Toronto – Friday, November 25, 2022 – Canadian documentary films are consistently celebrated and sold around the world, and they shine a spotlight on Canada for years after a film’s initial release. Many documentaries are about family and community that share a uniquely Canadian point of view. Taken together, and over many years, this content is intrinsic to a deeper, richer understanding of who we are and has a transformative power to address deep inequities in our society. 

Almost half of DOC’s 1,100 members identify as Indigenous, Black or racialized, and yet these filmmakers are drastically under-represented at some of Canada’s most prominent funding institutions. 

In a Report by the Documentary Organization of Canada’s Ontario Chapter, data shows low levels of support for Black, Indigenous and racialized documentary creators at several key Canadian institutions. Of the institutions that participated in the Study, TVO – the only funder to collect data on BIPOC documentaries and artists – showed a decline in the number of BIPOC creatives supported over three years. In 2018, 21 (15%) of the total number of key creatives supported by TVO identified as BIPOC. In 2019, this number was 8 (8%) and in 2020, it was 6 (6%). 

Other recent reports also illustrate these systemic issues: the Racial Equity Media Collective’s report details barriers faced by BIPOC owned entities in the screen sector, The Racial Equity Screen Office’s report points to low levels of support for Black and racialized creators at the National Film Board of Canada, and the Black Screen Office’s report lists ten key barriers across the sector. Several of the solutions proposed to these inequities are: data collection, setting clear equity targets and benchmarks, and racial equity among Executives in decision-making roles.

The Documentary Organization of Canada calls for transparency and change. DOC requests that Canadian funding institutions make public their equity policies, commit to clear equity targets, and release annual reports about their progress. 

In February 2021, the National Film Board of Canada released its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Plan. According to its November 23rd press release, the National Film Board of Canada is only now committing to one of its 24 goals: “Establish a respectful, clear, convenient and transparent method of data collection, allowing us to ensure our service contracts draw in a wide range of people and companies of diverse backgrounds.”  

DOC requests transparency with regards to the NFB’s 2021 Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Plan. Specifically, DOC requests that the NFB make public its progress on points 21, 22, 23 and 24: 

21. Implement a governance structure in matters of diversity, equity and inclusion. 

22. Establish an annual action plan with measurable targets. 

23. Provide independent quarterly reports to the Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion, unconscious bias and systemic racism at the NFB. 

24. Publish an audit and annual report on the issues and progress made, present this report to all staff, and make it accessible to the public

DOC congratulates the National Film Board’s new Commissioner, Suzanne Guèvremont on her appointment and looks forward to working together on firm commitments to racial equity at the NFB. 

The Documentary Organization of Canada also calls for an increase in Executive roles across the screen sector for Indigenous, Black and racialized leaders and where these are new positions, for these roles to have the appropriate authority, budget, and staffing to not only make an impact but to set up these new offices and employees for success.

Many organizations that finance documentary films have made commitments toward decolonization and to dismantle systemic racism within their operations, their leadership, and the way they support filmmakers. Two essential elements in this work are a clear vision for why this must be done, that is deeply shared at every level of the institution; and transparency. Public information about who is being financed and how equity plans are being implemented are key to our sector’s transformation to dismantle systemic inequalities. DOC sees this work as essential to carrying out our mandate to advocate for an equitable, sustainable environment for documentary production and to strengthen the sector within the broader cultural industry.