Artists urge Quebec to review their status

Nine Quebec cultural associations are united in urging the Legault government to honor its promise and to table this long-awaited project to reform the status of the artist this fall.

“Time is running out, there is an emergency”, launched Thursday at a press conference Suzanne Aubry, president of the Union of writers and writers Quebec (UNEQ). If the bill is not tabled this fall, there will be no time to get it passed before the general election in 2022. “Everything will have to be redone. […] Once again, we are going to go back to square one, it is absolutely unacceptable! She continued.

She shares this cry from the heart with eight other groups in the community – including the Union des artistes, the Guilde des musiennes et musicians du Québec and the Association québécoise des authors dramatiques – which together represent some 26,000 artists. For the past ten years, they have been calling for a revision of the two laws adopted in 1987 which regulate the working conditions of artists and craftsmen from here. The first law concerns performing, recording and film artists, while the second regulates work in visual arts, literature and crafts.

In thirty years, the environment has evolved a lot and these laws, which already contained loopholes, have become totally obsolete, argue the actors of the environment. Unlike the rest of the population, artists are deprived of “fundamental labor rights”, they note, which makes their situation precarious, and even more so since the pandemic.

“It is not normal that in 2021, the legislative provisions regarding psychological and sexual harassment in the workplace do not immediately apply to artists, and that our organizations are reduced to negotiating at the part of the legal measures which nevertheless benefit all employees in Quebec, ”gave the president of the Union des artistes, Sophie Prégent, as an example.

It is also not normal that in the music sector, producers can stretch the application of collective agreements over 20 years old, pleaded for his part Luc Fortin, president of the Guild of musicians. of Quebec (GMMQ). “These holes in the law are putting downward pressure on our working conditions. “

Suzanne Aubry of the UNEQ, for her part, denounced the fact that writers and playwrights are not subject to the first law on the status of the artist, which gives artists of the stage, record and cinema the right to negotiate collective agreements.

Flaws, there are others, while solutions do exist, plead the nine associations. They have already sent them to the government in the last year in the context of consultations. The ball is in the political camp, but the file seems to be treading water, according to the actors in the field.

Complex bill

Recall that the former prime minister Philippe Couillard had already promised to revise the two laws on the status of the artist during the unveiling of Quebec’s new cultural policy in June 2018. The Quebec Future Coalition then made it an election promise. A commitment, however, remained in the plan for the following months.

It was not until December 2019 that Liza Frulla and Louise Beaudoin have been appointed co-chairs consultations that were to begin in the winter and spring of 2020, with a view to tabling a report the following summer. But the pandemic has put the process on hold. The consultations were only re-launched in fall 2020 and winter 2021, without their co-chairs, who were no longer available at the time.

Last May, the Minister of Culture, Nathalie Roy, raised the concern of the community by affirming that she did not want to set a deadline in this file. The department was at the stage of analyzing the fifty or so briefs submitted. The next day, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion supporting creators and asking the Minister of Culture, Nathalie Roy, to respect her commitment to reform the legislation during her mandate.

Following the exit of the nine associations on Thursday, the three opposition parties reiterated their support, also urging Minister Roy to table her bill this fall.

The minister for her part assured that she wanted to keep her promise by the end of her mandate, once again being careful not to mention a more precise timetable. “This is a complex bill and we want to take the time to do things well,” said his press officer, Louis-Julien Dufresne.

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