President’s Message – May 2019

New NED, New Helpline, Next Government

As your National President, I am pleased to welcome Marie Kelly as our new National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator. Marie brings to us years of leadership expertise in the labour movement and a strong vision for our future as unionized professional performers. Marie is a labour lawyer who possesses strategic foresight in the areas of bargaining, promoting gender equity and fighting for workers’ rights. She comes to ACTRA after six years at the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) where she represented more than 65,000 nurses and most recently held the role of CEO/CAO. Prior to ONA, Marie worked for the United Steelworkers where, over the course of 22 years, she became the first woman in North America to be appointed Assistant Director.

Marie replaces Stephen Waddell who, for almost 40 years, helped lead our union in the creation of some of the most ground-breaking collective agreements in the world. We thank Stephen for his devotion to ACTRA. He will stay with us to share his knowledge in the role of Executive Advisor for the next 17 months.

I hope you each have an opportunity to meet Marie over the next few months as she travels to attend branch AGMs and award celebrations. I thank the members who stepped up to be a part of the Succession Planning Committee: National Vice President Keith Martin Gordey, National Treasurer Theresa Tova, National Past President Ferne Downey, National Councillor Jan Skene and National Councillor Francine Deschepper. It was a pleasure to lead such a knowledgeable and responsible team. We should all thank them and our staff advisors, Anna Bucci and Stephen Waddell, for their strong insights and wise council. With Maire’s guidance, our member-led union will continue to set the industry standard for performer rights and respect anywhere in the world.

‍New leadership opportunities for our country are also on the horizon. We’ve been to Ottawa many times over the last three years asking the Trudeau government to consider real changes to the Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Copyright Acts along with new directives for the CRTC. While the Liberal government did hold consultations, Canadians are now being told any possible changes stemming from these consultations will not be initiated until after the upcoming election. It’s disappointing… but, it’s also motivating. Make sure you seek out your local candidates from every party; ask them where they stand on a strong Canadian film and TV industry, on a well-funded CBC/Radio-Canada, and on a level playing field for Canadian domestic and over-the-top content providers. Our Public Policy and Communications Director Lisa Blanchette’s article on how to lobby is a good starting place!

Our cultural businesses are complex. Governments can make or break our industry. We flourish when supported and can be devastated in an instant. Let’s flashback to 2015 when the Nova Scotia Liberal Government blindsided the industry by cutting the film tax credit, which undid the province’s production industry in just 20 minutes… a high-functioning industry that had taken 20 years to build. ACTRA member Jonathan Torrens noted in his “Demolished Film Communities” ACTRA Magazine article, “In the blink of an eye, in one ill-conceived budget, we were rendered non-competitive by a group of people I’m still not convinced could explain how the system even worked.”

Let’s use this pre-election window as our opportunity to both educate and interview candidates. ACTRA is not affiliated with any one party so when you meet with a Liberal, NDP, Conservative or Green party candidate, I encourage you to ask them if they agree that a strong Canada depends on a strong cultural sector. Ask them if they realize our Canadian entertainment industry is an economic driver with huge potential. Let’s face it, if they haven’t included these answers in their campaign platforms, maybe they’re not ready to lead our country.

In June, we’ll be rolling out our new national joint ACTRA-DGC helpline. We’ll be offering 24/7 critical incident reporting as well as confidential counselling services for our members. I encourage you to read Theresa Tova’s story, “Creating a cultural shift one step at a time.”

I am also excited to report we recently launched! Our new website was created specifically for advertisers and advertising agencies to work ACTRA with ease. This will support the popular ACTRAonline Opportunity Pilot Project (AOPP), negotiated in the last National Commercial Agreement (NCA), which was created to entice the digital commercial jurisdiction to “go union”. Non-union commercials – or any non-union work in our jurisdiction – is simply not acceptable. We have stood by SAG-AFTRA during its strike against advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Inc. for this very reason.

‍We’ve saved trees this year starting with the launch of our first digital-only edition of ACTRA Magazine (if you haven’t already, check out our Winter 2019 issue). And… we’ve decided to move from two to three digital issues per year! Watch for member e-blasts, visit and follow ACTRA on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube! I encourage you to get involved and stay informed about what’s happening across your favourite union.
In solidarity,

David Sparrow

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President’s Message – January 2019

ACTRA Members are the Champions, My Friends!

Two thousand and eighteen was a year of true celebration marking 75 years of impressive ACTRA advocacy on behalf of performers and the arts in Canada. It was also a year of important negotiations that led to better compensation and respect for all. And, it was a chance to meet and hear from talented ACTRAvists from every branch, who are excelling at their craft, projecting our Canadian talent to the world and working hard for their fellow members across this great land.

First, to every elected member of the branch councils and National Council and to every passionate performer who gives of their time to sit on a committee or advocate for a cause or volunteer at an event, I thank you on behalf of our 25,000 members. You make a difference and are helping us build a stronger union and industry for future generations.

Last year saw far too many champions to name here… but let’s give it a try.

Shelley Thompson was selected as the recipient of the Woman in the Director’s Chair Feature Film Award, which will support the creation of her first feature to be shot in Nova Scotia this summer. This win underlines her exceptional work starring in numerous films and TV roles, including eleven seasons on The Trailer Park Boys. And if she wasn’t busy enough, Shelley formerly served on the ACTRA Maritimes Council and is past Chair of the Women’s Committee.

Don Jordan opened doors for a generation of diverse performers in Canada and received the 2018 ACTRA Montreal Award of Excellence. An accomplished actor, singer, dancer and choreographer, Don served as President of ACTRA Montreal from 2007 to 2016.

Industry mentor Jennifer Clement received UBCP/ACTRA’s Lorena Gale Woman of Distinction Award. As Head of the Acting Department at the Vancouver Film School, Jennifer’s passion is to train, nurture and empower the next generation of performers. She spoke passionately at the UBCP/ACTRA Awards Gala about the advancement of women in our industry.

Two thousand and eighteen saw ACTRA Toronto Councillor Tantoo Cardinal win both the Toronto Film Critics Association Award and the Whistler Film Festival Award. This internationally recognized star continues to advocate for indigenous performers and for all diverse members and speaks to advance the true history of Canada through cinema.

At 19, Mustafa Alabssi is one of ACTRA Saskatchewan’s newest members. He has an incredible story to tell. As a deaf performer and a Syrian refugee, he has faced his share of challenges, however, just three months after his first stage play, he was cast in the Netflix series Black Summer. The “genuineness” of his performance won him the role. I’m sure we’ll see much more from Mustafa.

Heartland won the 2018 Alberta “Rosie” for Best Dramatic Series and… returning in 2019 for season 12, is the longest-running one-hour drama in Canadian television history. Congrats to Amber Marshall, Graham Wardle, Michelle Morgan, Shaun Johnston, Alisha Newton, Nathaniel Arcand and to all of the exceptional ACTRA Alberta members who make this series so compelling.

Out on the rock, Robert Joy was honoured with the 2018 ACTRA Newfoundland & Labrador Award of Excellence. A true gentleman, Robert is known for his mentorship of local performers as he often returns home to support the film work of emerging artists. Television audiences may best recognize him for his role-playing Sid Hammerback on CSI: NY for eight seasons or from the hit series Codco or from a little movie he did with Madonna called Desperately Seeking Susan.

Rita Shelton Deverell was our 2018 ACTRA National Woman of the Year. She has done so much throughout her career to promote diversity in every corner of the media.

In the coming year Jayne Eastwood’s five-decade long career will be celebrated as she receives the ACTRA Toronto Award of Excellence. A much-welcomed lobbyist on Parliament Hill, Jayne speaks strongly on ACTRA’s behalf and is known industry-wide for roles in Goin’ Down the Road, SCTV, The King of Kensington and so many more.

Montreal’s Jay Baruchel is the 2019 ACTRA National Award of Excellence winner this year. Starting as a child performer, he is now a celebrated writer and director with a passion for Canadian storytelling.

Last fall you voted and made a difference. The team of Blair Young (Alberta), Tristan D. Lalla (Montreal), Shawn Doyle (Toronto), Theresa Tova (Toronto) and Richard Young (Toronto), along with our Alternates, Eleanor Noble (Montreal), Catherine Disher (Toronto) and David Gale (Toronto), negotiated a new Independent Production Agreement (IPA) with the help of Observers Paul Dzenkiw (UBCP/ACTRA), National Vice President Keith Martin Gordey, Toronto Background Advocate Shereen Airth, stunt performers Angelica Lisk-Hann and Steve Shackleton, and voice actor Linda Ballantyne. It was a pleasure to work with this thoughtful group and I thank each of them for their wise counsel and for the many late nights. Thanks also to those members who shared ideas at focus groups across the country.

The advances we made during this round of negotiations will serve our members well into the future. As chair of the negotiating committee and on behalf of our 25,000 members, I extend our deepest gratitude to our 2018 ACTRA IPA negotiating committee and to our dedicated and knowledgeable staff for a tough job done well.

In this first digital issue of ACTRA Magazine, you’ll read about many more members who are doing selfless work on behalf of us all. Please check out our applause section and then, I bet you know of many others who are champions for our industry. So we encourage you to share your stories and accolades about your peers, our exceptional members – be sure to tag us @ACTRAnat and include the hashtag #actra.

Two thousand and nineteen promises to be an exciting and challenging year. With new studios in the planning stages in many jurisdictions, we must keep our chops up and be ready for when work opportunities come a-knockin.’ With a federal election also in the offing, we must all be active, vocal and diligent. The future of our member-built union and our industry relies on the efforts of ACTRA members just like you.

Have a fantastic year!

In solidarity,

David Sparrow

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President’s Message – October 2018

Friday, October 5, 2018

Update on progress in creating respectful workplaces

Over the past year, ACTRA has been and remains dedicated to preventing and reducing harassment, discrimination, bullying and violence within our union and the broader Canadian creative industry. While progress has been made over the last 12 months, there is still more work to be done.

The first step was to convene a group of creative industry stakeholders to collaborate on an industry-wide response to sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying and violence. After this meeting in November 2017, the group released a joint statement committing to zero tolerance for harassment in all its forms and established working groups to develop an industry Code of Conduct, explore safer reporting measures, and review opportunities for industry-wide education and training.

A series of industry stakeholder meetings continued over the winter months and, on March 8, 2018, the Canadian Creative Industries released their Code of Conduct (, which lists useful steps to better identify, address and prevent harassment.

Since becoming signatory in March, our union has remained dedicated to executing these steps to better serve our members. These include identifying and implementing policies and procedures for members to report experiences of harassment as well as creating a process to quickly address reports.

In spring 2018, ACTRA contracted a Respectful Workplaces Advisor who, along with ACTRA’s legal counsel, have guided us through a review of our union’s policies and procedures. They have advised us on making the necessary changes to ensure our union has appropriate guidelines and measures in place to assist and protect members who have experienced harassment or assault.

In June 2018, ACTRA’s National Council unanimously passed amendments to our Constitution and By-Laws to better protect our membership. Specifically, By-Law #17 was amended to set clearer guidelines to ensure respect on set as well as consequences for members who engage in harassing behaviour.

Additional changes to this By-Law include:

  • Clearly laying out members’ responsibilities to uphold workplace, industry and union environments free from harassment and discrimination;
  • Creating a separate and expedited process for complaints of harassment and discrimination;
  • Giving the union the ability to initiate or pursue a complaint even if there has been no formal complaint; and
  • Creating a separate and expedited process for complaints of harassment and discrimination including proportional consequences and reporting of discipline decisions.

Our branches have also undertaken various initiatives within their own memberships to create respectful workplaces, including holding safe space membership meetings, town halls, and education and training sessions as well as providing access to other resources. If you are interested in learning more about other initiatives available to members, please contact your branch.

Your union remains committed to continuing a dialogue and working with our industry partners on this shared responsibility to address these issues. We will provide further updates on any future ACTRA initiatives as they become available.

In solidarity,

David Sparrow

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President’s Message – July 2018

Today’s ACTRAvists are tomorrow’s pioneers
Setting the stage for future generations of professional performers over the next 75 years.

Dear ACTRA members,

As we stand on the shoulders of the dedicated member volunteers who laid the foundation for our successful and respect-ed union, today members from across the country are working hard on our behalf.

In recent months, I’ve had the pleasure of attending many branch AGMs and 75th-anniversary celebrations. I’m thrilled to report our members across Canada are sharing their ideas and experience as they work to make ACTRA stronger.

From our dynamic bargaining teams, to our dedicated policy leaders, to our many national and branch committees—our 75 years of achievements for this union have been extraordinary. ACTRA is the go-to voice on the arts in Canada; the FIRST artists’ union to establish minimum fees and Use rights for digital media and the FIRST to land a national contract for videogame production. ACTRA members are setting the standards for performers’ unions all around the world.

Since the dawn of the Internet and the digital age, we’ve made it clear that professional performers will not work for free and, in 2007, we called the first strike in our union’s history for that very reason. In every negotiation, we demand fair compensation and credit for our work, safe work environments and the respect we deserve for the important value our work adds to production.

Our commitment to support each other is essential for our collective safety. We’ve negotiated rules into our agreements to ensure a safe environment for children working on ACTRA sets and we’ve lobbied to extend those provisions into provincial laws to protect all children working in the entertainment sector. Our National Bar-gaining Committee is currently negotiating the CBC Agreement and next up will be one of our largest collective agreements, the Independent Production Agreement (IPA). Please watch for IPA bargaining updates in the coming months as we’ll need your support.

This past June, our National Council met to give thoughtful oversight to our finances, work opportunities, governance, changing technologies, Canadian production, political policies and more. We’ve updated our ACTRA Equality Statement and released our new industry-wide Code of Conduct addressing harassment. And, as members of the International Federation of Actors (FIA), we are committed to global solidarity and the support of diversity, inclusion, gender parity, accessibility and zero tolerance for harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and violence in all workspaces.

As part of the Canadian Unions for Equality on Screen (CUES), our National Women’s Committee has produced ground-breaking gender reports and our award-winning Reel Women Seen advocacy video will be released online this fall. Our National Diversity Committee has launched over 10 advocacy videos that have been screened across the country, including the (perhaps first-ever) guide for auditioning deaf performers, “Tips Guide for Auditioning Deaf Actors.” You can find all on

Our National Stunt Committee represents our world-class community of professional stunt performers and stunt coordinators. UBCP/ACTRA’s stunt committee recently hosted a Concussion Support Group meeting. Our branch committees and members are working together to keep every perform-er and set both safe and respectful.

Our National Diversity Committee meets regularly to share initiatives from all of our branches, including the efforts of Toronto’s Sandi Ross #ShareTheScreen Awards, which goes to a producer and to a writer who champion inclusion in their work.

We are a member-run union, addressing member concerns. It’s important we take charge of our careers by ensuring we members are helping inform staff and motivate policy. This is where committee work comes in: Voice, Background, LGBTQ, Apprentice, videogaming and more. Your voice matters.

Our Young Emerging Actors Assemblies in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are busy creating their own film work, mentorship opportunities, festival partnerships and much more. The Act Your Age Committee in Toronto and PAL Canada’s Supporting Cast are also both launching initiatives devoted to supporting the careers of our seasoned performers.

Many of our volunteer members need to be thanked for sharing their time and energy—for engaging in union activism. I encourage everyone to find out who is step-ping up to work at your branch and then to let them know you appreciate their efforts.

I’ve been a member since 1992 and have learned ACTRA is about all the 25,000 of us, from coast-to-coast-to-coast, standing together. I am inspired by the ongoing committee work at the branch and national levels. If you’d like to do more to support your union, check out what’s happening at your branch. I encourage you to get involved, and share your experiences and ideas.

We’re a member-built union and our future depends on the continued efforts of ACTRA members just like you.

In solidarity,

David Sparrow

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President’s Message – January 2018

Celebrating our Past, Charting our Future

Dear ACTRA members,

Seventy-five years ago, an intrepid group of voice performers stormed out of the CBC demanding better wages and a little respect for the work they were doing entertaining Canadians. That strike was short-lived and successful! Few recognized it as the spark that would create a vibrant national union . . . ACTRA. In short order, groups in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg realized there was strength in numbers. In 1943, they decided to form a national coalition.

Now, as we celebrate 75 years of union activism in the arts, we stand on the shoulders of those early members and all the others who have since volunteered to make things better and more secure for performers working in the audiovisual sector. Those first inspired activists probably never imagined what their walkout would become. In 2016, the film & TV sector in Canada grew to over $7 billion in production spending and created over 140 thousand Full-time Equivalent (FTE) jobs. ACTRA has and continues to play a large role in building our important domestic industry. Performers have always been and remain the face of Canadian culture. Through the diversity of our performances, we have helped to define what it is to be Canadian. We project Canada to the world, supporting all kinds of Canadian business pursuits, including tourism, immigration and more. Our industry is an important driver of the Canadian economy.

ACTRA is also the go-to voice on the arts in Canada and we punch above our weight on the international stage too, taking a leading role in discussions surrounding the best of contract provisions and on intellectual property rights for audiovisual artists. Our union was the first to negotiate terms for Internet Use. We were the first to land a national contract for videogame production . . . the only such contract to include terms for residual Use. Our last Independent Production Agreement (IPA) landed Use provisions that now see work broadcast in Digital Media treated the same as work done for conventional broadcast. Similarly, our latest National Commercial Agreement (NCA) sees members better compensated with full session fees and increased Use fees for digital commercials. We do this important work because change is happening . . . constantly.

With each change, we’re told by our producer/engager partners, “This may not catch on. We’re not sure how to monetize this. Be flexible.” Fortunately, successive groups of member volunteers and staff have figured out the necessary steps and always worked to put performers first. Their efforts include work done on everything from contracts, to work opportunities, health & safety, respect on set, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, political lobbying, industry relations, pension & retirement (AFBS), CASCU—the bank for performers—and so many more import-ant initiatives.

So, YES! As self-employed workers in the arts, we stand on the shoulders of those leader members who stepped up and laid the foundation for all the benefits we enjoy today. To them I say, “Thank you and well done.”

However, lest you think the work of our generation is done . . . with 2018 bringing reviews of the Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Copyright Acts, along with a fresh mandate letter for the new CRTC Chair and the renegotiation of NAFTA under the still looming spectre of the TPP, now is the time for Canadians and ACTRA members, concerned about their cultural future, to pay close attention and demand that we set our own cultural agenda. We have a government that is willing to talk and appears to be listening; but will it follow through? Its recent deal with Netflix would suggest the devil is in the details and we still have work to do.

It’s 2018. We know what the Internet is now. Smart people have learned to monetize content delivered through the Internet pipeline. Just as we regulated signals through the air, cable and satellite, the time has come to regulate the Internet and to collect on the real value our Canadian marketplace offers. So, YES. Over-the-top streaming services should pay to support the creation of Canadian content and should follow the same rules to which we hold our domestic broadcasters. Last year over $730 million dollars in subscription fees left Canada bound for Netflix. Netflix paid no GST, no corporate tax, and contributed nothing into the Canada Media Fund to support the creation of Canadian content.

Wait, didn’t Netflix recently agree to invest $500M over five years in Canadian production? Yes, but not specifically in Canadian content production. And this deal—a deal written by Netflix—is less than the foreign service work it already has in development to be shot in Canada. Don’t get me wrong, we welcome and celebrate content production of every kind, but we celebrate Canadian content produced by Canadians just a little bit more.

This is why it’s even more important to get our definition of cultural sovereignty right. Now! NAFTA currently works to protect culture through a broad cultural exemption that allows each country to create rules to support its own cultural voice. While the government has said it supports the current provision, it also supports certain provisions in the TPP, including stronger language supporting the rights of corporations over actual countries. This is unhelpful. Free trade deals must not ignore our sovereignty, our history, our legacy, and our cultural responsibility to future generations. Our cultural agenda must be set by Canadians and must serve all Canadians.

I would be remiss if I did not touch on the important topic of harassment and assault in our industry. At the time of this writing, we are meeting with members across the country, individuals who have bravely stepped forward with disturbing reports of discrimination, harassment and assault. Your union is listening, learning, working with stakeholders and seeking advice from professionals to create stronger processes and policies for the industry and for ACTRA so we can better support survivors of such abuse. On November 23, 2017, ACTRA hosted an industry roundtable convened by CUES, and attended by the leadership and advisors of many groups, including the CMPA (producers), the CBC, TIFF, Equity, DGC, WGC, NABET, IATSE, TAMAC, the Casting Directors Society of Canada, Women in View and many other organizations representing workers and management in the entertainment industry. This first of what will be many meetings allowed a place for gaps to be identifies, ideas to be shared and progress to be reported on. Our initial shared goals are for the industry to stand together against harassment, bullying, abuse and assault of every kind; to develop a speedier, more inclusive process to support survivors; and to continue to move this file forward by ensuring it has industry-wide support and effective teeth to change behaviours, and eliminate the fear and confusion that helped predatory behaviour persist for so long. The work we do must be effective now and into the future. Thanks to all who bravely stepped up to share their experiences.

For half the time there has been a Canada, there has been an ACTRA. To mark our 75-year anniversary, we’re kicking off celebrations with this special edition of ACTRA Magazine, the first of two anniversary issues in 2018, to commemorate the past and the future of our union. Many will remember our 60th anniversary InterACTRA magazine edition—you can read it online at (along with other archived issues of ACTRA Magazine and InterACTRA). Please take the time to learn more about your union’s history. Thanks to every ACTRAvist who has supported the work of our union and our industry. We achieve great things when we work together. Now, on to the special 75th anniversary issue. I hope you enjoy the stories told by your fellow members from coast to coast.

In solidarity,

David Sparrow

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President’s Message – November 2017

Update on the industry-wide effort to combat sexual harassment and assault in the media industry

Dear Members,

Disturbing allegations about producer Harvey Weinstein and many others in the media sector have been dominating the news cycle and social media platforms over the past two months. They have highlighted the need for real change in our industry – and our society as a whole.

Your union has been meeting with members across the country, listening to and learning from their experiences, reviewing our practices and identifying options for change. We recognize sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, and violence have been a reality in our industry. This must change. It is incumbent on all of us to combat it, to create a safe space for victims to speak out without fear of retaliation or harassment and to ensure there are real consequences for perpetrators.

We are committed to ensuring our workplace is safe and respectful for our members and industry partners, and we know there’s much more to do. As part of that effort, we convened a meeting of seventeen stakeholder organizations from across the creative industries to discuss positive steps that will affect real and lasting change.

It became clear that every organization has been confronting similar challenges, meeting with members and working to find solutions. Our industry is galvanized and ready to do what it takes to ensure zero tolerance for sexual harassment, assault and abuse.

Following the November 23 round table, we, as an industry, released a joint statement (which can be read in full here) announcing the first steps we are committed to executing. They include:

Enacting an industry-wide code of conduct, clearly defining expectations of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, enforcement and consequences.
Creating more effective reporting mechanisms and supports, which ensure all individuals can report allegations without fear of judgement or retribution.

Ensuring more effective enforcement of existing industry policies.
Launching a multi-level education and training program, including an industry-wide awareness campaign designed to establish and strengthen a culture of safe workplaces.

We realize there is still much work to do, and we’re committed to doing it. We are already working on these goals, but getting the process right and ensuring it is effective is just as important as doing it quickly. This is just the first of many updates to come to you about our joint steps as an industry to end sexual harassment, assault and abuse in our workplace.

In solidarity,

David Sparrow

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President’s Message – September 2017

September 29, 2017

Unpacking the Heritage Minister’s speech: A Vision for Canada’s Creative Industries

Hello ACTRA members,

On Thursday, September 28th, I had the opportunity to represent ACTRA members in Ottawa as the Liberal government laid out its policy framework for Canada’s Creative industries in a speech delivered to the Economic Club of Canada by the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage.

There is much to be thankful for:

  • The decision to support the Canada Media Fund (CMF) is a step forward in addressing the fund’s declining revenues, and will help ensure the continued creation and diversity of Canadian content programming.
  • The decision to support emerging writers through the CMF is an important move that will help develop strong Canadian voices and productions.
  • Creating an export fund to explore distribution options to help increase the availability and discoverability of Canadian productions in our own country and around the world is long overdue and will be helpful to our industry.

We have a government that is listening to the creative sector and recognizes the value arts & culture bring to the Canadian economy and to the Canadian soul. (Film & TV alone accounts for over $7B of production and creates over 140K full-time equivalent jobs each year.)

Committing to continued dialogue with artists and the industry is especially important as 2018 will bring reviews of the Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Copyright Acts along with a fresh mandate for the new CRTC chair and the renegotiation of NAFTA. These are all files on which our industry will either wane or flourish.

Well done! However, the devil will always be found in the details.

While this new framework seems generally positive, it still leaves a number of unanswered questions. Will there be a cap on investment in the CMF? Will this investment rise with inflation? Will the CBC’s new mandate ensure it continues to invest in new creative production? Are regulations for our independent producers and Canadian broadcasters to be applied to Over-the-top broadcasters like Netflix? On that last question, it seems the answer is “no.”

Negotiating investment into CanCon production from large foreign players is always welcome. A $500M investment in CanCon from Netflix over five years is an impressive number and may see some positive results. (Our Foreign Service partners bring many billions of dollars in production to our Canadian industry every year. We celebrate it, and when this production meets our CanCon requirements we celebrate its success even more.)

However, in this announcement, Netflix – a multi-billion-dollar, foreign multi-national company – is being allowed to write/negotiate its own rules. Unlike traditional broadcasters, Netflix and other Internet broadcasters will continue to be completely unregulated. They will not be making contributions to the Canada Media Fund. This also raises another concerning question: Will Netflix be required to invest in uniquely Canadian programming or hire Canadians in key creative roles? It seems this Netflix deal only confirms that while we must abide by the rules and regulations for our own industry, the biggest players get to make up their own.

Netflix is not stupid. It will produce here because it is profitable, and because it can rely on our exceptional professionals in front of, behind and after the camera. However, if the math changes, Netflix may stop investing in production while continuing to sell subscriptions in Canada.

As Canadians, we have always charged a levy for access to our Canadian homes, audiences and marketplace. We did this for content delivered over-the-air, on cable, via satellite and then… the CRTC of the 1990s didn’t understand the Internet… so, no regulation. But we know the Internet is simply just another pipeline. The content is what people tune-in to watch. Content costs money to make, and Canadian content projects Canada to the world and supports every other type of business we do. Last year, over $730M left Canada in the form of Netflix subscription fees. The company paid no HST, no corporate tax and nothing into the CMF. Is this fair?

The time has come for a level playing field that regulates all those profiting from access to Canadians, including OTTs, to invest in the creation of our excellent Canadian content.

The 2018 reviews of the Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Copyright Acts, and the new CRTC mandate and the renegotiation of NAFTA will each challenge our industry’s ability to remain relevant and competitive in a global marketplace. We must remain vigilant and ensure Canada, as a sovereign nation, sets its own cultural agenda.

We are exceptionally talented! We have built a remarkable industry. ACTRA is a big part of this success. Great Canadian shows like Murdoch, Private Eyes, Mohawk Girls, Rookie Blue, Orphan Black, Little Mosque, Motive, Heartland, 19-2, Republic of Doyle, Corner Gas and so many others are seen in hundreds of countries and territories around the world. Some are even seen in primetime on American carriers. We make great, world-class content! Let’s make sure this trend continues and grows.

We welcome these positive steps laid out by our government, however, we will have to watch these files closely and pay attention to the details. Thanks for your ACTRAvism!

In solidarity,

David Sparrow

Click here to read the minister’s speech and the government’s Creative Canada policy framework.

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President’s Message – July 2017

July 13, 2017

Hello ACTRA members,

I wanted to provide you with a quick update on negotiations for the National Commercial Agreement.

As you’ve likely heard, the Engagers – representing commercial agencies and advertisers – walked away from the table on June 28. Tomorrow, we’re heading back into further talks. This time with the help of a professional mediator.

Your bargaining team believes we can find a deal, but we need the Engagers to meet us halfway and show ACTRA members – ACTRA members who make their industry work – the respect that we deserve.

We’re looking for some basic things:

  • proper compensation for all ACTRA performers – especially in Digital Media, which is becoming a greater and greater part of the commercial industry;
  • simplifying and modernizing the agreement to capture the work that is not currently going to ACTRA performers; and
  • improving Health and Safety.

What we don’t want to see, and can’t accept, are proposals that take us backward:

  • reducing session fees for certain performers;
  • eliminating residuals for other performers; and
  • making it easier to replace ACTRA performers with non-union performers or “real” people.

Our incredible bargaining team has been working long and hard and is ready to reach a deal.

We hope that, with the help of a mediator this week, we’ll get one.

Thanks to all ACTRA members for standing strong and staying united and offering their support.

Watch your email for more details.

Together we are stronger.

Thanks for your support.

In solidarity,

David Sparrow

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President’s Message – May 2017

May 18, 2017

Hello ACTRA members,

ACTRA National President David Sparrow

This past weekend, your leaders from across the country met at National Council to agree again on the strategic direction of our great union. They identified priorities and suggested strategies to support work opportunities for every member, to champion diversity on all our screens, to adapt to changing technologies, to address the growth of non-union work, to ensure our governments know artists and culture matter, and to build our own national solidarity. We also chose a new National President when Ferne Downey, after eight exceptional years, moved into the role of Past-President.

My name is David Sparrow and I look forward as your new National President to working along-side our Executive and National Councillors from across the land to lead our union of professional performers over the next two years. We have a lot of work to do, but I know when we stand together and face challenges head-on, we can make a difference. I have seen that when we have unity of purpose and focus on our primary goals, we can achieve great things. I am very optimistic that our union will continue to be a respected voice for performers and culture in Canada and around the world. If you have a constructive idea or concern, please do not hesitate to contact me directly by email ( I look forward to working with you to build a stronger ACTRA.

In solidarity,

David Sparrow

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