Tax Credit Changes to Benefit Canadian Female Filmworkers – Sharon McGowan and Jan Miller report

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Sharon McGowan

As women who have been working in the Canadian film and television industry for over three decades (on opposite sides of the country!), we are heartened by recent gender equity advancements in creative leadership positions in productions funded by Telefilm Canada, the Canada Media Fund, CBC and the NFB.

For example, Telefilm Canada’s most recent year-end report (2019-20) announced that women directors now helm 42% of the films funded with budgets of over 2.5 million. This is up from 19% just three years ago when hard-won gender equity initiatives were launched.

Jan Miller

Although good news, the improvement in numbers is not shared by Indigenous women, Black women or women of colour so we are also especially pleased to see the public agencies introduce new initiatives to address these and other historic inequities.

But, while these changes to support greater equity and inclusion in leadership positions with writers, directors and producers, are key to a more representative industry, they are just a beginning. The vast majority of people who work in the industry, work in below-the-line technical positions, not in creative leadership roles. And this below-the-line screen industry workforce remains persistently homogeneous – male and white. Added to this, industry hiring practices, drawing from personal networks, perpetuates this homogeneity.


This is why we believe the recent commitment by the Federal Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Stephen Guilbeault, to examine the federal tax credit program (CPTC, PSTC), which supports the wages for these below-the-line positions, could be a game changer.

The tax credit program distributes close to one billion dollars annually to Canadian and foreign-service production but does not include policies to address gender equity or inclusion of workers who are currently marginalized in the screen industry workforce (including Indigenous, racialized, people with disabilities and 2SLGBTQ+ peoples) as part of its review criteria and eligibility requirements. As such, it remains the last and largest pillar of federal government funding without such criteria.
Minister Guilbeault agreed that this inequity must be addressed. Speaking live across the nation, at a virtual town hall held by WIFT Canada (of which we are members), on June 19, 2020, he made a firm commitment to start the process and asked us to hold him to this promise.

Needless to say, we were delighted as we believe that tax credit eligibility requirements to hire, both above and below-the-line, from a more representative demographic of Canada’s population, will provide a clear and accountable way to break this pattern of systemic discrimination.
We are looking forward to working with the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Finance. Our goal is to bring gender equity, inclusion of racialized and marginalized workers, and Indigenous equity into this “last pillar”, across our industry and workforce.

Sharon McGowan and Jan Miller are both founding members, respectively of WIFT Vancouver and WIFT Atlantic, which are part of WIFT Canada, a coalition of the Women in Film and Television (WIFT) chapters across the country including WIFT Atlantic, FCTMN Montreal, WIFT Toronto, WIFT Alberta and WIFT Vancouver, as well as Women in View. WIFT Canada chapters joined forces with Women in View in the fall of 2019, to consider issues of national importance to our members.

ABOUT WIFT in Canada
WIFT chapters in Canada are member-driven organizations committed to addressing the systemic barriers to women’s equal participation in the production and dissemination of screen-based media, and to the creation of a more inclusive media for both creators and audiences.

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