“The arts community coming out of the crisis will never be the same again,” predicts Frédéric Julien, director, research and development of the Canadian Association of Arts Organizations (CAPACOA), weeping on the phone while reading pan-Canadian statistics for February, the most up to date on culture. “So far, this tree that is culture has lost many leaves and a few branches with the pandemic. There, it has just lost part of its roots. Two new reports – one from Quebec, the other from Canada – on the effects of the pandemic on artists and cultural workers depict a dramatic situation.
It’s a bloodletting: in Canada, 12,200 jobs were lost in performing arts companies in February alone; 46,400 since the start of the pandemic. “This tiny sector represents 7.8% of job losses in the entire Canadian economy since the start of the pandemic,” explains Julien. In Quebec, 24.1% of jobs in the culture sector disappeared, or 50,000 jobs, between August 2019 and 2020. Quebec figures for February 2021 were not available at the time these lines were written. These data come from Statistics Canada.
During the pandemic in Quebec, the arts sector was the most heavily affected from an economic point of view, with a 54% drop in GDP over the year if we compare March to June 2019 and 2020, can we read in the Advocacy to keep the arts alive. This report is produced jointly by seven groups of cultural professionals, which represent 20,000 workers (Association québécoise des autrices et des authors dramatiques, Association of professionals of the performing arts of Quebec, Association of directors and directors of Quebec, Guild of musicians from Quebec, Workers grouped together in the arts, culture and events, Union des Artistes, Union des Writers and Writers Quebec).
The impact on culture workers is direct. The already low incomes have fallen considerably. Uncertainty and economic stress have psychological effects: 41% of the 2,117 respondents are considering giving up their career, 63.7% say they experience high or very high psychological distress and 11.7% have had suicidal thoughts. “At the UDA,” confides in an interview with the president, Sophie Prégent, “our figures are worse: we have identified 15% of suicidal thoughts among our members. UDA internal data also reveals revenue losses of 26.25% among members between 2019 and 2020; specifically in the performing arts, we see a drop in revenue of 69%.
It is true that there is a lot of money that is injected into culture. But we are unable to trace the path of this money like a salmon. Where does it percolate? Who is it going to? Is it effective? The criticism that we can currently make against cultural institutions is that they do not answer these questions. I think they are doing very well, these institutions. There should be accountability reports, suggests the president of the UDA. It is done in all sectors; not in ours.
The Legault government has been exceptionally generous in its emergency aid measures for the arts to respond to the pandemic. It is clear, with supporting reports, that the money does not trickle down to individuals, to cultural professionals. “It is true that there is a lot of money that is injected into culture, confirms Mme Present. But we are unable to trace the path of this money like a salmon. Where does it percolate? Who is it going to? Is it effective? The criticism that we can currently make against cultural institutions is that they do not answer these questions. I think they are doing very well, these institutions. There should be accountability reports, suggests the president of the UDA. It is done in all sectors; not in ours. “
For Frédéric Julien, of CAPACOA, who observes the Canadian portrait, “we do not yet see the shadow of the start of a recovery taking shape in the statistics”. Solutions for this still invisible recovery, the Advocacy Quebecois offers them. “We must review the funding chain and the level of the public contribution to ensure that it flows to the artists,” we read. “Status of the artist laws also urgently need to be reviewed. »Funding models need to be revised.
And it will take money to get up, says the Advocacy: $ 42 million for psychological support for cultural workers; 25 million for the revival of museums, theaters and festivals; 20 million to compensate for the loss of commercials financing television production; 50 million to relax and adapt funding programs and cultural offers; 3.75 million for creation; 31 million to compensate for the departure of patrons and charitable income; 5.8 million for the “renewal of expertise”. A requested budget of 177.55 million dollars, unpublished figure.
The situation is sad. “This observation must be the base on which we will establish our plan for the future,” believes Sophie Prégent, of the UDA. Here is the extent of the damage; that’s what we can be reborn, like a good phoenix. You have to make a plan, so that it doesn’t stay that way, and get to work quickly. And that we learn from the pandemic too. There are measures that deserve to become sustainable, such as a social safety net that would resemble the PCU, for artists. Mr. Julien also underlines, for his part, that it is not impossible that certain independent artists did not work or look for a job because they received the PCU then the PCRE, thus distorting the statistics. .
The office of the Minister of Culture said it was “aware that the situation of the cultural sector is critical. We are wholeheartedly with our artists and cultural workers. Last May, our government announced $ 31 million to improve access to mental health services. Minister Nathalie Roy granted one-off aid to associations and cultural groups to help their members at this level. In June, a cultural revival plan of 450 million to support the cultural milieu was announced. And the ticketing assistance measure that followed in October 2020 contained as a condition sine qua non to obtain this financial assistance that the money had to go to the artists, continued the press secretary Louis-Julien Dufresne. The ministry is also finalizing a promotional campaign encouraging the consumption of Quebec culture. And announcements are planned, promises the cabinet.