Past Activities and Achievements
See the main advocacy page for information on campaigns in which The Writers' Union of Canada is currently engaged.
In 2012 The Writers’ Union of Canada continued to express its concerns over Bill C-11 The Copyright Modernization Act. This included a presentation by Chair, Merilyn Simonds, to the Senate Standing Committee on Banks, Trade and Commerce in June. In addition, the Union made a pre-budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance.
The Union introduced its second iteration of the Writers’ Bill of Rights which outlines the 10 principles for book authors in the digital age. The Bill was endorsed by CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers), League of Canadian Poets, Professional Writers Association of Canada, Quebec Writers’ Federation, Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, Westwood Creative Artists, Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick.
The Union produced a report on existing income and tax legislation favourable to the needs of those taxpayers involved in the writing and publishing industries. In addition the Union produced a report on how eligibility criteria are changing in the wake of new self-publishing and digital publishing processes
The Union celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award which was established to recognize the best first collection of short fiction in the English language.
John Degen became the Union’s seventh executive director, taking the helm in November.
In addition the Union reviewed its committee structure and developed a new, more task-oriented structure to better engage members on particular issues; developed its first operating plan; and launched its redesigned website and Write magazine.
Bill C-11: An Act to Amend the Copyright Act, was tabled in September 2011 and was identical to the former Bill C-32, which died on the order paper with the federal election called in the spring. While we support modernizing the Copyright Act, Bill C-11 proposes to cut back on rights that are the underpinning of writers’ livelihoods. There are more than 30 new exceptions affecting rightsholders. Many of these new exceptions take away or reduce the ability writers currently have to control their work and to be compensated for it. Among the most troubling of these exceptions is the extension of “fair dealing” (which means uncompensated use) to “education.” If much more of the work of creators can be used for free in educational settings, the income writers depend on from the educational market is at risk of being legislated away. The Writers’ Union of Canada has been active – both alone and in partnership with arts colleagues in all disciplines – in raising writers’ concerns with legislators and in advocating for solutions.
Pre-Budget Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance 2012 (66.1 KB PDF)
Because the cultural sector has long demonstrated a significant return on investment, strategic investments should be not only continued but, at the earliest opportunity, expanded. No-cost legislative measures – such as a copyright bill that assures creators their rightful revenue streams, and a National Digital Economy Strategy that includes the arts – can play an important role in a sustained economic recovery.
Federal Election 2011
On May 2nd Canadian voters cast their ballots to determine which party would lead our Country in the coming years. A variety of issues facing Canadian writers were at stake in this election and the Writers’ Union encouraged our members involvement to make sure that our voices were heard.
- Letters to the Party Leaders
- Conservative - no response
- Liberal - read the response to questions and cover letter received April 6, 2011
- NDP - read the response to questions received April 26, 2011
- Bloc Quebecois - read the response to questions and cover letter received April 27, 2011
- Green - read the response to questions received April 18, 2011
Pre-Budget Consultations for Budget 2010 (42.8 KB PDF)
To support the creative work that is the heart of Canada's cultural economy, The Writers' Union of Canada urged the Government of Canada in its next budget to:
- Introduce a copyright-income deduction for creators, modeled on that used in the Province of Quebec;
- Exempt subsistence grants for creators administered by the Canada Council for the Arts from taxation;
- Increase the Public Lending Right Commission’s budget to bring its hit rate up to a level more aligned with the hit rate established 18 years ago.
TWUC Brief for the Copyright Consultations (38.9 KB PDF)
Copyright legislation must provide the legal protection for our works and allow us to earn a reasonable income from those works. Other countries have recognized the importance of creators by keeping them at the centre of their copyright acts. Canada should do the same, because creators are the engine that drives Canada’s cultural industries and the income that copyright generates is their fuel.
Pre-Budget Consultations for Budget 2009 (152 KB PDF)
Creators are at the heart of a knowledge-based economy. We produce the intellectual property on which the entire cultural sector is built. You will receive representations from the cultural industries, the filmmakers and the publishers, the art galleries and museums. Without the individual artist who dedicates her or his working life to creative expression, developing screenplays and composing opera scores, writing books and filling galleries with paintings and sculptures, all of these industries would collapse.
The Writers' Union of Canada's submission to The Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce with respect to Bill C-10: An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, including amendments in relation to foreign investment entities and non-resident trusts, and to provide for the bijural expression of the provisions of that Act. (32.7 KB PDF)
We believe that subsection 120(3)(b) of Bill C–10 will lead to increased self-censorship by writers and other artists and cast a greater chill on expression of ideas. This is unacceptable to a society that has enshrined freedom of expression in its Charter of Rights, and we call on the Senate to defeat this bill and return it to the House of Commons.
The 2008 Federal election saw issues crucial to the interests of Canadian creators come to the fore. Major cuts to arts funding totalling $60 million had just been enacted and copyright legislation that would have had a direct impact on creators was being addressed in the House of Commons. The Union provided tools and encouragement to our members to get involved directly with MPs and parties to support the needs of artists.
The Writers’ Union of Canada’s submission to the Standing Committee on Human Services with respect to Bill No. 40 of 2006-07:
An Act to amend the Status of the Artist Act, Saskatchewan. (165 KB PDF)
We call upon you to make recommendations that amend the Status of the Artist Act in Saskatchewan to include effective measures dealing with a labour relations regime for self-employed, professional artists and producers, including certification of artists’ organizations and mandatory collective bargaining for minimum-terms agreements with producers’ organizations, with sectoral bargaining, mediation available, and binding arbitration if necessary.
Submission To The Standing Committee On Canadian Heritage Investigating The Role Of The CBC/Radio-Canada As A Public Broadcaster In The 21st Century. (76.3 KB PDF)
"Distinctively Canadian in nature – culturally, historically and artistically – CBC/Radio-Canada programming has been deteriorating in recent years because of a lack of appropriate stable funding. Accordingly, the mandate of this cherished institution has fallen victim to shortsighted and unrealistic austerity measures, and ambivalent government approaches to such issues as media convergence, foreign ownership, cultural sovereignty, and cultural funding policy generally. To reverse this deterioration, The Writers’ Union of Canada respectfully makes the following recommendations..."
The Union marched on Parliament Hill in response to the government's cuts to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).
Brief to the Law Amendments Committee of the Nova Scotia Legislature. (116 KB, PDF)
“We believe that BillC-17, if it becomes law, will infringe the freedom of expression guaranteed by the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it will have the potential to stifle both new and old stories and opinions. This encroachment on freedom of expression is not just an infringement of the right of certain writers and others to write about their crimes or to collaborate with professional writers to tell their stories. Rather, it is an infringement of the right of all Canadians to be participants in a democratic society without unjustifiable restrictions on their right to know.”
Brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance: Canada's Writers Promote Canada in a Competitive World. (146 KB PDF)
“To support the creative work that is the heart of Canada’s cultural economy, The Writers’ Union of Canada urges the Government of Canada in its next budget to: invest in the not-for-profit arts sector… introduce a copyright-income deduction… support The Writers’ Union of Canada in its efforts to seek Secured and Preferred Creditor Status for Writers…introduce a Back-Averaging Plan… increase PLR’s budget… [and] extend Employment Insurance Benefits.”
TWUC presented the following briefs:
- Brief to the Ontario Ministry of Culture’s Advisory Council for Arts and Culture Status of the Artist Sub-Committee. (195 KB PDF)
- Brief to the Standing Committee on Justice on Bill C-2: a criminal code amendment on child pornography. (130 KB PDF)
- Brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance: Writers, Productivity and the Nation's Standard of Living. (112 KB PDF)
TWUC delivered professional development workshops on the Business of Writing to writers in eight Canadian cities.
The Union and its members celebrated thirty years of service.
TWUC presented the following briefs:
Brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Heritage with respect to its statutory review of the copyright act. (96.9 KB PDF)
Brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee of Banking, Trade and Commerce. (22.3 KB PDF)
The Union successfully negotiated an emergency fund for writers who had lost royalties as a result of General Publishing's financial crisis.
The Union successfully lobbied for the passage of amendments to the outdated Copyright Act.
TWUC developed a program to recognize librarians who conducted an outstanding reading series. The Union’s Copyright Committee identified the need for a Creators Rights Association (CRA) in response to the Trade Relations as part of Property Rights (TRIP) agreement. (Note: The CRA was incorporated in 2002.) TWUC presented a Brief to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on the State of the Book Industry. (113 KB PDF)
PRE - 2000 ACTIVITIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS
The Freedom to Read Award was created, and the first award was presented to Senator Lorna Milne.
The Union’s Social Justice Task Force completed its final report.
TWUC initiated the Postcard Story Competition for emerging writers.
TWUC initiated the Writing for Children Competition.
TWUC established an Electronic Communications Committee to bring the Union into the age of electronic communications.
The Union implemented a Manuscript Reading Service for fiction manuscript evaluation.
The twentieth anniversary of The Writers’ Union of Canada was celebrated in Ottawa at the 1993 AGM. The fourth anniversary issue of Who’s Who in the Writers’ Union of Canada was published.
The Union conducted its first random royalty audit on behalf of a member; worked with Common Agenda Alliance for the Arts in support of concurrent jurisdiction for culture in the constitution; and facilitated the Committee’s first national meeting of racial minority writers and pledged support for the Committee’s future work.
The Union lobbied vigorously against devolution of culture to the provinces in the constitutional negotiations; lobbied the Canada Council to have representative nonfiction grant juries; and lobbied for libel law reform. The Racial Minority Writers Committee was established.
The Union initiated a Charter of Rights challenge against recent legislation censoring “drug promoting literature”; opposed and publicized “libel chill,” a spate of libel charges laid against writers by influential persons; and campaigned against the imposition of the Goods and Services Tax on reading material.
The Union protested Canada Customs border seizures, damage, and delays of shipments bound for gay and lesbian bookstores; joined in denouncing the imposition of a death sentence on author Salman Rushdie by the Ayatollah Khomeini; and successfully lobbied for access by creative nonfiction writers to the Canada Council Readings program.
The Union lobbied successfully for the passage of amendments to the Copyright Act, to encompass new technology and to allow for the introduction of collectives; and successfully lobbied the Ontario government to pass Bill 188, allowing bookstores to open on Sundays. CANCOPY (now Access Copyright) was established to financially compensate writers for the photocopying of their work. (Note: In 2003 Access Copyright distributed more than $20.5 million to rightsholders.)
The Union initiated the industry-wide Community Against Censorship, which successfully fought the passage of the federal government’s Bill C-54, the “anti-obscenity” bill. The Union’s Book Pages Survey was conducted to raise the profile of Canadian books. The survey monitored the weekend book-review pages of thirty major newspapers over a six-month period, resulting in detailed statistics on percentages of Canadian books reviewed, reviews by and of women writers, etc. An award was given to the Whig-Standard of Kingston as the paper with the greatest coverage of Canadian books.
The Union’s greatest victory to date has been the implementation of a Canadian Public Lending Right (PLR). Three million dollars was granted by the federal government to implement PLR. (By 1993 over 8,400 writers received PLR payments totalling just over $5 million — an average of $821 per writer.) PLR is a system by which writers receive compensation for their books held in public libraries. With the notable exception of the United States, similar systems exist in most countries of the industrialized world. At the initial meeting of the seed group of The Writers’ Union, it was resolved that Canadian writers must negotiate fair payment for the use and reuse of their work by libraries. The Union continues to lobby for increased funding to this program.
The Union persuaded the Canada Council to institute, through its Arts Awards Services, a program of grants for non-fiction writers with a total value of $400,000.
The Union amended its constitution to admit poets. The first edition of Who’s Who in the Writers’ Union was published.
The Union marched on Parliament Hill demanding Public Lending Right (PLR).
The Union co-sponsored a Conference on Book Publishing with the Association of Canadian Publishers.
The Union initiated the 1812 Committee, which successfully defended the arts community from funding cuts. The Union campaigned successfully for the introduction of “Schedule C,” which prohibits Canadian bookstores from importing remaindered foreign editions of Canadian books.
TWUC established the guidelines for multiple simultaneous submissions of manuscripts, which were accepted as fair by both writers and publishers, thus enabling writers to more efficiently market their work.
The first Writers’ Union directory of members was published.
The first model trade book contract was drafted and approved, thereby guaranteeing authors ownership of copyright, setting a royalty of ten per cent as the minimum standard for basic trade-edition books, and other essential rights. With a committee of teachers, the Union developed resource guides to assist teachers and promote the use of Canadian literature in the schools. The resource guides were marketed through the Writers’ Development Trust. The Union staged its first public protest against the banning of books.
TWUC members picketed Coles for selling remaindered U.S. editions of their books.
TWUC was founded in Ottawa. Marian Engel was the first Chair.