2009 ELAN History Series

ELAN Celebrates Five Years

ELAN celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2009 at the Sala Rossa. Following the Annual General Meeting (AGM), ELAN hosted a panel discussion called “Resources for Emerging Artists”, featuring visual artist Juliana España Keller, writer, performer and founder of Wired on Words Ian Ferrier, actress, playwright and director Anna Fuerstenberg, and sound recordist and musician Tod van Dyk.

 

Board photo from ELAN's 2009 AGM

ELAN’s Board of Directors at the 2009 Annual General Meeting. From left to right, back row: Kieran Krilly, Peter MacGibbon, Tim Brady, Ian Ferrier, Kirwan Cox, Guy Rodgers, Tod Van Dyk. Middle Row:  Tawny McDuff, Sheila Plunkett, Vicki Marcok. Front row:  Julie Keller, Chuck Childs, Anna Fuerstenburg, Jane Needles, Heidi Fleming.
Photo by: Monique Dykstra

Originating out of the Arts Summit held in 2004, ELAN had by this time proven the need for an umbrella group that would advocate for English-language opportunities in the arts and culture sector. It was evident that ELAN had a crucial role in addressing a lack of provincial support for English-language arts programming and the disconnection that existed between regions across Quebec.

At the time, ELAN found that there was still clear resistance from Quebec’s English-speaking community to self-identify, as Official Language minority funding for English was still seen as an existential threat to the French language. As ELAN’s founding Executive Director, Guy Rodgers, wrote in an article for Montreal Mosaic, “It was, and continues to be, a challenge for ELAN to explain to francophone colleagues that we are not engaged in a zero-sum struggle in which our gains are their loss”.

 

Ian Ferrier, Julie Keller, Anna Fuerstenburg, Tod Van Dyk

Left to right: Ian Ferrier, Julie Keller, Anna Fuerstenburg, and Tod Van Dyk
Photo by: Monique Dykstra

Creating Professional Development Opportunities

 

ELAN saw important progress in 2009 with regard to raising the visibility of English-language artists and relaying their concerns to federal funding bodies. As the Canada Council for the Arts reported, grant-writing workshops were made available for English-speaking artists in Quebec, and the concerns of Official Language minority communities in the arts were represented by ELAN during consultations with the Canada Council.

Apart from seeking greater support from federal funding bodies, ELAN sought to create more professional development opportunities for English-speaking artists in Quebec in partnership with local community organizations. In 2009, ELAN partnered with YES! Montreal to co-produce an artist conference, and produced two community panel discussions that featured experts from the visual arts and music industries.

Navigating a Career in the Visual Arts”, hosted at the artist-run centre articule, featured artist Adad Hannah, curator Lesley Johnstone, and intermedia artist jake moore. The speakers examined strategies for visual artists to promote their work and earn recognition by gallerists, and offered critique of common myths around visual artists’ education requirements and expected sources of income. “Your Music’s Awesome! Now What?” explored best practices for music promotion, expectations for managers and producer fees, and the practice of pay-for-play in Montreal. These panels marked the first of many workshops that would be produced by ELAN, and directly responded to community needs that were identified in years prior. They would also set the stage for projects ELAN’s Market Access and Savvy Sessions in the years to come.

 

Monika Majewsky, former ELAN staff member

Monika Majewsky, former ELAN staff member.
Photo by: Monique Dykstra

Building Regional Representation across Quebec

 

ELAN collaborated with the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) on a proposal as part of the Enhancing Access to Cultural Expression (EACE) project, for a community development framework in the arts and culture sectors. The EACE report identified the unique needs of English-speaking regions, artist organizations and presenters across Quebec.

While Montreal remains a hotspot for English-speaking cultural activity in Quebec, ELAN was made aware through its membership and outreach of the thriving arts scenes in the Eastern Townships, the Laurentians, and the Outaouais region, among others. Many of the challenges for the English-speaking arts communities in these regions included a lack of promotion or English-language media that would connect artists to wider audiences.

The Magdalen Islands and the Lower North Shore, for example, had no English-language newspaper, while Quebec City offered little representation of English-speaking artists in existing French-language media. Other factors identified in EACE continue to pose challenges today for English-speaking communities outside of Montreal. The Eastern Townships described economic challenges despite an otherwise healthy presence of regional multi-disciplinary arts scenes, caused in part by the migration of professional artists from smaller villages to Montreal.

As one means of addressing these wide-ranging but integrated needs, ELAN and QCGN partnered with the Quebec Drama Federation (QDF) on an initiative to develop a provincial touring circuit for English-language performing artists. The QDF Touring Project involved mapping out a provincial network of presenters and venues, identifying high-calibre artists working in the English language, and connecting artists to professional development opportunities. This pivotal project marked the first time an organization representing artists working in the English language worked to map out resources, performance artists and presenters across Quebec.

 

Kirwan Cox & Harry Gulkin (ELAN’s Advisory Board)
Photo by: Monique Dykstra

Advocacy in Official Language Minority Broadcasting

 

ELAN’s advocacy work in official minority language broadcasting in 2009 was crucial for shaping the future of Quebec television and radio programming. ELAN submitted a brief to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) advocating for more regional English-speaking representation in provincial broadcasting.

“Unfortunately, the CBC no longer has earmarked funding from the Canada Media Fund (as the CTF is now called). The gradual and long running starvation of the CBC by Governments of both parties is well known. It has led to increasing commercialization of the schedule, and has had a disproportionate and negative impact on official language minorities.”

 

CBC was experiencing severe cutbacks in English-language service to the rural communities that were home to around 200,000 English-speaking Quebecers. Original content in Canadian media was steadily deteriorating with increasing syndication, in favour of re-broadcasted content.

Local media conglomerate Quebecor owned the major cable distributor in Quebec, Videotron, yet there was no English content on the Montreal VOX channel. Videotron’s VOX channel was subsequently rebranded as MAtv, which added 20 percent English-language content in 2015, after lobbying by ELAN.

Another contentious issue was access to the Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF), intended to assist small regions, with populations under 1,000,000. The LPIF was meant to provide assistance to French-language producers outside Montreal, and English-language producers outside Toronto and Vancouver.  For reasons that no representatives from the CRTC or the LPIF program could explain, the LPIF defined language-use according to “language understood”, which disproportionately increased Montreal’s “English-speaking” population over the 1,000,000 mark by counting hundreds of thousands of bilingual francophones. Canadian language definitions are always based on “mother tongue” or “first official language spoken”. CRTC’s definition based on “language understood” served no obvious purpose other than to deny Quebec’s English-language producers access to the LPIF.

ELAN’s submission to the CRTC was jointly support by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) and the Conseil du Quebec de la Guilde canadienne des realisateurs, who also recognized a “serious decline” in the English-language film and television industry in Quebec over the preceding decade. ACTRA pushed for the Canadian Media Fund (CMF) to grant regional status to English-language programs produced in Montreal.

ELAN recommended changing the official definition of “English-speaking” to those for whom English was the “first official language spoken”, to provide the most accurate measurement of the English-speaking population in Quebec. This battle was eventually won, and the population of English Montreal was correctly established at 600,000. This would have qualified Montreal’s English-language producers for the LPIF, but by 2012, the fund was abolished.

The production of original content by regional broadcasters is crucial for ensuring quality and diversity in Quebec media. Canadian media continues to face the challenge of job cuts, the adoption of commercial U.S. produced content, and increasing syndication of news under conglomerates like Postmedia, Rogers and Bell Media. While ELAN submitted the statement on regional content to the CRTC in 2009, regional and official language representation in broadcasting, online and print media remains a critical issue today.

 

ELAN's old office

Executive Director’s desk in ELAN’s first office at 460 Ste Catherine – #610 shared with CRAAR (Center for Research-Action on Race Relations) and Repercussion Theatre (with a view on the Belgo Building)
Photo by: Guy Rodgers