COVID-19: Information and support for the arts sector

Last updated: June 30, 2020

We encourage you to revisit this page often as it is being updated regularly.

Our thoughts go out to the many artists, staff at arts organizations, and their loved ones whose health and livelihoods are affected by the global spread of COVID-19. 


COVID-19 and the arts sector

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

The pandemic has led to the closure of public spaces and the cancellation of events around the world, causing great stress on the arts sector. The Canada Council for the Arts will continue to work with the Government of Canada, as well as provincial, territorial, and municipal partners, to ensure the strength of the sector.

At present, the Council’s priorities are to ensure the health and safety of people across Canada and around the world and to work towards the sustainability and recoverability of the arts sector. This includes the Council’s longstanding commitment to equity and diversity within the arts. 

Our survey

To better understand the needs of the professional arts sector in overcoming the COVID-19 crisis, the Canada Council for the Arts sent a survey to approximately 30,000 of its clients (artists, groups, and organizations) on April 6, 2020.

The survey and responses reflect the challenges faced by the professional arts sector, and address the Government of Canada’s emergency aid measures as they were during the period the survey was conducted.

Read the final report and explore our data to understand the complexity of the challenges faced by the arts and culture sector to get through the pandemic crisis.


The Canada Council for the Arts' emergency support

The Canada Council for the Arts is in ongoing dialogue with the various levels of government and arts communities across the country to better understand what is needed, and possible, in terms of support.

Below you will find the emergency support offered by the Council at this time.

Emergency support to organizations

Advance payments on core grants

The Council is advancing funds to core-funded organizations in an amount equivalent to 35% of their annual grant by May 4, 2020.

  • The payments will be automated, and there is no need to make a request for payment or to provide regular reporting documents.
  • If an organization has not yet received their 2020–21 results, their instalment will be based on their 2019–20 amount.
  • Any organization that was due to receive 100% of their core grant in April 2020 and that submitted the required documentation will receive the full amount as per usual.
  • After this automated advance has been paid, any remaining amounts will follow our regular process and timing.

COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund

The Government of Canada has set aside $500M to help alleviate the financial pressures of affected organizations through the COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations.

Canadian Heritage and its portfolio organizations are responsible for the distribution of these funds.

The Canada Council will distribute $55M to eligible arts organizations experiencing a significant financial impact.

A measure for Canadian arts organizations

The Canada Council is communicating directly with Canadian arts organizations that have experienced a reduction in revenues and:

  • hold a 2020–21 Canada Council core grant or
  • have applied for and been awarded core or project funding from any Canada Council program, fund or special initiative between April 2017 and April 2020 (except for funding awarded through the Commission internationale du théâtre francophone (CITF), prizes or the Canadian Commission for UNESCO).

For more information, visit the COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund page.

Digital Originals

Digital Originals was a one-time initiative which is now closed. The deadline was June 15, 2020. Results will be communicated to applicants within six weeks of the deadline.

For more information, visit the Digital Originals page.

Digital Strategy Fund for short term activities

The Digital Strategy Fund offers grants up to $50,000 for short term activities.

From April to July 31, 2020, artists, groups, and organizations can, at any time, submit proposals that will:

  • implement digital solutions as a strategic response to the COVID-19 crisis
  • demonstrate concrete and immediate benefits to the arts community
  • show elements of openness and potential for growth as a long-term strategy

For more information on how you can apply, visit the Digital Strategy Fund page.

Impact on our programs, initiatives, and activities

General changes to our granting activities

Extended or suspended deadlines and activities

Due to COVID-19, we have suspended several deadlines and cut-off dates, as well as some grant components. Our guidelines and forms will not reflect these changes, so stay up to date by visiting our Deadlines and Notification of Results web pages for grant information, our Prizes web page for prize-related information, and the Public Lending Right page for information on the registration deadline for new titles.

For components that have been suspended, exceptionally for the next deadline or cut-off date, you may be able to include activities and costs even though they will have occurred prior to the submission date of your application. Please contact the relevant program to see if this applies to you.

Peer assessment committees

The Council is currently holding virtual peer assessment committees. We’re grateful to our many accommodating assessors.

Feedback on grant applications

The Council cannot provide feedback on applications at this time due to current circumstances.

Successful grant applications: postponing your project

If your grant application is successful but you’re unsure if you’ll be able to undertake your proposed project, indicate that you do not want to receive the payment until you have confirmation of your plans in your grant acceptance form. When you make a final decision, contact the program officer identified in your results letter.

Changes to our grants

Blackout period

The Canada Council has suspended funding for projects that are dependent on domestic and international travel until September 1, 2020 (subject to change).

Our plan is to open competitions in September 2020. You will be able to submit an application in the portal two months before competition deadlines and cut-off dates.

Exceptionally, for components that had suspended competitions, you will be able to include activities and costs from April 20, 2020 until:

  • the September 2020 competition for components with published deadlines.
  • the September or October 2020 competition for components with anytime deadlines and published cut-off dates.
  • October 31, 2020 for components with anytime deadlines without cut-off dates.

Please refer to the Deadlines and Notifications of Results page to see which components have deadlines, anytime deadlines with cut-off dates and anytime deadlines without cut-off dates.

Suspended activities

  • Any travel-related activities and public gatherings funded through programs and components at the Council
  • Any application in which travel and/or public gatherings are an essential part

Project grant applications dependent on travel

Project grant applications dependent on travel during the blackout period, and received after March 16, 2020, will be deemed ineligible. Here are your options:

  • Retain the funds for other eligible expenses related to your project if you received a grant to travel during our blackout period.
    Eligible expenses include costs related to modifying, postponing, or cancelling activities. Until further notice, we will temporarily accept travel insurance as an eligible expense. Please document the impact of COVID-19 and how you used the funds in your final report, which you must submit. You will need to repay unspent funds for the project. See the guidelines below.
  • Postpone your travel beyond our blackout period dates.
    You do not need to report minor changes to dates or projects in advance. If you need to make major changes to your project, complete a project update form and email it to the appropriate program for review and approval.
  • Cancel your project for the moment.
    Do not forget to withdraw your application in your portal account—otherwise, the system will count your application and possibly restrict you from applying for future grants owing to application limits.
  • Apply for a project with travel that takes place after September 1, 2020.
    Please check back on our blackout period regularly, as our dates may change with the evolving situation. We recommend checking insurance policies carefully and regularly, as cancellations and refunds due to COVID-19 may no longer be possible with new bookings. When making travel arrangements, you may also want to consider booking a flight that can be changed or cancelled without penalty.

Cancellations and postponed events

The Canada Council for the Arts advises grant recipients to cancel or postpone all public events in line with the guidance provided by public health authorities, including the Public Health Agency of Canada and your local and provincial or territorial health authorities.

Conditional grants will be issued to successful projects for producing or hosting public events, such as performances, exhibitions, workshops, and conferences, dependent on the ability to postpone events until after the restrictions on public gatherings are lifted. Here are your options:

  • Retain a grant for other eligible expenses of your cancelled Canada Council-funded event.
    We encourage you to find innovative ways to share your work publicly despite any cancellations of public events. This could include live-streaming, podcasting, and video. You must document the impact of COVID-19 and how you used your grant funds in your final report, which you must submit to the relevant program for approval.
  • Retain a grant for other eligible expenses related to your participation at a cancelled event.
    Eligible expenses include costs related to modifying, postponing, or cancelling activities. You must document the impact of COVID-19 and explain how you propose to use those funds in your project update report, which you must submit to the relevant program for approval.
  • Repay any unspent funds on eligible expenses.
    Unfortunately, we cannot allow you to spend those funds on activities unrelated to the approved project. See the guidelines below.
  • Check your portal account for information on whether you will need to reimburse all or part of your grant.
    If the amount granted needs to be fully or partially reimbursed, you will receive a letter through your portal account that will provide further instruction on what you need to do next. See the guidelines below.
Guidelines on the reimbursement of grants for activities affected by COVID-19  
  For grants of:   recipient must repay the unused amount if it is:

$5,000 and under


more than 15% or $500 (whichever is greater)


$5,000 up to $30,000


more than $1,000


$30,000 up to $75,000


more than $2,000


more than $75,000


more than $3,000


Government of Canada's emergency support measures

The Government of Canada is offering support measures with its COVID-19 Economic Response Plan to individuals and businesses (organizations).

Please note that Council staff cannot answer your questions about these measures. The Government of Canada site has a COVID-19 Virtual Assistant who will be able to help you.

For individuals: The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide support to individuals who are sick, facing unemployment, or unable to work due to COVID-19. This applies to self-employed individuals and contract workers who are not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). More info on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

For organizations: To support businesses facing revenue losses, including non-profit organizations and charities, small employers may be eligible to receive a temporary wage subsidy. More info on Canada’s support for businesses.

Other support is also available to those who are eligible, such as increased Child Care Benefit payments, and a one-time special payment of the Goods and Services Tax credit (GST/HST credit). More info on the Economic Response Plan.

Canadian Heritage support is also available to the cultural and creative sector. More info on Canadian Heritage support.

The Government of Canada has also launched Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support, which offers free online resources, tools, apps, and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals.


Latest news and communiqués

Blog posts from the Director and CEO, Simon Brault, on the pandemic

The Canada Council for the Arts’ Director and CEO, Simon Brault, is regularly sharing his thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the arts sector. Check back here to discover new posts.

Contact us

We invite you to explore the information on these pages before contacting us.

If you have a COVID-19-related question for the Canada Council and you didn’t find an answer here, please email Although we aim to reply within two business days, this may be affected by volume and staff availability.

Accessibility: We welcome Video Relay Service (VRS) calls, and we can also support longer conversations with your preferred sign language interpreter in ASL or LSQ. As always, we will cover these interpreting costs. Please email us at

We recognize the disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 health crisis on many equity seeking communities including Deaf and disability arts communities. Many artists and arts professionals who are Deaf, have disabilities or live with mental illness are now required to develop alternative approaches to maintaining their independence, health, and safety in everyday life. The Council wants to be as flexible as it can in the ways it is assisting and supporting the arts community. If there are alternative ways that the Council can deliver its support that will be more accommodating to your situation, please let our staff know.

For more information about the types of accommodations we currently provide, please consult our Accessibility page.

SRV Canada VRS logo

Canada Council also welcomes VRS (Video Relay Service) calls.

For more information, please see the SRV Canada VRS Canada website (