UPDATE: FEBRUARY 12, 2014 The Rhubarb Festival going strong, regardless of funding or answers
This past October, The Department of Canadian Heritage denied funding for this year’s Rhubarb Festival after many years of support and, most importantly, without explanation. We decided to make this information public. As a queer organization that promotes freedom of expression for communities and perspectives that are often silenced, we believe that it is important for the public to know when there are sudden and unexplained shifts in government policy affecting the arts in Canada.
The outpouring of community support was overwhelming. Thousands of you wrote letters, signed petitions, and made your voice heard. Even though the government still refuses to give us any real answers, these actions demonstrated that people still believe in transparency, accountability, and the important work being done here at Buddies.
We were deeply moved by everyone’s hard work and support – thank you for believing in us.
In the months ahead, we will be working with like-minded organizations across the country to stress the need for more transparency from the Department of Canadian Heritage. In the meantime, as you can see, The Rhubarb Festival continues as strong as ever and we will work to ensure that it continues to thrive in the years ahead.
Rhubarb is, has always been, and will ever continue to be a celebration of our community. It brings exciting new voices to the stage, makes space for new ideas, and is a place for people to connect and discover each other through art. This cannot be undone by a single grant or government agency. Rhubarb continues to flourish because all of you are here with us tonight.
UPDATE: Peggy Nash demands answers on the floor of the house of commons
UPDATE: DECEMBER 9, LAUNCHING A PETITION
It’s been 11 days with still no response from the Department of Canadian Heritage or The Honourable Shelly Glover. Many of you have written eloquent and passionate letters on our behalf, and still no specific reason is given as to why The Rhubarb Festival was denied funding.
As a next step, we have launched a petition (which you can sign by clicking here) so that we can demonstrate the broad community of support behind our request. Please take a moment to sign the petition and share it with your contacts.
update:NOVEMBER 28 at 4:00PM
In the short time since we posted this, we have seen an outpouring of support and outrage from our community. Many of you have also reached out to us asking ‘what can I do?’
1) If you have participated in Rhubarb before – as an artist or an audience member – you can send us your story about how Rhubarb has helped you build and connect to your community. These testimonials are tangible evidence of the festival’s role in ‘building communities through arts an culture’ and we can include in future funding requests.
2) You can contact your MP to ask that The Department of Canadian Heritage act with transparency and give us specific feedback on why our application was unsuccessful. Without this information we cannot reasonably hope to address their concerns when applying for funding in the future.
original post november 28 at 11:00am
When we contacted the department to get some more information about why we suddenly did not fit the funding criteria, we were told in very generalized terms that we no longer meet the objectives of the Canadian Heritage program Building Communities through Arts and Heritage. The stated objective of this program is: “to engage citizens in their local communities through performing and visual arts, as well as through the expression, celebration, and preservation of local historical heritage.”
This is not the first time that Canadian Heritage has withheld support from us. It happened once before. However, when this occurred, we received specific indications from the department on where our application fell short. What is troubling this time is that we have not been given any clear indication as to why we no longer meet their criteria. This has left us surprised and confused. Why do we no longer meet the program’s objective? We did not propose any significant shifts to the festival in our application. There has been no announced change in policy or priorities. The only source of new priorities that we can see at Canadian Heritage is the appointment of the new Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, the Honourable Shelly Glover.
Unfortunately, there is no appeal process. We have been encouraged to reapply in the future and we will. We hope that we will have the opportunity to work with Canadian Heritage again.
However, we also believe that it is important for the arts community and the public to know when there are shifts in government policy affecting the arts in Canada. As a queer organization that promotes freedom of expression for communities and perspectives that are often silenced, it is our duty to inform them. It becomes even more important for us to speak out when these shifts occur without any explanation. We believe that it is reasonable for citizens to expect a level of transparency from the Department of Canadian Heritage.
We also wanted to invite you, our audience, to help us articulate how the Rhubarb Festival has “built communities through arts” and has met “the needs of Canadians”. On this 35th anniversary of the festival, we would like to know what Rhubarb means to you.
Rest assured, the Rhubarb Festival will still happen this upcoming February and we remain committed to providing space for communities to engage with boundary-pushing performance and ideas. We look forward to seeing you there.
Thank you for all of your support.