A Brief History of Status of the Artist in Canada

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Updated April 2008

In the development of arts and cultural policy in Canada the issue of artists’ access to social and economic benefits has been critical. A 1973 brief from the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) pointed out the artist’s “real situation, is that of a beacon in intellectual circles but a pauper in practical terms”. By the 1970’s many forces became vocal on the issue of ‘status’ (1) or equity for artists.

International Action:

In the 70’s international forums began the call for examination of the status of the artist.

    1976 – UNESCO met in Kenya, again in 1977 at a joint ILO / UNESCO meeting in Geneva. Canadian Paul Siren chaired the Joint Committee to draft recommendations for member states on ‘status’.


  • 1980 – The UNESCO Belgrade Recommendations on Status of the Artist, which Canada signed, urged member states to act on a broad range of policy, including access to social programs and protection of artists’ rights.
  • 1980 – 90’s – Other states took up consideration of status programs designed to address issues of artists’ income, benefits and social policy.
  • 1997- UNESCO, jointly with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and MERSOCUR Cultural, established the World Observatory on Status of the Artist to further international research and information. UNESCO has continued to hold international forums and conferences on status.
  • 2005 – UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity, a global convention for the protection of cultural diversity, sponsored by France and Canada, was passed by 148 countries. It affirms countries “sovereign right” to promote diversity and to protect its artists and cultural production.
  • 2008 – Since UNESCO’s call for status action a number of countries, principally European, have taken formal action in developing status support programs and legislation. Taxation, social security and education measures have been addressed in various degrees by Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, France, Nordic countries and others.

Federal Action:

  • 1978 – Disney Report on taxation. This is the most comprehensive analysis of the difficulties imposed on artists by the tax system. It recommended, among other aspects, “dual status” for professional artists.
  • Other reports on taxation have also dealt with the inequities for artists, including the 1984 Taxation of Visual and Performing Artists and Writers, and the 1986 Funding of the Arts in Canada (Bovey Report).
  • 1982 – Applebaum-Hebert Report on Federal Cultural Policy Review, following extensive hearings and consultations, concluded that in 30 years, despite their overwhelming contribution to Canadian life, artists’ living conditions remain virtually unchanged: “the income of many, if not most, of these artists classifies them as highly-specialized, working poor.”
  • 1986 – Task Force on the Status of the Artist, established by the federal government, made recommendations over a broad range of issues, particularly on labour relations within federal jurisdiction.
  • 1987 – Canadian Advisory Committee on the Status of the Artist created by the federal government, the first step in implementing Task Force recommendations.
  • 1988 – The Advisory Committee developed draft legislation, with the assistance of the Canadian Conference of the Arts, referred to as the Canadian Artists’ Code. While not enacted the Code formed the basis for further action.
  • 1990 – Bill C-7, Status of the Artist Act was first introduced and in 1992 passed by the federal parliament. The Act covers the formation of an Advisory Council and collective bargaining for artists and producers within federal jurisdiction.
  • 1995 – CAPPRT (Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal) was established to administer professional relations provisions of the Act. CAPPRT has dealt with numerous certifications and collective bargaining issues since then. In 2001 – 02 there was a review of the legislation.
  • 1999 – A Sense of Place A Sense of Pride, a Canadian Heritage report on support of culture in Canada called for examination of self-employment issues, including for artists as creators, formation of a review task force and invited provincial governments to put in place complementary legislation on status.
  • 1999 – Connecting to the Canadian Experience, federal government’s response endorsed the recommendations related to self-employment and promoted provincial status legislation and in 2001 the federal government’s Human Resources Department (HRDC) launched a study on Employment Insurance extension to self-employed.
  • 2004 – National Conference on Status of the Artist, held in Regina sponsored by the Canadian Conference of the Arts and Sask. Arts Alliance.
  • 2008 – CAPPRT has certified over 24 artist’s associations and 60 scale agreements have been concluded. Amendments to the Status Act to permit provincial use of the Tribunal are under consideration.

Provincial Action:

  • Québec became the first province to develop status legislation. In response to considerable pressure from the artistic community the Quebec government enacted Bill 90 (1987) dealing with collective bargaining for performing artists, and Bill 78 (1988) covering visual and literary artists. In 2004 the Quebec government amended the Quebec Acts and has continued to develop support programs, notably in the area of tax relief for copyright income.
  • 1992 – B.C. and Saskatchewan appointed artists committees to make recommendations for programs and legislation.
  • 1993 – B.C. “in spirit and in law” Report of the B.C. Advisory Committee on the Status of the Artist was produced. While some action has been taken, notably in area of labour amendments for the protection of young performers, the B.C. government has not yet proceeded with the major elements of the report. A report produced in 2000 “The Labour of Art” reexamines status issues in B.C.
  • 1993 – Saskatchewan – The Report of the Minister’s Advisory Committee on Status of the Artist was published containing 115 recommendations across a broad spectrum of issues affecting artists. An initial start at examining implementation of the report did not proceed.
  • 2001 – The Saskatchewan Arts Alliance took up the Report and mobilized the Saskatchewan cultural community in support of provincial government action.
  • 2002 – Saskatchewan – the Minister of Culture, Youth and Recreation introduced Bill 73 – Status of the Artist Act (S-58.1). Following the Act, a new Minister’s investigative committee was established to consider implementation of status measures. The Committee Report (MACSA) was released in 2006. Both the 1993 and 2006 Reports called for collective rights legislation, taxation reform, definition of professional artist and status program initiatives. Legislation to amend the Saskatchewan Status Act was introduced in 2007 but failed to pass the legislature before the 2007 election. 2008 – The new government is continuing to review status options.
  • 2004 – Ontario – the provincial government committed to status reforms, appointed an investigative committee to examine status issues and determine the views of the cultural community. In 2007 Ontario brought in broad legislation recognizing artists’ contribution to society but without specific legislative social policy measures.
  • NFLD – a major policy report in 2001 from the Association of Cultural Industries (ACI) has called for status programs and legislation. 2006 a major government arts and culture policy statement included a call for status measures and a Committee of Review has been formed.

Cultural Community Action:

With the emergence of the demand for equity for artists many Canadian provincial and national arts and cultural organizations have taken on advocacy action in support of status of the artist issues.

  • The Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) has been in the forefront of activity with numerous briefs and representations to the federal government on issues of taxation, benefits, legislation and social programs over many years.
  • 2000 – CCA published “A Call to Action” a research study on status of the artist.
  • 2004 – CCA co-sponsored with Saskatchewan Arts Alliance a National conference on status of the artist in Regina. The focus of the conference was to reestablish status on the national agenda and to further reappointment of the National Council as called for in federal legislation.
  • 2001 – 08 – Saskatchewan Arts Alliance has continued investigation and research into “equity” issues and to press for provincial and federal action.

(1) “Status” is used here as the historic title for the concept, however the issue is better understood by government and the public to be one of “equity” or parity for artists, and these are terms SAA prefers to express the issues.

History revised and updated 2008: Prepared by the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance

Based on Canadian Conference of the Arts “Brief History”