Canadian Heritage responds to last week’s editorial

Studia Shumka’s dancers. Studia Shumka is a junior performing ensemble acting as a bridging program between the Shumka School of Dance and the professional Shumka company (Edmonton, AB).

Phase 2 will provide $137.5 million to arts and culture organizations.

Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.

It didn’t take long for the Department of Canadian Heritage to respond to last week’s editorial. Within a day of its posting on the NP-UN website, Martine Courage of the Media Relations team of Canadian Heritage sent an email to this newspaper stating “we were advised that some inaccurate information about our Emergency Funding announcement appeared in one of your articles.”

“In particular, the 8th paragraph that speaks of the total amount available and what’s left.

“ ‘When you add up the amounts listed in Phase One, the total comes to $497.6 million, leaving only $2.4 million to spare. If there is to be any tangible support for those organizations that may be assisted through Phase Two of the program, then additional funding must be provided.’

“Here is some information that may help to clarify the situation.

“Please let us know if you have any questions about this.

“The $198.3 million will be provided to the beneficiaries of arts and culture funding through existing programs as well as other organizations with demonstrated needs.

“Of this amount, $60.9 million is being provided under Phase 1, and $137.5 million in Phase 2. Organizations not currently receiving funding from existing programs will be able to apply for funding in Phase 2.

“The terms and conditions of these programs will be amended (italics ours) in Phase 2 in order to expand them and thus provide assistance to non-recipient organizations.

“$190.5 million of the $500 million is kept for phase II, $53 million for museums (via the Museums Assistance Program) and $137.5 million for arts and culture.”

This is indeed welcome news, but the fact remains, it is NEWS, in the broadest sense of the word.

There had been no details of the breakdown between Phase 1 and Phase 2 provided in either the government press releases issued up to that point, or on the government website. Arts groups who didn’t qualify for Phase 1 were totally in the dark as to what would be available in Phase 2 and whether they were eligible. That is why we were approached to look into this issue in the first place. And they remain in the dark because, on the same day that we received the email from Canadian Heritage, the Canadian Dance Assembly held a national Zoom Meeting where the Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport organizations was addressed. It was mentioned there’d be a second stage of funding directed to those who are not in those categories and that it would be an application process, but timelines, amounts and eligibility details were not yet available. What’s more, we were not the only media outlet that made the erroneous assumption that the $198.3 million earmarked for arts and culture was designated only for Phase 1.

In a May 8 story by the Canadian Press, which was carried by numerous mainstream Canadian media outlets including CBC News and the Toronto Star, David Friend wrote the following:

“Nearly $327 million will be handed out by the heritage department in the initial stages, while the remainder will be ‘assessed based on needs.’ (Ed. Note: The remainder was actually designated for the Canada Council for the Arts [$55 million], Canada Media Fund [$115.8 million], and Telefim Canada [$27 million].)

“About $198 million of the funds are being used as ‘top-up’ for arts and culture programs, such as the Canada Music Fund, the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Periodical Fund, which have already qualified for other forms of COVID-19 support.”

As far as we know that statement was never challenged.

Since Canadian Heritage invited us to submit any questions, we emailed the following:

“1. Please define what ‘as well as other organizations with demonstrated needs,’ means and who qualifies?

“2. When will ethnocultural arts groups, be they semi-professional or amateur, find out more information about this and how do they go about applying for emergency assistance?”

We noted that we needed to have the answers by Friday as we go to press on Monday and need to prepare our article before then.

Late Friday, we got this response:

“As part of the $500 million budget envelope, Phase 2 will provide temporary support as follows:

“Funding for eligible organizations with heritage collections through the emergency component of the Museums Assistance Program.

“Funding for other organizations, which may include some that do not currently receive funding from Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada or the Canada Media Fund (e.g., non-recipient arts and culture organizations, small broadcasters, third-language producers, organizations in live music, local news organizations, magazines and community newspapers).

“Further details on Phase 2, notably eligibility criteria, will be announced over the coming weeks.

“Information on how to apply for funding will be posted on the Department’s website and interested applicants will be able to contact Canadian Heritage online or through its toll-free line.”

This is basically the same information that is provided on the website.

Nevertheless, we are very pleased that Canadian Heritage did respond to our editorial because it shows that someone is paying attention to what we write. We are also very pleased that we have been able to establish a dialogue with the Media Relations team of Canadian Heritage. We are here to serve our community and we thank all our community members who shared last week’s editorial on social media and the internet. To all those groups out there we say, please keep us informed on the (eventual) roll-out of Phase 2 and its impact on your organization. Please remember that, as a Ukrainian Canadian community newspaper, we are there to speak out on behalf of our community. And we will continue to do so.