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Arts agencies without 'best practices' to address harassment could risk federal funding, minister says

From CBC - January 18, 2018

Arts organizations that do not have "best practices" in place to deal with harassment and bullying may be blocked from federal funding, the heritage minister said following a meeting with entertainment industry stakeholders amid the ongoing scandals at Soulpepper Theatre Company and other sectors of the cultural community.

Melanie Joly made the comments following Wednesday's meeting, and discussed the issue againThursday during an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. On Wednesday, she noted that because many segments of the arts community fall under provincial jurisdiction, the federal government as a major funder of the arts can have its most significant impact on change by reining in the purse strings.

Asked Thursday whether an organization dealing with allegations of harassment would be ineligible for federal funding, Joly did not say yes or no.

Rather, she replied: "In general I am very proud of the cultural sector, because harassment has been happening in every single part of our society and again, the cultural sector is at the forefront of social change because they decided to tackle this issue and speak up.

"And now we are looking at how we can help to change the culture in the sector."

Asked specifically if Soulpepper, which has received nearly $3 million in funding from the federal government since it opened in 1999, would continue to receive grants, Jolypromised more specific details after Department of Canadian Heritage staffers report back with recommendations for changes to funding policies. These changes would ensure there is "zero tolerance" for harassment in organizations receiving federal grants, she said.

But, she said, the federal government has to decide how it can help address harassment in the arts sector without hurting the industry.

"This is an overall issue in the sector, and organizations are different from their directors," Joly said. "And we need to support the great work that is being done and we need to support the workers that are evolving in these workplaces."

'Difficult couple of months'

Allegations from dozens of women have rocked the worldwide entertainment industry, with actresses and others telling their stories of assault, harassment and bullying. The issue has come to a head in Canada in recent weeks with four actresses filing a civil suit against former Soulpepper artistic director Albert Schultz accusing him of sexual misconduct and harassment of a sexual nature.

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