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Speeches from the Canada Council for the Arts’ 2022 Annual Public Meeting

Last updated: May 2, 2022
Published: April 6, 2022

The Canada Council for the Arts’ 2022 Annual Public Meeting (APM) took place on March 30, 2022.

At the event, Michelle Chawla, Director General of Strategy, Public Affairs, and Arts Engagement at the Council, delivered opening remarks, including a land acknowledgement.

Jesse Wente, Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, spoke next. In his speech, Jesse spoke about the Council’s work toward a more just and equitable arts sector, its involvement in the 2022 Arctic Arts Summit, and more. You can find his speech below.

Michelle Chawla then spoke. In her speech, Michelle spoke about the Council’s support for the arts sector throughout the pandemic, the launch of its current strategic plan, and more. You can find her speech below.

Simon Brault, Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts delivered the final speech at the event. He spoke about the Council’s activities in the year ahead, its Strategic Innovation Funds, and the importance of ongoing conversations with the arts sector. You can find his speech below.

Watch a video recording of the event.

Jesse Wente’s Speech at the Council’s 2022 APM

I’m speaking to you today from Tkaronto, the traditional territory of many nations and under the Dish With One Spoon Treaty, which reminds us of our agreement to live together peacefully and share the abundance of this place as well as the obligation to maintain it for future generations.

This is my second Annual Public Meeting as Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Once again, this year, we continue to face numerous challenges for the arts and wider society.

Through these trying times, I’ve found it inspiring to witness artists, arts workers, and audiences come together with a powerful call for a more just and equitable arts sector in Canada.

I’m proud to say this call is front and centre of the Council’s 2021-26 strategic plan, Art, Now More Than Ever.

The plan is a roadmap to guide the organization—and the wider sector—through the many unknowns ahead.

It envisions a transformation of the arts in Canada to include, reflect, and celebrate all of us, in all our diversity, across this country more strongly.

This vision responds to several historically underserved and marginalized communities: Indigenous, Black, racialized, Deaf and disability, 2SLGBTQ and gender-diverse, women, and people at intersections of these groups.

Of course, the Council has been on a longer journey toward a more just and equitable arts sector that predates the current strategic plan.

Several years ago, the Council made a commitment to support Indigenous arts in a way that respects and upholds the cultural sovereignty of Indigenous peoples and concepts of self-determination.

One of the ways we did this, and we’ll continue to do this, is through the Creating, Knowing, and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples program.

Under the current strategic plan, the Council will deepen its relationships with the communities it serves across this country to support them on their own terms. 

In the months ahead, for example, the Council will do this through its support of the 2022 Arctic Arts Summit.

The Summit is a partnership between the Council and the Government of Yukon.

It will take place in June 2022, bringing together representatives of the Indigenous nations and Arctic countries in the circumpolar region.

It is a Summit by the North, for the North that will centre the voices, visions, and lived realities of the North in Canada with strong Indigenous leadership and engagement. 

It will amplify artists, cultural workers, and creative leaders from across the region, an important opportunity to share, learn, and grow.

The Summit includes an online program that is open to all—with live-streamed events, visual galleries, profiles of artists, and more.

I invite you to explore these online experiences at arcticartssummit.ca.

Both the title and the principle lying at the centre of our strategic plan, Art, Now More Than Ever, acknowledge the vital role art and artists have played in helping us navigate the challenges of the past couple of years, providing entertainment, comfort, joy, and love.

It’s also a call to imagine. For artists and their work to help all of us imagine our future together, to envision a shared future that meets the challenges of today with the solutions of tomorrow, and to help form the community bonds needed to bring that future into existence.

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

I’d also like to acknowledge the Council’s staff, executive management team, Director and CEO Simon Brault, and my colleagues on the Board, whose diligent work and dedication over the past year have allowed us to respond to the pandemic while also maintaining our regular activities. 

I’m deeply proud of what we’ve achieved together this past year, and I look forward to the accomplishments ahead.

Chi Miigwetch.

Michelle Chawla’s Speech at the Council’s 2022 APM

The pandemic continues to put significant pressure on the entire arts sector.

Despite the challenges, the Council has remained responsive to the needs of the community. During the pandemic, the Council supported the arts sector by creating opportunities for artist employment, digital dissemination, and public participation.

Last year, the Council delivered $377 million in grants including $62.8 million in COVID-19 Emergency Support Funds delivered on behalf of the federal government.

This year, the Council delivered a record amount of funds with $455 million in grants, including $141 million in COVID-19 Emergency Support and Reopening funds.

In April 2021, we launched our five-year strategic plan, Art, Now More Than Ever. It aims to help rebuild an arts sector that, as the pandemic has made clear, is essential to society. But we must rebuild better, on a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable foundation.

The strategic plan sets out three major directions:

  • Investing in rebuilding and innovation
  • Increasing the benefits of the arts for society
  • Encouraging and enhancing collaboration and partnerships

These directions are upheld by key actions that will guide our work and investments in the coming years.

Of course, all these actions will be implemented progressively.

The Council has begun to speak with the community about the actions set out in the plan. At the end of November, we held two virtual meetings and spoke to over 200 people and organizations in the arts sector.

The conversations centred around three themes: innovation, equity, and partnerships. They were enlightening for us, and we had the opportunity to answer many questions. More meetings will be held in 2022 to continue the dialogue.

And since the last few months have been full of twists and turns, we will also have to remain flexible and agile so that we can make adjustments. I can assure you that we intend to remain humble and transparent.

I invite you to visit the Council’s website to learn more about our strategic plan and its orientations.

Simon Brault’s Speech at the Council’s 2022 APM

For more than two years now, we have been living in uncertainty.

And the next few years might also be filled with more of the same.

But this should not lead us to adopt a posture of inertia or withdrawal. On the contrary.

This long crisis requires us to respond in new and inspired ways.

The last two years have heightened our awareness of the inequities in our society and in our own sector—inequities that often feed into our ways of thinking, ways of working, and many other systemic approaches.

Of course, the problems we face today go back much further.

But these days we can no longer ignore them.

We have to think differently, and we have to act differently. And it's true for anyone in our sector and obviously for the Canada Council as the main public funder of the arts in this country.

We have to think and act with more intentionality to achieve true inclusivity. 

Over the past year, we have initiated courageous and meaningful conversations with the community and with various stakeholders about the mid-term and long-term future of the art sector.

Like some of you, we will be present and active at the National Summit for the Recovery of the Arts, Culture and Heritage Sectors, on May 2nd and 3rd taking place in Ottawa.

The Summit will be hosted by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez.

Our commitment to participate on platforms that contribute to the sustainable development of the sector, and therefore society, is as unwavering as ever.

We are counting on the spirit of collaboration and communication because the arts have an important role to play in making true and lasting societal change happen.

Today’s Annual Public Meeting is more than just a review; it’s a moment to sketch out the coming year’s major milestones.

We need to start a societal transition by increasing all efforts in favour of eliminating racism and discrimination and furthering the decolonization of mindsets, institutions and systems.

We must also call upon our creativity and power of influence to join the worldwide fight against climate change, which is a concern to everyone, especially youth, here in Canada and around the world.

There is an urgent need for better social infrastructure and to extend it to our sector, which too often develops at the expense of the health and living conditions of artists and arts sector workers.

The rebuilding and recovery of the arts sector must aim for a fairer, and more equitable and sustainable sector for everyone, thereby benefitting the whole of society.

The arts sector proved that it is essential throughout the pandemic.

And its essential quality can and must be reaffirmed through:

  • the public support we give the sector, including the social safety net we provide;
  • the space we give the sector within our decision-making bodies;
  • the truth and reconciliation process;
  • innovation-based collaborations and partnerships; and
  • our individual and collective development.

The arts must be at the heart of human development.

To achieve this, the arts sector must have the tools and means to take risks.

At the moment, the Council is focussed on innovation to increase risk-taking and push the envelope on the ordinary.

Our innovation fund is a way of supporting the arts as the sector tackles the challenges it is facing by taking risks, trying new approaches, and adopting a perspective that banks of the transformative and sustainable aspect of the proposals it puts forward.

Right now, innovation is a key to reviewing what was not working, maximizing what we learned during the pandemic, namely by exploring the digital world, and developing successful partnerships.

Innovation can contribute to solving issues around:

  • developing sustainable organizational and business models;
  • supporting digital transformation;
  • improving artists’ remuneration and working conditions;
  • promoting equity, diversity and inclusion;
  • tackling the still prevalent consequences of colonialism;
  • fighting against climate change; and
  • championing the arts.

Of course, this is the first strategic approach we have implemented because now is the time to rebuild our sector innovatively.

With the information sessions we have held so far and through other means of communication, we will continue this important and fruitful conversation with the sector.

I would like to say a few words on our Public Lending Right Program.

Despite the pandemic, the Program was able to work with a record number of public library partners across the country to fulfil its mandate to compensate financially people whose literary works are in libraries. 

This enabled us to make payments to over 18,000 creators last year.

And I want to mention all the love and recognition we received when we sent out cheques this year. It was really appreciated at the Council, and I believe that that sort of thing resonates well with public deciders.

In closing, I would also like to mention that the Council Art Bank is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022. We will be unveiling a series of initiatives in the coming months that will enable us to celebrate this anniversary accordingly and ensure the Art Bank’s longevity.

Thank you!

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