Canadian author Margaret Atwood gives a presentation titled The Creative Process during the Red Deer College Perspectives Series at the Arts Centre Monday evening.

Canadian author Margaret Atwood gives a presentation titled The Creative Process during the Red Deer College Perspectives Series at the Arts Centre Monday evening.

Anti-terrorism bill goes too far, warns Margaret Atwood

Renowned Canadian author Margaret Atwood added her voice to a growing chorus opposing the federal government’s anti-terrorism bill.

Renowned Canadian author Margaret Atwood added her voice to a growing chorus opposing the federal government’s anti-terrorism bill.

All Canadians should be concerned about Bill C-51 — “it’s not only about where you live, but what you had for breakfast,” said Atwood, who spoke at Red Deer College Monday as part of its Perspectives: Canada in the World series.

The new bill, introduced in January by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, would grant greater powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and allow federal institutions to access all information government departments have on any Canadian. There are concerns this could curtail internationally-guaranteed human rights such as liberty, privacy and freedom of expression.

“You are more likely to die in a hospital from a super bug than be blown up in a terrorist attack. Where is the research money for super bugs?” Atwood said, to enthusiastic applause from the audience.

The Booker Prize-winning author of The Blind Assassin and other novels, books of poetry, short stories and essays, told a full-house crowd to “keep your eyes open” for power grabs. As someone who lived through the Second World War as a young child, the 75-year-old said she’s not a fan of governments that seek to control all information and speech.

“Why not? Because they shoot people like me . . . unless they write propaganda for the regime . . .”

Canada’s most famous author was asked to speak on the creative process — and she did. But she also addressed political topics at a question and answer period after her lecture.

Alluding to criticism about Harper’s government suppressing scientific research, Atwood suggested citizens have the right to see the results of studies done at the taxpayers’ expense.

“Concealing evidence, or keeping information from the people, so that a government is the only source of knowledge” is dangerous.

Regarding the need for a free press, Atwood cautioned Canadians to be wary of on-going cuts that could “destroy” the CBC.

About religion, she said she has a problem when it’s used as a political tool by regimes who make their own definitions of “what is heresy? . . . Anything could be turned into a tool for political control.”

Atwood has been called politically astute, even prescient, for creating literary scenarios that come to pass in real life. Her “speculative fiction,” including The Handmaid’s Tale (which was made into a Hollywood movie) and the futuristic Oryx and Crake refer to the fundamentalist subjugation of women, executions as entertainment, pandemics, DNA experimentation — all things happening in parts of the world.

Atwood said she comes from a family of scientists and, therefore, pays attention to current topics of scientific discussion. Not all research is successful, but she said her novels’ plot lines concern things already being worked on and “follow lines of probability.”

The diminutive author, who ultimately got a standing ovation, peppered her speech about creativity with esoteric jokes, delivered in a droll monotone. Her references included “squids from outer space” she was supposedly conversing with through her “invisible tinfoil helmet.”

She advised these alien “squids” that creativity was not specific to only those in creative fields, but to everybody.

Atwood believes the best solutions are reached when people from widely different areas of expertise — both science and humanities — collaborate on problems. This “cross-fertilization” ensures that a dilemma is not only approached with one skill set. “You think across boundaries . . . a narrow focus doesn’t produce the best results.”

The RDC Perspectives series is presented by RDC’s humanities and social science department.

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