Annual Public Meeting 2023
The Canada Council for the Arts’ 2023 Annual Public Meeting took place on January 24, 2023. The Council’s leaders reported on the past year’s accomplishments and shared the Council’s vision for the future of the arts sector. They then took questions from the sector and the general public.
We would like to thank all our participants.
This recording includes closed captioning and simultaneous interpretation in ASL.
Jesse Wente, Chair of the Board
Michelle Chawla, Director General, Strategy, Public Affairs and Arts Engagement
Simon Brault, Director and CEO
Carolyn Warren, Director General, Arts Granting Programs
March 6, 2023
The APM took place on January 24, 2023.
It provokes us.
It inspires us.
It stirs our imaginations, feeds our creativity and sets us in motion.
It takes us places we never thought possible.
It is freedom, experimentation, pain and joy.
It creates new myths and reinvents old ones.
It soothes the weary and offers us hope, touches our very souls.
It breaks new ground, breaks down walls, and brings us together.
Art connects us with ourselves and drives us forward.
Telling our stories and giving us voice.
Art shows us who we are.
Arts are part of us all.
Hello. Bonjour. Kwey-Kwey.
Welcome to the Canada Council for the Arts’ Annual Public Meeting.
I am Michelle Chawla.
I’m Director General, Strategy, Public Affairs and Arts Engagement.
Please note that there are links below this video to watch the event in English with ASL, French with LSQ, or without interpretation.
If you need technical assistance at any point, there is a “Need Help” button at the bottom right corner of the event page.
We also have two boxes on the right-hand side of the screen: one in which you can ask questions directly to the event presenters, and another in which you can participate in an open chat with other event participants and our moderators.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Anishinaabe Nation, the customary keepers and defenders of the lands we are on today.
The Council recognizes that the Ottawa River watershed and its tributaries are unceded and unsurrendered, and we honor the Algonquin’s long history of welcoming many nations to this beautiful territory, and we are committed to upholding and uplifting the voice and values of our host Nation.
The Council recognizes the importance of land acknowledgement to respect and affirm the inherent and treaty rights of all Indigenous peoples.
We were privileged to be guided by members of the Algonquin Community in developing our full land acknowledgment in 2020, and we thank them for their generosity and collaboration.
So, this is the first annual public meeting held since the start of the pandemic that we’ve hosted both online and in-person.
I’m delighted to host this meeting here, in the Kakaekwewin room, a new name for this room.
Kakaekwewin is an Anishinaabemowin word that the local Algonquin community shared with us.
The word means, “Come together, discuss the future.”
The new name is very fitting for our Annual Public Meeting as we come together to discuss the future of the arts, a future that we’re building together with you.
To mark the naming of this room, the Council commissioned Anishinaabe artist Chief Lady Bird to make a work of art for the space that’s inspired by the word Kakaekwewin.
Chief Lady Bird’s work is on display for you to see today and in the future.
I would like to thank Chief Lady Bird for this inspired and inspiring work.
Here now is the agenda for today’s meeting.
In a minute, I will be giving some news of the progression of our strategic plan.
Then, the Chair of the Board, Jesse Wente.
And for those of you here in the room, we will invite you to raise your hand if you have a question and we will come to you with a microphone.
For those of you online, you can submit your questions directly to us in the questions box.
We’ve also received several questions in advance of the meeting and we will try to address some of those here today.
You’ll be able to watch a recording of the entire meeting in both official languages on our website in the coming weeks.
Remember, you can also follow the discussion on social media with the keyword #CanadaCouncil23.
I remind you that you can follow the discussion on social media with the keyword #CanadaCouncil23.
We have a very busy schedule, so let’s get started.
The Canada Council for the Arts is in its second year of its strategic plan, Art, now more than ever.
The plan is on our website.
And the objective of Art, now more than ever is to rebuild the sector on a more inclusive, fair, and sustainable basis.
The plan has three main goals.
To invest in reconstruction and innovation.
To improve the benefits of arts for society.
To encourage and improve collaboration and partnerships.
And it presents the vision of what we are trying to accomplish.
To realize this vision, we have defined critical actions that will be guiding our work and our investments.
We’re now halfway through the second year of this plan and those actions are moving along well.
When it comes to investing and rebuilding, and innovation, for example, we brought targeted support to face the impact of the pandemic on the arts sector.
And in the context of our mission, that is, to improve the benefits of arts for society, we have also undertaken a research project on the value of public funding of the arts and Indigenous cultures.
This research was done with the Mi’kmaq methodology that we also call the principle of double-look, which combines the strengths of the visions of the Indigenous and Western worlds to move forward with harmonious and sustainable relations.
This new project will help the institution to better understand and set out the essential role that arts and Indigenous cultures play in the role of Canadian populations.
We are convinced that this research is also a precious resource for the whole of the arts sector in Canada.
This research is published on our website.
It is accompanied with a summary in Anishinaabemowin and in Inuktut.
So, please go take a look.
Amongst our main activities to encourage and improve collaboration and partnerships last year, we also co-organized the Arctic Arts Summit with the collaboration of the Yukon government in June last year.
The event took place in Whitehorse in Yukon with great participation from all the circumpolar region, with representatives of the Arctic countries and Indigenous nations from the region.
Strong relationships are essential to our ongoing work in and for the North.
Our relationship-building at the Summit led to many collaborations, including two co-delivery partnerships: one with the Inuit Art Foundation and the other with the Government of the Yukon.
Co-delivery partnerships are a new way of working for the Council.
They allow us to support artists and arts workers on their own terms, according to their realities and priorities for making arts and culture in the North.
We want to build more of these co-delivery partnerships.
Discussions are underway with prospective partners to do just that.
Stay tuned to learn more.
These are just a few examples of our strategic plan actions that we’ve achieved so far.
You can read all of these things and our current progress on our website.
We also encourage you to read our annual reports.
I know it sounds boring, but it’s really not! They offer a year-by-year overview of the Council’s work and our impact.
I would now like to invite the Chair of the Council’s Board, Jesse Wente, to say a few words.
Thank you, Michelle.
I’m delighted to speak to you from the Kakaekwewin room from the Canada Council for the Arts in Ottawa Annual Public Meeting.
As Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, but on account of the pandemic, my first in person.
It’s so wonderful to see so many of you here in the room, and to know many more of you are joining us online from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
Through all of the challenges of the last two years, the Council’s strategic plan has been a guiding force.
Last spring, I had the privilege of seeing that strategic plan in action when I travelled with the organization’s board and senior leaders to the North.
In our strategic plan, we made the commitment to strengthen our presence and relationships in the North, to meet its unique and varied cultural realities for making and sharing arts and culture.
This trip was about advancing concrete ways to bring that commitment to life.
We met with artists, arts leaders, and arts workers in their studios, theaters, community centres, and craft stores.
We also had constructive exchanges with locally-elected leaders, politicians and officials.
We participated in community gatherings, like those on the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Tuktoyaktuk.
We visited innovative projects, including the Community Greenhouse in Inuvik, an old arena converted into a greenhouse with over 170 garden beds, where Elders, children, food bank volunteers and other community members gather to grow food.
We also held our first board meeting in the Northwest Territories.
And we attended the Arctic Arts Summit in Whitehorse as co-organizer of this international gathering, where we heard about the commonalities shared by people across the North and several areas ripe for collaboration.
I was thrilled, am thrilled with the two co-delivery partnerships that emerged from this trip, which Michelle has just mentioned.
These kinds of initiatives are essential to the Council’s commitment to the North.
As an organization in the South, the Council has a limited understanding of the region’s realities.
Partners on the ground understand their communities in profound, nuanced ways that we lack, and their guidance and collaboration are crucial.
Indeed, the Council needs to work like this to fulfill the strategic plan’s commitment to redress many inequities of the past.
The Council’s equity work must continue to place the autonomy of historically marginalized and disenfranchised communities at its core.
By working in this way, the Council strives to foster an arts sector that includes, represents, and speaks to the diversity of this country.
An arts sector that acknowledges the cultural sovereignty of Indigenous peoples and respects the concepts of First Nation, Inuit, and Métis self-determination.
And, ultimately, an arts sector that is sustainable.
Today, I’m pleased to introduce you to three new Board members who have been appointed since our last annual public meeting.
I’m going to ask each of you to stand when I say your name: Irfhan Rawji, Stephane Moraille, and Charlie Wall-Andrews, who unfortunately couldn’t be with us here today but I’m sure he is watching online.
I’d also like to acknowledge those board members who have been recently reappointed or who have ongoing appointments to the Board and are with us here today.
Jennifer Dorner Marie Pier Germain, Vice-Chair Cheryl Hickman Ingrid Leong Ben Nind There he is.
Karl Schwonik, and Gaëtane Verna.
This Board represents a diversity of experiences, perspectives, communities, regions, and areas of expertise in the arts and beyond that is complementary and enriches their collective oversight of the Canada Council for the Arts.
To close, I’d like to thank the Government of Canada for its ongoing confidence in the Council and the work that we do.
I’d also like to acknowledge the Council’s staff and its executive management team.
Lastly, I would like to thank Simon Brault for his impressive work over the last nine years at the Canada Council for the Arts.
I’m deeply proud of what we’ve achieved together so far this year, and I look forward to our shared work ahead.
I now invite Simon Brault to the podium.
Thank you, Jesse.
As many of you know, this is my last annual public meeting as Director and CEO.
So it will be nine years as CEO and 10 previously as Vice-Chair.
I was very nervous to have an annual public meeting today, but it’s always a pleasure, especially right now.
With five months remaining in my mandate, I’ve been reflecting on my time in this role.
I’ve also been thinking about the future of the Canada Council for the Arts and of arts funding more broadly.
In Canada and all over the world – and I can see that I’m still the chair of the International Federation of Arts Councils.
The era of arts funders as the ultimate gatekeepers of society’s artistic and cultural life is coming to an end and this is not a bad thing.
I see myself as very privileged for having led the Canada Council for the Arts on the way of this transformation that was to reinforce the Council’s impact on all of society, a path that we’ve been following now for several years.
Equality is and should stay more than ever a powerful driving engine and a central dimension of the transformation and the evolution of the Council.
And even if the Council has been for a long time committed to fair funding, it is the 2021-26 Strategic Plan that positions it for the first time so clearly for equity, accessibility, and inclusion at the heart of its directions and decisions.
Our Strategic plan aims to better understand and eliminate the many obstacles encountered by members of official language communities in minority situations, youth, or historically marginalized people like members of the Indigenous, Black and racialized communities, the Deaf, or people with disabilities, or people with different gender identities, or people at the intersection of those identities.
And since we have committed to invest 50% of our grants in projects and especially 20% of the total amount of our project grants in new recipients, we have the tangible means to welcome them and to support them.
I am therefore absolutely convinced that it’s by opening our doors to all those who have the right to create, have the right to perfect their art and to be heard and disseminated that we will ensure our own future as an arts council because we will be in agreement with our society.
I’m thinking here of a well-known and powerful quotation from the Indigenous Australian artist, academic, and activist Lilla Watson that speaks strongly to the idea I’m trying to express.
She said once: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
So, the reason why we do what we do is not because we want to be politically correct or because we are convinced about what we do.
The reason we do what we do is because we know that we have no future if the people who are making and rebuilding and reinventing the society don’t recognize themselves in the Canada Council and the arts funding that we are managing.
For example, we also launched a recruitment campaign to significantly increase the diversity of the people who work here daily at the Council.
We exceeded our goals within a year, with increased representation of Indigenous staff, racialized staff, and staff who are Deaf or living with a disability.
More than two years later, I’m proud of how this campaign has transformed the composition and real work of the Council.
The breadth of lived experiences in the organization, at every level, on every team, is so much richer than it was when I began here in 2014.
We had fantastic teams at that time and we still have fantastic teams but now it’s more diversified and I need to congratulate the people who were already working at the Council because they did open their heart and their art, and that was really important.
Now, when we make any decisions about our work, we’re doing it with even more voices speaking up to make sure that we understand the implications for the many different communities across this country.
This is a complex country.
It also means that when people call the Council or meet with us at gatherings like this, or at our outreach sessions, we are closer to reflecting the diversity of this country.
This isn’t, however, a closed file.
We must continue to transform our organizational culture to make sure that this is a place where people from all backgrounds feel welcome and heard, where they feel that we are making a difference.
We must become the most accessible organization possible.
And I mean it and it’s very important because we have been perceived for decades as being an elite organization funding elite organizations for elite people.
And this is not what we should do.
This is about making sure our built environment, communications, technology, programs, and services are more and more accessible.
We published our first accessibility plan on the website last December.
We see that for the Canada Council, it’s not only about, respecting the law, confirming what is in the law, but it’s to use that platform to push further this question of accessibility in every sense, every meaning of this term.
It’s a plan that we’ll update every three years as we come to understand what we’re doing right and what we need to do better.
Our strategic plan’s commitment to a more equitable arts sector stands alongside its vision for a decolonized future of the arts.
To actualize this vision, we must also decolonize the Council itself by questioning our own assumptions and convictions.
It is important to acknowledge that decolonization is a complex, evolving, and open concept and journey.
There’s no definitive guide on how to undertake this work.
And it has different implications for different organizations and sectors in our society.
So far, our understanding is that to decolonize the Council, we must agree to reframe our understanding of what constitutes art, which is a big thing for an arts council.
We need also to question the notion of professionalism and artistic disciplines, which are deeply rooted in a very specific time in history, mostly Eurocentric, and often from a very colonialist perspective.
It is fascinating to realize that a lot of the things that we still teach in universities about art history are really about what happened in that moment in Europe when it was the Metropolis of this world, when we were taking things from Africa, from all over the world and reinterpreting things, and stealing them basically, to build a culture that we value so much right now.
So, we need to challenge the notion of “artistic excellence,” again a concept that upholds hierarchies of good taste and values that confirm and perpetuate the status of the dominant culture.
We also need to move beyond limited notions of artistic expertise because those notions are often the direct product of an education system built to reproduce power relations and safeguard the privilege of a dominant colonial discourse on arts and culture.
The work to decolonize the culture has already begun.
It’s not something that is happening overnight, far from it.
It is a fascinating journey, and we learn every day how to navigate it.
But perhaps the most significant step in recent years was the creation of the Creating, Knowing and Sharing program, a funding program with a genuine aspiration towards Indigenous cultural sovereignty and self-determination at its core.
Another part of our work is in the recent partnerships that the Council established by supporting this idea of self-determination and cultural sovereignty for Indigenous people, like the one we mentioned with the Inuit Art Foundation that is being rolled out.
There is still a lot to do to decolonize the Council, to decolonize hearts and spirits, and this work relies on the continuous collaboration between Indigenous people and the people who are settler descendants.
It’s not a work that can be imposed.
It is not something we decide.
It has to be learned together with honesty, humility, openness, listening, patience, respect, and empathy.
The transformation of the Council also aims to extend its role beyond funding.
The granting program will still be at the heart of our activities.
But over the last few years, we have managed to develop other aspects of our activities to generate outcomes that are even more important for the arts sector and society in general.
That was the case during the pandemic when we worked with various governments who turned towards the Council to understand how the crisis was affecting the arts sector and determine what emergency measures were necessary that would be adapted to our sector.
It is now time for the Council to be even more the spokesperson as regards the challenges that our sector is facing.
In light of the pandemic, we know that improved working conditions and better remuneration for artists and arts workers are urgent issues that we must continue to advocate for.
The Council also needs to actively take part in the most pressing conversations of our time, like the climate crisis.
Related to this, the Council continues to play a significant role in Canada’s cultural diplomacy.
It’s not a fantastic moment right now for public diplomacy or cultural diplomacy.
War is occupying a big, big portion of the thinking and the action and the investment.
But that won’t last.
Inevitably, wars have an end and we need as nations to re-establish relationships and I think that over the next few years, we may see a surge in public diplomacy, including in cultural diplomacy.
I’m thinking of recent partnerships that we built in Germany during the 2021 Frankfurt Book Fair where Canada was a guest of honour, and in Mexico, for the 2019 Festival International Cervantino, where Canada was also the guest country.
There are moments where we can really demonstrate how arts and culture are the best way to connect nations and civil societies.
But as the global community continues to face many significant challenges, it’s essential that the arts be a part of shared solutions that go beyond the borders that divide.
The Council’s transformation doesn't end here at this meeting, or with my time as Director and CEO.
Indeed, the Council needs to continue transforming to build on what was done in the past and to meet the changing realities of our world.
I’m extremely proud of the strategic plan that we have.
Art, now more than ever is a ground-breaking document that was drafted during the pandemic, and that we formulated while trying to go forward.
And to dream what the world could be after the pandemic.
It didn’t happen exactly as we dreamed, but we’re working hard for that to happen.
I am sure that the extraordinary team and staff at the Council will continue implementing this plan.
Same thing for our board of directors that has a broad expertise and many points of views and a lot of diversity.
But beyond the walls of our organization, the transformation of the Council that’s linked to a vision of the future that’s inclusive and sustainable will greatly depend on the support and the contribution from the whole arts sector and the greater public.
More than this, we need you to challenge us, to question our assumptions and our approach, to hold us accountable to our mandate and our strategic plan’s vision.
We’ve now arrived at the question-and-answer period of our meeting where you have the opportunity to do just that.
I invite you to ask us the questions that are on your mind, And help us to keep transforming.
I will now turn it over to Michelle who will moderate this portion of our gathering.
Thank you so much, Jesse and Simon.
It’s very touching and you’re making us cry, too.
But I think it just speaks to how engaged and passionate we are, and you are, for being here.
So, the best part of this meeting is starting, which is the Q&A, the question-and-answer period.
And we will be able to use this time to address questions we received before the start of the event because in the invitation, we asked people to send us questions in advance if they wanted to.
As well as questions that people who are joining us virtually, so we’re receiving questions online.
We’re going to try to get to as many as possible.
I should also just add we are not going to be responding to any questions that are directly related to grant applications or funding requests.
Those questions will be forwarded to the appropriate people at the Canada Council.
For those of you who are here, and I see people are already excited to ask questions, which is great.
We’re going to take two questions from the questions we received in advance to give you time to formulate your questions if you haven’t already and then someone will come with a microphone, once you raise your hand.
And for those of you joining us virtually, you can continue to ask your questions in the questions box and we’ll be monitoring that conversation as well.
You can ask your questions in English or in French.
And we’ll rotate, as I said, between questions received before today’s meeting, from online, and questions here in the room.
So, to get us started, I’m going to start with two questions that we received and then we’ll move to the questions here in the room.
So, we received many questions related to inflation and the impact that is having on the arts sector and, in fact, on all Canadians.
We selected the following question to address how the Council is responding.
The question comes from Eryn who asks, “There is a crisis for artists (and so many others) in relation to housing, affordability, and cost of living.
How will the Canada Council address this in the future?” Thank you for your question, Eryn.
I will turn to Simon to answer this one.
So, thank you for the question.
We are obviously very preoccupied by that.
It’s obvious that inflation, the shortage of people to work in many of our organizations, low salaries, the decline right now of the special public funding that came with the pandemic.
All of that is hitting the sector very hard and especially the individual artists and it’s uneven across the country.
The issue we have at Council as you probably already figured out, is that our own budget is not indexed.
There’s no indexation mechanism to just let us top up everything we do to protect our investments.
So, where we are at this moment in terms of what we can do is to take into consideration the rise of those costs when we get grant applications or disburse project grants, for instance.
But it means that if we do, fewer people will be supported, fewer project will be funded.
So, we’re trying to keep a balance to make sure that we don’t create a cliff in terms of the support that we are offering in this country.
But I would say that at this very moment, and unless the government announces that it’s ready to just increase our budget and then we could top up and index everything.
But what we need to do and have been pleading for that for many, many years because it’s the case with every arts council in the world, the minute there’s a situation of inflation, we realize that our investments are suffering and people who are supposed to get funding to make a living and to do their work are also suffering.
So, I think we need to continue to plead for that.
To make a plea for that.
But I think what is also very important right now is for the Canada Council to work with many other partners, unions, service organizations, local MPs.
A lot of people in Canada are convinced that it’s time to establish a real social security net for artists and gig workers in this country.
We are one of the rare sectors where the engine of this sector is made by people who have no protection at all against all the different problems, including inflation.
And we think that the pandemic demonstrated that it was possible to have a system to support everybody, including artists and cultural workers, and we know that we have the machine to do it, but what is needed now is the political will to make it happen and I think we need to stop accepting that this sector is subsidized by the people who continue to self-exploit themselves in order to sustain themselves.
For us, it’s a very important campaign we want to be part of and this is what we want to do right now.
So, I’m just reiterating our commitment to make it happen.
We’re in conversation with all the funders.
I went before the Senate and the Parliament to plead for it, but we’ll continue to put pressure because this sector is not sustainable the way it is organized right now.
It’s highly dysfunctional.
Thank you, Simon.
So, I’ll take one more question that we received in advance and then we’ll come to the room.
So, we received several questions related to decolonization.
One of these questions came to us from Jayce who asked, “What is your plan for decolonization? Where are the policy documents on this and what actions have you taken to date to change the colonial structure and construction of the Canada Council?” Thank you for your question, Jayce.
I will turn to Jesse to answer this.
Okay. Well, thank you very much for the question.
I think Simon in his remarks really detailed somewhat the journey of decolonization the Council has been on.
It’s been many years in the making.
I think the establishment of the Creating, Knowing, and Sharing (CKS) program is obviously a major moment in terms of introducing a measure of self-determination for Indigenous peoples, even within a Crown corporation, a program designed and administered by Indigenous peoples.
I think that’s really important.
I think some of the co-delivery models that have recently been announced, the one with the Yukon, and the one with the Inuit Art Foundation.
There’s another one coming up.
Carolyn, I’m nervous about what I’m allowed to say or not.
With the Northwest Territories.
I can say that.
They just said I was allowed.
And I think those are really important because they’re a very new way to work for the Council, but they’re really meant to meet the needs of those community where they are instead of always asking people to come here.
But I would also say our most recent strategic plan re-entrenches our commitments to this journey of decolonization.
But I also want to say that at the board meeting earlier today, one of the things that we discussed was the accessibility plan.
And I remarked at the meeting that nowhere in the plan or in the title of the plan or that policy document does it say decolonization.
And yet I would argue that that plan is a deeply decolonial piece of work.
In that it’s attempting to address structures and barriers that are recognized as being a result of colonialism.
And it’s important to keep in mind that colonialism affects everyone.
It’s not just Indigenous peoples that are affected by it and where decolonization takes place around us.
It’s something that occurs for everyone and touches on all aspects of how the Council does its business.
So, when it starts to think about accessibility and what it actually means, the reason we have inaccessible organizations is colonialism.
That’s why that happens.
So, when we engage in planning around true accessibility that goes above and beyond what the law is simply asking for, but thinking about it from a really human place and try to build policy based on what it is to be a human living here and not some imagined people that we then fit into policy but really try to address the humanness.
That is deeply decolonial work.
And that can happen even when you’re not calling it decolonization.
But that is part of the process.
The other aspect I would point to recently is the strategy around hiring and reinvigorating the staff here at Council.
That was also a very decolonial approach.
It centered on the human beings, it cared for the staff that were both leaving and incoming.
That sort of approach I think is exactly what we need to see and I’m thrilled that the Council has continued on that journey.
I’d also like to say a few words on decolonization because we’re having a debate in French and part of the debate is occurring in English and some of the realities or the terms are different.
But I think over the last few months, for various reasons, there’s been a tendency, at least in the media that I’ve been reading in Quebec, to pay less attention to the importance of decolonization and to try and caricature it.
So, what we’re saying and what we’ve just explained is that it’s not a question of forbidding certain things.
That’s not the issue.
The real issue is to understand that our way of thinking, the distribution of wealth in our society, the way that we look at the roles of various groups in society, our relationship with First Nations peoples that were here before us, the issue of immigration, all these issues reflect that we were educated in a way of thinking that really comes from the Age of Enlightenment.
The triumphant European civilization is a way of thinking that is very deeply engrained in our culture.
And that’s a culture that is based on the principles of exclusion.
So, people who are part of that culture, of course, are doing very well and very happy to be a part of it.
But there are people who are excluded, and they are excluded very deliberately.
And so, our role is to remove these obstacles, to open our perspective, and that, of course, entails deconstructing the structures that we have right now.
It’s a very engrossing enterprise and every time we make a step forward, we come closer to the essence and the purpose of art.
It’s something we can share with everyone.
I think that this is a very important debate, the debate about decolonization, and the Canada Council of the Arts definitely has a role to play.
But this has to become a daily issue and an organic issue.
It’s not just a question of setting some new rules.
I think it has to become something that’s much more natural and organic as a rule.
I think we had already a hand up, so I’ll go to the gentleman here, and then we’ll go to you next.
[Eoin Ó Catháin]
Hello. My name is Eoin Ó Catháin.
I am the president of AASPAA Canada.
I can hear my VP saying: with your Irish accent, slow down.
So if I talk too fast, say it to me.
I’m grateful to be here.
I just want to touch upon the subject of the anomalous part we play in the role of the Canada Council for the Arts.
The definition’s not really defined as such.
A few years ago, an officer, Koba Johnson, was the catch-all, the ad hoc “change programs to work with us” to do international diplomacy, to work, to travel, to tour our artists … and we worked together.
But there was nothing ever written or ever established.
For two years, I have been working and talking to officers at the Canada Council.
I’m a lawyer.
I believe in diplomacy and talking and dialogue and cooperation.
For two years, the officers have been wonderful and cooperative.
But the same thing happened.
They could not tell us what is going to happen and they basically said: stop asking for these things.
So, we’re in anomalous place.
We want to be a part of it, we want to be part of the solutions and development, but we are not in the system.
We are being ignored and we are the ones who are out there in the field doing the culture of diplomacy and bringing in artists internationally.
We’re the ones with all those networks.
Thank you for that question.
Carolyn, do you want to jump in?
You’re talking about agents?
[Eoin Ó Catháin]
Okay. I’m sorry. I wanted to get the context right.
[Eoin Ó Catháin]
By the way, we are supportive, and we are thankful and grateful for that, but we feel we don’t have any representation.
So, agents and managers as a group.
Well, thank you for the question.
And yes, we are extremely keen to have a dialogue with you on the subject.
First of all, I have to say we recognize the real importance of agents and managers to the arts ecosystem.
It’s very clear to us that you play a really critical role.
And we also want to recognize that, like many artists, organizations and performing artists across the sector, you’ve been extremely impacted by the pandemic.
These have been extremely difficult years.
As you’ve sort of suggested, you’re aware that we’re probably one of the only public funders, who do support artists and managers and we do this through operating funds and also through project funds.
So, while in the past, you might have had a one-stop shopping kind of experience with a particular individual, currently there are various programs that are accessible to agents and managers for support.
I also want to acknowledge that markets have been crazily disrupted by the pandemic and we’re very carefully monitoring the resumption of the market activity and how we can support you in that area.
I know our directors are talking to your group and looking to find a way to better support you.
But I do think we have some avenues that are currently available through the program components.
Well, please reach out.
We met with a group in May and we met several times with agents and managers before the pandemic to start this conversation, but also to talk a little bit about ways we can better collaborate around the business model of agents and managers in the country.
Is there something we can do to support you in having a conversation about changing the model so that it’s more sustainable.
Simon was suggesting we need to look at some of these systemic issues which predated the pandemic.
Can we have a mind shift around how we can support you but also how you’re working with clients?
Simon, you look as though you have something to add.
Yes, I completely agree.
The managers and agents are a small group of people but absolutely essential for the presence of Canada on the world stage.
And when we restructured all the programs, I made the commitment that all the money we’re spending for any organization in any category would be protected.
And they have been protected.
And, in fact, I had a conversation about that very topic in an embassy recently and I asked my staff to show me the numbers in terms of where we are for what we invest.
And clearly, over the past five years, we doubled the amount for core funding for agents and managers.
But we made some changes in the way we support project funding.
What I want to say is that the money is still there.
We changed the structure for sure.
The Canada Council that existed five years ago or even three years ago, doesn’t exist anymore.
And we won’t recreate that.
We changed the structure.
But we’re open to the conversation.
And you have the words of my colleague Carolyn.
We are more than willing to sit with representatives to figure out: is there a better way to serve you and support you? But the money is there, the commitment is there.
And it’s a very important moment right now because it’s clear that what we need to do on the international stage cannot be the repetition of what we were doing before the pandemic.
All the markets are changing.
The awareness about the carbon footprint, all that thinking is changing.
I know that because I happen to have a son who is touring the world all the time, so I know how those things are working.
So, yes, we are open to that and let’s have the conversation.
Thank you for your question.
It’s an invitation.
Thank you so much.
So, we’ll go to another question here in the room.
I believe there’s someone here who raised their hand.
And just to my colleagues, we’re just going to maybe try to be a little bit tighter with your responses so that we can have a few more questions.
I just want to have more questions.
But these are excellent conversations.
Over to you.
[Member of the public]
I’m from the Algonquin Nation in Outaouais.
and I would like to bring something to your attention.
And that is I submitted a project and I have a lot of difficulty getting answers.
Nobody is calling me back.
And so I was wondering because I love working with the energy, it’s part of our culture as well.
But would it be possible to meet with a counsellor, an advisor, and to ask them questions directly? Because it’s through these conversations that new questions can arise and we can get a feeling for the energy of the person because I think energy is important.
So the answer to your question is yes, especially for the Indigenous program (CKS).
It’s a small program for a small community.
Of course, it would be difficult with 130,000 requests, but for this program, certainly.
There’s a reception after the annual public meeting and we can have a conversation then.
Yes, it will be our pleasure to have a conversation with you.
Thank you for the question.
I’m now going to go to a question that we found in the chat and it comes from Alain and he’s asking us: are there going to be any funds given to independent producers and independent artists? So, I’m going to pass the question to Carolyn to start.
Yes, and I’m going to share the question with my colleagues, but I’ll start.
The answer is yes.
Simon referred in his comments to the percentage of our investments that go directly to projects.
Those are the investments that allow us to support artists, independent artists and producers.
And in our strategic plan, we are going to adhere to that principle because we strongly believe that this is how we’ve been able to open our doors to new avenues.
Simon, I don’t know if you’d like to add something?
I don’t know what Alain is really referring to or is he talking about music, cinema or another sector because depending on the sector that we’re talking about, the role of producers, in particular, is not the same.
So, I’m not sure what the context of his question is, but the answer is generally, as Carolyn mentioned, that half of the Council’s budget goes to support projects and a lot of that goes to independent producers, independent artists, choreographers and the like involved in the performing arts.
But it would be good to know which sector of the arts you’re asking about.
I see your hand up here.
Hi, thank you very much.
I am Luciana Erregue.
I am from Edmonton and I am an independent publisher.
My question is: when and how is the Canada Council possibly going to democratize access to funds for publishers and when are they going to have criteria to be more flexible so that BIPOC immigrant publishers can access the funds.
Thank you for the question.
And we are actually looking at the eligibility for publishing organizations.
It is absolutely something we want to do and are currently looking at.
We even have a director in the room and I might connect you after this meeting for a further discussion because we know there’s a competition deadline coming up soon.
And this is something that we’re looking at closely at the moment.
And just to add that publishing is a kind of a responsibility that is shared with another department, which is Canadian Heritage.
There’s a division of work right now between the two organizations.
At Canada Council, we are more oriented towards literary publishers than other type of publishing.
And obviously what is interesting again, as in many other sectors, is that this is a part of the industry that is completely changing for better or worst.
And you’re right.
The question of diversifying that sector that has been quite centralized over the last decades is being addressed right now.
Yes, it’s something that we are considering and I think that the publishers will be the first organizations to get core funding through the new competitions and the cycle of all that.
I think it’s the first one, two years from now, a year from now?
It’s coming up, yes.
So, good timing for the question.
So, we’re going to finish with one question that we received from our online chat.
It’s from Nick who notes that grants are awarded based on merit and asks: have there ever been discussions of including income levels or economic diversity as an element in granting policy? In other words, lower income as a potential priority group.
You want to kick that off, Simon?
This is such an interesting question because of where we are right now and we saw during the pandemic.
I’ll try to be brief, I promise.
We realized during the pandemic, especially with the special support, that as an arts council, we were both supporting people on artistic merit and also making a lot of investment to support people to meet their economic needs.
Many organizations and individuals would not have survived the pandemic without that specific support.
Now that the pandemic is over, the question now is: what is the role of the Canada Council? Is it to support artistic creation and artistic projects? Or is it to compensate or to support revenues?
So, yes, when we give a grant, we’re supporting revenue, but we think, and this is what I said at the beginning of this meeting, we think that we need to convince the government that social security or unemployment insurance needs to be offered to artists and cultural workers because it’s impossible to have a situation where all parties have a job all the time.
We are one of the rare sectors in society where there’s no shortage of people.
We have more talent than what we can employ.
So, we need to find that way.
Yes, I think we need to consider the level of income of people.
But I think that the real battle needs to happen on that question of the social security net for artists, and that is beyond what we can do at Council.
But we have the knowledge and the support of the sector to advocate for it and to convince the government that it’s needed.
And it’s happening in other countries right now, so I think Canada needs to join that movement and we need to be a country of this time, and we’re lagging behind right now on that front.
I might just add very quickly that merit is not the only criterion when we’re evaluating projects for funding.
There is a complexity and a range of other considerations that go into an evaluation, not only merit.
I just want to make that clear, too.
I just want to say thank you so much for all of your questions.
Thank you for all of your questions.
Okay. Why not?
But we have to try to wrap this up in a couple of minutes.
[The Honourable Marie P. Poulin]
First of all, I think that we should pay tribute to and celebrate the outgoing CEO for his exceptional contribution to the arts sector in Canada.
And I work with a group that is called “Canadian Artist Network (CSARN).”
So, when will the Canada Council include professional artists with experience, in other words, older artists, that encounter financial difficulties every day? All of our members are faced with very difficult economic problems. Number one.
And number two, we are really behind you on the basic income so that the cultural industry can become a pilot project for CERB.
We have one minute to answer this since we have to wrap up online.
To answer the first question, we are including the older artists – and I must say that what we have learned from the work that is going on in decolonization and the work that we do with Indigenous artists.
If we learned something, it’s the importance of Elders.
And there would not be the cultural dynamic that exists right now without them.
So, yes, absolutely.
And on the social security net.
Joined the coalition.
We need to make that push now.
You know that.
We talked about that.
I think you can see how passionate and engaged we are, and thank you.
And that you are.
Because, as I said at the beginning, this is a conversation, a dialogue, that you’re driving us and we’re hopeful in this continued engagement.
So, thank you.
So, it’s time to bring our 2023 Annual Public Meeting to an end.
Please know that you can continue to reach us with your questions and feedback at any point throughout the year – in person as well to address the question here in the room.
I really want to thank our presenters today.
Thank you so much.
I would like to thank our simultaneous translation and sign language interpretation teams.
Thank you to the technical team who worked on this event.
Thank you especially to the staff, the team, who are making all of this happen.
They are incredible.
We’ll be posting a recording of this event on our site in the coming days, so stay tuned.
Thank you and merci.