On June 5th and 6th, 2018, Sandra Battaglini represented CASC in Ottawa at meetings with both elected officials and federal bureaucrats.
The discussions included two main issues:
- Labour mobility of Canadian stand-up comics to the United States.
- The receptivity of allowing stand-up comedy to be included as an art under Heritage Canada in order for Canadian comics to access government funding.
The recent trade tariff dispute between the U.S. and Canada has come in the middle of the NAFTA negotiations. This turn of events casts some doubt on the ability of Canadian officials to successfully assist with CASC’s main ask for them to leverage true labour mobility between our two countries for performers. Other performers, such as musicians, have also been speaking to the government on this issue.
Canada has indicated it wants to modernize the list of professions eligible for a NAFTA work visa under Chapter 16, (it’s decades old). The U.S. resistance is wrapped up in their heated debate about immigration. This issue is currently under consideration by our Government, but the Labour Mobility Chapter is one of the most contentious in NAFTA.
Global Affairs Canada, Heritage Canada, Citizenship and Immigration
- While Canada would like to expand the list of professionals, the U.S. is not eager. The U.S. Executive Branch says they’re not technically authorized to negotiate labour mobility. Moreover, the political climate there is not favourable to easing border restrictions. In fact, business visitors already allowed into the U.S. are facing increased scrutiny.
- But, if talks on labour mobility under NAFTA restart, it’s possible that our Government could include comedians as a potential profession under the business visitor’s section.
- We were instructed to meet with the Geographic World Division of Global Affairs Canada to learn about a 2018 Bill in U.S. Congress called the “Arts Require Timely Services Act”. The Bill speeds up the process for O and P visa petitions and grants premium visa processing without charge.
- On a side note, Heritage shared with us they deem comedy an art form because they fund comedy festivals. They do not fund individual artists, however. That falls under the purview of the Canada Arts Council who currently have no profile for comedy. Heritage is the ones who hand out money to the Canada Council for the Arts.
Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Canada-US)
- The possibility of Canada adding tariffs/visa requirements to US comedians was brought up to level the playing field.
- A commitment was made to speak with Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator about getting Canadian comics parity.
- It was requested we send them first-hand stories about the difficulties Canadian comedians have when traveling to the U.S.
- They tasked Global Affairs to do more research on this to see how wide the problem is.
Critic for Canada-US Relations
- Suggested we meet with Conservatives on this issue to update them.
- Would send a note to the government on our behalf.
- Asked if the US and UK (or any countries) provide grants for their comedians
- Recommended CASC look at the music industry model for success
- Recommended CASC get into schools to teach stand-up as an art
Advisors to Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Noted that CASC has to engage immigration and heritage officials
- Would discuss this matter with NAFTA chief negotiator and Heritage Minister’s office.
- Follow-up letters and Thank Yous sent to all, including personal stories of difficulties encountered when trying to perform in the U.S.
- Maintain contact with Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Global Affairs
- Contact Kate Cornell and Richard Julian to learn about their efforts
- TSA and Sandra had a call with Geographic World Division of Global Affairs
- Submit a pre-budget submission to FINA for funding (deadline August 3, 2018)
More meetings to consider:
- Global Affairs, International Trade, Heritage Canada, Citizenship and Immigration
- MPs (Conservatives)
- PM’s office
- Minister of Foreign Affairs
- TSA to assist with a media article to generate public awareness