Canada Council for the Arts.


Among our slew of centralizing heritage and cultural institutions, scorecards for representing sexual diversity diverge greatly: National Gallery of Canada, B+; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, C+; the Canadian Museum of Civilization, F; the National Film Board of Canada, B. The Canada Council for the Arts gets A as the only agency with a steady and positive record of living up to its mandate of reflecting the sexual diversity of Canadian history, culture and populations. Inaugurated in 1957, the Council acknowledged cinema as a distinct discipline only in 1969, and video shortly thereafter. The Council’s grant-awarding protocol of peer juries composed of artists and its commitment to “parallel” institutions ensured that the Council’s largesse was always one step ahead of the so-called “taxpayers” in its support of artists belonging to sexual and gender minorities. The majority of the individuals and institutions in this Portrait Gallery have benefited at some point from Council largesse, from Timonthy Findley to Deanna Bowen, and although the community festivals were sometimes slow in figuring out a funding angle, they too all eventually lined up at one Council spout or another. Though its sexual diversity mandate has never been explicit, unlike its affirmative action programmes around gender and around racial and aboriginal minorities, the Council has been a principal funder of queer moving image culture from coast to coast to coast for the last quarter century. Over the years, the Council’s defense of its arms-length relationship to the powers that be has been steady, through vilification by the Alberta Report for its support of “Kiss and Tell” (see Persimmon Blackbridge) through Reform Party MPs’ attacks on Cynthia Roberts’s Bubbles Galore, through hell and high water.