The Professional Writers Association of Canada (formerly the Periodical Writers Association of Canada) represents professional freelance writers working in Canada's magazine, newspaper, corporate writing, government writing and book publishing industries. For more information about PWAC, including how to join, please visit To find a Canadian writer, please visit

Friday, October 28, 2005

Strength in Numbers

PWAC has signed a letter of agreement to work with the new Canadian Freelance Union

PWAC will cooperate on joint projects of mutual interest with the new Canadian Freelance Union (CFU) being formed as an arm of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP).

The CEP is a fully-Canadian trade union that bargains for thousands of people working for large newspapers across the country, such as the Vancouver Sun and the Toronto Star.

Our affiliation with the CEP will be similar to the arrangement PWAC has had with the Canadian Media Guild (CMG) over the past few years. The CMG, a subsidiary of a much larger union in the U.S., is the bargaining unit that represents thousands of employees and freelancers at the CBC and other media outlets such as the Montreal Gazette.

The precedent for this type of collective action was set in 1988. As a founding member of CANCOPY, PWAC helped give birth to Canada’s copyright collective. That organization (now known as Access Copyright) has now grown to more than 6,400 creators with an annual budget of more than $30,000,000.

Joining forces with other like-minded organizations to work on behalf of creators is an underlying principle that has driven PWAC for nearly 20 years.

Why is PWAC working with the CEP?

We want to help freelancers get better rates. We want to get fairer contracts. We want to help get more respect from publishers. These are all things that our members said were important during the strategic planning session at the AGM in St. Andrews in 2004.

These are things that we can only achieve through collective action.

But PWAC is not big enough on our own to make these things happen. Beyond that, PWAC does not have the legal rights of a trade union. As a non-profit arts service organization, PWAC is not technically supposed to take collective action such as boycotts or strikes. Unions do not suffer from this limitation. By working with the new collective that the CEP is hoping to form, we can help our members improve our incomes, our working conditions, and our futures.

The Canadian Freelance Union (CFU) is forming—with or without PWAC. That is why the National Executive has endorsed this letter of agreement. This agreement is only a first step, a symbolic step to show that the two organizations share the same common goal of creating a fairer playing field for freelance writers in Canada.

But it gives us a historic opportunity to do what our members have been urging us to do for many years: gain more clout in the marketplace. We are now discussing several projects of joint interest.

As for the future, PWAC will continue to serve as a professional association, with networking, professional development and other services to help our members develop the craft of writing. This is what we do best. The CFU will help members with collective negotiations, contracts and grievances. This is what unions do best.

The P is for...

Please Note: PWAC is in the middle of a name change and rebranding process. At our last AGM in Hamilton, Ontario, our membership voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing our name to Professional Writers Association of Canada.

We applied for ministerial approval for this change and have received it. Officially then, we are no longer the Periodical Writers Association of Canada. So, hooray, welcome to our new name. We used to be PWAC, and now we are... PWAC!

That said, we are taking time with this rebranding process. We have been Periodical for almost 30 years now, and it is a strong identity out there in the world. Our official launch date for rebranding the entire association, with new logo, new cards, new look for the website, etc. is Thursday, May 11th, at our National Conference in Ottawa. Between then and now, we are encouraging all of our members to use our new name as broadly and freely as possible, but we will continue to answer to both names.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

PWAC on the Hill

PWAC's Executive Director, John Degen, was one of over 70 arts professionals knocking on MP office doors on Tuesday during a special Canadian Arts Coalition day in Ottawa. The focus of the day was a request for a substantial increase to the budget for the Canada Council for the Arts. PWAC's ED was invited to participate both as the head of a national cultural association, and as a successful poet and novelist in his own right.

By all accounts, the lobby day was a great success, with some of Canada's highest profile artists (ballet dancers, writers, actors, filmmakers, musicians etc.) delivering the message that federal support for our economic sector lags far behind that of most other countries with whom we would normally compare ourselves. On a per capita basis, for instance, Canada allocates tax dollars at only one quarter the amount apportioned to the arts and culture by Wales. Ireland, Scotland, England, Norway, Australia and New Zealand all spend far more on the cultural sector than does Canada. The Coalition was asking for the government to apportion an extra $5 per Canadian of already collected taxes to the Council's budget, effectively doubling the amount the Council has to work with.

Why is this important to PWAC? Well, the Canada Council for the Arts is one of our primary funders, providing PWAC with a regular multi-year operating grant. As well, as more and more PWACers move into the business of authoring books, the Canada Council block grants for publishers, and individual grants for writers will more and more come into play.

To read more about the Coalition's ask, check out this op-ed in today's Toronto Star.

Friday, October 21, 2005

the business of writing

A full membership achievement bulletin will be sent out next week, but we thought we'd end this week with the best news possible:

Former PWAC President Ann Douglas has received the Peterborough Business Award of Excellence from the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, in the micro business category (businesses with up to 10 employees).

As Ann herself writes of the award (on her very own blog):

It was a huge thrill to be recognized in the business community because often writers have a hard time being taken seriously as business people.

Congratulations Ann. PWAC couldn't be more proud.

As we like to say around the office these days... the P stands for Professional!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Celebrate PWAC in Ottawa

PWAC's 30th Anniversary National Conference in Ottawa is coming together. Please be reminded of the dates -- put them in your calendar now, as you won't want to miss out on this one:

Thursday, May 11 to Sunday May 14, 2006

Full details for registration, accommodations and the schedule of events will be posted as they come in, both here and on our website at:

This just in: Maclean's backpage columnist Paul Wells will be our featured speaker at a special 30th anniversary cocktail reception on Thursday, May 11th. Come out, mix and mingle with a crowd of Ottawa insiders, writers and politicos, and listen to Paul Wells speak about the business of writing in Canada.

As well, we are gathering sponsors for the National Conference, and are always looking for more. Please click here to see our sponsorship levels. If you are interested in being a sponsor, or have a great idea for a local (Ottawa) or national sponsor, please contact our Conference committee chair, Tanya Gulliver at If you are interested in booking a Trade Fair booth, please contact Kim Arnott at

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Speaking of copyright

Longtime PWAC member Heather Robertson has a date with the Supreme Court late this fall, in her now ten-year old dispute with The Globe & Mail over ownership of digital rights. PWAC has supported (morally and financially) this legal stand for writers' rights from the very first court date oh so many years ago. The following is Heather's latest note to all PWAC members (posted with permission):

Dear PWAC National Executive and Fellow Members,

My sincere thanks for your generous donation towards the disbursement costs in Robertson vs Thomson. McGowan &Company have worked extremely hard for 10 years and so far with success.

The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa will hear the cross-appeals on Tuesday, December 6. The hearing will be brief (arguments only) in either the morning or afternoon. (I will confirm later) SPECTATORS ARE WELCOME so any writers in the Ottawa area may wish to attend.

Without the continued financial support of the PWAC members, this class action could not have continued to this ultimate point. Of course it will be some time before the court releases its decision.

PS: The US court has approved the settlement between the publishers and the Authors' Guild et al. This will not affect writers who have opted out, or any Canadian writers if the Ontario court approves our motion this coming January to the effect that US courts have no jurisdiction over Canadian citizens.

Many thanks, and best wishes for your excellent work in all areas, Heather Robertson

Monday, October 03, 2005

The user's perspective ©

Canadian copyright deep-thinker Michael Geist has edited a collection of essays on the subject -- including several dealing with Bill C-60, the new piece of legislation before Parliament that seeks to bring Canadian copyright law further into the digital age.

True to his user-rights leanings, Geist has convinced his publisher, Irwin Law to provide the entire text of In the Public Interest as a free PDF download under a Creative Commons licence (though it looks like one can only download it chapter by chapter rather than as a full text). No word yet on how much each essay author stands to make if this puppy is picked up as a textbook in Canada's university market, or if the essays are downloaded, photocopied and then distributed in coursepacks, or just e-mailed to students as PDFs.

Further Update

Brand new news on the CBC lock-out (just in time for hockey season) -- from the Canadian Media Guild website this morning:

We have an agreement in principle!

We are very pleased to report that the Canadian Media Guild and CBC management have reached an agreement in principle that will form the basis for a new, fair collective agreement.

We still have work to do. A committee will be formed to write the remaining contract language to form a tentative agreement for ratification.

According to the CMG, here are the highlights of the deal:

• we have a strong commitment to permanent staff as the standard for employment at the CBC.
• We have improved rights for contract and temporary employees.
• Wages will increase by 12.6 percent over the life of the contract to March 31, 2009. There will be full retroactivity for all employees on the payroll prior to the lockout, including contract and temporary employees. There will also be a $1000 signing bonus.

PWAC looks forward to finding out just what exactly "improved rights for contract and temporary employees" means. Congratulations to all in this deal.