Actor Ellen Page, left, and director Patricia Rozema pose as they promote the film “Into The Forest,” in Toronto on Tuesday, May 31, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Actor Ellen Page, left, and director Patricia Rozema pose as they promote the film “Into The Forest,” in Toronto on Tuesday, May 31, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Canadian screen stars want ‘action’ from industry meeting on sexual misconduct

‘Of course there’s been sexual harassment here. Absolutely. No question.’

Compared to Hollywood, Canada’s screen industry is tiny. And by all accounts, there are fewer egos, bullies and power-trippers on the scale of Harvey Weinstein within it.

“But of course there’s been sexual harassment here. Absolutely. No question,” Emmy-nominated Canadian writer-director Patricia Rozema said in a recent interview.

“There are definitely, definitely cases of people who have been systematically sexually harassing young actors, female actors, and getting away with it, and people looking the other way.”

Canada’s performers’ union, ACTRA, has invited industry stakeholders to a closed-door meeting on Thursday to discuss how to implement practical, concrete measures to tackle the issue here in a way that also leads to cultural change.

“Is there a specific thing I would like to see come out of that meeting? Action,” said actor Lyriq Bent.

“This isn’t something that is new, this is something that’s been going on for a long time, which is why a lot of what we’re hearing about has been 20, 30 years ago…. Now, an opportunity came along where people have to listen. So let’s purge. Let’s purge ourselves of all of this sickness and move forward. It’s about time.”

While sexual misconduct has long been a part of the Canadian industry, it’s a problem that seems to be growing, said actress-writer Susan Coyne, co-creator of ”Slings and Arrows and screenwriter of the new film “The Man Who Invented Christmas.”

For the past year, she’s been holding ad-hoc meetings in Toronto living rooms and coffee shops about sexual misconduct in the industry. The latest meeting had about 25 women in attendance.

“What I was hearing from younger actresses is things have gotten worse than when I and my friends, like Martha Burns, were younger and were their age and starting out,” said Coyne.

“And I don’t understand how that could be. It was so disturbing.”

The smallness of Canada’s screen industry makes it “almost harder to speak up, because there’s just so much less work and we don’t have the stars who can lead the charge either,” she added.

“We work a lot, not just on Canadian sets, but we have a lot of American shows that come up here, too. And Canadians have even less power there, working on an American show; it’s so easy to replace you.”

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Atom Egoyan said ACTRA needs to take “a much firmer stand” going forward.

“There are situations clearly in history where ACTRA was told of abuses and didn’t react properly and I think that can never, ever happen again,” said Egoyan.

“I think obviously — and ACTRA is quite aware of the fact that — they bowed to pressure.”

Actress Mia Kirshner is also critical of the way ACTRA has handled the topic of sexual harassment and abuse.

“Too little, too late. I don’t believe that ACTRA is actually interested listening to union members,” Kirshner tweeted recently.

“I believe that this committee is being created for the purpose of public relations.”

She wrote that she declined to be a part of a new committee created by ACTRA to deal with the issue and instead has co-created a group called #AfterMeToo to push for change.

Jennifer Jonas, producer and owner of New Real Films, said Thursday’s industry meeting should address the need for parity and equality on TV and film sets.

“Sexual harassment, I guess you could boil down to being a kind of bullying where the power dynamic is in someone else’s favour,” said Jonas.

“What I’m happy to be seeing with the #metoo (hashtag) and all the different industry people — both in Canada and the United States — coming out with their statements and everything right now is that people are recognizing that if you make sure there’s more gender parity, more diversity, take the power away from the bullies, that things will necessarily and structurally improve.”

Rozema suggested industry workers also need a better method to report information about offenders.

“Right now we have a system where people can do whatever they want, but only if you have enough information to convict someone can you do anything about it,” she said.

“There needs to be a system in place where there can be anonymous reports. So if you get 60 reports on some dude, you can start to say, ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.’”

Writer-director Michael Dowse added that a responsibility also lies with agents in ensuring they don’t put their clients “in harm’s way.”

“Obviously nobody should be doing that thing, but there should be an awareness of reading those situations and avoiding private meetings with directors,” said Dowse.

Actor Shawn Doyle, who is a councillor for ACTRA Toronto, insisted the union is taking the situation and this moment in time “very, very seriously.”

“I think it’s really important that at the end of that meeting there comes out a firm set of guidelines, that we can move forward as an industry together,” he said. ”Something that can be enforced across the board. Something that doesn’t allow wiggle room.

“There are going to have to be consequences for people committing any kind of harassment or bullying or abuse of any sort. And my hope is that we can find a speedy way to get to some resolve and protect our members.”

— With files from Maija Kappler

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce will host the Valley Wide Business Expo May 4 at Predator Ridge Resort. (photo submitted)
Golf raffle helps Okanagan families score homes

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan swinging into action this summer with a new raffle

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Most Read