A photomontage of six photographs representing Simon Brault participating in cultural events, namely in Northern Canada. He is joined by members of the public as well as members of the Board.
April 17, 2023

Leaving Without Going Away

April 17, 2023

An Open letter to the Arts Community from Simon Brault after nine years as Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts

Dear friends and colleagues,

On June 23, I’ll leave Ottawa and my role as the Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts. This will be the end of an intense chapter in my professional life, although I will continue to defend the arts and culture as an essential part of the human experience. I want to share a few final thoughts before my nine years at the helm of the most important arts funding organization in our country come to an end.

Your creativity and tenacity have always impressed and inspired me. Every day you demonstrate that our lives and our world can be improved, one work at a time. You explore the depths of existence that most people dare not address. You emerge from your prolonged explorations with words, images, poems, films, dances, songs, and projects that disturb us, amaze us, inform us, transform us and alter our perceptions and behaviours in ways that stimulate the evolution of society.

All this gives meaning to the work I’ve had the great privilege of doing—and should continue to inform the future of the Council.

A proliferation of Indigenous arts practices. The brilliance of diversity in all its forms. The complex and boundless dynamic of French and English duality. The surprising synergies between traditional and classical art forms and experimentation. The influence of regional and local practices. The ever-widening gap between the needs and the means to respond to them. These are some of the arts sector’s characteristics that the Council constantly seeks to better understand, guide and support.

First and foremost, it is the courage, perseverance, inventiveness, diversity and expertise of Canada’s artists and arts workers that explain their incredible ability to weather storms of all kinds, as we saw once again with the pandemic. That said, governments have a responsibility to adequately support the sector, at least to the same level as all other sectors—and that is still not the case.

But in Canada and in an international context, we are making steady progress towards a lasting recognition of the essential role of the arts. We are making progress because we are persistent, and we never give up. Our progress is obviously too slow, but I am convinced that it cannot be stopped.

It's been a privilege to lead the Council through one of its most important periods of growth and transformation in over 60 years. At the start of my tenure, we launched a streamlined funding model with six granting programs—offering flexibility for the breadth of work you do. Importantly, this funding model gave life to the Creating, Knowing and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples program, which finally recognizes the cultural sovereignty of Indigenous peoples and respects the concept of First Nations, Inuit and Métis self-determination.

We more than doubled the Council’s annual contribution to the arts sector with an historic investment from the government. We placed a strong focus on Indigenous and diverse artists and organizations by tripling our support to Indigenous arts and cultures and directing 25% of this additional investment to new recipients.

When the pandemic was hitting you hard, we obtained emergency funds that our teams distributed with heart and soul to help you avoid the worst. We were also consulted by the government, which took our recommendations into account so that artists and self-employed workers could receive universal benefits.

I am indebted to your deep engagement through the Council’s transformation, a transformation that required a great deal of patience and care—both internally for us and when engaging with the Council for you. You’ve been generous with your comments and critiques, which have enriched the development of our granting programs, our strategic plans and our many other initiatives to better support you.

Of course, there is still much to do. Going through the pandemic together has highlighted systemic inequities and inequalities that need to be addressed. It also made clearer the endemic issues around remuneration and the lack of social protection for most artists and cultural workers. The Canada Council for the Arts is taking all this into consideration in its decisions and actions. 

The pandemic has also sparked unprecedented and ongoing conversations within our community about how to build a more equitable, inclusive and ultimately sustainable arts sector. I see the promise of tremendous progress in the months and years ahead.

Despite the economic and other uncertainties and threats on the horizon, I believe that we are entering one of the most exciting and promising periods in the history of the arts in Canada. It will be a time of real and lasting change for the arts and society.

The climate emergency, armed conflicts and threats to human rights are calling on us to rethink the role of the arts and literature as levers for affirmation, healing, reconciliation, emancipation, solidarity and sustainable progress. One of the most significant projects for us is to ensure access to the power and benefits of artistic and literary creation for everyone in Canada regardless of cultural background, ethnicity, age, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, language or place of residence.

This project is within our grasp. Its magnitude and ethics justify the full recognition we are demanding for our sector and all those who dedicate their lives to it. It has been an honour for me to serve you in the capacity that I have been entrusted. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to advance the role of arts and culture in our democracy.

I hope you’ll continue to reach out to me and my colleagues to share your comments and advice so that we can continue to learn and improve.

I will soon leave the Council, but I’ll never leave the arts sector, a sector I love for reasons that continue to multiply.

Thank you.

Tagged As Council Update