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

OTTAWA, Nov. 29, 2016 /CNW/ - 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 Yet the laws and regulations that allow creators to monetize their works to make a living are now out of date.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.

"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.

About Focus On Creators

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.

Supporting quotes

"I'm a writer.  A writer, not a professor, teacher, banker, doctor or some other professional who finances his or her writing with a secondary income stream.  For a quarter century I have committed myself solely to the art of the narrative.  Ironically, though my work is more widely available to the public through the internet, compensation for my labour continues to decline as copyright is eroded and pirating becomes commonplace.  At any university, high school or elementary school in this country, everyone from the custodian to the dean earns a livable salary except the very people who provide the teaching content upon which these institutions are based.  How fair is this model?"
-  Caroline Adderson, Author

"We have been fortunate enough to be able to tour all over the world where we recognize that some of the most popular Canadians are our fellow musicians.  We hope that the Canadian Government recognizes that it has an opportunity to protect the value of music created by Canadians to further enhance our culture."
Billy Talent, Professional Musicians

"The rules established twenty years ago that govern the digital environment were intended to supercharge the digital marketplace – to be a boon to both creators and the public. But the reality is that within the span of a single generation, the creative middle class has virtually ceased to exist. We are asking Minister Joly to restore balance to the world in which our creators live. We owe it to them."
- Graham Henderson, President and CEO, Music Canada

 "It should be a high priority for the government to embrace policies that bolster the creative ecosystem as a whole – including artists, songwriters, composers and the Canadian-owned business teams that support them. This will establish a more level playing field, as well as ensure that costs of market access do not skyrocket, and the value inherent in a 'creator-centric' policy approach is realized by all."
- Stuart Johnston, President of the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA)

"Since I became a professional musician in 2001, I have had to get used to being a marketer, a promoter, a data entry clerk, a driver, a travel agent, a social media expert and a paralegal in order to make a living as singer/songwriter/violinist. This is our new reality. With all these things combined - the wearing of so many different hats, the big question is when can we possibly write and create new material?
We artists are an essential part of the economic and political fabric of our society but more importantly - we are the dreamers and the believers. I challenge our government to partner with us, the creators, to put Canada's creators at the heart of our cultural policy."
- Miranda Mulholland, Professional Musician

"All artists deserve fair treatment. We devote our lives to our craft. The government should make sure that our artists, who help define this country, can earn a living from their work.
- Dougie Oliver, Professional Musician, Cold Creek County

"We strongly support the endeavors of Manitoba Music, the Canadian Independent Music Association, Music Canada and other artistic stakeholders in their call to put creators at the forefront of the Government of Canada's upcoming cultural policy reforms. Supporting our musicians is now more important than ever, especially considering the US Citizen and Immigration Services' recent punitive announcement that it will be substantially increasing our I-129 visa filing fees to tour south of the border. We encourage our government to seek new ways and strategies to provide economic opportunities in Canada's cultural and creative sectors, as this is our livelihood and the way that we support our families."
- Lisa Saunders, Professional Musician, Ashes and Dreams

"The Canadian Copyright Act has ensured that I maintain ownership of my work and receive payment when others utilize that work connected to revenue gaining activities. In the digital age, writers are seeing wider distribution without compensation.  It is harder to earn a living, which truly makes it harder to keep creating.  I sincerely hope that the Canadian government recognizes the substantial contribution of creative artists to the cultural tapestry of Canada and ensures that through fair compensation, we can keep Canadian culture strong and vibrant."
- Scott White, Playwright/Composer/Librettist

"We know too little about ourselves …. I say, only the stories we tell each other -- about ourselves, about each other -- can sustain us, because only the stories we tell each other create us as a society, as a nation, as a true Canadian people."
- Rudy Wiebe, Author, two-time Governor General's Award for Literature winner. Officer of the Order of Canada.

SOURCE Focus On Creators

Image with caption: "Focus On Creators (CNW Group/Focus On Creators)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20161129_C1557_PHOTO_EN_827295.jpg

For further information: Corey Poole, Music Canada, cpoole@musiccanada.com, +1 (647) 808-7359; John Degen, The Writers' Union of Canada, jdegen@writersunion.ca, +1 (416) 559-0528; Jonathan MacKenzie, CIMA, jonathan@cimamusic.ca, +1 (416) 485-3152 x 223

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