When you read a government press release about new funding, you may think, how did the government come to that decision? Advocates helped them come to that decision. I’d like to tell you the behind-the-scenes story of this funding announcement.
Here is the press release:
The Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts are pleased to award close to $552,000 to the Cultural Human Resources Council (CHRC), which supports workers and employers to build better workplace environments within the cultural sector. The Department of Canadian Heritage is providing $252,000, and the Canada Council for the Arts will be contributing $300,000 to the organization. The funding will be used to support a series of initiatives to equip the cultural sector with the tools, practices and training for building and maintaining respectful workplaces under the title “Respectful Workplaces in the Arts”.
The Canadian Arts Coalition is a supporter of CHRC. We have advocated for their good work in our pre-budget briefs. But when #MeToo and then Soulpepper happened, Coalition Steering Committee members started to talk about the need for training and resources. PACT and Canadian Actors Equity Association held a summit in mid-January to discuss harassment in the performing arts and how to establish policies to change the power imbalance. Sara Meurling of PACT shared her desire to find federal funding for such an initiative. So the Coalition’s Steering Committee decided to try something they had never done, approach the Minister of Finance’s office, weeks before the budget was to be released, with a bold proposal. Remarkably, the Minister’s office was willing to listen. The Coalition’s Co-Chairs proposed that federal government invest $1.6 million dollars into CHRC to undertake training and mentorship within the arts sector. We waited with baited breath for the budget to be released in mid-February – but sadly, the funding wasn’t there. We agreed to try again next year.
But, the seed had been planted. In preparing the proposal, the Coalition had talked to its allies and the proposal made its way to the Canada Council. This bold proposal was well-timed with the Minister’s priorities and those of the Canada Council. Advocacy is all about good timing. After making the successful pitch, the Coalition stepped back as CHRC and the funders worked out the details of this special initiative.
The Canadian Arts Coalition was proud to play its role in this monumental funding decision. This success story is a testament to the vital importance of arts advocacy.
-Kate Cornell, Co-Chair of the Canadian Arts Coalition