Enacted in 1993 and brought into force in 1995, the Status of the Artist Act (1995) officially recognises the contributions artists make to Canadian cultural, social, economic and political life and establishes a policy on the professional status of the artist. It also recognises rights of freedom of association and expression of artists and producers, as well as the right of artists’ associations to be recognised in law and to promote the socio-economic well being of those whom they represent. Although Part I of the Act (1995) established the Canadian Council on the Status of the Artist, which was intended to provide advice to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, to date, this part of the Act has not been implemented. Part II of the Act (1995) established the Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal, and put into place a framework for the conduct of professional relations between artists and producers within federal jurisdiction (government institutions and broadcasting undertakings under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission). The Tribunal reports to Parliament through the Minister of Labour.
As Labour Law falls under provincial jurisdiction in Canada, the Status of the Artist Act (1995) applies only to artists engaged by the federal government. Itdoes not apply to individuals working in employer-employee relationships; nor does it apply to producers and artists working under provincial jurisdiction. Quebec was the first and only province to have its own status of the artist legislation (which preceded the federal law) in 1987. Recently, however, both Ontario and Saskatchewan have introduced Status of the Artist-enabling legislation in 2007, and Newfoundland and Labrador has just begun the process to move towards creating the same type of legislation. Efforts continue to be made to encourage other provinces to consider enacting similar legislation.
The Tribunal has encouraged constructive professional relations between self-employed artists and producers under its jurisdiction. The Tribunal defined 23 sectors of artistic activity and certified 21 cultural associations by 2002. Fourteen final scale agreements have been reached including some with government producers and specialty television services. The effect of the Tribunal’s work has yet to be fully felt in respect to raising the earnings of many self-employed artists in Canada who have average incomes (including income from other employment) CAD 7 300, less than the average income of CAD 31 757 for all workers in Canada (Census 2001).
The Status of the Artist Act was reviewed in 2002-2003 as stipulated in section 66. (Prairie Research Associates 2002) Although the Act (1995) was endorsed by those consulted, there was also a consensus that the legislation, by itself, is insufficient to bring about significant change in artists’ socio-economic circumstances. The Act’s restriction to federal producers, the fact that it addresses only labour relations, and the fact that it does not apply to producers sub-contracted by producers within federal jurisdiction are seen by artists’ organisations in particular as its main shortcomings. There was general agreement that other kinds of measures are necessary if the socio-economic circumstances of self-employed artists are to improve. The evaluation recommended that other policies and programmes be explored to improve the situation of artists, in addition to possible amendments to the Act (1995), itself. The Departments of Canadian Heritage and Human Resources Development Canada continue to seek progress in this regard.