The Minister of Culture and Communications, Nathalie Roy, tabled her reform on Wednesday aimed at modifying the laws on the status of the artist, an election promise of the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ). All parties seem to want to favor its adoption by the end of the parliamentary session on June 10.
Bill 35, officially titled An Act to harmonize and modernize the rules relating to the professional status of artists, first proposes a merger of the two laws, which currently define the status of the artist and regulate their working conditions. This grouping under the same legislative framework would allow all artists to negotiate collective agreements, a change notably called for by the Union of Quebec Writers and Writers (UNEQ).
It is truly a historic page that is being turned because the old laws did not give us any power. They did not oblige publishers and broadcasters to negotiate with us. So over the years, writing conditions have deteriorated and unfair clauses have been introduced. It is a timely law, very important to structure the literary community, to make it fair and more equitable.
Suzanne Aubry, President of UNEQ
In addition to redefining names to better reflect the evolution of practices and their development – circus arts, digital experience and digital arts are mentioned by name – the bill provides that the government would have the power to intervene to set minimum working conditions for artists who are not covered by collective agreements. “For now, these are just words and we are wondering about their meaning,” says Luc Fortin, president of the Guild of Musicians of Quebec. It interests us a lot because there are several sectors that are currently unregulated and artists work without an agreement. »
In a press briefing, Minister Nathalie Roy insisted on the fact that Bill 35 expands the jurisdiction of the Administrative Labor Tribunal “significantly”. This change is indeed considered to be a major element since it will spare artists who feel aggrieved from having to initiate a legal process that is often long, tedious and costly. “It will greatly lighten the procedures”, rejoices Sophie Prégent, president of the Union of artists (UDA).
The introduction into the bill of provisions on psychological and sexual harassment is also well received. “In the summer of 2020, there was a wave of denunciations of toxic behavior from certain publishers in the literary world, underlines Suzanne Aubry. The UNEQ had received very clear requests from authors to act, but with the old law, we had no power! The new provisions of the law change everything. »
Sophie Prégent qualifies these new provisions as “important advances for artists”. It should be noted that the CAQ is also granting $3 million to L’Aparté, a front-line resource for professionals in the cultural sector, so that the organization can better support artists and their representatives in cases of harassment and sexual violence.
Towards accelerated adoption?
Luc Fortin finds that there are still “aspects to be clarified” and Sophie Prégent also believes that there are still “points to dig into”. However, the reception given to Bill 35 is generally positive. The president of the UDA even speaks of a “historic day” for the cultural world. “There is little space for the bill to pass, but I sense good will from all parties,” she adds.
After Minister Nathalie Roy’s presentation at the National Assembly’s Blue Room, Christine Labrie, MNA for Sherbrooke, proposed that Bill 35 be studied by a parliamentary committee other than that of culture and communications, currently very busy, in order to ensure its adoption before the end of this session. The suggestion was welcomed by government leader Simon Jolin-Barrette.
“It is extremely important that the government and the opposition parties agree beyond any partisanship to have this law adopted as quickly as possible, insists Suzanne Aubry. We have fought so hard for four years, a daily battle, that it would be a disaster if the law were not passed now. »
With Philippe Robitaille-Grou, The Press