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Canadian Industry Losing Ground in Racial Representation, Says Study

Black women, Indigenous women and women of color are losing ground in efforts to find work and leadership roles in the Canadian film and TV production sector.

That’s among the findings of the Women in View’s On Screen 2023 report, which measures progress in achieving greater racial representation in hiring practices for the Canadian industry as local film and TV funders make good on commitments for greater diversity and inclusion on film and TV sets.

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Women – especially black women, indigenous women and women of color – are falling behind levels of participation in film and television production, compared to 2019, before the pandemic.

“While some stakeholders seemed to remain steadfast in their commitments to parity throughout 2020 and 2021, the overall momentum that appeared to be building in 2019 was significantly compromised in 2020 and 2021,” the Women in View report stated.

The Canadian industry has made gains in gender equality, but less so for Black or Indigenous women, and has not lifted film and TV sets much beyond box ticking to achieve the wider purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. That event became an inflection point for the transformation and modernization of Canadian film and TV.

The latest report into Canadian TV looked at 127 English-language drama and 107 English-language documentary series funded locally for production in 2020 and 2021. And in film, the report looked at data for 653 film development projects and 127 film production projects funded by Telefilm Canada, the federal government’s film financier, in 2020 and 2021.

The Women in View researchers cautioned that industry efforts to properly measure investment and work for under-represented communities in Canada was not at the point where “structural inequalities and systemic barriers faced by women and gender diverse creatives, and especially by women and gender diverse Indigenous, Black and people of color” could be fully revealed to move forward with sustainable industry change.

So, despite the Canadian industry and its financiers introducing dedicated funds and better data collection, progress was under threat, especially if better data collection to measure achievements was not had, despite industry efforts.

The Women in View report said broadcasters that kept pace with parity commitments through 2020 and 2021 did so by employing white women. “As anticipated, losses recorded in 2020 and 2021 disproportionally affected Indigenous women, Black women and women of color,” the report concluded.

The other winners were men, who saw their share of investment in local film and TV projects rise from 52 percent in 2019 to 58 percent in 2020 and 2021.

That meant women and gender diverse writers received less work in 2020 and 2021, compared to 2019. And Black women creatives had the lowest representation across all key roles, as they were able to lead the fewest projects and receive the least funding.

“Black women are also the most isolated, as the least likely creatives to occupy key creative roles on projects that were not led by Black women,” the Women in View report stated.

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