Statement from the National Council of The Writers’ Union of Canada

The Writers’ Union of Canada National Council and staff, in communication with our established Equity Task Force, are working to clarify steps forward for the Union as a result of the ongoing controversy begun with the latest issue of Write magazine. We wish to repeat our apology for a flawed process, for which we take responsibility. We would also like to state that we are deeply disappointed by the actions of others outside the Union to capitalize on this situation and make matters even worse for those we offended.

The recent issue of the magazine was conceived and fully intended as part of TWUC's commitment to welcoming and making space for Indigenous voices. It was informed and driven by a unanimously passed resolution at the 2015 Annual General Meeting upon release of the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. It was also considered a first step in an ongoing Equity Implementation Plan, for which TWUC has retained equity consultant charles c. smith.

That the issue failed in that intent is the responsibility of the Union, and we have tried to be clear and intentional in our response to that failure. Our public statement was issued immediately, and we responded to media queries. We then concentrated on National Council discussion, and on contacting individually all of the contributors to the magazine to open discussion about moving forward with them. This was our focus over the past weekend, and we will continue to work as closely as possible with these contributors, as it was their excellent work we intended to showcase. There is so much fine, challenging, and important writing in the latest issue of Write magazine, and we are pursuing immediate steps to make sure that work is properly honoured.

Write’s editor made an immediate decision to resign from the magazine, and informed TWUC of that decision. The former editor’s freedom of expression was respected, as was his choice to take responsibility for the effect of his column on the intended project of the special issue. We wish to make clear that TWUC’s volunteer editorial board serves as an idea pool, and was not charged with the responsibility to review articles prior to publication, and that opinion pieces have always been considered the responsibility of the writer. We are reviewing this process, and will do so in consultation with the Equity Task Force and membership.

Steps Forward:

TWUC’s Equity Task Force (ETF) has worked hard to produce its initial response to the incident. The ETF is a respected and necessary part of TWUC’s long held strategic goal to make the organization more open to diversity and equity concerns. The ETF has done tremendous work as unpaid volunteers to help National Council and staff prepare the ground for equity implementation discussions, which were long slated as part of our upcoming AGM in Vancouver, and which will continue. We are very grateful for their continued direction and work.

National Council is busy discussing the ETF response, and we intend as well to solicit response from AGM attendees and the membership at large. Elements of the ETF response align directly with National Council’s own plans to date, and we are confident we can all work toward equity implementation in a spirit of cooperation. As part of the Equity Implementation Plan, consultant charles c. smith is today meeting with focus groups of Indigenous and marginalized writers, and we are aware that this episode has potentially damaged that work which is so essential to the future of the Union.

TWUC is committed to examining our editorial process for Write magazine. TWUC’s role as an institutional publisher of a magazine is necessarily complicated by the fact that we are a union of individual writers, and that we have as founding principles both a deep protective instinct around freedom of expression and a drive for broad social justice. Addressing our editorial process in this light will take a lot of patient, respectful discussion and a hearing of all views. That is long and necessary work that, in a way, we have already begun with our Equity Implementation Plan. We ask all members to join this discussion as they are able.  

This has been a painful episode for everyone, and TWUC is working hard to get to a forthright, respectful resolution. We wish to express our ongoing concern and support for Indigenous and marginalized TWUC members and non-members who have been wounded by this episode.

Thank you for your attention.

National Council of The Writers’ Union of Canada