President’s Message – July 2020

ACTRA’s Commitment to Safety, Equality and Inclusion

Dear ACTRA Members,

It has been four months since the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic and our industry came to an abrupt halt. Since then, everyone in our union has gone digital as we moved to emergency videoconferences to manage our day-to-day business.

On July 6 and 7, our National Council met virtually for the first time in our union’s history. Your elected leaders from across Canada have embraced the challenges facing all of us and worked together on an ambitious plan to keep ACTRA moving forward during this historic time of social change. With new energy and focus, our member-led union discussed what role we will play in effectively challenging anti-Black racism.

Our National and Branch Diversity and Inclusion committees have shown tremendous leadership in standing up against systemic racism. The urgency for change requires a collective voice and real commitment to racial equality within our union and our industry.

In response, our National Council passed a motion to:

  • Endorse the creation of a plan that includes concrete, measurable actions designed to bring racial equality within ACTRA as we work towards building a more inclusive world; and
  • Invite the Canadian Creative Industries Coalition to reconvene and work together to end anti-BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) racism within the screen-based media production sector.

Our National Council meeting marked another milestone for our performers’ union, as we all very recently voted to change our governance model to improve representation from across all ACTRA Branches. Our governance structure needed to be updated to reflect the demographic changes our ACTRA Branches have seen over time to ensure representation from the entirety of our membership.

We welcomed four new Councillors to our table of now 28 National Councillors, and re-elected Keith Martin Gordey as our ACTRA National Vice-President and Theresa Tova as our ACTRA National Treasurer. Thank you, Keith, Theresa and all of our National and Branch Councillors, for your hard work on behalf of all of our members across Canada, especially during this challenging time.

As our industry reopens, we are also wondering what things will look like as we return to work. Thank you to our members who took part in our anonymous health and safety survey. The resulting Report outlines a number of important safety measures our members feel would reinforce their sense of safety in the workplace.

ACTRA Branches across the country are working closely with government, industry partners and local stakeholders to establish and implement return-to-work protocols and guidelines. I encourage you to visit the dedicated COVID-19 resources page on our website, which includes links to provincial and ACTRA Branch health and safety guidelines.

Depending on where you are working, please read your province’s and your ACTRA Branch’s health and safety guidelines.

Expect to be educated daily on the COVID-related protocols being followed on the set.

We all have to do our part, both on and off set.

Please continue to stay connected with your union. As we get back to work, our health and safety is critical. COVID-19 is a serious matter.

YOU have a responsibility to inform yourself.

I wish you all good health, love and positivity.

Stay safe and stay connected.

In solidarity,
David Sparrow

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President’s Message – June 2020

Returning to set in the time of COVID-19

June 30, 2020

Dear ACTRA Members,

ACTRA Branches have been meeting with union leaders, industry stakeholders and governments across the country to establish COVID-19 guidelines that will help to protect the health and safety of cast and crew as the industry reopens and work opportunities return. Although specific and slightly different guidelines are being released in each provincial jurisdiction, they all share similar priorities and two main goals: (1) keeping people healthy; and (2) keeping productions shooting. Film sets are complicated environments, with a large number of people working closely together and crossing paths throughout the day.

Each performer must assess their own risk tolerance when returning to the workplace and make their own decision regarding accepting work. Those with underlying medical conditions should consult with their physician about any increased risk. Performers are especially vulnerable as they move from Hair and Make-up, to Wardrobe, to Holding, to Set, to Lunch, to transport and back again, coming in contact with many individuals. They also have the added risk of performing on camera with others without the protection of masks or physical distancing.

  • Productions cannot discriminate against those with a higher risk from COVID-19 when hiring.
  • Productions cannot demand a performer waive any contractual or other rights when accepting work, including a right to compensation or health support should they contract COVID-19 in the workplace or inadvertently spread COVID-19.
  • Productions will be open to feedback from anyone on set as to how health and safety measures can be better supported, however, performers should recognize that different productions may achieve the same goals through different methods.

Most guidelines call for a dedicated COVID-19 staff person on each set who will ensure safety and cleaning protocols are being followed. Find out who the dedicated COVID-19 staff person is on every production on which you are working.

Performers should expect to be educated daily on the COVID-related protocols being followed on the set. These may include:

  • social distancing;
  • hand-washing;
  • pre-packaged craft service items;
  • boxed lunches; and more.

Crew members will be wearing masks and/or face shields and other personal protective equipment (PPE). This is to protect themselves and the performers. Our job as performers is to be professional and to understand and adhere to the set guidelines, keeping ourselves and others safe.

If you are feeling unsafe, your first contact should be with the dedicated COVID-19 staff person or your supervisor. Maybe you see an area that has not been sanitized, or a person who does not seem to be following protocols. Speak up in a respectful manner and help to support the health and safety of everyone.

If you feel unable to speak up, ACTRA members (excluding our UBCP/ACTRA members) can call HAVEN Helpline* (1-855-201-7823), ACTRA’S 24/7 bilingual critical incident reporting line. You will speak with a live person who can pass on your concern to an ACTRA staff member who will be in contact with you and the production as necessary. During business hours, you can also reach out to your local Branch Representative with your concern. Note: under provincial labour law, you have the right to refuse unsafe work.

In British Columbia, our members should always notify their supervisor first, otherwise, for immediate assistance, they should call the Studio Safety Hotline. Members can always reach out to the Union Representative for the production or, outside business hours, they can E-mail (it is monitored and you will get an auto-reply that provides 24-hour contact information in case of unsafe working conditions (Studios and WorksafeBC).

ACTRA members should bring their own personal COVID-19 kit to set, including:

  • a mask;
  • a reusable water bottle;
  • hand sanitizer;
  • a few sterile wipes;
  • their own cutlery;
  • a pen; and
  • a few snacks (e.g. granola bars or fruit).

Although most of these items will likely be available on set, having your own may help you to feel safer in a sometimes chaotic environment.

Producers want these guidelines to work. They want to demonstrate to the world that Canada is ready and able to return safely to work. They want everyone on set to be respectful, safe and healthy. Their business depends on it, as does ours.

Please be safe as you return to the workplace. The challenges of COVID-19 are not over, but if we’re careful, we may be able to work at the craft we love while science works to get us all past this crisis.

In solidarity,
David Sparrow

*HAVEN Helpline, the Harassment and Violence Emergency Network, is also the place to report incidents of sexual harassment, harassment, violence and bullying in the workplace. Call 1-855-201-7823 for immediate 24/7 counselling. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

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President’s Message – March 2020

March 2020

Dear ACTRA members,

In this challenging and unprecedented time, it is important that our ACTRA family takes care of each other. ACTRA members are some of the most thoughtful, compassionate and creative people I know. We will get through this. So please take care of yourselves and your families and stay healthy.

As you know, most productions and events have been impacted by COVID-19. The situation is changing every day… every hour. I want you to know that the elected leaders of our national and local councils are working hard on behalf every member. We have been talking to Government leaders daily, requesting their support and advocacy for our self-employed members.

Our staff have been working tirelessly to ensure the operations of our union stay supported. They have transitioned to working from home, but are still seeing that payments owed to our performers are being distributed, even as they take care of their own families. They are answering member concerns as quickly as possible and providing us all with information as up to date as possible.

As professional performers, we want to know what our future holds. So, let’s ask… I encourage you to call and email your Member of Parliament to inquire about the timing for Emergency Care and Emergency Support Benefits for people working in the entertainment industry. Let them know how important these payments will be to precarious artists in the gig economy. Let them know that we require those payments soon, to pay for rent and food and medications.

Together, we will get through this tough time. Keep visiting and view the new webpage dedicated to the COVID-19 crisis. It will be updated regularly. I also encourage you to monitor the guidelines and protocols put forth by Canada’s public health officials. Collectively, we must take the steps necessary to protect each other and to put a stop to the outbreak.

Keep following (and tagging @actranat!) on our ACTRA social media platforms. We appreciate your updates, encouragement and support.

Do all you can to take care of yourself and those around you.

In solidarity,

David Sparrow

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President’s Message – January 2020

Keep Canada on our Screens
Our call to action for 2020

Your union has spent years lobbying governments to get more Canada on our screens. Our efforts, and those of our industry partners, have been successful, resulting in nationally and internationally acclaimed CanCon shows like Trailer Park Boys, 19-2, Schitt’s Creek, Frankie Drake Mysteries, Workin’ Moms, Letterkenny, Wynonna Earp, Some Assembly Required, Murdoch Mysteries, Heartland, Orphan Black and so many more. And, although foreign, the amount of service work and co-pros across the country continues to grow each year as our dollar, stable tax incentives and talented cast and crew continue to attract productions from around the world.

So, why then, is this year’s call to action Keep Canada on our Screens? Because we not only need to build on the success of our industry but also address the shifting technologies and distribution methods that are changing how we negotiate our contracts and our industry’s funding and business models.

There is no ignoring the huge decrease cable providers are seeing in subscriptions as streaming services are experiencing exponential growth. (It seems there’s a new digital service provider launching every month.) We’ve been lucky to have strong and supportive regulations here in Canada. It’s thanks to these regulations that domestic broadcasters are required to make an investment in Canadian talent. And it’s because of this investment we have lead and large supporting roles for Canadian performers in film and television – roles that allow us to build a career and earn a living as an actor in Canada. If those opportunities are to be protected, these regulations need to be adapted to the digital age. This is why it’s so important for ACTRA, along with our domestic producers, to continue asking our government to hold streaming services to the same standards as Canadian broadcasters.

It’s time to ensure any company earning revenue from delivering content to Canadians, whether through broadcast television or your internet connection, to pay their fair share.

We all know this is not a new concept. Canada has always charged content providers for access to our marketplace. There is no reason foreign over-the-top (OTT) streaming services should not be required to collect HST, pay taxes and contribute to the creation of homegrown content through the Canada Media Fund the same way our domestic broadcasters do. Further, OTTs should also be regulated to make Canadian Content accessible on their service and discoverable on their site. If it is inevitable that streaming services are the future, then we must work doubly hard to ensure Canada has a voice in that future and that our stories can be found by Canadian and international audiences.

Okay. So, what has been the response from our government? We are grateful the previous Liberal majority government was quick to listen and set up public consultations during its mandate to explore changes to the Broadcasting Act, the Telecommunications Act and the Copyright Act, the underpinnings of our domestic industry. But, we were disappointed to hear the report from the Broadcasting and Telecommunications consultation would not be released until January of 2020… after the federal election. The good news is the Liberals were re-elected with a minority government so this means we have a good chance of seeing action on these files. And we hope cultural supporters in other parties will work alongside the Liberals and our industry to act quickly to implement the changes needed to strengthen the production sector.

In fact, the Prime Minister has already delivered a strong mandate to Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, instructing him to “introduce legislation by the end of 2020 that will take appropriate measures to ensure that all content providers, including internet giants, offer meaningful levels of Canadian content in their catalogues.” This will be an important first step. Minister Guilbeault even met with industry leaders in Toronto during his first week on the job. We look forward to seeing the report, mentioned above, released in the next few weeks. We hope it will help build our industry into the future.

So, what can you do to help secure a future for Canadian artists? Remind your Member of Parliament, regardless of their political party, how important culture is to Canada and to the voters in their riding. We can all be proud of the $9 billion industry we’ve built across Canada that employs 85,000 Canadians. This shows the arts matter.

In other matters, I want to thank every member who stepped up to run for a local ACTRA Branch Council last fall and to congratulate each of you who was elected. We’ll also be negotiating the National Commercial Agreement later this spring (make sure you read our NED Marie Kelly’s article, which touches on upcoming negotiations). There are so many important files to watch in 2020. In challenging fiscal times, it can be difficult to maintain our focus and to support our shared priorities, but I am pleased to say ACTRA members from coast to coast always work together to find a way.

I’m glad we’re all in this together.

Keep Canada on our Screens!

In solidarity,

David Sparrow

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President’s Message – September 2019

Let’s stand up for culture

The year 2007 was fraught with frustration as professional ACTRA performers haggled with producers for fair pay when our work was used online. Our frustration escalated and eventually led to the first strike in our union’s then over 60-year-history.

Twelve years later, digital is still disrupting our industry. While our own collective agreements have evolved to guarantee we’re paid fairly for Internet use, it is our federal politicians who have fallen behind in adapting to the digital economy.

Over-the-top players like Netflix and Amazon Prime continue to get a free ride in Canada, taking hundreds of millions of dollars out of our economy with no requirement to contribute in the form of HST, the creation of Cancon and making Canadian programming accessible. Two EU countries (France and Hungary) plus Turkey have already started taxing Internet companies’ revenues with Austria, Belgium, Italy, Spain and the U.K. looking to follow suit. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Taiwan, Russia and several U.S. states also impose sales taxes on digital players.

Last fall, the European Union approved a new Audiovisual Directive requiring video-on-demand services to devote at least 30 per cent of their catalogue to European content and to contribute to the development of European audiovisual productions, either through a direct investment in content or a contribution to national funds.

Two Canadian provinces are also ahead of the game with both Quebec and Saskatchewan introducing legislation earlier this year requiring provincial sales tax to be collected on digital players. Even Netflix has stated, on record, it would comply with any government legislation, but no one’s asked it to.

What we’ve seen at the federal level in Canada over the last four years are numerous studies, reviews and public consultations about key pieces of legislation affecting our industry, including the Broadcasting Act, Telecommunications Act and the Copyright Act. Problem is, although these public consultations have taken place, legislation has yet to be changed and will not be addressed until January of 2020.

With the federal election coming up on October 21, it’s critical we collectively shine a spotlight on issues affecting Canadian performers and the film, television and digital media industry. We must step up and make our voices heard because this election may very well be a pivotal point in our country’s cultural history.

It’s up to us, as artists, to each play a role in electing a government that supports arts and culture. Let’s vote for a government that will Keep Canada on our Screens. We need to show politicians we’re not just characters on screens.

We’re their neighbours and their constituents. It’s because of our professionalism and our work with governments and industry partners that we continue to attract productions from around the globe. Last year, Canada saw almost $9 billion in production and 179,000 full-time equivalent jobs in film and television, contributing $12.8 billion to our country’s GDP.

So, get involved. Talk to your local candidates – whether it’s at a debate or a town hall, when you run into them at a community event or when they come knocking on your door – take the opportunity to ask them a question about the film and television industry, such as:

  • Will they level the playing field so all players in the Canadian market – domestic and foreign, traditional and digital – are held to the same standards in terms of taxation, production contributions and discoverability of Canadian content?
  • Will they provide long-term, stable funding to the CBC/Radio-Canada, Canada Media Fund, National Film Board and Telefilm Canada?
  • Will they deliver a made-in-Canada copyright solution that respects audiovisual performers and ensures we are properly compensated for our work, including the extension of economic and moral rights to audiovisual artists?Have your say in this election! Vote for your industry; the industry that helps pay your bills. Vote for your career and for the betterment of Canada through culture. Don’t leave the choice of government up to others. Demand more from your government. Ask questions. And most importantly, VOTE on October 21.

    In solidarity,

David Sparrow

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President’s Message – Federal Election 2019

The federal election on October 21 may be a pivotal point in Canada’s cultural history. Now is the time to step up, make our voices heard and to collectively shine a spotlight on issues affecting Canadian performers and the film, television and digital media industry.

Together, with the DGC and IATSE, ACTRA has launched the Just Ask campaign (; with the goal of mobilizing our combined 50,000+ members across Canada to make sure this election counts. Every voice matters. Your voice matters. Pledge to attend one election-related event this fall and to ask your local candidates at least one question about our industry.

Get involved! Challenge your local candidates. Put them on the spot. Whether you go to a debate or a town hall, run into them at the farmers’ market or when they come knocking on your door, take the opportunity to ask them a question about their position on the film and television industry.

Such as:

  • Why is Canadian culture important to you?
  • If elected, what will you do to ensure the sustainability and growth of Canadian culture?
  • Where do you stand on investment in Canadian content production?
  • Has your party made culture-specific commitments part of their platform, specifically creating a level playing field so all content producers – domestic and foreign, traditional and digital – are held to the same high standards in terms of taxation and contributions to Canadian content production?

There’s a lot at stake for our cultural industries in this election. Over the last four years, numerous studies and reviews were launched about key legislation affecting our industry, including the Broadcasting Act, Telecommunications Act and the Copyright Act. Even the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) was sent back to the table to rework a decision it made about Canadian content spending. Problem is, although public consultations took place, legislation has yet to be changed.

If we, as Canadians, don’t elect a government that supports arts and culture, Canadian culture, Canadian voices, the CBC, the NFB and CanCon are all at stake, period. We need to ensure the next generation of Canadians can not only enjoy a robust Canadian culture but can continue to project it to the world. Let’s vote for a government that will Keep Canada on our Screens.

So, have your say in this election! Vote for your industry; the industry that helps pay your bills. Vote for your career and for the betterment of Canada through culture. Don’t leave the choice of government up to others. Demand more from your government. Ask questions. VOTE!

Just Ask and I’ll see you at the polls!

In solidarity,

David Sparrow

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President’s Message – August 2019

Labour Day Message

This year, ACTRA will be celebrating Labour Day from coast to coast. Why do we march and celebrate? Because actors are workers too. Arts workers have helped weave the fabric of our nation and project Canada to the world.

Participating in a Labour Day parade or event is not only fun but a great opportunity to network with your fellow ACTRA members and show you’re an important part of our strong cultural labour union. Events like this strengthen our industry and community and show the public that labour unions in Canada are enduring and still advocating on behalf of all workers.

Showing support for your union, industry and the broader labour movement helps send a powerful message to all levels of government that the rights of workers need to be protected. Our collective voices make us stronger, especially in an election year.

To me, participating in a Labour Day event means lending my voice, being an advocate, being an activist, being an ACTRAvist… getting out of my armchair to play one of the most important roles in my acting career. It’s about making sure politicians and the community know we’re more than characters on the TV. We’re their neighbours, their constituents, and we’re workers.

Canadians should be proud of the strong union presence we have in our country. Every job, union or not, has been made better by the work of unions. And with the federal election coming up on October 21, it’s a good time to remind everyone about the importance of having a government that puts the environment, social responsibility and the rights of workers above corporate profits.

Your professionalism and our work with governments and industry partners continue to attract production from around the globe. Last year we saw $9 billion in production and almost 179,000 FTE jobs in film and TV. There have never been more work opportunities for ACTRA members than right now. That’s worth celebrating!

Still, Canadian performers will face more bargaining challenges in the coming years. New, disruptive technologies are changing our industry, which makes it even more important our union stays relevant, adapts to change and remains a leader in bargaining. We will continue to unabashedly negotiate for better health and safety, respect on set and anti-harassment clauses, and fair compensation including future-proofing Use fees. Your performance has real monetary value. You should always share in it.

This Labour Day, take a minute to recognize the people – past and present – who have contributed to the creation and longevity of our business, our union and the labour movement in Canada, and the resulting rights and benefits now enjoyed by all Canadian workers and every ACTRA member. Have a wonderful and safe Labour Day!

In solidarity,

David Sparrow

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