it. Unless we become a totalitarian society as many have criticized the Chinese government to be over the Olympics, we cannot control media. Our own freedoms allow people to do as they choose and learn about whatever they want. If someone obtains a gun and uses it for illegal purposes, it is their decision and right to in a way, however there is a punishment if caught. Catch 22 eh? Remember, guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Even with their bare hands.”
I’ve been in Toronto and seen TV and movie productions underway along busy city streets. I’ve also been there while the city’s was holding its annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the 33rd edition of which is scheduled to open a few days after this issue goes to press. A lot of money is involved in TIFF. Movie and TV stars from around the world, as well as directors, producers, script writers and the general public fill the hotels and restaurants and pay big bucks to see the screenings of the new films. There will be 39 new feature films at TIFF this year and a significant number of then will be shoot-’em-ups as Spears called them.
The Toronto film fest is a visible part of Canada’s program of tax incentives and other perks for American film and video companies to make their films in Canada, with even bigger perks if they use Canadian actors. The industry as a whole being so artful, you probably don’t realize how many of your featured TV shows and movies are filmed in Canadawith guns that the average Canadian isn’t allowed to own.
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