COVID-19… it’s been almost a year. 

Dear ACTRA Members,

The pandemic has been tough on us all and has magnified the inequalities that exist not just in Canada’s broadcast and production industry but in our communities at large.

When the pandemic first hit, many people, including many of our members, became financially unstable overnight. However, according to Statistics Canada’s January 2021 Labour Force Survey, it was women, low-wage, and racialized workers in precarious employment who were hit hardest.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and now the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) mitigated some of the hardships people faced, but they also shone a light on just how little it actually costs to lift people out of poverty and to give every kind of worker a fighting chance.

So, what’s next?

A modernized Employment Insurance (EI) system, made accessible to the most precarious in our society and our industry, is vital to maintaining vibrant and diverse communities and an arts and entertainment culture that values diversity and understands that our strength lies in the uniqueness of the stories we tell.

ACTRA was one of the first organizations to undertake a campaign to see that gig workers, including artists, would have access to vital financial safety nets. We must now continue that work to ensure all precarious workers have fair and equal access to government programs and services that traditional employees rely on to backstop their careers.

Even as the industry has been called on to address a legacy of abuse and harassment, coupled with systemic racism, discrimination and bullying, we must also address the needs of the most vulnerable artists in our communities. Together we must call on the Government of Canada to take bold steps to protect the valuable benefits our self-employed artists provide to Canadian and international audiences.

We need modernized Employment Insurance (EI) legislation that recognizes gig workers, many of whom are Canadian performers and artists, and allows them to contribute to and collect EI benefits without sacrificing their self-employed income tax status.

Let’s continue to support and celebrate the wide diversity and work of Canadian artists from every region. Together, we are stronger.

In solidarity,
David Sparrow