Canada’s entertainment industry drafts collective code of conduct

TORONTO — Canadian entertainment organizations have responded to the recent flood of sexual misconduct allegations with a new collective code of conduct that is a “living document” with room for updating.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, the Directors Guild of Canada, the Writers Guild of Canada, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees are among some 25 groups that have signed on to the code, which was unveiled Thursday.

“There are obviously codes that exist within various organizations and unions and guilds, but this one is the only one in the world currently where the entire industry has stepped up and agreed to the same language,” ACTRA National president David Sparrow, who has been leading a working group for the code, said in a phone interview.

“That’s something that’s not happening south of the border currently and is happening here, so I think it speaks of the strong desire of the Canadian industry to address these issues.”

The Canadian Creative Industries Code of Conduct says it’s intended “to help prevent and respond to harassment including sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying and violence.”

Through various stipulations, it stresses “zero tolerance, proportional consequences, consent-based interactions and no retaliation,” and calls on signatories to “encourage good-faith reporting and timely investigations.”

The code better defines what is the workplace and what’s considered a work-related activity, such as awards ceremonies, casting meetings and industry events. It also identifies gender equality and diversity as paths to changing behaviour.

“Harassment in the workplace is a serious problem that too many women have faced in our cultural sector and in our society,” Simon Ross, a spokesman for Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, said Thursday in a statement.

“Our artists and creative industries have proven their leadership on this issue: they have acknowledged the problem and took swift action to address it. The code of conduct presented today sets a precedent and will make a real difference to ensuring a safe work environment for all.”

Sparrow said there is no legislation that would make the code mandatory, but unions and guilds have the option to work it into their collective agreements.

Those who fail to meet the specifics or the goals of the code, or transgress it, will be held accountable by the rest of the industry.

That could be “through either … naming and shaming or through just the idea of moral suasion: ‘Hey Jimmy, you signed onto this code and now you’re transgressing them and we’re not going to be able to work with you anymore,”’ Sparrow said.

Other steps outlined in the code include:

— When work requires physical contact or scenes of nudity, intimacy or violence, adhere to applicable respectful workplace policies and collective agreement obligations.

— Provide safe places where work may be performed for example, by not requiring individuals to attend meetings alone or in spaces such as private hotel rooms.

— Encourage instructors, teachers, coaches and those providing training in the industry to adhere to this code and share its principles with their students.

A working group has been creating the code since Nov. 23, when the organizations also committed to creating safer reporting measures and industry-wide education and training.

“The hope is that this code will be printed up and laminated and hanging in every craft service truck and in every audition room and every union office and workplace that we can possibly get it into so that everyone within the industry sees their responsibility hanging right there on the wall and reference it,” Sparrow said.

“It’s why we went with a code that’s got bullet points and a fair amount of neutral space — so that people can read it while they make a peanut butter sandwich in the craft truck and know that they have to change their behaviour.”

About 30 different representatives of the music industry met last week in Toronto to talk about creating their own code of conduct.

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