2023 Ontario Pre-Budget Consultations

As part of the the 2023 Pre-Budget consultations, CARFAC Ontario recommended that the Government of Ontario in its 2023 budget:

Sustain the 2022 level of investment in the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) at $65 million

Founded in 1963 by Progressive Conservative Premier John Robarts, the Ontario Arts Council’s work touches all almost all of Ontario’s cultural economy which, in 2019, contributed $28.7 billion to the provincial GDP. This includes $5.5 billion GDP contribution from arts education, performing arts, festivals, original visual art, craft, books, and sound recordings—sectors that are heavily supported by the OAC. In 2021-22, OAC made investments in all 124 Ontario ridings through 2,665 grants to individual artists, and 1,050 grants to organizations.

The arts sector is grateful for the additional investment of $5m to OAC’s general grant in 2022, which, per OAC’s projections has the potential to generate an additional $79m in revenues, along with 4800 new jobs. As such, we highlight that sustaining this funding can result in significantly more economic growth. In addition to its direct GDP contribution, the arts and culture sector plays a central role in driving tourism and enhancing local business, as well as creating jobs, with over 300,000 Ontarians currently employed in the sector.

Ontario cannot afford to fall behind. Previous governments have not pursued the economic impact directly associated with investment at the OAC, with the Council’s general grant from the province remaining at or around $60m since 2009; and these annual investments have not reflected population growth or inflation. While Ontario is home to approximately 42% of Canada’s artists (almost twice as much as any other province), between 2016 and 2022 British Columbia and Quebec have more than doubled their investments in their provincial arts councils. During this challenging time, sustaining a $65m general grant for the OAC represents an effective strategy to stabilize, and protect, the arts and culture sector’s economic impact.     

The full submission can be read and downloaded here.

For more information please contact: Jason Samilski, Managing Director, CARFAC Ontario | jason@carfacontario.ca

PASO-OPSA Coalition Identifies Provincial Arts & Culture Policy Priorities | La coalition PASO-OPSA identifie les priorités en matière de politique artistique et culturelle

CARFAC Ontario is a member of Provincial Arts Service Organizations/Organisations Provinciale de Services aux Arts de l’Ontario (PASO-OPSA), a coalition of Ontario Arts Service Organizations that, collectively, acts as a conduit to over 272,000 creative workers, and artists across the province, as well as to thousands of organizations, large and small, that create and support artistic expression in Ontario.

The coalition has collectively identified key priorities for Ontario’s arts sector around which it is aligned, and will champion, as we move though the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, PASO-OPSA recommends that the Government of Ontario:

1. Commit to Truth and Reconciliation in arts and culture.

The Government of Ontario should establish a permanent $10 million annual fund for Indigenous artists, cultural leaders, organizations, groups and collectives that is designed and managed by Indigenous artists.

2. Increase investment in the Ontario Arts Council (OAC).

Funding for the OAC has fallen dangerously behind the growth of the sector. When inflation and population growth are taken into account, to simply keep in line with 1991 investment levels, the OAC requires a permanent base budget of $110 million in 2022. In 2021, the OAC’s base budget was $60 million

3. Embrace the role of the arts in a range of areas of provincial jurisdiction, and facilitate connections between ministries to accomplish this.

The Government of Ontario should leverage the powerful creative and innovation assets of Ontario’s arts community by acknowledging its contributions to, and ability to advance, fields such as health, mental health, education, entrepreneurship, and to engage with other sectors to address crises such as systemic racism, and others.

4. Ensure that anti-racism, and principles of fairness and justice, are embedded in all provincial programs and services.

This includes: recognizing that artists who identify as members of equity-seeking groups, as well as grassroots arts initiatives, have disproportionately faced systemic barriers to accessing support, and require low-barrier and accessible funding; working in partnership with arts organizations to hear and learn from smaller grassroots arts and cultural initiatives with the intention of informing the development of province’s arts and cultural priorities and policies. The next Government of Ontario can ensure the Ontario Human Rights Code is being upheld by evaluating the systemic barriers and exclusions that exist in, and may be perpetuated by, its investments and programs.

5. Foster the advancement of young people to participate, and provide vision and leadership in the arts.

This includes: mentorship opportunities for new-generation artists and cultural leaders, intergenerational connections between established and emerging arts leaders; supporting connections between grassroots groups and major institutions that encourage learning and transformation for all participants.

6. Work towards reducing Ontario’s carbon emissions and environmental impact.

The Government of Ontario should acknowledge that reducing emissions requires not only policy and legislation, but large-scale cultural and paradigm shifts by investing in cross-sectoral collaborations between the arts sector and Indigenous communities, climate researchers, social and behavioural scientists, industry leaders, organizations advancing awareness of environmental issues, and others. This also includes supporting the arts and culture sector to research, design, and implement sustainable and energy efficient venues and buildings; and develop strategies for sustainable touring and large-scale production.

7. Recognize the need for, and current lack of, appropriate physical and digital infrastructure.

This includes: establishing a permanent funding program to support renovations, capital projects, and new builds for arts and culture organizations. This program should also provide grants for organizations and smaller groups to support short term access to space, support the capacity of organizations to digitize collections and present digitally, and support upskilling and training. The government must also address the lack of broadband internet access which disproportionately impacts Northern Ontario communities.

8. Increase investment in arts education in Ontario’s publicly-funded schools.

The Government of Ontario should engage arts sector stakeholders to maintain, design, and update curricula that is contemporary and relevant to Ontario’s diverse population, and ensure sufficient physical and human resources are in place to deliver them. It should also investigate the current disparities in publicly-funded specialized arts schools, and ensure equitable access for racialized students and students from low-income households.

9. Amplify the majority of Ontarians’ voices by working toward a Federal Basic Income Guarantee.

This includes: advocating and working with the Federal Government on the development and implementation of a Basic Income Guarantee; shifting existing provincial income support systems toward Basic Income principles that require less conditionality and provide recipients with more autonomy; implement an Ontario Basic Income demonstration program targeting low-income artists, gig-workers, and other precariously employed Ontarians for inclusion.

We are available to provide additional details on each of this recommendations, and we encourage the Government of Ontario to work in concert with PASO/OPSA members to envision the path forward for Ontario’s vibrant arts community.

For more information, please contact:

Jason Samilski, Managing Director, CARFAC Ontario | jason@carfacontario.ca

PASO/OPSA Coalition Members

Alliance culturelle de l‘Ontario

Artist-Run Centres & Collectives of Ontario (ARCCO)

ArtsBuild Ontario

Association des auteures et auteurs de l’Ontario français

Association des professionnels de la chanson et de la musique (APCM)

Association for Opera in Canada

Bureau des regroupements des artistes visuels de l’Ontario (BRAVO)

Canadian Alliance of Artists – East Chapter

Canadian Artists’ Representation / Le front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC Ontario)

Canadian Music Centre

Choirs Ontario

Craft Ontario

Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO)

Dance Ontario

Dance Umbrella of Ontario

Directors Guild of Canada (Ontario)

Folk Music Ontario

FUSION – The Ontario Clay and Glass Association

Galeries Ontario / Ontario Galleries (GOG)

Ontario Culture Days

Ontario Presents

The Association for Opera in Canada (Opera.ca)

Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada

Réseau Ontario

Théâtre Action

Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA)



CARFAC Ontario est membre de Provincial Arts Service Organizations of Ontario/Organisations Provinciale de Services aux Arts de l’Ontario (PASO/OPSA), une coalition d’organismes de services aux arts de l’Ontario qui, collectivement, agit comme intermédiaire pour plus de plus de 272 000 travailleurs créatifs et artistes à travers la province, ainsi que des milliers d’organismes, petits et grands, qui créent et soutiennent l’expression artistique en Ontario.

La coalition a collectivement identifié des priorités clés pour le secteur des arts de l’Ontario, autour desquelles elle s’aligne et qu’elle soutiendra activement au fur et à mesure que nous progressons dans la pandémie de la COVID-19. Ainsi, la PASO-OPSA recommande au gouvernement de l’Ontario de:

1. S’engager en faveur de la vérité et réconciliation dans les arts et la culture.

Le gouvernement de l’Ontario devrait créer un fonds annuel permanent de 10 millions de dollars pour les artistes, les leaders culturels, les organisations, les groupes et les collectifs Autochtones, conçu et géré par des artistes Autochtones.

2. Augmenter l’investissement dans le Conseil des arts de l’Ontario (CAO).

Le financement du CAO a dangereusement pris du retard par rapport à la croissance du secteur. Si l’on tient compte de l’inflation et de la croissance de la population, pour simplement demeurer au niveau d’investissement de 1991, le CAO nécessite un budget de base permanent de 110 millions de dollars en 2022. En 2021, le budget de base de la CAO était de 60 millions de dollars

3. Reconnaître le rôle des arts dans de nombreux domaines de compétence provinciale et faciliter les échanges inter-ministériels à cette fin.

Le gouvernement de l’Ontario devrait mettre à profit les atouts considérables de la communauté artistique de l’Ontario en matière de création et d’innovation en reconnaissant sa capacité et ses contributions à l’avancement des domaines tels que la santé, la santé mentale, l’éducation et l’entrepreneuriat, et faire appel à la collaboration entre secteurs pour résoudre des problématiques telles que le racisme systémique, entre autres.

4. S’assurer que l’antiracisme et les principes d’équité et de justice sont intégrés dans tous les programmes et services provinciaux.

Cela comprend : la reconnaissance du fait que les artistes qui s’identifient comme membres de groupes marginalisés, ainsi que les programmes artistiques communautaires, ont été confrontés de façon disproportionnée à des obstacles systémiques à l’accès au soutien, et nécessitent un financement plus accessible et à faible barrière. Le gouvernement doit travailler en partenariat avec des organismes artistiques afin d’apprendre des plus petites organisations communautaires et culturelles dans le but d’informer le développement des priorités et des politiques artistiques et culturelles de la province. Le prochain gouvernement de l’Ontario peut s’assurer que le Code des droits de la personne de l’Ontario est respecté en évaluant les obstacles et les exclusions systémiques qui existent dans ses investissements et ses programmes et qui peuvent être perpétués par ceux-ci.

5. Favoriser l’avancement des jeunes afin qu’ils puissent contribuer et offrir un nouveau point de vue et du leadership dans les arts.

Cela comprend : des possibilités de mentorat pour les artistes et les leaders culturels de la nouvelle génération, des contacts intergénérationnels entre les leaders artistiques établis et émergents, le soutien des échanges entre les groupes communautaires et les grandes institutions qui encouragent l’apprentissage et la valorisation de tous les participants.

6. Travailler à la réduction des émissions de carbone et de l’impact environnemental de l’Ontario.

Le gouvernement de l’Ontario devrait reconnaître que la réduction des émissions nécessite non seulement des politiques et des lois, mais aussi des changements culturels et paradigmatiques à grande échelle, en investissant dans des collaborations entre le secteur des arts et les communautés Autochtones, les chercheurs en matière de changements climatiques, les sociologues et les spécialistes du comportement, les chefs de file de l’industrie, les organismes de sensibilisation aux enjeux environnementaux, etc. Il est également important de soutenir le secteur des arts et de la culture dans la recherche, la conception et la mise en œuvre de lieux et de bâtiments durables et écoénergétiques, et d’élaborer des stratégies de tournée et de production à grande échelle durables.

7. Reconnaître la nécessité et l’absence actuelle d’une infrastructure physique et numérique adéquate.

Cela comprend : l’établissement d’un programme de financement permanent pour soutenir les rénovations, les projets d’immobilisations et les nouvelles constructions des organismes artistiques et culturels. Ce programme devrait également recevoir des subventions pour les plus petits organismes afin de faciliter l’accès à court terme à des bureaux, de soutenir la capacité des organismes à numériser leurs collections et à les présenter sous forme numérique, et de soutenir la formation et le développement professionnel. Le gouvernement doit également s’attaquer au manque d’accès à l’Internet à haute vitesse qui a un impact disproportionné sur les communautés du Nord de l’Ontario.

8. Investir davantage dans l’éducation artistique dans les écoles financées par les fonds publics de l’Ontario.

Le gouvernement de l’Ontario devrait faire appel aux intervenants du secteur des arts pour maintenir, concevoir et mettre à jour des programmes d’études contemporains qui tiennent compte de la population très diversifiée de l’Ontario, et s’assurer que des ressources physiques et humaines suffisantes sont en place pour les offrir. Il devrait également enquêter sur les disparités qui existent actuellement dans les écoles d’arts spécialisées financées par les fonds publics, et veiller à ce que les élèves appartenant à des groupes marginalisés et aux ménages à faible revenu y aient un accès équitable.

9. Supporter la majorité des Ontariens en travaillant à la mise en place d’un revenu de base garanti fédéral.

Cela comprend : plaider et travailler avec le gouvernement fédéral sur le développement et la mise en œuvre d’une garantie de revenu de base ; faire évoluer les systèmes provinciaux de soutien au revenu existants vers les principes du revenu de base nécessitant moins de conditions et offrant plus d’autonomie aux bénéficiaires ; mettre en œuvre un projet pilote du revenu de base en Ontario ciblant les artistes à faible revenu, les travailleurs autonomes et d’autres Ontariens à l’emploi précaire pour les inclure.

Nous sommes disponibles pour vous fournir plus de détails sur chacune de ces recommandations, et nous encourageons le gouvernement de l’Ontario à travailler de concert avec les membres de la PASO/OPSA pour envisager la voie à suivre pour la communauté artistique dynamique de l’Ontario.

Pour plus d’informations, veuillez contacter: jason@carfacontario.ca 

Membres de la coalition PASO/OPSA

Alliance culturelle de l’Ontario
Centres et collectifs d’artistes autogérés de l’Ontario (ARCCO)
ArtsBuild Ontario
Association des auteures et auteurs de l’Ontario français
Association des professionnels de la chanson et de la musique (APCM)
Association pour l’opéra au Canada
Bureau des regroupements des artistes visuels de l’Ontario (BRAVO)
Alliance canadienne des artistes – Chapitre de l’Est
Canadian Artists’ Representation / Le front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC Ontario)
Centre de musique canadienne
Choirs Ontario
Craft Ontario
Pluralisme culturel dans le mouvement artistique Ontario (CPAMO)
Dance Ontario
Dance Umbrella of Ontario (en anglais seulement)
Guilde canadienne des réalisateurs (Ontario)
Folk Music Ontario
FUSION – L’Association ontarienne de l’argile et du verre
Galeries Ontario / Ontario Galleries (GOG)
Fête de la culture de l’Ontario
Ontario Presents
L’Association pour l’opéra au Canada (Opera.ca)
Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada
Réseau Ontario
Théâtre Action
Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) (en anglais seulement)


This ODSP & ARTS GRANTS 101 document, compiled in March 2022, has been created by Pro Bono Students Canada volunteers from the Lincoln Alexander School of Law chapter and CARFAC Ontario. It is our intention to provide accessible information to those who may need it, in relation to ODSP qualification requirements and arts grants.

To download the document, click here.

We’ve created an audio-visual version for accessibility, that can be found here.

Recommendations for Ontario’s 2022 Budget

In January 2022, CARFAC Ontario submitted to the Government of Ontario’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs a series of recommendations for arts and culture investments for the upcoming 2022 Budget:

1. Increase the Ontario Arts Council’s (OAC) base budget to $95 million annually.

2. Establish a permanent $10 million fund to support Indigenous artists, cultural leaders, organizations, groups and collectives.

3. Maximize the value of any additional arts investments (through strategizing delivery, increasing consultation, as well as allocating commitments made in Budget 2021)

4. Amplify the majority of Ontarians’ voices by working toward a Federal Basic Income Guarantee.

For more detail and rationale on each of these recommendations, please click here to read the full brief.

Open letter: Canadian artists urgently need a social safety net

October 19, 2021

The Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

The Hon. Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

The Hon. Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage

Re: Canadian artists urgently need a social safety net

Dear Ministers,

As we are still experiencing a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian artists urge the Federal Government to extend emergency income support for self-employed and gig workers, with a view to finding a long-term social safety net for our sector.

We applaud the Government’s leadership in working with us to best support self-employed workers with the introduction of Canada Emergency Response Benefit and Canada Recovery Benefit during this very difficult time. This support has been a lifeline for many cultural workers, and we appreciate the Government’s commitment to help artists and the cultural industries recover, because as you know: we were among the first to close and we will be among the last to recover. Beyond recovery, we welcome the opportunity to consult with you about much needed reform to Employment Insurance programs, which are often out of reach for self-employed artists when they need it most.

The Liberal Party’s platform includes commitments to implement a transitional support program for out-of-work self-employed artists, and to hold a summit within 100 days to discuss restarting our industry. Meanwhile, 750,000 Canadians are still receiving much needed support from the Canada Recovery Benefit, which is set to expire in just a few days, without that transition plan in place.

Some of them are our members, and we know they cannot wait 100 days to begin discussions about recovery without that support, and so we urge you to extend the CRB until an alternative option is in place.

We hope we can count on the Government of Canada to make this adjustment and ensure that Canadian artists will not be left behind.


Paddy Lamb, National President of CARFAC (Canadian Artists’ Representation) 

Eleanor Noble, ACTRA National President

David Farsi, Président du Regroupement des artistes en arts visuels du Québec (RAAV)

Rhea Tregebov, Chair of the Writers Union of Canada

Sasha Sobrino, General Manager, Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators

Cc: Rebecca Caldwell, Director of Policy, Canadian Heritage

Irene Cheung, Senior Policy Advisor, Canadian Heritage

Simon Brault, Director and CEO, Canada Council for the Arts

Brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, 2022 Pre-Budget Consultations

Primarily self-employed, visual, media, and craft-based artists derive income through various revenue streams. It is extremely rare for a single source of revenue to provide enough income to live on. It is a common practice for artists to occupy several roles, including but not limited to: creation, sales, instruction, mentorship, consultancy, speaking, curation, writing, and working for art institutions and organizations. This leads to a mixture of royalties and fees paid, sales, and wages from additional part-time jobs, such as teaching in universities or working for galleries. Many artists and cultural workers supplement their arts incomes with labour in other sectors, which often involves low-paid and/or precarious gig-work.

– According to 2016 Census data, there are 726,600 cultural workers, representing 4% of the overall labour force. This includes over 158,000 artists living and working in Canada, representing more workers than in automotive manufacturing and utilities;

– The median income of Canadian visual artists is $20,000, which is 54% lower than the median income of all workers. 66% of Canadian visual artists are self-employed, compared to only 12% of all Canadian workers;

– Of the 21,100 visual artists in Canada,16% of visual artists are Indigenous, Black, or racialized. Indigenous, Black, and racialized artists are underrepresented within Canadian cultural institutions both as presenting artists, and within executive management positions and boards. Meanwhile COVID-19 transmission has disproportionately impacted Black, racialized, and low-income communities;

– The 2016 Census revealed that Indigenous, Black, and other racialized artists earn significantly less income than their non-Indigenous/non-racialized counterparts. Indigenous, and Black and racialized artists earn a median income of 68 cents and 72 cents, respectively, for every $1 for non-Indigenous/Black/racialized artists.

Overview of recommendations
We support the recommendations made by the Canadian Arts Coalition, and the recommendations made by Galeries Ontario/Ontario Galleries.  Additionally, we recommend that the Federal Government:

1. Modernize the Employment Insurance program;

2. Advance the Canada Council for the Arts’ 2021-26 Strategic Plan by investing $2M for the creation of a high-access Micro-Grant program for artists;

3. Create a new program at Canadian Heritage to encourage and support entrepreneurship among visual artists;

4. Amend the Copyright Act to include an Artist’s Resale Right as an economic marketplace solution for individual artists.

Read the full brief.

2021 Ontario Budget Consultations

In February 2021, on behalf of the province’s visual artists, CARFAC Ontario submitted to the Government of Ontario recommendations for the 2021 budget. While we applaud the steps that the government has taken to provide relief to the arts sector, we remain highly concerned by the absence of support for individual artists. As such, we recommended that that the Government of Ontario, as part of the 2021 budget: 

1. Establish a $10m fund specifically to support Indigenous artists and cultural leaders 

This fund will provide much-needed economic stimulation within Indigenous communities and will help to address the severe income disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists. 

2. Invest an additional $25m annually at the Ontario Arts Council

This funding should be provided to increase the Council’s base budget, be directed at discretion the of the Council with a focus on identified priority groups, not be restricted to major cultural institutions nor organizations, and be available to individual artists without whom major cultural institutions and organizations would be irrelevant.  

3. Create a high-access, rapid-response fund for individual artists and self-employed arts workers 

This fund should be open to artists and cultural leaders working in any discipline and prioritize those who identify as members of equity-seeking groups. Guidelines and eligibility criteria for this fund should be flexible to accommodate the diversity of artistic approaches, and the unique needs of individual artists and arts workers. The application process should be simple, online, with fast review and response times. Artists who receive Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program income supports should retain those income supports in full if they receive a payment through this fund. This fund is essential for restoring cultural production and subsequent economic activity. 

4. Invest in PPE and HVAC upgrades

This investment should focus on small and mid-sized arts facilities. It will result in accelerating the return of tourism and the associated economic impact.  

5. Implement paid sick days for all workers

Providing a minimum of 14 paid sick days per year is crucial to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

The full brief is available here.

Artists Celebrate Announcement Regarding CERB Eligibility

Visual artists across Canada appreciate the tremendous work that the Federal Government has done to help our citizens in a time of great need. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a devastating global crisis, and the government’s swift leadership and response has been remarkable.

We were concerned about the letters that many self-employed artists received in December 2020, asking them to pay back Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) payments. In many cases, artists received these letters based on the Government’s lack of clarity about eligibility requirements. 

For several weeks, CARFAC Ontario joined artist unions and associations to advocate for change, and all of us at CARFAC are relieved by the Government’s announcement on February 9ththat self-employed individuals who applied for CERB and would have qualified based on their gross income will not be required to repay the benefit, provided they also met all other eligibility requirements

Some details on this announcement are available here, and we are sure there will be further information to come. We know that some outstanding issues may still exist, but news on this change in policy will provide a solution, and offer peace of mind, to the majority of artists that we have heard from on this issue. We thank the Government for listening to our concerns and making changes that will assist many artists from coast to coast to coast.


Les artistes en arts visuels de partout au Canada reconnaissent le travail remarquable accompli par le gouvernement fédéral afin d’aider les Canadiennes et les Canadiens durant cette période difficile. La pandémie de la COVID-19 a entraîné une crise mondiale dévastatrice, et le leadership et la réponse rapide du gouvernement a été remarquable. 

Cependant, les lettres envoyées en décembre par le gouvernement à de nombreux artistes autonomes leur demandant de rembourser leurs payements à la Prestation canadienne d’urgence (PCU) nous inquiétaient. Dans beaucoup de cas, les artistes ont reçu ces lettres en raison du manque de clarté de la part du gouvernement relatif aux critères d’admissibilité. 

Depuis plusieurs semaines, nous nous sommes joints à des syndicats et des associations d’artistes pour militer pour des changements. Nous sommes tous soulagés à CARFAC par la nouvelle annoncée le 9 février par le gouvernement : que les artistes autonomes qui ont fait une demande à la PCU et qui auraient été admissibles en fonction de leur revenu brut ne seront pastenus de rembourser la prestation, pourvu qu’ils répondent à tous les autres critères d’admissibilité.

Vous pouvez trouver certains détails de l’annonce ici et de plus amples renseignements seront sûrement à venir. Nous savons que vous pourriez encore avoir des problèmes non réglés, mais ce changement de politique va fournir une solution et offrir une tranquillité d’esprit pour la majorité des artistes qui ont partagé leurs préoccupations face à ce problème. Nous remercions le gouvernement d’avoir écouté nos préoccupations et d’avoir apporté des changements qui aideront les artistes de partout au pays.

Positioning the Arts as a Key Economic Driver in COVID-19 Recovery

In August 2020, CARFAC Ontario collaborated with CARFAC National in preparing and submitting a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance for the 2021 Pre-Budget Consultations. 

Since we know that the sustainability of arts and culture sector in Canada, and that positioning the arts as a key economic driver in COVID-19 recovery efforts, requires urgent actions to increase equity and inclusion, we recommended that the Federal Government: 

1. Implement a Guaranteed Basic Income program for all Canadian citizens; 

2. Invest $12 million annually at the Canada Council for the Arts to support artists and cultural leaders identifying as Indigenous, Black, racialized, and members of equity-seeking groups; 

3. Invest $1 million annually at the Canada Council for the Arts to provide rapid-response micro-grants for individual artists;

4. Amend the Copyright Act to include an Artist’s Resale Right as an economic marketplace solution for individual artists. 

For details and additional context on our recommendations, please read the full text, below,
or click here to view the PDF version

For more information, please contact Jason Samilski, Managing Director, CARFAC Ontario at jason@carfacontario.ca 

Positioning the Arts as a Key Economic Driver in COVID-19 Recovery 

While COVID-19 has presented immense challenges and has caused significant damage to the arts sector in Canada, this crisis offers a profound  opportunity to consider how we resource and manage our cultural ecosystem, as bold changes to current structures are absolutely essential for survival of arts and culture in Canada.

A snapshot of the arts in Canada 

– According to 2016 Census data, there are 726,600 cultural workers, representing 4% of the overall labour force. This includes over 158,000 artists living and working in Canada, representing more workers than in automotive manufacturing and utilities; 

– Indigenous, Black, and racialized artists are also underrepresented within Canadian cultural institutions both as presenting artists, and within management, executive positions, and boards. Meanwhile COVID-19 transmission has disproportionately impacted Black, racialized, and low-income communities. 

– The median income of Canadian visual artists is $20,000, which is 54% lower than the median income of all workers. 66% of Canadian visual artists are self-employed, compared to only 12% of all Canadian workers. Of the 21,100 visual artists in Canada, 16% of visual artists are Indigenous, Black, or racialized;

– The 2016 Census also revealed that Indigenous, Black, and other racialized artists earn significantly less income than their non-Indigenous/non-racialized counterparts. Indigenous, and Black and racialized artists earn a median income of 68 cents and 72 cents, respectively, for every $1 for non-Indigenous/Black/racialized artists;

– A survey of 500 artists from all disciplines between March 30 and April 5, 2020 found that an estimated $11.1 Million total income has been lost or is at-risk due to COVID-19, including $22,253 average income lost or at-risk, per artist.

1. Implement a Guaranteed Basic Income program for Canadian citizens

We recommend the implementation of a Guaranteed Basic Income program for all Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and refugees over the age of 18, that: 

  • Is income-tested, not means-tested; 
  • Provides $2,000/month to enable all citizens to live a dignified, healthy, and engaged life; 
  • Is intended to alleviate the dehumanizing and economically unsustainable conditions associated with current social programs. As self-employed workers, many artists do not qualify for EI or CPP, while those on other forms of social assistance are often trapped in poverty;
  • Is designed in conjunction with other support structures (i.e. disability, senior, and child benefits);
  • Does not entail cuts, nor compromise increases to, public funding for the arts sector; and
  • Can be evaluated after 18-24 months with the intention of identifying improvements and modifications for continuation. 

A Guaranteed Basic Income program for all citizens will improve economic conditions for the country’s most vulnerable, and it will stimulate growth by ensuring Canadians are meaningfully engaged in the economy in ways that capitalize on their skill sets and capacities. It will significantly improve conditions for Canadian artists given that artists are often amongst the country’s most vulnerable workers, and many have fallen through the cracks with relief programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). 

We anticipate that artists and cultural workers will require income support for up to 2 years as we recover from COVID, but we recommend a Basic Income as a long-term program. This program will be critical given the current inequality experienced by Indigenous, Black, racialized, and other marginalized artists. 

Artists who were successful in receiving CERB have widely reported that the benefit has resulted in significantly increased financial stability, and for many, it has represented a time of great productivity and creative incubation. We are confident that financially stable artists are better positioned to contribute to our country’s domestic economy, and they help make Canada more competitive through our global contributions and cultural exports.

2. Invest $12 Million annually to the Canada Council for the Arts, to support artists and cultural leaders identifying as Indigenous, Black, racialized, and members of equity-seeking groups 

This fund should be: 

  • Administered by the Canada Council, in addition to their current budget, through two distinct funding envelopes:
    • Project grants for individual artists working in any discipline
    • Project and operating grants for small groups, collectives, and unincorporated initiatives, with annual budgets under $200,000, that are ineligible to access core funding through current Canada Council programs. These grants should focus on resourcing organizational development activities, capacity-building, and creating fair wages for staff and artist leaders. These grants should not preclude recipients from simultaneously applying for and receiving project grants from other sections at the Council.
  • Designed in a way that prioritizes accessibility and the removal of barriers for applicants throughout all phases of engaging with the Council. This includes, but is not limited to, a simplified application process, increased flexibility with eligible project activities and expenses, more staff support for applicants, and additional support for applicants identifying as deaf and disabled.  

This fund will develop sustainable operations within marginalized communities, which is currently under-resourced or non-existent. An investment that accelerates inclusion and diversifies representation and participation in the arts is imperative to sustain and grow the economic impacts the sector provides, particularly given that Statistics Canada indicates: 

  • Indigenous populations are growing at twice the national population rate; 
  • Nearly 22% of the population is foreign-born;
  • By 2036, People of Colour are projected to be about a third of the population; and
  • 92% of Canadians believe arts experiences are a valuable way of bringing together people from different languages and cultural traditions.

Our sector is highly developed in terms of artistic excellence and public engagement, but racialized and marginalized artists and organizations still face substantial barriers to economic stability, and workforce representation and accountability, which has only been amplified during the COVID pandemic. A thriving arts and cultural sector must include more opportunities for cultural diversity and inclusion, which requires better financial support and organizational infrastructure. We share this perspective with the natural world: more diverse ecosystems are essential for growth and the sustainability of life.

This recommendation entails a modest investment to help combat systemic racism and significantly improve access to equity and inclusion in the arts sector. This is critical to sustain, and amplify, the economic impacts contributed by the arts and culture sector.

3. Invest $1 Million annually to the Canada Council for the Arts to provide rapid-response micro-grants for individual artists

This fund should be: 

  • Administered by Canada Council for the Arts, in addition to their current budget;  
  • Intended to provide micro-grants up to $2,000 for artists working in any discipline;  
  • Delivered through a highly accessible and short application process, to reduce barriers;
  • Administered efficiently by employing a simplified adjudication rubric commensurate with smaller grant amounts to reduce time needed for evaluation and send responses to applicants.  

Investing in artistic production and professional development in this way will allow for increased risk tolerance resulting in artists and projects being supported that might not otherwise secure support through other avenues. It will catalyze new and innovative ideas that might not be a good fit for larger grant amounts. It will also allow artists to respond quickly and in a timely fashion to current (and rapidly changing) social, cultural, environmental, economic, and community situations. 

Micro-grant programs offer funds for artists to develop their practice in a diverse range of projects, including travel, mentorship, research, attending workshops and conferences, or a combination of these activities. It can also include expenses for art supplies, equipment and software purchases, and legal or financial advice. These activities are more suitable to a short application and review process, and this small but meaningful investment will help artists rebuild their capacity and careers during COVID recovery.

4. Amend the Copyright Act to include an Artist’s Resale Right as an economic marketplace solution for individual artists

The Artist’s Resale Right (ARR), or droit de suite, is a market-based mechanism that entitles visual artists to share in the ongoing commercial success of their work. It is common for visual art to appreciate in value over time. Canadian artists do not currently benefit financially from further secondary sales of their work, even though its ongoing value is intrinsically tied to the reputation and prominence of that artist. We recommend that when an artwork is resold through an auction house or commercial gallery that the artist should receive a royalty from those profits. 

First legislated in France in 1920, over 90 countries world-wide have adopted the ARR. Legislating the ARR in Canada would allow artists to benefit from domestic sales as well as reciprocal arrangements with the other countries where ARR is already implemented.  When artists are paid royalties from these sales, the Canadian government will collect taxes on domestic and foreign royalty collection. We recommend that 5% of all eligible secondary sales of artwork sold for at least $1,000 be paid to the artist, and royalty collection and distribution should be managed through a copyright collecting society, for administrative simplicity. CARFAC has a detailed proposal for the ARR on our website. 

ARR allows artists to achieve a more sustainable income based on the value of their own work. The positive impact of the ARR has already been documented in other countries. In 2014, a study in the UK reported that 81% of British artists that have been paid ARR have used the payments to cover living expenses, 73% use it to pay for art supplies, and 63% use it to pay for studio space. 

Indigenous artists will have the most to gain, as First Nations, Metis, and Inuit artists are among the most exploited by commercial resale markets. Indigenous art is highly valued in Canada and internationally, and it is common for dealers and wholesalers to purchase work directly from an artist at bargain prices, only to resell it for substantially more. However, the artists see none of that profit. Similarly, the ARR has had a tremendous impact on Indigenous artists in Australia, where they have had the royalty since 2010, and $8.5 Million (AUD) has been paid to nearly 2,000 artists. Nearly half of the recipients are living artists, and over 64% are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artists. 

The implementation of ARR in Canada also provides greater financial independence for senior artists, often living in precarity. In 2010, it was reported that senior visual artists have median annual incomes of $5,000. Most art sold in the secondary market was made by artists who are now seniors.

In 2019, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommended the ARR be established in Canada. They acknowledged that implementing the Artists’ Resale Right will help artists maximize their contribution to economic growth and productivity, without the need to increase public funding, as royalties are generated from commercial sales rather than public funding or tax collection. 

Letter to Ontario Arts Council Regarding Northern Ontario Artists and Cultural Leaders

July 15, 2020

Carolyn Vesely CEO 
Ontario Arts Council 
121 Bloor Street East, 7th Floor
Toronto, Ontario,  M4W 3M5

Dear Carolyn Vesely, 

In May of this year, CARFAC Ontario facilitated two virtual meetings with approximately 30 artists and cultural leaders living and working in Northern Ontario, primarily in Northeastern Ontario. Based on the issues raised in these consultation sessions, CARFAC Ontario is compelled to contribute to advancing these larger conversations with the goal to improve conditions for artists and strengthen cultural infrastructure in Northern Ontario. 

Firstly, it was recognized that the Ontario Arts Council is facing considerable challenges amid recent funding cuts by the provincial government. Participants acknowledged the efforts in place to reach Indigenous artists and Northern Ontario communities, and were appreciative of this work. We also wish to formally thank you for your responsive leadership in navigating the ongoing impacts that COVID-19 is having on the arts and culture sector.    

What began as community check-ins and conversations about specific COVID-19 relief measures, quickly expanded to unpack a wide range of systemic issues, including gaps and access points within public arts funding structures that have, and continue to, position many artists, groups, and collectives in a place of dire precarity. Because we know that this precarity has been accelerated by impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we share here on behalf of artists and cultural workers living and working in Northern Ontario the key issues identified, specifically those pertaining to the Ontario Arts Council:  

  • Indigenous ways of being, community, and making art are not being deeply considered by public arts funders in application and jury processes, systems and protocols; 
  • Though employing digital technology can be an effective solution for facilitating and presenting art amid COVID-19 public health restrictions, online methods are not inclusive to those without stable internet, and they are not relevant to many artists, their forms of artistic expression, nor to their communities;  
  • Preventing unincorporated groups and collectives from applying for and receiving operating funding perpetuates precarity, results in unhealthy labour conditions for leaders, and stifles growth, innovation, and sustainability; 
  • The loss of the Indigenous Culture Fund has resulted in significant impacts on Northern communities; 
  • Some grant applications can be onerous on applicants, and the process of preparing applications is often not commensurate with the level of available funds; 
  • Artists require more support during the grant-writing process; 
  • Costs associated with procuring materials and supplies can be higher due to additional shipping fees, as is shipping completed artworks to galleries for presentation and sales. Basic living costs can also be higher than in other mid-sized communities, and larger centres; 
  • Some artists hold deep perceptions that artists from smaller centres and communities are consistently overlooked, or undermined in jury processes which is compromising the reputation of public funding bodies.  

As we are confident the Ontario Arts Council shares our concerns around these and other issues, we offer here recommendations put forth by participants in our consultation sessions that are intended to improve conditions for artists and cultural leaders living and working in Northern Ontario:    

  • Recognize traditional Indigenous knowledge as on par with other forms of academic study or formal arts training, and recognize traditional practices as formal art within grant eligibility in all program streams; 
  • Be more aggressive with responding to Truth and Reconciliation calls to action;
  • Invest in artists and groups to experiment with new methods of creating and consuming art outside of digital/online platforms that are consistent with public health guidelines;
  • Set a timeline to evaluate operating funding and multi-year grant eligibility (and equity in funding between current recipients), with a focus and intention on ways to provide sustainable support to unincorporated initiatives; 
  • Increase capacity to provide  outreach and grant-writing support in Northern Ontario regions; 
  • Evaluate outreach and support systems for Francophone organizations and artists; 
  • Address these issues and recommendations by investing adequate resources to collaborate with CARFAC Ontario, along with other organizations and stakeholders in co-facilitating consultation sessions so that we can hear directly from artists and cultural leaders from a larger range of Northern Ontario regions.  

While we understand Ontario Arts Council’s budgetary challenges, we have seen how the COVID-19 pandemic is most greatly impacting vulnerable, equity-seeking, and marginalized communities. As such, working aggressively to advance equity within all aspects of arts and culture must be a priority. 

Please consider CARFAC Ontario a partner in these conversations. I invite you, or your staff, to contact me directly to discuss the next steps for this important and urgent work. 


Jason Samilski 
Managing Director, 
CARFAC Ontario

Kelly Langgard, Director of Granting
Erika Iserhoff, Indigenous Arts
Alana Forslund, Northern Representative