Arif Virani

Your member of parliament for

Parkdale-High Park

Arif Virani

Your member of parliament for

Parkdale-High Park


Arts and Culture Town Hall Report

Opening remarks

  • Requested attendants’ participation by filling out a question sheet examining priorities for the arts and culture community of professionals.
  • I acknowledged that this is a listening exercise and all feedback will be recorded.

Introductory remarks (Arif)

  • I stated his belief in turning the page on the previous decade and moving away from how the previous government treated industries within arts and culture.
  • Arts and culture are vital to our society. They help build self-esteem, promote Canadian culture, and can be therapeutic.
  • Arts and culture are strong contributors to our economy. The Minister has maintained that it is important to explain the economic value of these industries to Canada, as well as the rest of the world (Minister Joly highlighted this with G7).


Presentation draft 1 – Arts TH

Guest Speakers:

John Van Burek

  • Intro: John has work in professional theatre for over 40 years.


  • Based on the turnout (attendance), no one can doubt that the arts are of interest to people.
  • Area of expertise: performing arts, specifically in theatre.
  • The current government has vastly increased funding to the Canada Council.
  • This is just beginning, but it’s a very positive reversal from the previous decade.
  • What John wants to see creative industries push for, and see the government do, is promote a deep appreciation for arts and culture and its value, and see it become more of our national identity.
  • We travel around the world and see arts and culture everywhere, but Canadians, particularly English Canadians, are resistant to integrating arts into our society.
  • French Canada and Indigenous Persons are so intricately connected to their culture that each one depends on the other.
  • English-speaking Canadians have never had to worry about their language being threatened, and perhaps that’s why we don’t place enough emphasis on our culture.
  • Ontario has seen a decimation of arts in education. This started in the 90s and we’re still experiencing its effects.
  • In Toronto, in John’s field, the state of cultural infrastructure is very poor; overall, Canadian theatres are poor quality.
  • They spend money on infrastructure in Montreal, where there are attractive theatre spaces that became integral parts of community life.
  • What does our cultural infrastructure look like? How is it oriented?


Jennifer Robson

  • Intro: Local, best-selling author.


  • I’ve been writing full-time for five years.
  • I was an academic with a focus on British history. I became a stay-at-home mother, and that’s when I began writing. Previously, I had worked briefly in publishing at Penguin Books.
  • I became aware of how difficult it is for Canadian writers to make a living. The pay rate hasn’t increased since the 70s, so we barely make a dollar per word. Many magazine writers are leaving the industry because of the poor pay.
  • The Canada Council makes a difference for a lot of writers; the travel grants can help sustain your work.
  • I’m grateful for membership in the writers union.
  • There is a need for investment in Indigenous communities to support writers.
  • Indigenous Peoples have been underprivileged, and those who have been underprivileged deserve help.
  • I do not apply for funding because I don’t have the need; I want to see the money go to those in need.
  • Caucasians continue to dominate best-selling shelves – there is a strong need for more diversity.


Michael Burtt

  • Intro: Michael’s work (Making Room Community Arts) focuses on inclusive, interdisciplinary arts; bringing art into everyday life, and bringing those in from the margins to participate in local community arts.


  • I worked in Parkdale for many years; I currently work with Making Room Community Arts out of PARC (Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre).
  • I hold various initiatives in the community to take art back where to where it really belongs: in the community, with grassroots organizations.
  • Art is community; art is therapy. In a time of profound isolation, we must remember that art is a powerful tool.
  • I work with professional artists who work within a community-focused setting.
  • I worked with an Etobicoke organization on a program in Nepal with funds from the Canada Council of the Arts.
  • Nevertheless, there are challenges we’re dealing with that make the connection between arts and community difficult.
  • I work in tandem with other organizations like PARC on societal issues such as the need for housing and food (resources) while also providing access to the practice of art – something I believe is a basic necessity.
  • There should be an emphasis on community development through art. People in Parkdale want to connect with their neighbours, but it’s difficult to find the opportunity.
  • “Making Room” is a way to bring art back into the community. We work on neighbourhood, municipal, provincial, federal, and international levels to find ways to work together to reconnect art into our daily lives.


Mariellen Ward

  • Intro – Renowned travel blogger; encourages solo travel through digital content, sharing ideas in an online world.


  • I got a free ticket from Air Canada to fly to Delhi today for my travel blog, which seems glamorous, but I do not actually make money for the writing and marketing from my pieces. They are not actually me paying for the work.
  • As a digital content creator, I’m expected to “play in the same sandbox” as large companies like Air Canada.
  • As a freelance writer, there is a downward pressure on creators and an expectation to work for free.
  • There is also the pressure to keep up with digital hardware and software, and the pressure to keep up with large companies/organizations.
  • Last year the Canadian Heritage Department did a consultation on Canadian content in a digital world and created a few principles to establish a digital strategy for Canada.
  • A lot of money is going to organizations and structures, but not a lot is going to content creators, especially in the digital realm.
  • Digital creators are entrepreneurs, and marketers; how can they be expected to keep up?
  • What about big investments delivered on a small scale? Micro-financing/micro-loans for the small players (compared with the large grants for large organizations). We are small players trying to compete in the large digital world, with large players in that world.


Damien McCotter

  • Intro: Damien is a lawyer who assists with legal and business needs of creators; legal services for arts and cultural spheres.


  • I will address three themes:
    1. Why members of arts and culture should be interested in business and law,
    2. Why the federal government is important, and
    3. Knowing what the federal government can do for the arts and culture community.
  • My background was originally in engineering; I went back to law school to practice intellectual property law.
  • Theme 1: worked for some time providing legal services in the publishing and the film industries; worked with those who were controlling the copyrights. Legal needs began to overlap: licensing agreements, patents, and contracts.
    • I launched a firm focused on technology, arts, and culture and tried to work with certain types of clients.
    • Legally, it’s all about rights in terms of what you’re creating.
  • Theme 2: many lawyers in ON practice ON law, but many of the laws that affect creators fall under federal, or national, jurisdiction.
  • Theme 3: it’s important to know what the federal government can do for you as creators. The federal government can legislate, advocate, fund, and facilitate. The federal government can connect you with other opportunities and other jurisdictions.


Dave Forget

  • Intro: Dave worked with telefilm in the past and was involved in film distribution. Currently, works with the Directors Guild of Canada. Focused on discussing the CRTC decisions that affect Directors’ and Writers’ Guilds and ACTRA of Canada.


  • Film and TV production in Canada is a $6.7 billion industry and provides about 140,000 middle-class jobs.
  • It’s important to acknowledge the government’s role since 2015 and the shift in how creative industries are treated. The government acknowledges that creative industries are economically viable.
  • I’m pleased with increased investment in this industry.
  • I’m closely following and participating in Min. Joly’s Canadian content in a digital world consultation.
  • There are four priorities for the Directors’ Guild:
    1. Canadian stories should be told by Canadians;
    2. It’s important to make a distinction between creators and owners (writers and directors are authors of the work). Copyright is how we protect the ‘authors’ for their work;
    3. Right now there are two systems that are aggregating how content gets to audiences, broadcasters (traditional, regulated) vs. internet broadcasting (non-regulated);
    4. Diversity – it’s not a duty, burden, or fairness issue, it’s a competitive advantage. It’s important that there’s a wide-range of storytellers and stories.


  • Regarding the CRTC decisions last week, in particular, the licensing decisions, there are two points that I would like to bring up:
  1. It’s important to recognize that broadcasters are essential to the system. Broadcasters must be fully engaged in the making of the content, as they play an essential role: they see that the recommendation is to make distinct content that resonates with audiences. But it is shocking that the CRTC directly went to reducing the obligation to create PNI (programs of national interest). PNI is a special category for broadcasters and very important to the creative sector here in Canada. The CRTC took the amount of required PNI from 8% down to 5% of revenue (how much revenue broadcasters must spend on PNI programs). This will directly impact Canadian directors, writers, filmmakers, and producers. Broadcasters are the key to bringing this important Canadian content to audiences.
  2. The MuchFACT and Bravo!FACT cuts in a separate CRTC decision – these are the very programs that leverage new content and breed new filmmakers, diversity and unique stories. People like Warren Sonoda and many of the others here at this Town Hall got their start in the industry with Bravo!FACT and MUCHFact grants – cutting these programs is a betrayal of emerging talent. We cannot rely on broadcasters to maintain this level of support for young, emerging talent – simply out of responsibility. We need mandatory benchmarks on their licenses.
  • Have a list of requests. There are four positions open for CRTC appointments – there has never been a commissioner from the production sector, or with production experience, and I want to see that.



Q 1: The panel is “monochromatic”. This field is very difficult for minorities to break into and they’re under-represented, which affects the kind of stories told as well as the way they are told.

A 1: Arif acknowledged the need for more diversity, especially in making diverse voices heard. This is something that we are aware of and constantly striving toward, particularly with respect to Indigenous voices.


Q 2: Addressing Dave’s comments on the CRTC decisions: these decisions are very destructive to the creative community; how is the government going to address CRTC’s decisions?

A 2: Audience member addressed the difference between the PNI in English versus French. Arif acknowledged this town hall is a forum for feedback, about the CRTC, and arts and culture policy in general, and he will provide this feedback directly to the Minister.


Q 3: Marie Anne Leckie echoed Dave’s question, and asked whether the CRTC decision can be reversed. Also addressed that the problem with previous investments in the CBC that was supposed to go to feature films, but didn’t. Leckie recently produced Maudie and production was very expensive; there are not enough subsidies for Canadian filmmakers.

A 3: Arif made a personal commitment to give the MuchFACT and Bravo!FACT petition (presented by Dave Forget) to Minister Joly. Addressed that the CRTC is at arm’s length from the government, but new appointees are upcoming, and current personnel appointees by the previous government have not been renewed.


Q 4: Comment from Warren Sonoda, a filmmaker who shoots Trailer Park Boys and This Hour Has 22 Minutes: He emphasized the importance of MuchFACT and Bravo!FACT; it’s imperative that we keep these funds going; these grants are what helped launch his career.

A 4: Arif asked for a quantification of these funds, and the respondent replied that it was $2 million per fund, not from taxpayer money, the money came from the broadcasters’ revenue.


Q 5: Posed by a new filmmaker who was disheartened to hear about the cuts to Bravo!FACT and MuchFACT. Claims these funds are the easiest way to create jobs. People who are working pay taxes. These funds should not only be reinstated, but increased.

A 5: Arif noted that $2 million is not a large amount of money in the overall Heritage budget, and the government will be looking at how we can support these industries within the legal restrictions with regard to the CRTC.


Q6: Emily Wheton, who is now a filmmaker, got her start in the industry through the two funds (Bravo!FACT and MUCHFact). Stressed the importance of keeping them going for the next generation, to promote Canadian involvement in the creative sectors.

A 6: Agreed with her point: Canadian stories should be told by Canadian voices.


Q 7: Posed by a constituent who feels she is one of the people affected by the CRTC decision. She is a DGC member who directed a film that came out last year, supported by the Toronto Arts Council and Canada Arts Council, and funding from Bravo!FACT and MuchFACT. She was worried that she does not have a future in the industry. Arts and culture affect everyone here on a day-to-day basis; the policies feel “cold” and bureaucratic, but they directly affect people.

A 7: Agreed with her concern that we need to be thinking about the best way to support Canadian creators given the recent CRTC decision. Noted again that new appointments are being made to the CRTC.


Comment: Pia Bouman: her school is a charitable not-for-profit organization for performers with anon-competitivee approach. The ballet school building has been sold and she was worried about losing the school with its longstanding place in Parkdale, and the exchange of creative energy that trickles down to children. We must teach children about art, culture, and history, and professional teachers ought to be given the chance to teach and do what they do best.