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Annual Public Meeting - Video

Video description

Our Annual Public Meeting took place on January 26, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. ET. As many viewers had difficulty watching the live broadcast owing to technical issues, we posted this video soon after the event. This recording presents the event in both French and English, as it was delivered live. You can read an all-English transcript of the event as well as a bilingual transcript of the event.

Publication date

January 28, 2021

This is a transcript of the original bilingual APM meeting

[Narrator]

It provokes us.

It inspires us.

It stirs our imagination, 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 wary 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.

[Michelle Chawla]

Welcome. Bonjour. Kwey-Kwey.

My name is Michelle Chawla. I’m the Director General of Strategy, Public Affairs and Arts Engagement at the Canada Council for the Arts.

I am delighted to welcome you to our 2021 Annual Public Meeting.

We were thrilled to hear from many of you that you would be joining us for this event. We feel fortunate to have such a dynamic online audience, people from across Canada and around the world, ambassadors, leaders from international arts and culture agencies, artists and arts workers representing a breadth of practices and from a diversity of communities, and passionate citizens who, like us, believe strongly in the important role of the arts in society.

I would like to begin by acknowledging that our offices are located on the unceded territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation, whose presence here reaches back to time immemorial.

The Council recognizes the Algonquins as the customary keepers and defenders of the Ottawa River Watershed and its tributaries. We honour their long history of welcoming many nations to this beautiful territory, and the Council is committed to upholding and uplifting the voice and values of our host nation.

Further, the Council respects and affirms the inherent and Treaty Rights of all Indigenous Peoples across this land. The Council has honoured and will continue to honour the commitments to self-determination and sovereignty that we have made to Indigenous Nations and Peoples.

The Council acknowledges the historical oppression of lands, cultures and the original Peoples in what we now know as Canada and fervently believes that the arts contribute to the healing and decolonizing journey we all share.

This land acknowledgement was developed by members of the Algonquin community and I thank them for their generosity and collaboration.

Au cours de la réunion d’aujourd’hui, des images défileront sur votre écran pour illustrer les propos des présentatrices et présentateurs. Les images présentées lors de la reconnaissance du territoire sont celles d’un canoë fabriqué à la main par Daniel Smith, un ancien algonquin. Le canoë est un symbole vivant de la présence autochtone et de la pérennité de ses cultures ainsi que de notre avenir commun sur cette terre.

Ce canoë se trouve dans l’espace Âjagemô du Conseil des arts du Canada à Ottawa.

Cette année, notre Assemblée publique est bien sûr toute particulière. Pour la première fois, en raison de la pandémie, elle est présentée en ligne seulement. Je tiens à vous assurer que la production de cette Assemblée respecte les directives émises par les autorités en matière de santé publique.

En ces temps difficiles, nos pensées se tournent vers les artistes, les organismes et leur personnel et toutes les familles qui ont subi les contrecoups de cette pandémie. Depuis le début de la COVID-19, le Conseil, soyez-en assurés, fait tout en son possible pour minimiser ces impacts au sein de la communauté artistique et pour l’appuyer.

Aujourd’hui, différentes personnes s’adresseront à vous et parleront des différents sujets qui ont marqué cette année et qui marqueront la prochaine.

Je serai la première à vous parler et je vous donnerai les grandes lignes des avancées de notre plan stratégique actuel et de nos travaux en vue de notre prochain plan stratégique.

Vous entendrez par la suite le président du conseil d’administration Jesse Wente, la directrice générale de la Division des programmes de subventions aux arts, Carolyn Warren et le directeur et chef de la direction du Conseil, Simon Brault.

Une période de questions suivra. Veuillez prendre note que les questions auxquelles nous répondrons nous sont toutes parvenues par courriel. Il nous est impossible de répondre à toutes les questions, mais si vous en avez d’autres, vous pouvez nous les faire parvenir à rétroaction@conseildesarts.ca après cette rencontre.

Vous pourrez aussi réécouter les différentes allocutions dans les deux langues officielles sur notre site d’ici la fin février.

J’aimerais remercier l’équipe de traduction simultanée, ainsi que les équipes d’interprètes de langue des signes en anglais et en français.

Notre ordre du jour est rempli alors commençons sans plus tarder.

At the outset of our 2016‒21 Strategic Plan, the Council set ambitious goals. And I’m proud to say that our commitments—totalling $487M for the arts sector—are being realized.

Let’s look at how we have reached our goals. I’d like to remind you that the following achievements reflect our activities from the 2019–20 year—that is, before the current crisis with the pandemic. With respect to our commitment to increase support to the arts—specifically, investing 25% of the total budget of new funds in new recipients—we not only hit, but exceeded our target. We also achieved our commitment to balance funding between project grants and core funding.

I am happy to report that we also realized our commitment to triple our investment in Indigenous creation.

What’s more, we exceeded our commitment to support international projects, and we’re on our way to achieving our commitment to invest $88.5M in digital. Of course, because of the pandemic, the upcoming results for international projects are going to vary.

From the beginning of the pandemic, the Council set up various initiatives to support the arts sector through this moment. Carolyn Warren will expand on these initiatives and digital engagements in just a few moments.

You can visit the Council’s Commitments page on our website for more information, where you can also read several related stories on projects by artists, groups and organizations that have been funded by the Council. The stories speak volumes about the scope and impact of our investments. And, of course, our 2019‒20 Annual Report is also available on our website for more information.

We began working on our next strategic plan several months ago, discussing our areas of focus and the direction we want to move.

To ensure that the plan is a cornerstone for the future of the sector and that it is really grounded in our reality, the Council launched a survey and organized discussion sessions with various communities, including with Indigenous communities across Canada and, of course, with the Council’s staff.

Our Director and CEO will speak broadly to our next strategic plan, the context informing its development and how the first years of the plan will centre on transition and reconstruction.

J’aimerais maintenant vous présenter le président du conseil d’administration du Conseil : Jesse Wente. Jesse est entré en poste en juillet dernier en pleine pandémie. Il est en mesure d’apporter à la fois une nouvelle façon de voir les choses, et aussi une certaine continuité, puisqu’il faisait partie du conseil d’administration depuis 2017.

Jesse est auteur, communicateur, conférencier, chef de file du domaine des arts et ardent défenseur des droits autochtones ainsi que des arts et culture des Premières Nations. Issu de la Nation anishinaabe, Jesse est devenu le premier président autochtone du Conseil des arts.

Je laisse maintenant la parole à Jesse Wente.

[Jesse Wente]

Miigwetch, Michelle.

Et merci à tout le monde d’être ici aujourd’hui.

I’m speaking today from Tkaronto, “where the trees meet the water,” and the territory of the Dish with One Spoon covenant. This is an agreement that predates Canada between the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinaabe, my people, and it has a couple of different teachings. Namely, the dish is our shared place, and the spoon is what we are allowed to bring to the dish—not a knife, a spoon—and we only take one spoonful so that others may also bring their spoon.

It’s a very old lesson and one that has kept the peace between our nations for centuries. And it’s a lesson that applies today, that reminds us of the importance of sharing, reciprocity, and care for the communities we come from and the ones we create together.

I’m very honoured and pleased to join you today for the first time as Chair of the Canada Council.

It’s certainly been an interesting start to my term, but I’m extremely proud of the work the Council has done in this most challenging of years.

When I think about the ways in which a chair can influence an organization such as the Canada Council, I, of course, think of the most obvious ways—the current strategic planning process, for example. I also think about how we approach the issues that face us and the perspectives we bring to our common challenges as opportunities to influence the path of a place like this. A chair’s role is certainly in the boardroom, but not to the exclusion of being with the people we serve. And I certainly look forward to gathering again, with my colleagues at the Council, the remarkable artistic community we serve and the audiences that we all belong to.

I also want to acknowledge that my presence here, in the way that I am here, is unique. As the first Chair of a Crown corporation who is also Indigenous, I hold that responsibility very close. It is important that we take on leadership roles in the institutions and organizations that affect us, and my hope is that my presence here is but another step in a journey we are all on together.

This journey has brought us to a moment where inequities should be obvious to all. Where anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism has once again been laid bare for all to see and for all to work against.

This while the world continues to grapple with the ongoing pandemic, which itself has only further exacerbated existing inequalities.

We are at an inflection point, perhaps more than one, and while there is much to navigate, we are nonetheless presented with the opportunity to change, and to do so boldly. The arts are well positioned to lead this change, as it has already started, and artists are always at the forefront of guiding us beyond inflection moments.

The Canada Council has a key role to play as our sector evolves, supporting artists and organizations as they reorient themselves to new realities and best practices. The Council itself must continue its evolution to ensure we are serving our community of artists and organizations through this moment and into a future of renewed purpose and potential.

Yes, there is much to be done. And yes, there is much that is unknown. But we should embrace this moment not with fear, but with promise. We know we can change. We know we can adapt. We know we can make things better—as long as we focus on what we know, there is little to fear from what we do not.

J’aimerais remercier le gouvernement du Canada de sa confiance soutenue envers le Conseil et le travail que nous faisons.

I’d like to acknowledge the tremendous work and dedication of the Council’s staff, executive management team, Director and CEO Simon Brault, and my colleagues on the Board in the past year, responding to the pandemic while also maintaining regular activities. It’s been amazing to witness, and I am deeply proud of the work the staff and executive team have achieved during this challenging time. Chi miigwetch.

I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

I’d like to now introduce Carolyn Warren, Director General of the Arts Granting Programs Division, to speak more to the Council’s activities during the pandemic.

[Carolyn Warren]

Merci, Jesse.

Au Conseil, je supervise les programmes de subventions et les initiatives stratégiques qui favorisent la création, la distribution et la promotion des arts au Canada et à l’étranger.

Comme vous le savez sûrement, nous avons revu nos priorités cette année, puisque la COVID-19 a exercé – et continue d’exercer, bien sûr – une pression importante sur le milieu des arts :

  • de nombreux lieux consacrés à la culture ont dû limiter l’accès au public ou fermer leurs portes;
  • des événements artistiques nationaux et internationaux ont dû être annulés ou reportés;
  • les artistes ont dû renoncer à de précieuses occasions de travailler ou d’interagir avec leur public.

Tout cela a eu des répercussions importantes sur le fonctionnement des organismes et sur le gagne-pain d’innombrables artistes et travailleuses et travailleurs de la culture.

Tout au long de cette période très difficile, j’ai été frappée par les différentes manières dont les personnes qui travaillent dans le milieu artistique se sont adaptées pour continuer à créer et à diffuser leurs œuvres. Certaines ont proposé des expériences artistiques extérieures. D’autres ont trouvé de nouvelles façons sécuritaires de créer ou de répéter. Enfin, plusieurs se sont tournées vers les plateformes numériques pour joindre les publics.

J’ai aussi entendu des artistes et des travailleuses et travailleurs culturels qui se rencontrent régulièrement en ligne pour discuter de leurs difficultés communes et pour s’épauler durant ces moments difficiles d’isolement. Ces occasions d’entretenir des liens tout au long de la crise ont été primordiales, et continuent de l’être, et elles ont donné lieu à de nouvelles réflexions pour l’avenir.

The Canada Council has remained in close touch with many of you to adapt our support and respond to the pressing needs of the crisis.

Since March, we’ve delivered several support initiatives, including:

  • $55M in emergency funding to organizations; and
  • an additional $7.8M to organizations specifically from Indigenous, culturally diverse, Deaf and disability, and official language minority communities.

We also launched Digital Originals, a program that offered micro innovation grants to artists, arts groups and organizations to pivot their work for online sharing. Many grants went to individual artists never before funded by Council and from a diversity of backgrounds. This initiative is a partnership with CBC/Radio-Canada, which is showcasing selected projects online, and I invite you to see them at cbc.ca/arts/canadacouncildigitaloriginals (one very long word).

We also adapted our international work in Germany and at festivals in Edinburgh to ensure that the arts from Canada remain connected to the wider world, to broaden and deepen our engagement with the global community, even as we see artists and arts organizations focussing more closely on local communities and audiences.

Digital platforms have been a big part of the international adaptation, and new transnational collaborations are being formed in the arts, as they are in all sectors, notably science, of course, where we’ve seen the critical importance of international collaboration in the search for a vaccine.

With the arrival of vaccines, we do see light at the end of the tunnel, and an opportunity to renew and rebuild the arts sector, to make sure that the many ways art is made, shared, and experienced in Canada are innovative, equitable, increasingly at the heart of our society, and, ultimately, more sustainable.

The Canada Council for the Arts is committed to doing everything we can to make this vision for a renewed arts sector a reality.

Je vais maintenant passer la parole à Simon Brault, directeur et chef de la direction du Conseil des arts du Canada, afin qu’il prépare le terrain pour notre prochain Plan stratégique, qui guidera notre travail dans le secteur des arts, alors que nous émergeons de cette crise et que nous sommes confrontés à de nouvelles réalités, au pays comme ailleurs.

To all of you—artists, arts workers, and arts lovers—thank you for your ongoing courage, resilience, creativity and commitment to bringing the arts to life.

[Simon Brault]

Merci Carolyn.

Comme l’ont souligné Michelle, Carolyn et Jesse, la situation actuelle exige d’examiner avec lucidité le fonctionnement de systèmes dont les limites ont été mises en relief par la pandémie. Un tel examen permettra de jeter des bases plus justes, équitables, inclusives et durables pour le secteur des arts.

Évidemment, pour y arriver, nous devrons concilier détermination et réalisme. L’importante précarité du secteur des arts est aujourd’hui criante. Depuis plus de 10 mois, le secteur subit les dures conséquences économiques et psychologiques des mesures sanitaires qui ont objectivement freiné son essor.

Aussi, le Conseil doit à la fois continuer de porter secours aux artistes et aux organismes qui en ont urgemment besoin et se préparer à les accompagner dans une transition vers un monde post-pandémique. On ne doit pas reproduire les iniquités et les failles qui grevaient de plus en plus le développement, le rayonnement et la reconnaissance du secteur des arts.

Depuis l’été dernier, nous avons sondé le milieu et organisé de nombreuses séances de dialogue en vue de notre prochain plan stratégique. J’ai moi-même eu le privilège d’assister à plusieurs de ces rencontres.

J’y ai entendu les participantes et participants exprimer leurs inquiétudes grandissantes face à l’avenir. J’ai pris note des souhaits quant à l’augmentation, à la prévisibilité, à la diversification et à la pérennité de nos subventions. Mais j’ai surtout été frappé par le fait que les échanges ont très rapidement porté sur le rôle de leadership attendu du Conseil. Des artistes et des dirigeantes et dirigeants d’organismes de toutes les régions du Canada, de différents champs de pratique artistique et de divers horizons ont insisté sur l’importance grandissante de notre rôle au-delà du financement.

Plusieurs ont souhaité que le Conseil influence le cours des choses en matière de politiques publiques et d’investissements gouvernementaux pour faire avancer différents éléments de notre développement comme société. Parmi ceux-ci, il a notamment été question :

  • de combler la fracture numérique pour les créateurs et les publics;
  • d’améliorer le filet de sécurité sociale pour les artistes et les travailleuses et travailleurs culturels;
  • de promouvoir la présence accrue et soutenue des arts et de la littérature à l’école;
  • de s’assurer de la prise en compte des arts et de la culture dans les stratégies économiques, le commerce international, la diplomatie publique ou les stratégies environnementales du Canada, et j’en passe.

D’ailleurs, nous venons tout juste de publier le rapport résumant ces discussions, vos réponses à notre sondage sur nos orientations stratégiques et les propositions que nous avons reçues. Nous vous encourageons à le lire.

I think we can all agree that the so-called “normalcy” that preceded the pandemic is not—and should not be—our next destination.

On the one hand, several approaches developed hastily in 2020, namely in terms of digital dissemination, are here to stay. On the other hand, certain structural problems that were already compromising the viability and reach of the sector will have to be gradually resolved. To that end, we must:

  • rely on renewal, reconstruction and innovation;
  • seek to advance diversity, inclusivity and our social responsibilities, namely on the social and climate justice fronts, both within and outside our sector; and
  • increase and encourage collaborations and partnerships with other sectors.

I believe this is the surest way to give arts and culture a more prominent place in the conversations that are shaping the future of our society.

We will not recommend ready-made solutions; rather, we foresee various forms of investment and support to generate innovative solutions and new models.

Innovation will be at the heart of the major project we implement to contribute to the recovery of the arts sector over the coming years. Innovation will ensure a sustainable transition and reconstruction. And innovation requires that we identify, accept and understand the problems we need to solve. We stop innovating when we accept the status quo as a way of operating and let it happen or, worse, when we try to justify it.

Already, the work we are undertaking together towards our next strategic plan is starting to take shape. I want to highlight a few overarching areas for the plan.

  • We will support an increased presence of Indigenous perspectives in all the Council’s activities and policies, while we continue to progress in our own decolonization process, which we want to be consistent and exemplary.
  • We will work with the communities most affected by systemic racism in order to address its presence and impact in both the Council and the wider arts sector. We will continue to focus on digital technology in our programs and allocate a significant investment to support the digital transformation of the Council and the wider sector.
  • We will champion equitable remuneration for artists, namely in the digital realm, and we will also champion equitable public access to the arts.
  • We will support research, development and risk-taking to enable the sector to work towards its renewal.
  • We will support initiatives that foster the renewal and strengthening of a competency-based leadership that reflects the diversity of the sector and society.
  • We will contribute to ensuring the sector has the tools to develop eco-friendly works and dissemination practices.
  • We will launch strategic initiatives and rely on local partnerships to meet the realities of the North, namely in terms of artistic creation and sharing art, and to reach underserved communities and give them equal access to the arts.

Nous sommes engagés dans une grande transition vers une reconstruction d’un secteur plus juste, équitable et durable. Nous continuerons d’appuyer et d’accompagner le secteur durant cette transition en faisant, comme nous l’avons toujours fait, preuve d’agilité, d’empathie et de détermination.

S’il est une seule leçon que nous devons tirer de la crise actuelle, c’est celle du caractère essentiel des arts dans nos vies, un besoin fortement exprimé par la population et, évidemment, par les artistes. Il y a urgence à préserver et reconstruire notre secteur pour répondre à ce besoin essentiel.

En décembre dernier, j’ai invité les artistes, groupes et organismes artistiques à préparer des projets qui créent des emplois. Je lançais cette invitation pour que la communauté soit prête à répondre à l’initiative que nous lancerons avec les fonds supplémentaires pour le Conseil que le gouvernement a annoncé dans son dernier énoncé économique. Soyez prêts!

Enfin, je veux remercier tous les artistes, les organismes, nos différents partenaires, les membres du grand public et, bien entendu les membres du conseil d’administration ainsi que le personnel du Conseil, qui ont participé aux discussions et au sondage en vue de notre prochain plan stratégique. Ce plan sera à la hauteur des ambitions du secteur et de son immense potentiel de contribution à notre développement collectif et, surtout, à un avenir plus juste, équitable, inclusif et durable.

J’ai hâte d’entendre vos questions et je lance maintenant la période de questions. Nous sommes prêts à répondre à vos questions.

[Éliane Laberge]

Merci, Simon.

Je m’appelle Éliane Laberge, et je suis la coordonnatrice, Communautés et engagement numérique au Conseil des arts du Canada.

Pour l’APA de cette année, nous vous avons demandé d’envoyer vos questions par courriel avant l’événement. Nous vous avons aussi invités à vous joindre à la conversation sur Twitter, avec les mots-clics #CanadaCouncil21 et #Conseildesarts21.

Nous avons reçu plus de 70 questions avant l’APA, un nombre record pour nous.

Bien sûr, comme Michelle l’a mentionné au début de l’Assemblée, nous ne pouvons pas répondre à toutes les questions reçues, mais il vous est toujours possible de faire un suivi après l’événement, ou à tout moment au cours de l’année, en écrivant à : feedback@canadacouncil.ca ou à retroaction@conseildesarts.ca.

I would also like to point out that the questions we received about specific grant application files were forwarded to our program staff before the event.

We also received some questions on tax deductions and program applications. If you have questions on these topics, we encourage you to consult our website or contact our program staff.

With those questions aside, we’ve selected several questions for our speakers today that are representative of the topics many of you wanted to learn more about.

So, without further ado, I’d now like to begin the question and answer period with our first question.

We received several questions about the impact of COVID-19 on the Canada Council’s funding strategy and its programs. 

To address this broad topic, I’d like to share a question submitted by Adam Basanta. The question is representative of similar questions we’ve received. It relates to funding for individuals versus organizations, and the redistribution of funds allotted to travel grants not spent while the Council’s travel grants were suspended.

Adam asks, “In 2019–20, no travel grants were issued. Has this money been redistributed in other programs, and if so, how?”

I will direct this question to my colleague, Carolyn Warren, to start us off.

[Caroline Warren]

Thank you, Éliane. And I just want to acknowledge before I jump into the question that I recognize people have been having buffering issues accessing the live feed from today’s public meeting and that the recording will be made available to you later. But we really apologize. Here we are with the flaws and failures of technology in a key moment, where you don’t want anything to go wrong. My apologies for any of you who have been having difficulty connecting with us today and I hope you will be able to retrieve the content.

And now to Adam’s question—and thank you for that question, Adam—the answer to “how has this money from travel grants been redistributed and has it been?” Yes, it has. Although we did award some travel grants in early 2019–2020, before the travel restrictions came into effect in March. Of course, after that, application numbers dropped significantly and the ban on travel was extended so we suspended our own travel competition deadlines, as you all know.

The resulting unspent fund were redirected to other programs, along with an additional almost $4M in savings. And the money was reallocated primarily to individual artists for research and creation and production of projects through our Explore and Create program. It was quite extraordinary to see that we received an unprecedented number of eligible applications over the past few months—8,600, and more than 3,000 grants will be awarded across the country this year. I also want to note that as we looked at the applications, we’ve noticed that because of the prolonged period of confinement in addition to the travel bans, a lot of artists have turned to digital platforms for creation and collaboration and not only with local or Canadian collaborators but also internationally. And we’ve also seen a range of hybrid live and digital activities to create with audiences that include studio visits and workshops and virtual tours and, of course, performances. Thank you again for that question.

[Éliane Laberge]

Thank you very much, Carolyn. Merci beaucoup. As mentioned, we are experiencing some technical difficulties and we will therefore be breaking for five minutes to allow for a better viewing experience. Comme l’a mentionné Carolyn, nous avons malheureusement des difficultés techniques. Nous allons faire une pause de cinq minutes pour résoudre la situation et faire en sorte que le plus grand nombre d’entre vous puisse suivre l’événement avec nous, et la période de questions. Alors on vous remercie beaucoup de votre patience et de votre compréhension, et on est de retour avec vous très bientôt. Merci.

[…]

Hello, everybody. Bonjour tout le monde, désolée pour ce problème technique et merci de votre patience. Thank you for your patience while we sorted this technical issue.

We will continue with the Q&A period. And now for our next question.

La prochaine question a été posée par Julie Hétu, qui s’inquiète du fait que les fonds d’urgence du Conseil aient été largement orientés vers le soutien aux organismes et la création d’œuvres numériques, plutôt que sur un appui direct aux artistes. Elle mentionne que : « Un artiste, écrivain, danseur, etc…, ne cherche pas constamment à se réinventer, il ne cherche pas non plus à innover du point de vue technologique (il se servira de la technologie si cela lui parle, mais pas comme une fin en soi). Se tourner vers le numérique pour survivre nous force la main, alors que nos démarches artistiques ne sont pas la technique. »

Elle pose ensuite la prochaine question : « Pourquoi les organismes et le développement du numérique est une priorité sur le soutien aux artistes? »

J’aimerais demander à Simon Brault d’y répondre s’il vous plaît.

[Simon Brault]

Merci Julie Hétu pour la question. La première chose à dire, c’est que dès le début de la pandémie, si on se rappelle bien, le gouvernement fédéral a annoncé des mesures de soutien universelles pour les individus et pour les organisations. Au Conseil des arts, ce qu’on a fait à ce moment-là, ça a été beaucoup de plaider avec succès pour que les travailleurs autonomes qui représentent une grande partie des artistes au Canada (artistes et concepteurs, conceptrices, techniciens, techniciennes). On a vraiment plaidé pour que les travailleurs autonomes soient couverts par les mesures universelles, et aussi pour que les entreprises culturelles, souvent des organismes à but non lucratif soient aussi couverts par les mesures universelles du gouvernement qui s’adressaient aux entreprises.

Par la suite, on a beaucoup concentré notre aide, au début, aux organismes, avec nos propres fonds et avec des fonds d’urgence pour s’assurer que le secteur ne s’effondre pas, n’implose pas avec la pandémie, et aujourd’hui on réalise depuis quelques mois en particulier que beaucoup d’organismes en particulier ne sont pas capables de générer un niveau d’activité qui fait que des artistes travaillent. Donc on attend présentement le troisième montant d’aide pour le Conseil des arts du Canada qui a été annoncé dans l’Énoncé économique de l’automne par la ministre Freeland, et notre intention, c’est vraiment de concentrer cette aide-là pour soutenir des projets artistiques qui vont générer de l’emploi pour les artistes et leurs collaboratrices et collaborateurs.

On attend le moment où on va pouvoir annoncer les détails de ça, mais on va vraiment passer, dans les mesures d’urgence, notre accent va se transférer du soutien aux organisations au soutien plus aux individus et aux projets qui génèrent de l’emploi.

En ce qui concerne le numérique, on en a beaucoup parlé depuis le début de la pandémie, et pour cause, parce que les publics et les artistes ont vu dans le numérique un des rares moyens pour établir et maintenir une communication et distribuer les contenus artistiques et littéraires.

Je dois dire quand même, et c’est important à retenir, que depuis le début de la pandémie, le Conseil des arts n’a pas investi plus que 11 % de ses ressources totales pour soutenir des projets spécifiquement numériques. Donc 89 % de toutes nos subventions sont allés à des projets de création, de développement, de recherche, au fonctionnement des organismes, des projets non spécifiquement numériques.

Pendant cette période-là, le niveau d’aide que le Conseil des arts a donné directement aux artistes, pour être capables de créer et développer leur art dans leurs propres conditions, a été beaucoup plus élevé, puisque comme l’a dit tantôt Carolyn Warren, on a transféré dans nos programmes de soutien direct aux artistes l’argent qui n’était pas dépensé pour l’international. On a aussi transféré plusieurs millions de dollars d’économies dans le fonctionnement même du Conseil des arts pour augmenter notre soutien direct aux artistes. Tout ça pour dire qu’on comprend que tous les artistes n’ont pas adopté le numérique comme façon de créer ou de distribuer leur contenu, mais il y en a beaucoup qui désirent le faire et le Conseil doit être là. Beaucoup de choses ont été apprises pendant la pandémie sont probablement là pour rester, on va probablement dans l’avenir voir beaucoup de compagnies de théâtres ou autres qui vont avoir une diffusion en personne et maintenir une utilisation du numérique qui permet de rejoindre d’autres publics. Merci beaucoup pour la question. J’espère que ça clarifie la situation.

[Éliane Laberge]

Merci Simon. Now for our next question.

Tina Lameman asks, “How is the film industry or the arts in general verifying a person is really Indigenous?”

I would like to direct this question to our Chair, Jesse Wente.

[Jesse Wente]

Thank you so much, Tina, for the question. This is obviously a very nuanced and sensitive issue, and thus this should be treated as such, with harm reduction at the centre.

Existing best practice in most of the cultural sector tends to rely on some form of self-identification. Such policies are always in a state of evolution. As such, the organization I oversee in my day job, which is in the film and TV sector, the Indigenous Screen Office, we will be facilitating a community engagement process in partnership with APTN to further evolve our own policies when it comes to these issues. That will roll out over the next couple of months. The first stage will really be looking at engaging in conversation with elders and experts in this area, and then using that to inform a broader community engagement program in the summer and developing a policy direction that would be coming out in the fall.

I think while that will be specific to the policies of the Indigenous Screen Office and the screen sector, I certainly think that an organization like the Canada Council will be able to take much from the learnings of that community engagement process, one that centres self-determination for First Nations, Métis and Inuit in this process.

I think the Canada Council will be able to look at that process, take from it and be able to evolve its own policies around this going forward.

That is the plan. These issues have existed for a very long time on this land and they will exist into the future. We really try to engage with the community to make sure that we are serving them in the best way that we can.

Chi miigwetch for the question.

[Éliane Laberge]

Chi miigwetch, Jesse. Now for our next question.

Like many people in this pandemic, the Canada Council has also had to change the way it works—with most of our employees now working remotely.

And this has inspired a question from Patricia Huntsman, who asks, “With the proven ability for organizations to adjust to remote working, will the Canada Council consider a decentralized model for part of its operations, program delivery and staffing, including the possibility of distributed roles in regions throughout the country?”

I will direct this question to Simon Brault.

[Simon Brault]

Thank you, Patricia, for this question. The Canada Council, like any other organization in this country, has been quite disrupted by the pandemic.

We were lucky enough that, we were able to pivot very rapidly to telework, and in fact succeeded in answering the needs of the community despite the fact that we were working in a completely new way.

I think you’re right. We have proven over the past 10 months that we can do a lot of our work in a situation of telework. What we are doing now is trying to imagine what the Canada Council will look like after the pandemic.

The answer to that is not articulated fully yet, but we do believe we will adopt some kind of hybrid model, where it will be a combination of telework and a different use of our offices and buildings in Ottawa.

Also, we will probably come to some kind of asymmetrical model, because different tasks and different teams may work in different ways. We do not want to impose one hybrid model to everybody at the Council.

That being said, if we are not seeking to decentralize the Council in terms of delivering its services, we realize we have now gained much more flexibility in terms of how we organize the work.

We are considering, right now, that it will be possible to have some of our people working outside of the National Capital Region when it serves the purposes of the Canada Council. For instance, we know that to be more present in some parts of the country, notably the north of the country, that to have a program officer who could be located in those regions to do their work, could be very useful in reinforcing the presence and capacity of the Canada Council.

Over the next few months, we will figure out what will be the new model after the pandemic.

When we will hire, over the next few months, on a case-by-case basis, we will discuss to which extent we can be flexible in terms of arrangements of telework and working from a remote region (remote from Ottawa), but the idea is, as always, to make sure that the Canada Council will be able to really deliver with optimal capacities, its services to the community while being able to be informed and in constant conversation with the artistic community in this very vast country in the future.

So, stay tuned on that.

[Éliane Laberge]

Thank you, Simon. Now for our final question.

In keeping with important conversations taking place across Canada and, indeed, around the world, about anti-Black racism, we received the following question from Rehaset Yohanes:

“Given the recent global spotlight on the systemic inequities that Black peoples experience, will there be funding earmarked specifically for Black Canadian artists to access in the next grant cycle?”

I will direct this question to my colleague, Carolyn Warren.

[Carolyn Warren]

My apologies. Thank you, Éliane, and thank you to Rehaset Yohanes for the question.

Yes, we will continue to earmark special funding to support equity, not only for the next grant cycle but ongoing. Council believes that we must all act both individually and collectively to create a society that has no place for racism.

As Canada’s public funder, we are fully committed to advancing racial equity and creating and building an inclusive arts sector and society.

Artistic creation cannot be isolated from historical realities and injustices. These need to be recognized and addressed.

We believe that we can both advance and respect the artistic freedom of expression and also advance equity.

We currently have a number of strategic equity measures in place, including targeted funds for designated priority groups, artists and arts organizations from culturally diverse communities, including the Black community, and I think it is important to note that our peer assessors are selected, again, to represent a broad diversity of experience and backgrounds.

They are also asked, when assessing files in their committees, to consider historical and cultural contexts, which would include systemic barriers experienced by equity groups.

It is a condition of receiving a Canada Council grant that a recipient commit to providing a safe workplace, one that is free from this discrimination.

It is a core belief that inclusion and diversity will be absolutely critical to the future vitality and relevance and sustainability of the arts sector as it emerges from the pandemic.

This will be a key focus of the next strategic plan. We will look forward, in the coming weeks, to working more closely with the Black arts community to identify particular actions that we can implement to better support Black Canadian artists and to better fight racism. Thank you again for the question.

[Michelle Chawla]

Thank you, Carolyn and Éliane. To bring the Q&A period to a close, I’d like to note that we received many questions about how we’re addressing various forms of discrimination in our work at the Council, in our work in the arts sector and across society.

The pandemic has highlighted the many inequities being experienced across Canada and around the world. They relate to race, indigeneity, disability, gender, sexuality, age and language, among others, and to various intersections of identity.

Nous sommes conscients que vos questions sur la discrimination méritent toute notre attention – bien plus que les courtes réponses que nous pouvons fournir lors d’une Assemblée.

Nous souhaitons rappeler que la lutte contre la discrimination sera au cœur de notre Plan stratégique 2021-2026 et de notre travail pour les prochaines années.

Nous sommes déterminés à travailler avec les différentes communautés confrontées à la discrimination alors que nous balisons le chemin à suivre, ensemble, pour nous assurer que les arts soient ouverts à tous et à toutes.

Ce travail à venir demande de la réflexion, de l’intelligence, de la rigueur, de la compassion et de la collaboration. Il exigera aussi d’établir de nouvelles relations, et d’améliorer nos liens existants.

À première vue, ces efforts peuvent sembler intimidants, et même décourageants. D’autant plus que la pandémie a mis à rude épreuve la santé physique et mentale de tant de personnes.

We keep those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic, and those who are suffering in this moment, in our thoughts and in our hearts.

As we move forward from this difficult moment, the arts have an important role to play. I look forward to our shared work to make sure the arts can play this role as fully as possible.

On that note, it is now time for us to bring this meeting to an end. I would like to thank all of our presenters today. I’d also like to thank all of you for joining us this afternoon. The speeches from this event will be shared on our website shortly, and we will also post a recording of the event on our site in the coming days. This concludes our 2021 Annual Public Meeting. En ces temps difficiles, prenez soin de vous et des autres, and take good care. Merci. Thank you.

[Narrator]

It provokes us.

It inspires us.

It stirs our imagination, 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 wary 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.

[Michelle Chawla]

Welcome. Bonjour. Kwey-Kwey.

My name is Michelle Chawla. I’m the Director General of Strategy, Public Affairs and Arts Engagement at the Canada Council for the Arts.

I am delighted to welcome you to our 2021 Annual Public Meeting.

We were thrilled to hear from many of you that you would be joining us for this event. We feel fortunate to have such a dynamic online audience, people from across Canada and around the world, ambassadors, leaders from international arts and culture agencies, artists and arts workers representing a breadth of practices and from a diversity of communities, and passionate citizens who, like us, believe strongly in the important role of the arts in society.

I would like to begin by acknowledging that our offices are located on the unceded territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation, whose presence here reaches back to time immemorial.

The Council recognizes the Algonquins as the customary keepers and defenders of the Ottawa River Watershed and its tributaries. We honour their long history of welcoming many nations to this beautiful territory, and the Council is committed to upholding and uplifting the voice and values of our host nation.

Further, the Council respects and affirms the inherent and Treaty Rights of all Indigenous Peoples across this land. The Council has honoured and will continue to honour the commitments to self-determination and sovereignty that we have made to Indigenous Nations and Peoples.

The Council acknowledges the historical oppression of lands, cultures and the original Peoples in what we now know as Canada and fervently believes that the arts contribute to the healing and decolonizing journey we all share.

This land acknowledgement was developed by members of the Algonquin community and I thank them for their generosity and collaboration.

Throughout today’s meeting, you will see images on your screen to accompany our speakers. Images shown during the land acknowledgement were of a canoe that was handcrafted by Algonquin elder Daniel Smith. The canoe is an enduring symbol of Indigenous presence, cultural continuity, and our shared future on this land.

This canoe is in the Âjagemô space at the Canada Council’s offices.

This year, the Annual Public Meeting is quite unique. For the first time, because of the pandemic, it is online only. I assure you that the logistics of the meeting comply with the guidelines provided by public health authorities.

In these difficult times, our thoughts are with the artists, organizations and their staff, and all their families, who have been impacted by the pandemic. Rest assured that the Council has done everything within its power from the outset of the pandemic to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on the arts community and to support the community.

Today, we have the pleasure of hearing speeches from various people speaking to the topics that have marked the last year and will mark the coming year.

I will be speaking first, giving you an overview of the progress that’s been made on our current strategic plan and the work we’ve been doing to develop the next plan.

After that, you will hear from our Chair, Jesse Wente; the Director General of the Arts Granting Programs Division, Carolyn Warren; and the Director and CEO, Simon Brault.

A question period will follow. Please note that we will be replying to questions sent in by email. As it will not be possible to respond to all the questions received at this meeting, you can always contact us afterwards by email at feedback@canadacouncil.ca after the meeting.

You will also be able to listen to the speeches from this meeting again, in both official languages, on our site towards the end of February.

I’d like to thank the live simultaneous interpretation team, as well as the sign language interpreters for this meeting.

All right, we have a full docket, so let’s get started!

At the outset of our 2016‒21 Strategic Plan, the Council set ambitious goals. And I’m proud to say that our commitments—totalling $487M for the arts sector—are being realized.

Let’s look at how we have reached our goals. I’d like to remind you that the following achievements reflect our activities from the 2019–20 year—that is, before the current crisis with the pandemic. With respect to our commitment to increase support to the arts—specifically, investing 25% of the total budget of new funds in new recipients—we not only hit, but exceeded our target. We also achieved our commitment to balance funding between project grants and core funding.

I am happy to report that we also realized our commitment to triple our investment in Indigenous creation.

What’s more, we exceeded our commitment to support international projects, and we’re on our way to achieving our commitment to invest $88.5M in digital. Of course, because of the pandemic, the upcoming results for international projects are going to vary.

From the beginning of the pandemic, the Council set up various initiatives to support the arts sector through this moment. Carolyn Warren will expand on these initiatives and digital engagements in just a few moments.

You can also visit the Council’s Commitments page on our website for more information, where you can also read several related stories on projects by artists, groups and organizations that have been funded by the Council. These stories speak volumes about the scope and impact of our investments. And, of course, our 2019‒20 Annual Report is also available on our website for more information.

We began working on our next strategic plan several months ago, discussing our areas of focus and the direction we want to move.

To ensure that the plan is a cornerstone for the future of the sector and that it is really grounded in our reality, the Council launched a survey and organized discussion sessions with various communities, including with Indigenous communities across Canada and, of course, with the Council’s staff.

Our Director and CEO will speak broadly to our next strategic plan, the context informing its development and how the first years of the plan will centre on transition and reconstruction.

I would now like to introduce the Chair of the Council’s Board, Jesse Wente. Jesse became Chair in July 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. Jesse has been able to bring both a new vision and a sense of continuity in his role as Chair because he has sat on the Board since 2017.

Jesse is a writer, communicator, speaker, arts leader, and staunch advocate of Indigenous rights and First Nations arts. A member of the Anishinaabe Nation, Jesse became the Council’s first Indigenous Chair.

I will now turn the floor over to Jesse Wente.

[Jesse Wente]

Miigwetch, Michelle.

And thank you all for attending today.

I’m speaking today from Tkaronto, “where the trees meet the water,” and the territory of the Dish with One Spoon covenant. This is an agreement that predates Canada between the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinaabe, my people, and it has a couple of different teachings. Namely, the dish is our shared place, and the spoon is what we are allowed to bring to the dish—not a knife, a spoon—and we only take one spoonful so that others may also bring their spoon.

It’s a very old lesson and one that has kept the peace between our nations for centuries. And it’s a lesson that applies today, that reminds us of the importance of sharing, reciprocity, and care for the communities we come from, and the ones we create together.

I’m very honoured and pleased to join you today for the first time as Chair of the Canada Council.

It’s certainly been an interesting start to my term, but I’m extremely proud of the work the Council has done in this most challenging of years.

When I think about the ways in which a chair can influence an organization like the Canada Council, I, of course, think of the most obvious ways—the current strategic planning process, for example. I also think about how we approach the issues that face us and the perspectives we bring to our common challenges as opportunities to influence the path of a place like this. A chair’s role is certainly in the boardroom, but not to the exclusion of being with the people we serve. And I certainly look forward to gathering again, with my colleagues at the Council, the remarkable artistic community we serve and the audiences that we all belong to.

I also want to acknowledge that my presence here, in the way that I am here, is unique. As the first Chair of a Crown corporation who is also Indigenous, I hold that responsibility very close. It is important that we take on leadership roles in the institutions and organizations that affect us, and my hope is that my presence here is but another step in a journey we are all on together.

This journey has brought us to a moment where inequities should be obvious to all. Where anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism has once again been laid bare for all to see and for all to work against.

This while the world continues to grapple with the ongoing pandemic, which itself has only further exacerbated existing inequalities.

We are at an inflection point, perhaps more than one, and while there is much to navigate, we are nonetheless presented with the opportunity to change, and to do so boldly. The arts are well positioned to lead this change, as it has already started, and artists are always at the forefront of guiding us beyond inflection moments.

The Canada Council has a key role to play as our sector evolves, supporting artists and organizations as they reorient themselves to new realities and best practices. The Council itself must continue its evolution to ensure we are serving our community of artists and organizations through this moment and into a future of renewed purpose and potential.

Yes, there is much to be done. And yes, there is much that is unknown. But we should embrace this moment not with fear, but with promise. We know we can change. We know we can adapt. We know we can make things better—as long as we focus on what we know, there is little to fear from what we do not.

I’d like to thank the Government of Canada for its ongoing confidence in the Canada Council and the work that we do.

I’d like to acknowledge the tremendous work and dedication of the Council’s staff, executive management team, Director and CEO Simon Brault, and my colleagues on the Board in the past year, responding to the pandemic while also maintaining regular activities. It’s been amazing to witness, and I am deeply proud of the work the staff and executive team have achieved during this challenging time. Chi miigwetch.

I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

I’d like to now introduce Carolyn Warren, Director General of the Arts Granting Programs Division, to speak more to the Council’s activities during the pandemic.

[Carolyn Warren]

Thank you, Jesse.

At the Canada Council, I oversee granting programs and strategic initiatives that foster the creation, distribution, and promotion of the arts in Canada and internationally.

As you likely know, we’ve refocussed our work this year as COVID-19 has placed—and continues to place—significant new pressures on the arts sector:

  • many cultural venues have had to limit public access or close;
  • national and international arts events have been cancelled or postponed; and
  • artists have lost valuable opportunities to work and connect with audiences.

All of this has had significant repercussions on the ongoing operation of organizations and the livelihoods of many artists and arts workers.

Throughout this very difficult period, I’ve been struck by the many ways those in the arts are adapting in order to continue creating and sharing work. Some have developed outdoor arts experiences, others have found safe ways to create and rehearse, and others still have pivoted to digital platforms to reach audiences.

I’ve also heard of artists and arts and culture workers meeting regularly online to discuss shared struggles and offer encouragement during a time of great isolation. Connecting with one another throughout the crisis has been and continues to be critical, and has given rise to new reflections on the future.

The Canada Council has remained in close touch with many of you to adapt our support and to respond to the pressing needs of the crisis.

Since March, we’ve delivered several support initiatives, including:

  • $55M in emergency funding to organizations; and
  • an additional $7.8M to organizations specifically from Indigenous, culturally diverse, Deaf and disability, and official language minority communities.

We also launched Digital Originals, a program that offered micro innovation grants to artists, groups and organizations to pivot their work for online sharing. Many grants went to individual artists never before funded by Council and from a diversity of backgrounds. This initiative is a partnership with CBC/Radio-Canada, which is showcasing selected projects online, and I invite you to explore them at cbc.ca/arts/canadacouncildigitaloriginals (one very long word).

We also adapted our international work in Germany and at festivals in Edinburgh to ensure that the arts from Canada remain connected to the wider world, to broaden and deepen our engagement with the global community, even as we see artists and arts organizations focussing more closely on local communities and audiences.

Digital platforms have been a big part of the international adaptation, and new transnational collaborations are being formed in the arts, as they are in all sectors, notably science, of course, where we’ve seen the critical importance of international collaboration in the search for a vaccine.

With the arrival of vaccines, we do see light at the end of the tunnel, and an opportunity to renew and rebuild the arts sector, to make sure that the many ways art is made, shared, and experienced in Canada are innovative, equitable, increasingly at the heart of our society, and, ultimately, more sustainable.

The Canada Council for the Arts is committed to doing everything we can to make this vision for a renewed arts sector a reality.

I turn now to Simon Brault, Director and CEO of the Canada Council, who will set the stage for our next strategic plan, which will guide our work in the arts as we emerge from this crisis and confront new realities here at home and around the world.

To all of you—artists, arts workers, and arts lovers—thank you for your ongoing courage, resilience, creativity and commitment to bringing the arts to life.

[Simon Brault]

Thank you, Carolyn.

As mentioned by Michelle, Carolyn and Jesse, the current situation demands that we examine the inner workings of those systems whose limitations have come to light in the pandemic. This will enable us to lay more fair, equitable, inclusive and sustainable foundations for the arts sector.

Of course, to accomplish this, we have to reconcile determination and reality. The great precariousness of the arts sector today is glaring. For over 10 months now, the sector has suffered the harsh economic and psychological consequences of health measures that have objectively slowed its growth.

And so, the Council must both continue to support artists and organizations in urgent need and be prepared to support them in their transition to a post-pandemic world. We must not carry over the inequities and flaws that increasingly hampered its development, outreach and recognition.

Last summer, we began surveying the arts sector and organized several opportunities for dialogue ahead of our next strategic plan. I even had the privilege of attending several of these sessions.

I heard attendees express their growing concerns for the future. I took note of a strong desire for increased, predictable, diverse and sustainable funding. But I was especially struck by the fact that conversations very quickly turned to the leadership role expected of the Council. Artists and directors of organizations from across the country, various fields of artistic practice and backgrounds insisted on the growing importance of our role beyond that of simple funder.

Many hoped that the Council might make a difference in public policy and government investments to further various aspects of our development as a society. Among other things, people mentioned:

  • closing the digital divide for creators and audiences;
  • improving the social safety net for artists and cultural workers;
  • promoting the increased and sustained presence of arts and literature in schools; and
  • ensuring that the arts and culture are taken into consideration in developing Canada’s economic strategies, international trade, public diplomacy and environmental strategies, to name but a few.

We recently published a report that summarizes the discussions, your answers to the survey on our strategic orientations and the suggestions we received, which we encourage you to read.

I think we can all agree that the so-called “normalcy” that preceded the pandemic is not—and should not be—our next destination.

On the one hand, several approaches developed hastily in 2020, namely in terms of digital dissemination, are here to stay. On the other hand, certain structural problems that were already compromising the viability and reach of the sector will have to be gradually resolved. To that end, we must:

  • rely on renewal, reconstruction and innovation;
  • seek to advance diversity, inclusivity and our social responsibilities, namely on the social and climate justice fronts, both within and outside our sector; and
  • increase and encourage collaborations and partnerships with other sectors.

I believe this is the surest way to give arts and culture a more prominent place in the conversations that are shaping the future of our society.

We will not recommend ready-made solutions; rather, we foresee various forms of investment and support to generate innovative solutions and new models.

Innovation will be at the heart of the major project we implement to contribute to the recovery of the arts sector over the coming years. Innovation will ensure a sustainable transition and reconstruction. And innovation requires that we identify, accept and understand the problems we need to solve. We stop innovating when we accept the status quo as a way of operating and let it happen or, worse, when we try to justify it.

Already, the work we are undertaking together towards our next strategic plan is starting to take shape. I want to highlight a few overarching areas for the plan.

  • We will support an increased presence of Indigenous perspectives in all the Council’s activities and policies, while we continue to progress in our own decolonization process, which we want to be consistent and exemplary.
  • We will work with the communities most affected by systemic racism in order to address its presence and impact in both the Council and the wider arts sector. We will continue to focus on digital technology in our programs and allocate a significant investment to support the digital transformation of the Council and the wider sector.
  • We will champion equitable remuneration for artists, namely in the digital realm, and we will also champion equitable public access to the arts.
  • We will support research, development and risk-taking to enable the sector to work towards its renewal.
  • We will support initiatives that foster the renewal and strengthening of a competency-based leadership that reflects the diversity of the sector and society.
  • We will contribute to ensuring the sector has the tools to develop eco-friendly works and dissemination practices.
  • We will launch strategic initiatives and rely on local partnerships to meet the realities of the North, namely in terms of artistic creation and sharing art, and to reach underserved communities and give them equal access to the arts.

We are invested in a major transition with a view to rebuilding a more just, equitable and sustainable arts sector. We will continue to support and assist the sector during this transition, drawing on our usual agility, empathy and determination.

If there is one lesson we must learn from the pandemic, it is that the arts are essential to our lives, a need that has been strongly expressed by the public and, of course, artists. There is an urgency to preserve and rebuild our sector to better meet this essential need.

In December 2020, I invited artists, groups and arts organizations to prepare projects that will create jobs. I sent out this invitation so the community can be ready for the initiative we plan to launch with additional funding the Council was allocated by the government in its last Economic Statement. So be ready!

In conclusion, I would like to thank all the artists, organizations, our various partners, members of the public and, of course, members of the Council’s Board and its staff, who have contributed to the conversations and survey for our next strategic plan. The plan will live up to the sector’s ambitions and its incredible potential to contribute to our collective development and, above all, in a more just, equitable, inclusive and sustainable future.

I’m looking forward to hearing the questions that you have for us—so without further ado, I will now open the floor for our question period, and we’re ready to respond.

[Éliane Laberge]

Hi everyone

My name is Éliane Laberge, and I am the Coordinator of Communities and Digital Engagement at the Canada Council for the Arts.

For this year’s APM, we’ve asked that you send us your questions via email before the event. We also invited you to join our APM conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #CanadaCouncil21 and #Conseildesarts21.

We received over 70 questions before the APM, which is a record number of questions for us.

Of course, as Michelle noted at the outset of the meeting, we can not answer all the questions we received however you can follow up after this event, or at any point in the year, by emailing us at feedback@canadacouncil.ca or rétroaction@conseildesarts.ca. 

I would also like to point out that the questions we received about specific grant application files were forwarded to our program staff before the event.

We also received some questions on tax deductions and program applications. If you have questions on these topics, we encourage you to consult our website or contact our program staff.

With those questions aside, we’ve selected several questions for our speakers today that are representative of the topics many of you wanted to learn more about.

So, without further ado, I’d now like to begin the question and answer period with our first question.

We received several questions about the impacts of COVID-19 on the Canada Council’s funding strategy and its programs. 

To address this broad topic, I’d like to share a question submitted by Adam Basanta. The question is representative of similar questions we’ve received. It relates to funding for individuals versus organizations, and the redistribution of funds allotted to travel grants not spent while the Council’s travel grants were suspended.

Adam asks, “In 2019–20, no travel grants were issued. Has this money been redistributed in other programs, and if so, how?”

And I will direct this question to my colleague, Carolyn Warren, to start us off.

[Caroline Warren]

Thank you, Éliane. And I just want to acknowledge before I jump into the question that I recognize people have been having technical buffering issues accessing the live feed from today’s public meeting and that the recording will be made available to you later. But we really apologize. Here we are with the flaws and failures of technology in a key moment, where you don’t want anything to go wrong. My apologies for any of you who have been having difficulty connecting with us today and I hope you will be able to retrieve the content.

And now to Adam’s question—and thank you for that question, Adam—the answer to “how has this money from travel grants been redistributed and has it been?” Yes, it has. Although we did award some travel grants in early 2019–2020, before the travel restrictions came into effect in March. Of course, after that, application numbers dropped significantly and the ban on travel was extended so we suspended our own travel competition deadlines, as you all know.

The resulting unspent fund were redirected to other programs, along with an additional almost $4M in savings. And the money was reallocated primarily to individual artists for research and creation and production of projects through our Explore and Create program, and it was quite extraordinary in fact to see that we received an unprecedented number of eligible applications over the past few months—8,600, and more than 3,000 grants will be awarded across the country this year. I also want to note that as we looked at the applications, we’ve noticed that because of the prolonged period of confinement in addition to the travel bans, a lot of artists have turned to digital platforms for creation and collaboration and not only with local or Canadian collaborators but also internationally. And we’ve also seen a range of hybrid live and digital activities to create with audiences that include studio visits and workshops and virtual tours and, of course, performances. Thank you again Adam for that question.

[Éliane Laberge]

Thank you very much, Carolyn. Thank you. As mentioned, we are experiencing some technical difficulties and we will therefore be breaking for five minutes to allow for a better viewing experience.

As mentioned by Carolyn at the very beginning, we are having a few technical difficulties and will be taking a short, five-minute break to resolve the situation and to allow more of you to join us for the event and for the question period. So, we thank you kindly for your patience and we’ll be back very soon. Thank you very much.

Hello, everybody. Bonjour tous le monde. Apologize for the technical problems, and thanks you for your patience while we sorted this technical issue.

We will continue with the Q&A period. And now for our next question.

Our next question comes from Julie Hétu, who expressed concern about how the Council’s emergency funding has centered largely on support for organizations and the creation of digital work, rather than providing direct support to artists. She noted that, “Artists, writers, authors, etc. are not constantly looking to reinvent themselves, or to innovate in terms of technology. They use technology if it speaks to them, but not as an end in itself. Now adapting our work for the digital realm compels us, whereas our artistic approaches are not technical.”

She then goes on to ask, “Why are organizations and digital development a priority in supporting artists?”

So I ask Simon Brault to please respond.

[Simon Brault]

Well thank you, Julie Hétu, for the question. The first thing to note is that at the beginning of the pandemic, the federal government announced universal support measures for individuals and organizations. At the Council, what we did then was successfully request that self-employed workers, who… are a large portion of artists in Canada are self-employed—designers, technicians, etc. We asked that self-employed workers be covered by the universal measures and for arts organizations, which are often not-for-profit organizations, to also be covered by the measures.

In addition, we targeted our support to organizations, at the beginning, using our own funding and emergency funding, to ensure that the sector would not implode with the pandemic. Today, we realize that, particularly in recent months, organizations have not been able to generate a level of activity that enables artists to work. We are currently waiting on the third amount of support allocated to the Canada Council for the Arts, which was announced by Minister Freeland. We intend to use that amount to support artistic projects that create jobs for artists and collaborators. We are waiting to be able to announce the specifics of this initiative, but we are really going to be shifting our focus from organizations to individuals and projects that create jobs.

As for the digital realm, we have talked about it a lot since the pandemic began, and with reason: both audiences and artists saw it as one of the few ways they could establish and maintain a line of communication and disseminate artistic and literary content.

I do want to stress, however, that since the beginning of the pandemic, the Canada Council for the Arts has not allocated more than 11% of its total resources in support of digital-only projects. This means that 89% of our grants went to creative and research and development projects or to core funding for organizations, and projects that were not specifically digital. During that period, the level of direct support given by the Council to artists so that they could develop their art according to their own circumstances was a lot higher, because, as mentioned by Carolyn Warren, we transferred unspent travel grant money into programs that directly support artists. And we also transferred several millions of dollars of savings from core Council operation costs to increase our direct support to artists. In short, we understand that not all artists have shifted to digital technology to create or disseminate their content, but many do want to, and the Council must be there. Many of the things we learned during the pandemic are probably here to stay. In the future, we will probably see many theatre companies disseminating productions both in person and online, which would allow them to reach different audiences. Thank you for your question, I hope this helps clear things up.

[Éliane Laberge]

Thank you, Simon. Now for our next question.

Tina Lameman asks, “How is the film industry or the arts in general verifying a person is really Indigenous?”

I would like to direct this question to our Chair, Jesse Wente.

[Jesse Wente]

Thank you so much, Tina, for the question. This is obviously a very nuanced and sensitive issue, and thus this should be treated as such, with harm reduction at the centre.

Existing best practice in most of the cultural sector tends to rely on some form of self-identification. Such policies are always in a state of evolution. As such, the organization I oversee in my day job, which is in the film and TV sector, the Indigenous Screen Office, we will be facilitating a community engagement process in partnership with APTN to further evolve our own policies when it comes to these issues. That will roll out over the next couple of months. The first stage will really be looking at engaging in conversation with elders and experts in this area, and then using that to inform a broader community engagement program in the summer and developing a policy direction that would be coming out in the fall.

I think while that will be specific to the policies of the Indigenous Screen Office and the screen sector, I certainly think that an organization like the Canada Council will be able to take much from the learnings of that community engagement process, one that centres self-determination for First Nations, Métis and Inuit in this process.

I think the Canada Council will be able to look at that process, take from it and be able to evolve its own policies around this going forward.

That is the plan. These issues have existed for a very long time on this land and they will exist into the future. We really try to engage with the community to make sure that we are serving them in the best way that we can.

Chi miigwetch for the question.

[Éliane Laberge]

Chi miigwetch, Jesse. Now for our next question.

Like many people in this pandemic, the Canada Council has also had to change the way it works—with most of our employees now working remotely.

And this has inspired a question from Patricia Huntsman, who asks, “With the proven ability for organizations to adjust to remote working, will the Canada Council consider a decentralized model for part of its operations, program delivery and staffing, including the possibility of distributed roles in regions throughout the country?”

I will direct this question to Simon Brault.

[Simon Brault]

Thank you, Patricia, for this question. The Canada Council, like any other organization in this country, has been quite disrupted by the pandemic.

We were lucky enough that, we were able to pivot very rapidly to telework, and in fact succeeded in answering the needs of the community despite the fact that we were working in a completely new way.

I think you’re right. We have proven over the past 10 months that we can do a lot of our work in a situation of telework. What we are doing now is trying to imagine what the Canada Council will look like after the pandemic.

The answer to that is not articulated fully yet, but we do believe we will adopt some kind of hybrid model, where it will be a combination of telework and a different use of our offices and buildings in Ottawa.

Also, we will probably come to some kind of asymmetrical model, because different tasks and different teams may work in different ways. We do not want to impose one hybrid model to everybody at the Council.

That being said, if we are not seeking to decentralize the Council in terms of delivering its services, we realize we have now gained much more flexibility in terms of how we organize the work.

We are considering, right now, that it will be possible to have some of our people working outside of the National Capital Region when it serves the purposes of the Canada Council. For instance, we know that to be more present in some parts of the country, notably the north of the country, that to have a program officer who could be located in those regions to do their work, could be very useful in reinforcing the presence and capacity of the Canada Council.

Over the next few months, we will figure out what will be the new model after the pandemic.

When we will hire, over the next few months, on a case-by-case basis, we will discuss to which extent we can be flexible in terms of arrangements of telework and working from a remote region (remote from Ottawa), but the idea is, as always, to make sure that the Canada Council will be able to really deliver with optimal capacities, its services to the community while being able to be informed and in constant conversation with the artistic community in this very vast country in the future.

So, stay tuned on that.

[Éliane Laberge]

Thank you, Simon. Now for our final question.

In keeping with important conversations taking place across Canada and, indeed, around the world, about anti-Black racism, we received the following question from Rehaset Yohanes:

“Given the recent global spotlight on the systemic inequities that Black peoples experience, will there be funding earmarked specifically for Black Canadian artists to access in the next grant cycle?”

I will direct this question to my colleague, Carolyn Warren.

[Carolyn Warren]

My apologies. Thank you, Éliane, and thank you to Rehaset Yohanes for the question.

Yes, we will continue to earmark special funding to support equity, not only for the next grant cycle but ongoing. Council believes that we must all act both individually and collectively to create a society that has no place for racism.

As Canada’s public funder, we are fully committed to advancing racial equity and creating and building an inclusive arts sector and society.

Artistic creation cannot be isolated from historical realities and injustices. These need to be recognized and addressed.

We believe that we can both advance and respect the artistic freedom of expression and also advance equity.

We currently have a number of strategic equity measures in place, including targeted funds for designated priority groups, artists and arts organizations from culturally diverse communities, including the Black community, and I think it is important to note that our peer assessors are selected, again, to represent a broad diversity of experience and backgrounds.

They are also asked, when assessing files in their committees, to consider historical and cultural contexts, which would include systemic barriers experienced by equity groups.

It is a condition of receiving a Canada Council grant that a recipient commit to providing a safe workplace, one that is free from this discrimination.

It is a core belief that inclusion and diversity will be absolutely critical to the future vitality and relevance and sustainability of the arts sector as it emerges from the pandemic.

This will be a key focus of the next strategic plan. We will look forward, in the coming weeks, to working more closely with the Black arts community to identify particular actions that we can implement to better support Black Canadian artists and to better fight racism. Thank you again for the question.

[Michelle Chawla]

Thank you, Carolyn and Éliane. To bring the Q&A period to a close, I’d like to note that we received many questions about how we’re addressing various forms of discrimination in our work at the Council, in our work in the arts sector and across society.

The pandemic has highlighted the many inequities being experienced across Canada and around the world. They relate to race, indigeneity, disability, gender, sexuality, age and language, among others, and to various intersections of identity.

We are mindful that your questions on discrimination deserve our utmost attention—much more than the relatively concise answers we can provide during an APM.

I would like to reiterate that addressing discrimination will be an integral part of our 2021–26 strategic plan and of the work we undertake in the years ahead.

We are committed to working with the many different communities facing discrimination as we chart a path forward, together, to ensure that that the arts are open to everyone.

The work ahead requires thoughtfulness, intelligence, rigour, compassion and collaboration. It also requires that we forge new relationships and that we make existing ones better.

This work might seem daunting—overwhelming, even. Even more so because the pandemic has placed a considerable strain on the mental and physical health of many people.

We keep those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic, and those who are suffering in this moment, in our thoughts and in our hearts.

As we move forward from this difficult moment, the arts have an important role to play. I look forward to our shared work to make sure the arts can play this role as fully as possible.

On that note, it is now time for us to bring this meeting to an end. I would like to thank all of our presenters today. I’d also like to thank all of you for joining us this afternoon. The speeches from this event will be shared on our website shortly, and we will also post a recording of the event on our site in the coming days. This concludes our 2021 Annual Public Meeting. In these difficult times, take care of yourselves and others. Thank you.