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

Monday, October 30, 2006

showing the money

The Canada Council for the Arts, one of PWAC's operating funders (please see the right hand menu), has recently received supplementary funds totaling $50 million over two years. PWAC attended a meeting in Ottawa last week to discuss these extra funds and how they might be distributed within Canada's cultural industries (including writing and publishing).

The Council has released their plans for the $50 million today (details at the CC link above). Here's what it means for Canada's writers, in a nutshell:

There is extra money for individual grants to writers, which are to be awarded in 2006/07 -- specifically, writers who have made the "highly recommended" list in grant deliberations may now find themselves bumped up to the level where they actually receive a Canada Council subsistence grant.

Supplementary operating funds will be available for Canada's National Arts Service Organizations serving the writing community (this includes PWAC). This extra money is not guaranteed, but will be distributed through a competitive process and based on measurable outcomes.

Response to this announcement from the community has been swift. PWAC is closely linked with both the Canadian Conference of the Arts and the Canadian Arts Coalition, both of whom have celebrated the extra funding, but noted that it does not yet represent the stable increased funding the community has been asking for. Here is the Canadian Arts Coalition's message in full:

The Canadian Arts Coalition Welcomes Increase in Arts Funding

(October 30, 2006 - Toronto) The Canadian Arts Coalition applauds the federal government’s commitment to the arts as expressed in the increased funding to Canada Council for the Arts. As announced in May’s federal budget, the Council will receive an extra $50 million over the 2006-07 and 2007-08 fiscal years.

Today, the Council announced its plans to increase funding for arts organizations, individual artists and public access to the arts.

“The Canadian Arts Coalition welcomes the federal government’s allotment of $50 million in new money to the Canada Council over the next two years,” said Micheline McKay, the Coalition’s Co-chair and Executive Director of “This is an excellent first step towards attaining stable, long-term and sustainable funding for the arts. The Coalition’s goal is to see an annual increase of $100 million in federal funding for the arts through the Canada Council.”

The Canadian Arts Coalition is the largest consortium of arts supporters: business leaders and arts philanthropists, sponsors and volunteers, artists and arts organizations, ever assembled in Canada. We believe that the future of our citizens, their towns and cities, and indeed, the nation itself depends on a rich, vibrant and diverse arts community.

Friday, October 27, 2006

a writer's place?

Compare and contrast the position of writers in these two industry pieces:

Following up on their press release warning of the potential removal of the longstanding postal subsidy for print magazines, Magazines Canada has delivered a pre-budget submission to the Commons Standing Committee on Finance in Halifax this week. Read all about it at the Canadian Magazines blog.

Here's a highlight of their submission:

The effects of Canada Post's decision are many: It could mean cutting back on the amount of editorial and Canadian-content pages that can be produced. It could mean fewer jobs and assignments for Canada's writers, creators, illustrators and photographers.

And in (sort of) related news:

Editor &Publisher in the United States has published a report speculating that it might be decades before online revenue makes a significant impact on the newspaper business.

The full article is a fascinating read. It does not once use the word "content." Instead there's this:

We are fearful the recovery coming out of the current downturn could be even more muted as online continues to transform the newspaper’s most lucrative, and most cyclical category, classifieds.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

the long & short

The freelancer's dilemma is succinctly outlined in this article about the end of long-form journalism by Leigh Doyle. Published in The Tyee, a version of Doyle's article won the National Magazine Student Writing Award last year.

Please read the entire article. Here are some highlights:

Many writers cannot avoid romanticized notions when talking about long-form articles. They regard it as the heart and soul of journalism...

Over the past 10 years, [former Saturday Night editor, Matthew] Church has observed an unhappy trend. "Writers spend less time editing themselves," which has weakened the writer-editor relationship. "Mostly," he concedes, "it's because writers aren't being paid enough."...

...if long [newspaper] articles were to become more common, freelancers would have to contend with the paltrier rates newspapers traditionally pay.

The low rates are not so low that writers are deterred entirely from going long. The desire is strong enough that many work for small fees or honoraria. Otherwise, smaller general interest magazines of a certain level of quality -- such as Toronto's This, Vancouver's Geist, and Montreal's Maisonneuve -- would not exist.

Thanks to the Canadian Magazines blog for the tip.

Monday, October 16, 2006

postage unpaid

Trouble, with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for postal subsidy.

Magazines Canada has sent out this press release, warning of the potential loss of the postal subsidy on magazine distribution that has kept the readers and writers of Canada in material and markets for well over a century:

End of Canadian magazine distribution partnership with Canada Post may put affordable, accessible Canadian content magazines out of reach for Canadians in rural areas

Toronto -- The Canadian magazine industry is bracing for major upheaval with the news that Canada Post Corporation intends to withdraw its $15 million financial contribution to the Publications Assistance Program (PAP) within the next several months. The $15 million gap will mean that postage costs for the average magazine will jump by 31 percent and will drastically alter the way that magazines are delivered to Canadians. The steep and sudden increase in distribution costs is not viable for many publishers, putting at risk the choice and amount of Canadian magazines available to readers. It will also effectively put an end to a century-long partnership and to the subscription-based delivery model that has evolved because of federal government magazine policy.

"We are calling on the federal government to ensure that Canada Post's partnership within PAP is maintained until there's been a review and evaluation of Canada's magazine policy and how to best serve Canadian readers, writers, creators and the small-to medium-sized businesses that publish more than two-thirds of Canada's consumer magazines," says Mark Jamison, chief executive officer, Magazines Canada. "In our view, allowing cuts to a highly successful magazine program without first considering the consequences for the health of Canadian culture, is short-sighted."

Accessibility to Canadian magazines and carving out space for a Canadian voice has always been a challenge in Canada for two reasons: The country's geography -- with a relatively small population spread across a huge landmass -- makes magazine distribution more difficult and costly than many other countries. And culturally, competing with the enormous size and influence of the U.S. entertainment industry and its overwhelming number of cultural products is daunting. Because of the size of its population, U.S. magazines enjoy competitive advantages such as huge editorial budgets and economies of scale that Canadian publishers simply don't have.

The PAP helps bridge the geography of this country to deliver magazines to Canadians at an affordable price. It is also a proven and highly successful magazine policy framework and directly supports the federal government's cultural objectives of connecting Canadians to one another and of ensuring there is a choice of Canadian content available across the country.

Historically, the magazine sector has been highly effective in utilizing public investment to ensure a presence for Canadian opinions, perspectives and information. Today, Canadian magazines lead Canada's cultural media industry with a market share of 41% of total magazine sales and more than 80% Canadian-authored content -- both significantly higher than other cultural sectors such as Canadian film, music, books and television.

In addition, the sector has permanent publishing infrastructures in several provinces, which results in the employment of thousands of creative staff and freelancers including writers, editors, designers, illustrators and photographers. When Canadians buy Canadian magazines, they support the work of Canadian writers and creators and help ensure that investments in advertising, printing, packaging and distribution stay here in Canada. In total, the industry invests more than $1.5 billion in Canada.

"The magazine industry is already looking at alternative delivery solutions in response to the Canada Post decision, however we can't change 100 years of magazine distribution infrastructure overnight," adds Jamison. "Before allowing drastic cuts, we collectively ought to be looking at how we can do things differently and how we can best ensure that rural Canadians and others are able to access Canadian information, stories and ideas. This is especially true in rural areas where postal costs for magazine delivery could be prohibitive without Canada Post delivery."

Magazines Canada is a national, non-profit association representing Canadian consumer magazines across the country. Canada has a vibrant and culturally rich magazine industry with more than 2,300 titles. The industry employs more than 14,400 people through full- and part-time work including 5,000 freelance writers, editors, photographers, designers and illustrators. The industry generates more than $1.5 billion in revenue, making a significant contribution to Canada's economic growth.

- 30 -

For more information, please contact:

Mark Jamison
Chief Executive Officer
Magazines Canada
416.504.0274 x223

Thursday, October 12, 2006

writers win!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, October 12, 2006


The Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) is very pleased with today’s Supreme Court of Canada decision in the class-action suit Heather Robertson, et al. v. Thomson Corporation, et al. The judgment states:

“The central issue on this appeal is whether newspaper publishers are entitled as a matter of law to republish in electronic databases freelance articles they have acquired for publication in their newspapers — without compensation to the authors and without their consent. In our view, they are not.”

Today’s ruling in favour of freelance writer and longtime PWAC member Heather Robertson has upheld freelance writers’ ownership control of the work they produce (a fundamental tenet of copyright law), and helped to clarify the legal position of independent media workers in their contractual relationships with clients. Ms. Robertson’s class-action suit sprung from a dispute with The Globe & Mail newspaper over the reuse of her freelance work in certain online databases, a use Robertson insisted she had not contractually permitted and for which she was not compensated.

“It is never pleasant to take a respected business partner to court,” commented PWAC President Suzanne Boles, “and Heather Robertson put her career on the line for this class action. She has done heroic service to the business of writing in Canada.”

“In the last decade, Canadian media have increased their reliance on freelancers to produce the content they use,” added PWAC Executive Director John Degen. “The Supreme Court has now clarified the position of creators under copyright law, and the position of an important and growing media sector – the independent contractor.”

Full details of the decision can be found at the Supreme Court website.

“Freelance writers have always seen themselves as equal partners in the business of media in Canada,” said Boles, “and this ruling will allow the entire industry to move forward with a positive understanding of writers’ rights. We’ve reached a new starting point today.”


For more information, or comments:

Suzanne Boles, PWAC President
(519) 680-1658

John Degen, Executive Director
(416) 504-1645

Friday, October 06, 2006

one decade later...

Supreme Court Decision Next Week in Heather Robertson Class Action

PWAC has received word from Heather Robertson that a final decision in her class action case, Heather Robertson, et al. v. Thomson Corporation, et al., will be handed down next Thursday (October 12th) at 9:45 a.m. on the Supreme Court of Canada website.

For background information on this long-running legal battle for freelance writers’ rights, please see the summary of the case on the Supreme Court site at:

Heather Robertson Summary

PWAC will comment on the decision next Thursday.

We would like to take this opportunity to once again thank Heather Robertson, a longtime PWAC member and a tireless advocate for writers’ rights, for her decade of commitment to this case. The contract dispute at the heart of this case dates back to 1996. Heather Robertson’s heroic dedication to this struggle benefits all writers in Canada.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

the ironies of expression

This story has a whiff of too ironic to be true about it, and if it weren't coming directly from the website of the Montgomery County (Texas) Courier newspaper website, we wouldn't bother linking to it for fear of being pranked.

It seems a Caney Creek, Texas father has requested the banning of a specific book from the local high school curriculum after language in the text made his teenage daughter uncomfortable. The book is Ray Bradbury's 1953 classic Fahrenheit 451, a novel about censorship and book burning. The curriculum removal request came in the American Library Association's Banned Books Week, during which the ALA draws attenton to issues of freedom of expression and the freedom to read.

Said the offended teen: "The book had a bunch of very bad language in it. It shouldn't be in there because it's offending people. ... If they can't find a book that uses clean words, they shouldn't have a book at all."

Thanks to and the Freedom to Read folks at the Book & Periodical Council for spreading the news.

September achievements

As always, the PWAC Member Achievement bulletin is available online. For the full text, please go here:

September Achievements

And here is a quick preview:

Irene Davis (PWAC-Toronto) has been awarded the 2006 Peter Gzowski Literacy Award of Merit, sponsored by the ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation, and given for quality reporting on issues relating to literacy. The award is for an article entitled "Literacy opens a brighter world," published November 22, 2005, in the Facts & Arguments section of The Globe and Mail.

Peter Mitham (PWAC-Vancouver), in collaboration with Douglas Gray, has co-authored Real Estate Investing for Canadians for Dummies (John Wiley). The book is a primer on investing basics, offering practical, down-to-earth advice on how to invest in property, be it residential, recreational or commercial.

Mark Kearney's (PWAC-London & Southwestern Ontario) latest book, Whatever Happened to? Catching Up With Canadian Icons, hits bookstores across Canada in October. Co-written with Ottawa writer Randy Ray, this book takes a where-are-they-now look at the fate of some 100 celebrities, newsmakers, and significant artifacts from Canada's past. Published by The Dundurn Group, the book is the eighth collaboration between Mark and Randy and can also be ordered on their website

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


PWAC staff attended CopyCamp last week in Toronto. Billed as "an unconference for artists about the Internet and the challenge to copyright," the two-day gathering took place at Ryerson university.

CopyCamp saw an unprecedented sharing of ideas and information between traditional creative cultural workers (writers, musicians, visual artists) interested both in protecting their copyright and expanding their business models in the digital realm, and what has been labelled (mostly inaccurately) the copyleft camp-- those, mostly younger, artists and digital creators who are advancing new, and often radical business models for intellectual property based on a vision of the Internet as a vast open commons.

The event was full of energetic, sometimes provocative discussion, and went a long way toward fostering a mutual respect between these groups as we all attempt meaningful copyright reform in Canada. It also helped to dissect and, hopefully, discard many of the misunderstandings and rash judgments traditional to the debate.

Answers? No, not many solid answers to be found, but the questions and theories remain fascinating, and the goodwill and cooperative spirit of the whole event bodes well.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Executive meetings

PWAC's National Executive Holds Two Days of Very Productive Meetings in Toronto

Below -- sunrise over Lake Ontario the morning of the Saturday exec meeting.

The PWAC National Executive spent last weekend around the board table at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto. Reports were delivered from all regions and committees, and the association's priority projects for this fiscal year were re-examined and finalized. Fueled mostly by coffee, bagels and fresh fruit, your elected volunteer leadership put in 17 hours of table time, plus travel and meeting prep. Two informal gatherings on Friday late-afternoon and evening, plus a delightful social gathering on Saturday night completed an exhausting, incredibly productive weekend. Minutes of the meetings are proceeding through edit and approval, and will be loaded to the members-only section of the website when completed.

Below -- (left to right) new Regional Directors Tracy Lyn Moland (Prairies and the North) and Kate Merlin (Atlantic) learn the ropes from Ontario RD Tanya Gulliver and Associate Director, Clare Leporati.