Ontario Film Review Board

Ontario Film Review Board
Ontario Film Review Board
Agency overview
Formed 27 June 1911
(as Board of Censors)
Jurisdiction Province of Ontario
Headquarters 4950 Yonge Street
Suite 101B
Key document Film Classification Act, 2005

The Ontario Film Review Board ((French) Commission de contrôle cinématographique de l’Ontario) is an agency of the government of the Canadian province of Ontario that is responsible for that province's motion picture rating system. The board reports to the Minister of Consumer Services and its activities are based on the Film Classification Act, 2005.



A three-person Board of Censors was established on 27 June 1911 following passage of the Theatres and Cinematographs Act, 1911. The initial members were Chair George E. Armstrong, Robert Wilson and Otter Elliott. From that point, films to be shown in Ontario legally required review and approval by the board.[1] The Board's censorship authority included newsreels, for example footage from a 1937 General Motors strike was banned "to avoid propaganda by either side."[2]

The Board of Censors began to provide basic film classifications from 1 June 1946, initially as a year-long pilot project to designate certain films which were deemed inappropriate for children. Theatre operators were required to identify such films as "adult entertainment" on marquees and advertising.[3][4] The Blue Dahlia and Her Kind of Man were among the first films to be identified as adult entertainment in Ontario.[5][6]

In 1953, the Board of Censors began to enforce the new Theatres Act which replaced the Theatres and Cinematographs Act.

Further changes to the Theatres Act in 1975 empowered the board to review and censor videotapes and 8 mm film formats as well as conventional theatrical films.[7]

The Board of Censors name was changed to the Ontario Film Review Board by early 1985, after the provincial government amended the Theatres Act.[8]

Censored film cases

Significant cases have occurred where a film was either banned outright in Ontario, or certain scenes were ordered removed:

  • 1926: Moana - the censor board would not approve this film unless 300 feet, or about 4% of the footage, was removed. The depiction of topless Samoan women in the production was cited as the cause for this censorship. The film was defended by artist Arthur Heming and others, while it was approved by film review authorities in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.[9][10]
  • 1940: The March of Time newsreel episode "Canada At War" was banned until the 1940 federal election was completed, as Premier Mitchell Hepburn charged that the production was "pure political propaganda for the Mackenzie King Government".[11] The newsreel was allowed in Quebec where cinemas in Hull, Quebec reported significant audience levels.[12]
  • 1978: In Praise of Older Women - The Board requested a two minute cut from this federally funded and Canadian made film, showing as the festival opener at the Toronto Film Festival. The cut was negotiated down to 38 seconds, but most sources claim an uncut version was shown at the festival. The offending scene was simulated sexual activity.[13]
  • 1978: Pretty Baby - The film was fully banned from Ontario as it depicted a prostitute who was a minor.[14]
  • 1980: The Tin Drum - Specific scenes were ordered deleted before the film could be shown in Ontario. The director and distributor initially refused to edit the film but eventually agreed to a compromise where the film would be distributed with fewer cuts than originally ordered.[15][16]
  • 1981: Not a Love Story - This NFB documentary was critical of pornography but its depiction of the same led to its banning in Ontario.[17]
  • 2001: Fat Girl - The Film Review Board ordered deletion of scenes from most of the film's 93-minute length, effectively banning the production. Scenes of sexuality involving a 13-year-old character were cited.[18] The film's distributors filed an appeal with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, but by January 2003 the Film Review Board reconsidered and passed the film intact for Ontario audiences.[19]


The board uses the following motion picture rating system for theatrical releases in the province:

Ratings used from 1946 - 1953:

  • (No classification) - Film appropriate for viewing by a person of any age.
  • Adult Entertainment - Film may be viewed by persons of any age, although its content may not necessarily be suitable for children.

Ratings used from c. 1953 - 1986:

  • (No classification) - Film appropriate for viewing by a person of any age.
  • Adult Entertainment - Film may be viewed by persons of any age, although its content may not necessarily be suitable for children.
  • Restricted - Film restricted to persons 18 years of age or older.

Ratings used from 1986 - 2001:

  • Family - Film appropriate for viewing by a person of any age.
  • Parental Guidance - Parents should exercise discretion in permitting a child to view the film.
  • Adult Accompaniment - Film restricted to persons 14 years of age or older or to persons younger than 14 years of age who are accompanied by an adult.
  • Restricted - Film restricted to persons 18 years of age or older.

The ratings used from 2001–present:

  • General - Suitable for viewers of all ages.
  • Parental Guidance - Parental guidance is advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children.
  • 14A - Suitable for viewing by persons 14 years of age and older. Persons under 14 must be accompanied by an adult. May contain: violence, coarse language and/or sexually suggestive scenes.
  • 18A - Suitable for viewing by persons 18 years of age and older. Persons under 18 may attend but must be accompanied by an adult. May contain: explicit violence, frequent coarse language, sexual activity and/or horror.
  • Restricted - Admittance restricted to persons 18 years of age and over. Content not suitable for minors. May contain: frequent use of sexual activity, brutal/graphic violence, intense horror and/or other disturbing content.

These ratings[20] include a set of Content Advisories:

  • Not Recommended for Children
  • Not Recommended for Young Children
  • 3D Effect
  • Some scary scenes
  • Cartoon/Animation action
  • Mature Theme
  • Violence
  • Brutal Violence
  • Graphic Violence
  • Sexual Violence
  • Crude Content
  • Disturbing Content
  • Frightening Scenes
  • Nudity
  • Sexual Content
  • Explicit Sexual Content
  • Gory Scenes
  • Coarse Language
  • Language May Offend
  • Language Not Evaluated
  • Subtitled
  • Substance Abuse

The primary reason for the addition of the 18A category was films such as Scary Movie and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut[21]

Adult Movies

Adult movies are given a sticker which denotes:

  • Title
  • Running Time
  • Distributor ID
  • Approval certificate number


Janet Robinson is the board's current Chair. The longest-serving chair was O. J. Silverthorne, who retired from that position after 40 years.[22][23] The following people were appointed as Chair of the Board of Censors, and subsequently the Ontario Film Review Board.

  • June 1911 - George E. Armstrong[1]
  • 1920 - Alex. S. Hamilton (d. 1926)[24]
  • 1926 - J. C. Boylen
  • 1934 - O. J. Silverthorne[23]
  • October 1974 - Don L. Sims[22]
  • July 1980 - Mary Brown
  • August 1986 - Anne Jones[7]
  • September 1989 - Robert Payne[7]
  • October 1992 - Dorothy Christian[25]
  • September 1994 - Leslie Adams[26]
  • August 1997 - Robert Warren[27]
  • November 2002 - Bill Moody[28]
  • October 2004 - Janet Robinson


  1. ^ a b "Moving Picture Censors Appointed / No suggestive, immoral or obscene films will be passed". The Globe. 28 June 1911. p. 9. 
  2. ^ "Hepburn Lauds Offer". The Gazette (Montreal). 17 April 1937. p. 12. http://news.google.ca/newspapers?id=HC8rAAAAIBAJ&pg=4588,2237161. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  3. ^ "Must State if Movies Not Fit for Children". Toronto Star. 20 May 1946. p. 3. 
  4. ^ "Films to be marked 'for adults' June 1". Toronto Star. 29 May 1946. p. 7. 
  5. ^ "Movie advertisement - The Blue Dahlia". Toronto Star. 1 June 1946. p. 10. 
  6. ^ "Movie advertisement - Her Kind of Man". Toronto Star. 5 June 1946. p. 32. 
  7. ^ a b c Annual Report, Film Review Board, 1988/9
  8. ^ Brunt, Stephen (5 February 1985). "Censors' rules set for films videos". The Globe and Mail. p. 1. 
  9. ^ "Abolition of censors and box office motives figure in barring film". Toronto Star. 5 February 1926. p. 17. 
  10. ^ Bridle, Augustus (4 February 1926). "Censor has banned film which artists acclaim as wonderful picture". Toronto Star. p. 1. 
  11. ^ Associated Press (4 March 1940). "Night News: Ontario Bars Film Until After Election". Lewiston Evening Journal. p. 13. http://news.google.ca/newspapers?id=tIEjAAAAIBAJ&pg=5873,5287924. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  12. ^ "Looking Backward". Ottawa Citizen. 4 March 1955. p. 41. http://news.google.ca/newspapers?id=Z4cwAAAAIBAJ&pg=3248,805630. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  13. ^ Marshall, William (2005). Film Festival Confidential. Toronto: MacArthur. ISBN 1552785238. 
  14. ^ "Ontario Censors Ban Film on Prostitute, 12". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 8 April 1978. p. 25. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=_JxRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=PG0DAAAAIBAJ&dq=ontario%20censors%20ban%20film%20on%20prostitu&pg=4290%2C1313704. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  15. ^ Ford, Catherine (4 June 1980). "Sin strip exceeds Tin Drum hands down". Ottawa Citizen. p. 99. http://news.google.ca/newspapers?id=0jY0AAAAIBAJ&pg=1024,1792321. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  16. ^ The Canadian Press (27 November 1980). "Ontario to get 'Drum'". The Gazette (Montreal). p. 85. http://news.google.ca/newspapers?id=FFwxAAAAIBAJ&pg=6209,3326164. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  17. ^ Macdonald, Neil (9 October 2009). "Take that cross over there". CBC News. http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/10/09/f-rfa-macdonald.html. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  18. ^ Poirier, Agnes (14 November 2001). "Ontario bans Breillat's controversial Fat Girl". Screen Daily. http://www.screendaily.com/ontario-bans-breillats-controversial-fat-girl/407513.article. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  19. ^ Poirier, Agnes (30 January 2003). "Ontario passes Breillat's Fat Girl uncut". Screen Daily. http://www.screendaily.com/ontario-passes-breillats-fat-girl-uncut/4012010.article. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  20. ^ Content Advisories
  21. ^ http://www.fradical.com/ontario_film_review_board_adds_new_category.htm
  22. ^ a b "Broadcaster named Ontario film censor". The Globe and Mail. 5 September 1974. p. 13. 
  23. ^ a b "Job unnecessary says retiring censor". Montreal: The Gazette. 23 September 1974. p. 12. http://news.google.ca/newspapers?id=DYY0AAAAIBAJ&pg=5387,2144896 . Retrieved 2010-04-02. 
  24. ^ "A.S. Hamilton dead / had good war record". Toronto Star. 21 April 1926. p. 16. 
  25. ^ Annual Report, Film Review Board, 1992/3
  26. ^ Annual Report, Film Review Board, 1995/6
  27. ^ (PDF) Annual Report. Ontario Film Review Board. 1999/2000. http://www.ofrb.gov.on.ca/english/Annual%20Report%2099-00.pdf. Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  28. ^ (PDF) Annual Report. Ontario Film Review Board. 2002/2003. http://www.ofrb.gov.on.ca/english/Annual%20Report%2002-03.pdf. Retrieved 2009-11-08. 

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