ISSUE 15.3

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Canadian Theatre Here and Now: Part Two

written by Rebecca Burton

This is the second installment in a two-part series examining the present state of the Canadian theatre industry in relation to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). The overarching questions framing this inquiry are: What, if anything, has changed? In what ways has the sector improved (or not)? And why are some industry people talking about a tipping point—or as others have described it, “a breaking of the logjam?” In Part One, which appeared in 15.2, I examined the EDI activities of the Women’s Caucus of the Playwrights Guild of Canada (PGC), finding an array of targeted initiatives designed to affect change and redress industry imbalances. I interpret this development as representative of a significant sectoral shift towards institutional action in recent years. Here in Part Two, I move from the microcosm of the PGC case study to the macrocosm of the larger industry, assessing various aspects of the theatre sector to provide a more holistic picture of current EDI activity. Specifically, I look at developments pertaining to gender-based research, institutional policies, funding bodies, awards programs, and employment patterns. I begin with a historical overview of three national theatre studies, released in 1982, 2006, and 2015, assessing changes over time in relation to the purpose and reception of the reports. I then narrow in on current EDI developments, tracking actions from 2015 to the present.


In Part One of this series, I concluded that progress is being made but that we are inching rather than hurrying along. Yes, things have changed, but they’ve been doing so here and there over time for decades. Is the present moment any different, or have EDI efforts accelerated, as the current industry buzz suggests? Light can be shed on this by examining the changing purposes, findings, and receptions of the three national studies of gender in theatre conducted to date: Rina Fraticelli’s “The Status of Women in the Canadian Theatre” (1982); my own contribution, “Adding It Up: The Status of Women in Canadian Theatre” (2006); and Michelle MacArthur’s “Achieving Equity in Canadian Theatre: A Report with Best Practice Recommendations” (2015).

Fraticelli’s 1982 study was commissioned by the Status of Women Canada office as one of many reports prepared for a submission to the Federal Cultural Review Policy Committee (Lushington 10). Fraticelli wanted to articulate “the precise shapes of women’s exclusion from the theatre” (iii), as well as the detrimental effects of underrepresentation, to counter false assertions that women enjoyed “most of the same opportunities as their male counterparts” (Fraticelli iv). The actuality fell “far short of the rhetoric” (v). Assessing 1,156 professional productions staged between the years 1978 and 1981, she found that women accounted for 11 percent of the nation’s artistic directors (ADs), 13 percent of the theatres’ directors, and 10 percent of the produced playwrights (5). Fraticelli coined the term “The Invisibility Factor” to describe “the absence of women from significant roles in the work of producing a national culture” (v). Her report was criticized for “emotionally loaded” graphics, but otherwise, according to Kate Lushington, “the silence which greeted the release of the report was (and has remained) deafening” (9). Fraticelli’s study never made its way to the Review Committee (the reports were summarized, reported on, and “effectively suppressed” [10]), and no policy changes occurred. While it galvanized women in theatre with a call to action, the study was not embraced by the mainstream press or the nation’s theatre industry. And if not for the alternative feminist and arts presses of the day, evidence of the report’s existence would be scant indeed.

Fast-forward twenty years: in 2006, a long overdue follow-up study was funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, thanks to the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT), PGC and its Women’s Caucus, and Nightwood Theatre, who joined forces with artists and academics to create the ad hoc group Equity in Canadian Theatre: The Women’s Initiative. The purpose of the study mirrored that of its predecessor: to reconcile the “discrepancy between the first-hand, marginalized experiences of many women in the field, and the general society and industry rhetoric that claimed gender equality had been achieved” (Burton, Adding 4). The 2006 report expanded on Fraticelli’s by incorporating all job roles and rates of representation for racialized artists. It included 113 companies that staged 1,945 productions between the 2000/01 and 2004/05 seasons, for which women formed 33 percent of the theatres’ ADs, 34 percent of the directors, and 27 percent of the produced playwrights. People of colour fared similarly regardless of gender, sitting at 11 percent of the ADs (6 percent women and 5 percent men), 6 percent of the directors (less than 3 percent for each gender without rounding), and 9 percent of the playwrights (5 percent men and 4 percent women) (Burton, Adding ii). The Invisibility Factor had improved somewhat over time for white women, but the statistics for Indigenous people and people of colour indicated systemic discrimination.

Much like Fraticelli’s work, the 2006 study was not reported on in the Canadian press; but the internet provided a new tool for dissemination, and so the findings reached a wider audience (and continue to do so today) posted online. Interest in the results from theatre administrators improved, as did academic engagement. But ADs were generally unreceptive, as I learned first-hand at PACT’s 2006 AGM. I reference the report’s reception in an article from the time, stating, “The sector can generally be characterized as apathetic, demonstrating complacency with the status quo, and at worst, as openly hostile, justifying the current state of affairs, denying responsibility, and disputing the very existence of discrimination.” I concluded, “the Canadian theatre industry is resistant to engaging actively in discourse and/or actions focused on improving gender and racialized inequities” (Burton, “Adding” 8). Further evidence was provided after the fact by the Initiative’s inability to secure the necessary supports to continue its work, as the 2006 study was intended to be the first of a two-phase action.

Jumping ahead almost a decade, a new initiative formed: Equity in Theatre (EIT). It involved the sector’s stakeholders, who came together to improve EDI; a clear indicator of significant change. Previously, attempts to unite the industry’s major players failed, but this time, ten organizations partnered to form a Steering Committee.1 One of EIT’s projects was an updated gender-based analysis of the sector conducted by Michelle MacArthur. The 2015 study was supported by a wider funding base, with money from the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, suggesting greater institutional interest on the part of granting bodies. The underlying goals of the study remained the same, but there was a discernible shift in emphasis, with the underrepresentation of women treated as well-established fact. The study was not driven by a need to collect statistics and prove the existence of systemic discrimination; rather the raison d’etre was leveraging up-to-date research “as a catalyst for action” (MacArthur 17). As MacArthur states, the “ultimate goal is to support the move from awareness to action to rectify imbalances in the Canadian theatre industry” (6). The two previous reports likewise included this aim, identifying problems and offering solutions to effect change; but they dedicated less than one-tenth of their content to recommendations, whereas almost 40 percent of MacArthur’s study focuses on remedying existent inequities.

While these signs of change are encouraging, the 2015 findings for the representation of women in the professional theatre were worse than those in the 2006 study.2 Figures for the 2010/11 season, derived from 138 companies staging 597 productions, showed women accounting for 28 percent of the artistic directors, 32 percent of the directors, and 29 percent of the playwrights (19). While numbers are not available for Indigenous and racialized artists, it is likely that the related statistics did not improve over time. PGC’s Annual Production Surveys from 2012/13 through to 2016/17 likewise demonstrate stagnation and sometimes regression (see Tables 2 and 3); a catalyst for the formation of EIT. As MacArthur observed, the industry “has generally remained unchanged for the past 30 years,” wherein “various systemic and ideological barriers prevent women from achieving equity, the most significant being bias and discrimination” (6).

Gendered Theatre Employment Statistics over Time

Yet there are additional indications of positive change. The report’s reception was not dismissive or hostile, at least not publicly. Produced within the context of EIT, the study was backed by industry stakeholders, many administrators, and, perhaps most importantly, artistic directors. As before, open access was provided with online postings, and while the Canadian press showed no interest (despite repeated efforts by EIT), a few articles were published in Canada and the United States.

Overall, the climate and circumstances surrounding the EIT report signal change afoot: interest and cooperation from institutions, a wider funding base, procedural shifts treating discrimination as accepted fact, increased focus on best practice recommendations, and a warmer reception all point the way. But the report’s statistical findings paint a different picture, one of an industry unaffected by EDI efforts. Thus, despite all indications of improvement, as of spring 2015 systemic discrimination remained the norm for women, Indigenous people, people of colour, and others suffering the throes of underrepresentation.


The 2015 report served its purpose, yielding advocacy and social action, particularly on an institutional level, as arts service organizations responded to the call. In Part One, I focused on PGC’s Women’s Caucus, which implemented initiatives in the four areas needing improvement identified by MacArthur. Indicative of a shift in ideology, institutions moved from interest to action, stepping up their EDI efforts. PACT developed a Pledge Project in 2015 to address gender inequities, encouraging its members “to publicly declare an action they will take to help achieve equity in their company, and by extension, in our industry.” PACT’s website names fourteen companies participating in the program, and it provides sample suggestions for others taken from MacArthur’s report.3 The following year, PACT launched “All In: A National Equity, Diversity & Inclusive Initiative” to train a team of EDI facilitators, who in turn facilitate EDI training in theatres and arts organizations across the country.4 The program was rolled-out to the industry in 2017, along with a new EDI coordinator position. Similar to PGC, in the last four years PACT implemented member-specific programming, wider sector initiatives, and internal administrative changes to improve EDI.

Canadian Actors’ Equity Association (CAEA) also responded to MacArthur’s report, reacting to the research findings on racialization (or the lack thereof) by launching a demographic survey of its membership in 2015. As the organization explained at the time, CAEA “supports the creation of a live performance environment that reflects the diversity of the community in which our members work. It is time for us to take action, and it all starts with understanding the composition of our membership” (“Everybody Counts”). The Equity Census provides crucial data about the industry, the particulars of which I discuss below.

Also in 2015, spearheaded by veteran actor-director Jane Heyman, CAEA introduced a survey to discover “how harassment was affecting Equity members.” They found that nearly 50 percent of women respondents and 37 percent of the men had experienced inappropriate behaviour, such as bullying or sexual harassment, and 50 percent had witnessed such incidents on the job. Executive Director Arden Ryshpan was caught off-guard: “We were horrified when we saw the responses . . . There was more unacceptable behaviour going on than any of us had realized” (“Not in Our Space! Campaign” 6). This discovery preceded and foreshadowed the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, usually dated to October 2017 with Harvey Weinstein’s public disgrace, although the Canadian public had an earlier taste with the Jian Ghomeshi scandal (2014–2016).

While #MeToo exploded in the film industry, similar incidents were revealed in other sectors, and Canadian theatre was not exempt. The most notorious case is that of Albert Schultz at Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto, but there are others still.5 CAEA and PACT responded by partnering on Not in Our Space!, “a national anti-harassment and respectful workplace collaboration campaign,” seeking “to ensure healthy and productive working conditions for all professionals working in live performance across the country.”6 In addition to providing resource materials, they developed a Joint First Day Statement for CAEA and PACT members to sign when rehearsals start, and efforts are underway to make it a mandatory requirement (“Not in Our Space!”). Individual theatre companies are responding by developing and publicizing anti-harassment policies on their websites and audition calls, and artists are joining grassroots organizations, such as Got Your Back (GYB), to take the work further yet.

GYB Canada formed in late 2017, and it is composed of industry women (the majority actors) who come together in safe spaces to provide “opportunities to connect for advocacy, support, and inspiration” (GYB, “Connect”). An international entity with different chapters, GYB hosts in-person and online meetings, and has private Facebook groups for various regions (Alberta, British Columbia, East Coast, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario). With a mailing list and dedicated website, GYB disseminates resource materials related to workplace etiquette, actor training, wellness, leadership, and anti-harassment policies, while also undertaking letter writing campaigns, working groups, and the occasional event. The Toronto chapter presented an Acting Educators Conference in May 2019, providing “an opportunity for participants to gain practical skills while actively engaging with and sharing expert, informed, critical insights pertaining to the areas of mental health; diversity and inclusion, anti-oppression; and the creation and maintenance of safe spaces” (GYB, “Acting”). Training institutions and educators were also implicated in #MeToo scandals, leading to resignations and occasional convictions.7 GYB members, concerned about holes in the educational safety net, self-organized and brought together the necessary people to help ensure a safe and inclusive environment for student actors.8

In addition to grassroots groups and arts service organizations, government funders also stepped up EDI efforts. In the wake of #MeToo, Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council funded the Cultural Human Resources Council (CHRC)’s Respectful Workplaces in the Arts campaign, which provides an industry code of conduct, resource materials, services such as free workshops on Maintaining Respectful Workplaces, and most recently, a reporting mechanism for harassment (CHRC).9 In addition to #MeToo, other movements and public interventions, such as #IdleNoMore, #BlackLivesMatter, and #MMIW (Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women) have affected the arts, as with The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, launched in 2008 “to contribute to truth, healing and reconciliation” for Indigenous peoples and Canadian settlers, and which published its calls to action in 2015 (“Our Mandate”). That same year, under the direction of Simon Brault, the Canada Council underwent major restructuring; and in the spring of 2017 it introduced a new funding model that included streamlining grant programs, eschewing artistic disciplines, and increasing diversity by supporting Indigenous, Culturally Diverse, Deaf and Disabled, and Official Language Minority arts communities. LGBTQIA2S+ and women artists were not prioritized, which seems short-sighted given their ongoing marginalization.10 While the verdict is still out as to the effect of the changes, Brault’s redesign was considered successful by federal power brokers, given his reappointment to 2023 (“Minister Rodriguez”).

Provincial arts councils also responded, manifesting EDI changes in relation to their policies. The Ontario Arts Council developed an equity plan in 2012 based on the values of leadership, inclusiveness, responsiveness, and diversity that was later incorporated into their strategic plan for 2014–2020 (OAC, “Equity Plan”). The British Columbia Arts Council’s 2018 strategic plan includes Indigenous Arts and Culture, as well as Equity, Diversity, and Access amongst its key priorities (BCAC, “Priorities”). On the east coast, in January 2019, Arts Nova Scotia introduced three new policies—Cultural Appropriation, Indigenous Arts Protocols, and Respectful Workplaces—“to strengthen” the community and ensure “alignment” with “provincial and national counterparts” (Arts Nova Scotia, “Policies and Reports”). In the last few years, the drive to increase EDI has been adopted by provincial arts councils across the nation.

Municipal arts councils heeded the call as well. In February 2017, the Toronto Arts Council (TAC) established four equity priority groups, identified as persons of colour, deaf persons and persons with disabilities and mental illness, Indigenous peoples, and 2SLGBTQIAP artists. The TAC also introduced an equity priority policy to identify prioritized artists, formed an equity steering committee for oversight, implemented application accessibility support, and created a voluntary self-identification form for grant applicants to collect demographic information needed to fill existing research gaps (TAC, “Equity and Access”).

Likewise, the Conseil des Arts de Montreal (CAM) embraced equity as a core principle, and EDI is a top priority for its grant programs, which specifically focus on cultural diversity, intergenerational equity, Indigenous communities, inclusive practices, gender equality, and intangible heritage (CAM, “4 Strategic Priorities”). Moreover, in May 2019, Diversité artistique Montréal released a report on systemic racism in the arts, culture, and media sectors in Montreal, entitled “Towards a Cultural Equity Process,” and CAM is reviewing the recommendations put forth (“DAM Presents”). This is a promising development given controversies surrounding inappropriate representations and cultural appropriation in Quebec, resulting in protests by #BlackLivesMatter, Indigenous communities, and other artists, not to mention accusations of systemic racism levied against the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ).11 Increasingly, arts councils are being held accountable for their operational practices, and some recognize the vital role they can play as supporters of EDI in the arts sector.

Changes have occurred with Canada’s theatre award programs as well. In 2015, CAM partnered with Montreal’s English-Language Theatre Awards (METAs) to pioneer a new prize: the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award. It is presented annually “to recognize and encourage practices of access and inclusion, and to celebrate those who embrace the range of cultures, identities and abilities that make up and enrich our city” (META “Honorary Awards”). Vancouver’s Jessie Richardson Awards followed suit in 2016, establishing the Vancouver NOW Representation and Inclusion​ Award, given to “an individual, initiative or company who nourishes the values of empathy, reciprocity, compassion and responsibility, all while empowering the voices of those who have been historically silenced” (Jessies). In 2019, a new EDI prize was introduced by the Vancouver Fringe, which has intensified its EDI efforts.12 The TD Fringe Forward Award “recognizes a production that centres the work of artists from historically marginalized communities and approaches the work from a place of authenticity.” The recipient is selected by a jury and the prize is “a performance opportunity, rehearsal space, mentorship, and cash for future development” (Vancouver Fringe). Not simply bestowing accolades, this award provides marginalized artists with material resources to further their artistic practice.

Additional changes have surfaced in awards programs with respect to gender. Announced in April 2018, the 40th Dora Mavor Moore Awards went “gender neutral with all binary male and female designations eliminated and replaced with gender-inclusive ‘Outstanding Performance’ categories as applicable” (TAPA, “Announcement”). In June of 2019, Edmonton’s Sterling Awards introduced a similar change: “New, gender-neutral categories . . . for Outstanding Performance in a Comedy and Outstanding Performance in a Drama” (Faulder). These adjustments are required if transgendered, gender fluid, genderqueer, and non-binary artists are to be included in the industry’s machinations.

Awards, councils, governments, organizations, and grassroots bodies are responding to the EDI predicament and changing their practices. While this is not an entirely new development, it seems that since 2015 and especially from 2017 on, institutions have increased and deepened their actions. Taken together, these are significant markers of change; but do they represent a tipping point? An examination of the industry’s recent employment patterns for playwrights, actors, and artistic directors will provide additional evidence.

A Gender Breakdown of All Play Production Authorship in Canada by Comparison of PGC’s Annual Production Surveys, 2012/13–2018/19


In Part One of this series, I provided an overview of PGC’s gender-based annual production surveys from 2012/13 through to the 2016/17 season, illustrating that women playwrights accounted for less than 27 percent of the nation’s produced playwrights (see Table 2), or if Canadian plays were considered alone, 35 percent of the produced playwrights (see Table 3).13 Currently, women form 54 percent of PGC’s membership, but their production statistics do not reflect that fact. 14 Still, there are recent signs of improvement. Women had a record-breaking year in 2017/18, hitting the 30 percent marker with overall productions, a 4 percent jump from the previous year. This is a historic first, representing the breaking or at least cracking of a glass ceiling. The same phenomenon occurred in relation to Canadian work, as plays by women surpassed 35 percent for the first time, moving up 5 percent from the previous year to 38 percent of the productions (PGC, Survey 2017/18).15 While more gender-balanced programming is promising news, I feared the statistical upswing was an anomaly, as witnessed previously at the provincial level.

PGC’s 2018/19 Annual Production Survey indicates that gains made in the previous year held steady; for the second year in a row, plays by women accounted for 30 percent of the overall productions and 38 percent of Canadian-authored shows .16 It would be informative to know who is benefitting. Is it all women, or primarily able-bodied, heterosexual, economically privileged white ciswomen? PGC does not have the resources to expand its research efforts to track racialization, dis/ability, sexual orientation, and other factors for all produced playwrights each season. One new addition was added in the last two seasons though: productions written by transgender, non-binary, and/or gender fluid playwrights, which make up less than 0.5 percent of the nation’s shows (PGC, Survey 2017/18 and Survey 2018/19). Similar to the changes reflected in awards programs, the industry’s research mechanisms must also adapt to EDI concerns.

While there is much to be done in EDI research to fill knowledge gaps related to production figures, we have a clearer snapshot of the industry now with respect to actors, directors, dancers, choreographers, fight directors, and singer/opera performers, thanks to CAEA’s Equity Census. The “ground-breaking” results, released in the fall of 2015, reveal the gender composition of CAEA’s membership to be 54 percent women, 45 percent men, and less than 1 percent trans or other gender (CAEA, Equity Census 4).17 Once again, the numbers point to inequities: women are in the majority, yet they find themselves disadvantaged with the average ratio for acting roles being 2:1 for men and women (Burton, “Adding” 24). Not surprisingly, a major finding was women reporting underrepresentation and a lack of opportunities as barriers to employment (CAEA, Equity Census 6). Regardless of gender, ageism was also identified as a problem, as 70 percent of members who joined before 1999 believed their age group was not represented in live performance, and 65 percent reported age as an obstacle for work (6).

A Gender Breakdown of Canadian Play Production Authorship in Canada by Comparison of PGC’s Annual Production Surveys, 2012/13– 2018/19

With respect to racialization, 70 percent of CAEA’s members identify as Caucasian/white, while 15 percent have “racially diverse” identities (12 percent people of colour and 3 percent Indigenous) (McQueen 19). Revealing another imbalance, 48 percent of racially diverse members reported feeling underrepresented in live performance, compared to 9 percent of Caucasians/whites. Moreover, 44 percent of racially diverse members and 33 percent of Indigenous members indicated that employers are less likely to perceive them as belonging to the ethno-cultural group with which they identify, compared to 75 percent of white members (CAEA, Equity Census 6). Understandably, grassroots groups have formed to combat racialized (under)representation and employment problems, such as Vancouver’s Visceral Visions, which in September 2019 launched CultureBrew.Art, “a digital platform that promotes and fosters intersectional interculturalism throughout the performing and media arts sector.” The project’s centrepiece is a searchable database of Indigenous and racialized artists that will serve as a “tool for building a more inclusive theatre culture that more authentically reflects Canada by promoting Indigenous and racialized artists; increasing hiring opportunities for IARA; and fostering intercultural connection, community, and artistic collaboration.”

When it comes to ability, the CAEA survey found that 90 percent of members are able-bodied and 8 percent are D/deaf and/or have a physical or mental disability (2 percent preferred not to say). With respect to sexual orientation, 78 percent of CAEA’s members are heterosexual and 16 percent identify with the LGBTQIA2S+ spectrum (4 percent preferred not to say). In total, 34 percent of Equity members identify as “Diverse,” which is defined as having one or more of the above traditionally marginalized identities” (McQueen 20).

Aside from supplying demographic information about the industry’s workforce, the CAEA study demonstrates the economic impact of marginalization. Average annual incomes were lower for “female members, younger members, D/deaf members and/or members with a disability and Racially Diverse members,” with the greatest discrepancy occurring between members with disabilities and able-bodied members. D/deaf members and/or members with disabilities, members over 56, and racialized members reported the lowest income rates for individual engagements (CAEA, Equity Census 6). Returning to the overarching question of progress, clearly there is still a great deal to be done to ensure equitable representation and compensation. Looking at the survey results, there is no way one can conclude that the industry has changed significantly for the better. Women, people of colour, older people, D/deaf people and/or people with disabilities, and racialized artists feel and are underrepresented, and do not enjoy the same opportunities or incomes.

A final area of examination undertaken here in relation to EDI and employment patterns is that of artistic directors, significant for their influence on programming and hiring practices. Three years ago, in 2016, employment patterns for artistic directors had stagnated, so much so that the phrase “white guy shuffle” surfaced to describe how a number of AD positions were filled by the same white men moving about the country. Responses of indignation were vocal and widespread. Industry insiders bemoaned the status quo and lost opportunities to pluralize and de-homogenize our theatres. Panels emerged, articles were written, hiring practices were questioned, social media posts circulated, and letters were sent by various people and groups.18

And then a sudden shift occurred: several women were hired into AD positions, not just at small theatres but at some of the country’s most prestigious companies. Eda Holmes was appointed AD at the Centaur Theatre (January 2017), Montreal’s largest English language theatre. Ashlie Corcoran took over the Arts Club in Vancouver (February 2018), the largest theatre in Western Canada. Natasha MacLellan became the head of Theatre New Brunswick (July 2018), one of Canada’s longest-running regional theatres; Kelley Thornton was appointed the first woman AD of Winnipeg’s Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (October 2018), the oldest regional theatre; and Jillian Keiley’s contract was extended at the National Arts Centre (February 2019), Canada’s flagship theatre. Within two years, the Canadian theatre landscape shifted considerably with respect to AD gender demographics. There are no current statistics to ascertain the exact balance, but it is hoped this change indicates a new, sustainable trend. Time will tell if women at the helm of Canada’s largest theatres spreads change throughout the industry.

The women named above are all white, so it seems while some things change, others remain the same. Or do they? The list is shorter, but Weyni Mengesha is now the AD of Soulpepper Theatre (as of October 2018), Audrey Dwyer is associate artistic director at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (March 2019), Marjorie Chan is AD of Theatre Passe Muraille (July 2019), and Tanisha Taitt is running Cahoots Theatre (July 2019). These gains are promising given the potential boost to representation that could trickledown across the discipline.

Also indicative of change—and heeding the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)—is the creation of an Indigenous Theatre section at the National Arts Centre. Despite the failure of Canadian Heritage to fund this historic first (and the controversy that ensued), the NAC’s Indigenous Theatre, spearheaded by Kevin Loring as artistic director (October 2017), successfully launched a multi-disciplinary season in September 2019, opening with a focus on MMIW via Marie Clements’s The Unnatural and Accidental Women. The birth of a national Indigenous Theatre constitutes a momentous moment in Canadian theatre history: one that acknowledges and incorporates the TRC’s call to action, furthering EDI practices in the arts.

Where does all this leave us? It is important to remember that we have a long history of activism. We did not arrive at this juncture by happenstance; people have worked for decades to bring about the current landscape. Often the pace has been slow and painful; but evidence suggests a shift in ethos has occurred, resulting in increased EDI activity since 2015, and especially since 2017. Industry stakeholders are working together, institutions are implementing corrective actions, grassroots initiatives are organizing, and employment patterns are altering. Unequivocally, we are in a different place now than we were a decade ago, and it may well indicate a tipping point. We shifted from interest to action with the demand for greater accountability and targeted initiatives for change, and given the presence of #IdleNoMore, #BlackLivesMatter, and #MeToo, EDI has moved into the mainstream of our arts institutions. The representational logjam is loosening, and we must celebrate each success; but ultimately, given the bottom-line statistical reality, our problems are not solved yet. Still, the potential for change seems more promising than ever, provided we enact continued vigilance, coordinated efforts, and sustained actions to improve EDI in the arts and culture sector—and, by extension, Canadian society at large.</body.

1 Organizations represented on EIT’s Steering Committee included: the Ad Hoc Assembly; Associated Designers of Canada; Canadian Actors’ Equity Association; Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario; Indigenous Performance Arts Alliance; Literary Managers and Dramaturges of the Americas– Canada; Pat the Dog Theatre Creation; Playwrights Guild of Canada; Professional Association of Canadian Theatres; and The Deaf, Disability and Mad Arts Alliance of Canada.

2 The 2006 study offered an absolute best-case snapshot of the industry, as proportionately more companies run by women than men completed the surveys used to compile the statistical data (Burton, Adding 8).

3 PACT’s website states: “Many of our members have made a pledge—to do something to foster equity by implementing change in their own organizations: at the board level, in artistic decisions, in strategic plans, and more.” The website lists 109 regular and commercial members (“Our Members—Regular”) and 47 affiliates for a total of 156 members (PACT, “Our Members—Affiliates”). That means 9 percent of PACT members committed to the Pledge Project, or 13 percent if regular and commercial members are considered alone. Either way, this is not a very efficacious result, but better than nothing; change must start somewhere.

4 The stated aim is “to develop a national cohort of arts equity facilitators and advocates, who collaborate on increasing the reciprocal participation of equity-seeking artists and companies, the potential for equitable cross-cultural collaboration and the promotion of a truly diverse theatrical landscape” (PACT, “Announcing All In”).

5 In Edmonton, Craig Craddock, previous artistic director of Rapid Fire Theatre, was disavowed by the company after his self-confession about “contributing to rape culture” in 2017 (Ahearn). The Citadel issued a public apology in March 2018 for harassment, revealing no names at the time, but more than a year later, Bob Barker, previous artistic director (1999–2016), was expelled from CAEA based on “the findings of a Disciplinary Committee relating to a safe and respectful workplace complaint” (Lederman). In Ontario, aside from the allegations levied at Albert Schultz and Soulpepper Theatre, there was also Antonio Sarmiento, who in September 2019 was charged with seven counts of sexual assault and three counts of sexual exploitation from his time as artistic director at the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope (2013– 2018) (“Breaking”).

6 The objectives of the Not in Our Space! initiative are:

– stopping harassment before it starts
– educating Equity members and their co-workers about prohibited workspace behaviours, to prevent them from happening in the first place
– encouraging witnesses as well as subjects to come forward when they experience or observe harassment and bullying (collective responsibility)
– empowering individuals to act (see the Equity Support Spectrum) through multiple reporting options, including easy access to Equity support networks
– providing resources and assistance for situations where problems do occur (Not in Our Space!)

7 Cases include the resignations of George Randolph at the Randolph Academy and Todd Hammond at George Brown College, both in Toronto, and the sexual assault conviction of vocal coach Jose Hernandez in St. John’s.

8 As GYB noted in its literature:

Acting education in Canada has evolved; there are now over 45 performance training programs and many independent coaches who teach. Without a national dialogue or association for acting educators, there are few professional development opportunities to update/upgrade teaching skills related to the specific needs of training performers. The majority of performance teachers in Canada are either private coaches or part-time/sessional/guest artists within large institutions and many feel left out of the conversation about acting training in Canada. In the wake of #MeToo and #TimesUp, it’s time to come together and speak about our challenges. Got Your Back has recognized a void in this communication and is trying to bridge the gap through a curated selection of panels, workshops, long table discussions, and networking events . . . Together, we can continue to evolve acting training to be more diverse, inclusive and safer for the next generation of artists. (GYB, “Acting”)

9 CHRC and Canadian Heritage are rolling out Phase Two of the campaign currently. It is “a first for any industry in the country: Trained facilitators (12 Anglophone and 6 Francophone) are available to present a three-hour workshop based on the principles of the Respectful Workplaces in the Arts program. The workshops are being offered free of charge between September 2019 and March 2020” (PACT, “Maintaining Respectful Workplaces”).

10 See the Canada Council for the Arts’ “Equity Policy” for more information.

11 Instances of cultural insensitivity and appropriation include: the use of blackface at the Théâtre du Rideau Vert in November 2014; the commandeering of slave songs by Betty Bonifassi and Robert LePage with SLĀV for the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2018; and LePage’s Kanata, about relations between Canada’s Indigenous peoples and colonial settlers but which did not involve Indigenous people, prompting protests and cries of nihil de nobis, sine nobis (nothing about us without us). Artists in the community, such as Rahul Varma, Artistic Director of Montreal’s Teesri Duniya Theatre, finds these actions indicative of colonial and racist perspectives linked to identity and funding:

These repeat occurrences of cultural appropriation are undeniably intertwined within the cultural politics of Quebec, which dismisses egalitarian multiculturalism in favor of a Quebec brand of interculturalism. At its core, it demands acclimatization of marginalized cultures to the taste of dominant culture, which includes reformation of identity, values, and ideologies.

Interculturalism without equality is assimilation, which is made possible by disproportionate (inferior) access to resources afforded to artists of color throughout the country. Cultural appropriation is an inevitable outcome of systematic racism which still exists. (“Featured Member”)

The Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ) has been accused of such racism, as in 2017, given the disproportionate cutting and freezing of funds for racialized arts organizations in Montreal (“Minority Arts”).

12 Vancouver’s Fringe has “committed to making equity, diversity, and inclusion a priority,” and to this end, the Fringe conducted an EDI audit (completed in January 2018); hired an equity, diversity and inclusion director; and implemented a new EDI program responsible for the Fringe Forward Award (“Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion”).

13 The accounting included theatres (but not festivals) of all shapes, sizes, and geographic regions. The sample sizes for the various seasons were as follows: for 2012/13, 177 companies that produced a total of 646 shows; in 2013/14, 183 companies, which presented 812 productions; in 2014/15, 219 companies that staged 668 works; in 2015/16, 220 theatres producing 769 shows; in 2016/17, 246 companies that delivered 804 productions; in 2017/18, 294 theatres, which staged 961 shows; and in 2018/19, 258 companies presenting 1002 productions (PGC, Surveys 2012/13–2018/19).

14 As of September 2019, the gender breakdown of PGC’s membership was 44.2 percent men, 54.2 percent women, 0.9 percent non-binary, 0.4 percent trans, and 0.3 percent unknown (PGC, “September Report”).

15 Another departure from previous years is that the 5 percent increase in women’s work is directly related to a 5 percent decrease in work by men, whereas in the previous five seasons, any gains women made were reflected in decreases in productions by mixed gender partnerships (PGC, Survey 2017/18).

16 The figures for men fell 4 percent for all play productions and 5 percent for Canadian authored work, being redistributed into mixed-gender partnerships (PGC, Survey, 2018/19).

17 A total of 3,156 surveys, representing 56 percent of CAEA’s membership, were completed by regular and life members in good standing between April 24 and May 25, 2015 (McQueen 18).

18 To cite an example, during the Next Stage Theatre Festival in January 2017, the Toronto Fringe partnered with Generator on an Urgent Exchange community conversation called “The White Guy Shuffle—Changing Hiring Practices in Canadian Theatre” (“Event”).

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British Columbia Arts Council. “Priorities.” British Columbia Arts Council website, 2019.

Burton, Rebecca. Adding It Up: The Status of Women in Canadian Theatre—A Report on the Phase One Findings of Equity in Canadian Theatre: The Women’s Initiative. 2006.

———. “Adding It Up: (En)Gendering (and Racializing) Canadian Theatre.” Cultural Diversity and the Stage 5:1 (2007), 7.

Canada Council for the Arts. Equity Policy. CCA, April 2017.

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———. The Equity Census: Staging the Future—Executive Summary. 9 November 2015.

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“Featured Member—Rahul Varma.” Medium, 16 July 2018.

Fraticelli, Rena. The Status of Women in the Canadian Theatre: A Report Prepared for the Status of Women Canada. June 1982. Unpublished.

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———. “Connect.”

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Honorary Awards

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———. “Maintaining Respectful Workplaces.” PACT News, 11 September 2019.

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———. “Pledge Project.” PACT website.

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———. PGC Annual Theatre Production Survey, 2013/14.


———. PGC Annual Theatre Production Survey, 2014/15.

———. PGC Annual Theatre Production Survey, 2015/16.

———. PGC Annual Theatre Production Survey, 2016/17.

———. PGC Annual Theatre Production Survey, 2017/18.

———. PGC Annual Theatre Production Survey, 2018/19.

———. “September 2019 Membership Report.” Internal document.

Toronto Alliance of Performing Arts. “Announcement: Gender-Neutral Performance Awards for 40th Anniversary, Dora Mavor Moore Awards.” TAPA, 2019.

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———. “Toronto Arts Council Equity Framework.” TAC website.

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Rebecca Burton is the Membership and Professional Contracts Manager at Playwrights Guild of Canada, where she co-founded Equity in Theatre (EIT), an initiative redressing the underrepresentation of women in Canadian theatre (2014 – 2017). Rebecca is also an editor, educator, researcher, and (feminist theatre) practitioner with a BA in theatre and history (University of Guelph), an MA in theatre (University of Victoria), and PhD ABD status (Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Toronto).

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