Arts groups that want funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage or the Canada Council will have to commit to keeping their workplaces free of harassment, abuse and discrimination as the government clamps down on sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry.
Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly announced on Wednesday that Ottawa will no longer provide money to organizations, including those in the performing arts, that have failed to adopt a “no tolerance” policy toward sexual violence and harassment.
The Heritage department and the Canada Council for the Arts, the country’s public arts funder, have also agreed to spend a combined $552,000 to sponsor workshops to provide training that will help arts organizations create and maintain respectful workplaces.
“We’re making sure that there is zero tolerance on harassment at every single step of our funding process,” Ms. Joly said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “We’re putting it in the guidelines and the funding applications and in the letter of approval. So this is now a condition in order to get funding from the Heritage department and also the Canada Council.”
If there are proven complaints of harassment within a group that has already received federal funding, the government will have the power to suspend payments or seize the money, the Minister said. The cultural sector will have to create an independent process for complaints and for deciding what constitutes “proof,” she said.
“This, of course, follows a worldwide movement that was started by artists,” Ms. Joly told a gathering at the Canada Council office. “The #MeToo and #TimesUp is another place that artists are at the forefront of social change. Victims have shown a tremendous amount of bravery and, of course, as a government, we stand with all of you.”
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements gained prominence in October of last year when American film mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused by several women of sexual misconduct.
That was followed by similar allegations against other prominent members of the U.S. entertainment industry and had a ripple effect here in Canada, where Albert Schultz, the artistic director of the Toronto theatre company Soulpepper, and Noel Edison, the artistic director of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, have resigned amid similar accusations.
A broad cross-section of Canadian entertainment associations met in January to create a policy of zero tolerance and to foster an environment in film and television where victims will feel comfortable about reporting harassment and assault. A new code of conduct was developed that can be adopted by other arts organizations, Ms. Joly said.
As for the training, the money will be given to the Cultural Human Resources Council to hold anti-harassment workshops for 15 national organizations that will, in turn, train more than 1,500 organizations across the country, Ms. Joly said. “So we are doing a train-by-trainer approach.”
Simon Brault, the director and chief executive of the Canada Council, said the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have shed light on “unacceptable realities” in the arts business.
“Not only do we need to take note of those movements, but we needed to act collectively so that this sordid reality becomes #NeverAgain,” Mr. Brault said.
“Changes clearly have to be made in various spheres – education, the workplace and so on,” he said. “It begins where each of us lives and works and must extend to respect and include wider society.”
Kate Cornell, the executive director for the Canadian Dance Assembly, a recipient of Canada Council funding, and a spokeswoman for the Canadian Arts Coalition, said it is “fabulous” that arts workplaces will have to be harassment free to obtain grants and contributions from the council or the government.
The Canadian Arts Coalition has been helping to build safer and more respectful work spaces, Ms. Cornell said. “So it is important for the funders to be on the same page as the community. And they have really heard us.”