CATR Board Statement on the Denial of Funding to the National Arts Centre Indigenous Theatre

Posted by | May 21, 2019 | Uncategorized

21 May 2019

Whereas, the Canadian Association of Theatre Research (CATR) recognizes the role that the theatrical arts have played and continue to play in the evolution of political, cultural and religious values in this country, and that, as one of the most “immediate” of the arts, theatre is inseparable from the historic fabric of the nation.  Furthermore, part of the purpose of CATR is to:

  • foster public awareness of the significance of theatre in our cultural heritage;
  • shape Canada’s theatrical present and future by preserving and interpreting our theatrical past and investigating areas of contemporary theory and performance; and
  • represent a cluster of related disciplines that are important to the understanding of our place in this world.

In addition to these mandates, we are a Canadian-based organization operating in a context of Indigenous resurgence and of the May 2016 Canadian government’s adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which is linked to the TRC Call to Action #43. The implementation of UNDRIP includes a number of articles relevant to the NAC Indigenous Theatre, specifically Articles 11 , 13, 15 and 31.[1]

The idea of an autonomous Indigenous theatre within the NAC came from the Indigenous theatre artists themselves, who finally believed it was time for them to hold their own space within this landmark institution. Careful study, grassroots input, Elder support, and a willingness by the NAC executive to listen and learn made the opening of NAC Indigenous Theatre during the 50th anniversary of the NAC in 2019 a reality. This had the potential of being a significant element of redress and restitution for the cultural genocide through which the nation of Canada has been built. However, the denial of funding has diminished the capacity of the department, limited the scope of subsequent seasons and brought into question the sincerity of the government efforts to create a more truthful and just relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.

Therefore, the CATR board of directors calls on the Ministry of Canadian Heritage to uphold UNDRIP, and financially commit to significant ongoing funding specific to the NAC Indigenous Theatre that will support their plans for outreach, professional development and engagement with underserved communities across the country. Such funding will enable them to, in the words of the Indigenous Theatre Artistic Director, Kevin Loring, produce stories that “have and will continue to transform this country… [and that] speak to the interconnected-ness of all things. They are the cultural heritage of this land.”


[1] Article 11 – Right to Culture

  1. Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.
  2. States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.

Article 13 – Right to Know and Use Language, Histories and Oral Traditions

  1. Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.
  2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that this right is protected and also to ensure that indigenous peoples can understand and be understood in political, legal and administrative proceedings, where necessary through the provision of interpretation or by other appropriate means.

Article 15 – Accurate Reflection of Indigenous Cultures in Education

  1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspiration which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information.
  2. States shall take effective measures, in consultation and cooperation with the indigenous peoples concerned, to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations among indigenous peoples and all other segments of society.

Article 31 – Cultural and Intellectual Property

  1. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.
  2. In conjunction with indigenous peoples, States shall take effective measures to recognize and protect the exercise of these rights.

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