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1,100 artists and creators urge the Government of Canada to put creators at the heart of cultural policy

Nearly 1,100 Canadian musicians, authors, songwriters, composers, music producers, poets, playwrights, film composers, actors, directors, and other members of the creative class have signed a joint letter addressed to the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, urging the government to put Canada’s creators at the heart of our cultural policy.

Canadians are consuming more digital content than ever before, and creators have led the shift – they have digitized their work, mastered the Internet, and become their own social media directors. Yet the laws and regulations that allow creators to monetize their works to make a living are now out of date. Without urgent attention from government, thousands of Canadian creators will not be able to tell their uniquely Canadian stories.

Focus On Creators is a coalition of Canadian musicians, authors, songwriters, and other members of the creative class, which was created to bring focus to the artists’ perspective in light of some major federal cultural policy activities.

“In an ever-changing digital climate that is working against creators to financially exist, it has never been more important for Canada to be leaders in copyright reform to not only save artists, but the voice of Canada,” says Royal Wood, professional musician.

“Canadian writers play an important role in creating, critiquing, and changing culture. I wish our time and labour was better compensated! Most Canadian writers don’t just create, but publicize and market our work too, using social media and other digital technologies. The vast majority of us need other paid work in order to make ends meet. This means that we juggle multiple jobs, and still manage to produce award-winning novels, poetry, non-fiction, short-stories,” says Farzana Doctor, author and Lambda Literary Award winner. “It should not be this way; legislators must ensure that writers can earn a living from their craft.”

In light of some major federal cultural policy activities, including the Canadian Content in a Digital World consultations, and the upcoming Copyright Act review in 2017, the Focus On Creators coalition was formed to bring focus to the artists’ perspective.

The initiative is supported by Canadian creative industry associations including Music Canada, the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA), the Writers’ Union of Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, the Canadian Music Publishers Association, the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the Canadian Country Music Association.

“We’ve seen firsthand the respect that Canada’s music gets in other parts of the world. The support we’ve traditionally given our creators is also well-recognized,” says Suzie Ungerleider, who performs as Oh, Susanna. “But Canada should have an updated system that continues to treat artists fairly, especially as technological changes make it more difficult for them to be compensated for their work.”

“The digital shift has brought a wealth of opportunity to Canada’s writers and readers, but that opportunity is accompanied by serious economic challenges that must be addressed with sensitive, nuanced policy in order to maintain a distinct Canadian cultural identity and to ensure that Canadians continue to have access to Canadian stories,” says John Degen, author and Executive Director of The Writers’ Union of Canada.

The initial list of creators grew to nearly 1,100 individuals in a short time, but is expected to increase now that the initiative is launched. Canadian creators are encouraged to join Alanis Morissette, Brett Kissel, Blue Rodeo, Gord Downie, Gordon Lightfoot, Grimes, Metric, The Sheepdogs, Marie Claire Blais, Rudy Wiebe, Guy Gavriel Kay, Sharon Pollock, Daniel David Moses, Mary Vingoe, Garth Richardson, Gary Barwin, Alice Major, Maureen Hynes and many more Canadian creators in adding their names to the letter at FocusOnCreators.ca. Please help send this important message to policymakers in Ottawa.

A ourselves, about each other — can sustain us, because only the stories we tell each other create us as a society, as