Young Quebecois creators struggle to find funding

Finding alternative means of fundings in the cinema industry crucial more than ever before

As new cohorts of young creatives, freshly graduated from CEGEPs and universities are developing their own audiovisual works, the world of independent cinema is undergoing a revolution, both creatively and technologically.

New faces are entering the business with the modernized technologies and social networks that have revolutionized the distribution and communication around films and series. One of the challenges that awaits these young people in the film industry, however, is the question of funding.  

When Catherine Quesnel read the script for what was supposed to be a short film sent to her by her friend and classmate Eléonore Delvaux-Beaudoin, she decided to co-direct it with her in the form of a mini web series. One of the obstacles she quickly discovered was the issue of production.

While the inspiration to write and create was not lacking for these two CEGEP students, the question quickly arose as to how they would finance their project.

The duo asked for help from their classmates Lu Sergei Denaud and Léa Desjardins, who became producers on the project. Soon, they were joined by other fellow students to create a production team for the web series Léo au féminin

They explained that the first thing that was on their mind when starting was to clearly define how they were going to merge the artistic side with the production side. 

“It was always about constantly defining, ‘How many people do we need? What are all the steps? This takes money, how do we find it?’ ” explained Desjardins. “There is no set rule to follow, you have to constantly be looking, searching for the information.”

The team already had some technical notions of organization and production that they had learned in school during their film classes. 

“We tried to give ourselves a good structure, an organization as soon as we started the pre-production and then we had to ask ourselves the question of how to find funding in Quebec,” said Denaud.

The team first looked at funding opportunities throughout Quebec’s state-funded organizations for the development of arts and culture, such as the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC).

“At the beginning we thought we would go for subsidies, but it was not easy,” said Desjardins. SODEC does offer a funding program for people starting out in the industry. 

However, it proved to be too complicated for the young team to apply for financial aid: “It’s very complicated: you must fill out a lot of documents, you must know which team you have, and you must have UDA members for the actors,” explained Desjardins.

L’Union des artistes (UDA) is a professional union tasked with representing artists who speak French, or any language other than English within Canada.  

However, the team had decided to hire people from their network of young actors and directors to work on the series. None of them had a foot in the door yet and were by no means already unionized. The team’s inexperience was therefore the defining factor that did not make them eligible for the grant.

The production team decided to register the series as an “amateur” not-for-profit production and not a “professional” one, which wouldn’t allow them to ask for subsidies but would give them more freedom.

“We decided to be amateur officially, but as professional as possible in practice. We wanted to give it all anyway,” said Desjardins. Denaud also added that this gave them more freedom on shooting, and release dates.

This freedom, they discovered, was also obtained from the rejections they had received from numerous production companies. This allowed them to stay independent and make the series the way they wanted, without any obligations from a company. 

Nonetheless, from these rejections came the precious help of a producer who decided to be their mentor. They also found the help of a professional film editor who was willing to edit the series voluntarily. 

Jonathan Beaulieu-Cyr, a young independent producer and director from Montreal, explained that it is complicated to find funding for a project as a fresh graduate starting out in the industry. 

“Organizations such as SODEC and Telefilms give generous amounts of money, but you must be very advanced in your career,” said  Beaulieu-Cyr. “I know that I am very lucky personally to be able to make a living exclusively from film, it is very rare.”

Wiebke von Carolsfeld, a film director, writer, editor, and a teacher at Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema agreed with Beaulieu-Cyr.

“You have to pay up before you get paid and that can drag on forever,” she said. “It does put an interesting dilemma in the beginning, for example, how are you going to get experience to get hired?” 

Von Carolsfeld added that she believes that the most important thing for young creatives is mentorship and access to professionals in the field who are willing to offer their help to navigate the complicated industry.  

This is exactly what allowed the team of Léo au féminin to produce the series. Quesnel explained how creating connections worked to their advantage.  

Louanne Caron/Léo au féminin

“For example, we had a friend who was going to be one of our actors who had friends who did lighting,” said Quesnel. “And those people rented a studio so connecting with them allowed us to have some kind of headquarters and people that were good with lighting and  good with equipment.” 

Through a call for donations on GoFundMe, the team managed to raise funds, gather a social media following in the process and develop a solid network of friends, classmates, and people in the industry that finally led to the success of their project.


Endometriosis, a gut-wrenching disease that continues getting ignored

Endometriosis is a disease so debilitating it can wreak havoc on the physical and mental well-being of women all over the world

A pain so searing the simple task of getting out of bed becomes a chore. Unable to move, you lay there, immobile, never knowing if the pain will lessen or ramp up. Hoping that if you position yourself a certain way the crushing pain will dwindle to something bearable. Alone you cry, trying to remedy the situation via a concoction of self-administered methods and prescribed medications — all to no avail. As the suffering progresses you begin to lose hope, asking yourself why doctors continue to doubt your symptoms, assuring this as normal and turning you away.

Endometriosis is a disease that affects one in 10 women and can present itself in four levels of severity. It occurs when the lining tissue of the uterus, similar to the endometrium, grows outside of the organ. The exposed tissue thickens, breaks down, and bleeds inside the body with no way of escaping, causing inflammation resulting in bouts of extreme pain and in many cases possible infertility.

Maria-José Arauz is one of the many people who deal with the disease. Before her diagnosis, Arauz dealt with symptoms related to endometriosis for five years. After visiting multiple specialists, she continued receiving the same conclusion: that her pains were related to menstruation and there was nothing that could be done. “They were good doctors, I mean they weren’t bad doctors with bad reviews, […] they’re just not prepared to treat people with endometriosis so most of them told me to take Advil.” Though she waited for nearly half a decade before getting diagnosed, Arauz says it usually takes some women even longer to receive a definitive diagnosis.

Dr. Sarah Maheux-Lacroix is a gynecologist who specializes in research and clinical care for endometriosis at the CHU de Québec Laval University research centre. Maheux-Lacroix believes that medical negligence that women like Arauz face  derives from the complexity in identifying endometriosis in the body to provide a proper diagnosis. “The gold standard to diagnose endometriosis is surgery. The fact that it requires surgery is one of the factors that can contribute to a delay in diagnosis.” Maheux-Lacroix says the only way to avoid misdiagnosis is to spread awareness on both a medical and societal level. “There are some doctors that are good in women’s health and others that are not, so I think we need to talk about it more.”

“For me to get all of that was a really hard process because I had to fight and advocate for myself, I had to show that my life wasn’t normal and that all the pain I was having and the anxiety I was living due to this wasn’t normal,” Arauz said.

“I wasn’t functioning like a normal person.”

Endometriosis affects women living with the disease at different levels. It can vary in four stages of severity that define the extensions of lesions in the pelvis. Some may be at a stage four and asymptomatic, while others can be at stage one and experience high sieges of pain imminently impacting their quality of life.

Women experience pain caused by endometriosis usually when they’re about to begin their menstrual cycle. The pain forced Arauz to plan around her disease instead of freely living her life. “There are days I can’t cook or can’t eat. I cannot work, I have to cancel all my plans. It’s like I have to plan everything according to the day I have my period,” Arauz said.

“I’m on the floor crying in pain and at the same time I’m vomiting from the pain as well.”

The disease can be very extensive in the abdomen and pelvic regions creating a slew of many other complications. “It can affect fertility, it can also lead to chronic pelvic pain, and can create cyst ruptures that can cause acute pain that would require emergency surgery,” Maheux-Lacroix said.

Other complications that Maheux-Lacroix noted include torsion of an ovarian cyst, and possible infections that can lead to detrimental health problems. “Endo can invade some structures such as the rectum and urinary tract system and could affect the function of the kidneys and bowels.” According to her research, there are likely different types of endometrioses that affect women differently.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer a few months after her endometriosis diagnosis in 2019, Arauz noticed a difference in care when comparing her cancer treatment to her experiences with endometriosis. “I got my treatments on time, I had a really good follow up, but I can’t say the same thing for endometriosis. Endo doesn’t kill you like cancer does, but it can kill your quality of life,” Arauz said.

“I actually find that the pain that I went through with endometriosis was worse for me than breast cancer treatment.”

More Funding for Research Is Needed

According to EndoAct Canada, the disease costs the country $1.8 billion per year. Though much more research is needed, Maheux-Lacroix believes that funding only happens when diseases are a societal concern. “As a society we decide that we want to focus on cancer or we want to fund diabetes so it’s the lack of discussion and because it’s taboo there’s that lack of discussion.” However, she’s hopeful that desensitizing the disease will eventually further funding and development for proper solutions. “It’s political and there are plenty of priorities and unfortunately endo is definitely not one but I think people are ready to hear about the disease and put more money to properly study it. It deserves to be studied a lot more.”

On Jan. 28, EndoAct Canada started the #ActOnEndo campaign to raise awareness for endometriosis. Their goal is to contact all MPs in the house of commons to advocate for the federal government to develop an action plan for people living with the disease. Since the campaign started, executive director of EndoAct Canada Kate Wahl says that the campaign is off to a strong start and they would love to contact all 338 MPs to spread the message. “We have a tracking sheet of MPs that have been contacted by advocates in the community. The last time I looked at it we’re sitting around 70 MPs in the first week,” Wahl said. “It really just speaks to the importance of this to people living with endo to see action and leadership from our elected officials on the issue.”

More research and awareness is needed to spread the message so that more women can be efficiently and effectively treated, to avoid years of suffering and receive the proper treatment they so desperately need.

Visuals by Miao De Kat @miao_dekat


Quebec’s HIV/AIDS Services Continue Being Defunded

The COCQ-SIDA has rung the alarm about its funding crisis from the federal and provincial governments.

There are now less than five months remaining until the funding cycle for local HIV/AIDS services from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is renewed on Apr. 1, 2022. The Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-SIDA), a representational body of Quebec’s HIV/AIDS community organizations, is concerned about the deadline’s impacts.

The organization has been pointing at a crisis revolving around issues of funding. Unfortunately, rates of HIV/AIDS transmission across Canada have been on the rise for quite some time. Since 2003, Canada has implemented new programs to fight the virus in a multitude of ways, spanning from treatment to prevention. Members of Parliament urged the Harper government to increase funding, but its response was underwhelming according to doctors and activists. In 2016, the Trudeau government, in a bid to balance its  funding, shifted financial focus to prevention rather than treatment, creating huge gaps from which groups like the COCQ-SIDA are now feeling the burden. In 2016, 42 treatment-oriented groups saw their funding vanish in this shift. Because funding hasn’t increased in years according to the COCQ-SIDA, organizations that require assistance will only require more resources as cases continue on an upward trend.

The current method used by Ottawa to supply local groups with funding is primarily two-fold: HIV/AIDS service funds are distributed by the Community Action Fund (CAF) and the Harm Reduction Fund (HRF). The CAF is given over $26 million by the federal government, which they allot by granting organizations with five-year funding contracts. The HRF gets $7 million to distribute in the form of three to five-year contracts with a maximum of $250,000 for a single group annually. The COCQ-SIDA’s primary issue is that these numbers have not evolved to reflect the times.

“The impact of the decisions of the PHAC, within the framework of the 2021 calls for submissions for the CAF and the HRF, means that several member organizations of the COCQ-SIDA [who are] well rooted in their communities and [have] varied expertise find themselves victims of this chronic underfunding. The situation is even more serious in the context of underfunding at the provincial level,” said Ken Monteith, director general of COCQ-SIDA.

Due to the issue of increased demand and stagnant finances, many groups are struggling. On top of these issues, contracts have expiration dates. After those three or five-year deals, many organizations might not have their funding renewed, forcing their operations to be scaled down. “We are going to have to reduce our staff very significantly, to the point of having to consider closing the organization,” said Charlène Aubé from IRIS Estrie, an organization in Sherbrooke whose contract was not renewed.

Several other centres across Quebec will be faced with harsh realities this spring. Thousands of Quebecers living with HIV/AIDS, as well as others who might contract the disease will be impacted by these policy decisions in the very near future.

Graphic Courtesy of Rose-Marie Dion


Les Encans de la quarantaine: from small project to big success

A collective shows how beneficial it is to support local artists

It all started as a small initiative to provide local artists with a source of income during the pandemic. Now, les Encans de la quarantaine has become something bigger. The outcome was unexpected.

Sara A. Tremblay, a Concordia alumna who graduated in Photography in 2014, launched the initiative in late March. The initiative is a virtual platform that promotes works from Canadian-based artists and offers a source of income to them by connecting them to potential buyers. When the project began, Tremblay looked for artists that wished to sell their artwork; it instantly became a success. Tremblay has received many artworks since the opening of the collective. Many came from artists attending universities, like Pardiss Amerian, an Iranian-Canadian visual artist who is currently completing her Master’s in Fine Arts at Concordia.

“I was constantly overwhelmed by the size of the collective. It became bigger than I thought,” Tremblay said.

Although Tremblay resides in the Eastern Townships, she was able to connect with Montreal’s artistic community easily online. Since the beginning, Tremblay has been working on the collective remotely with other members that reside in Montreal.

“It’s great to be able to work with the artistic community of Montreal and not live in the city,” continued Tremblay.

Little by little, Tremblay found people who would be willing to help her manage the collective. Tasks include drafting press releases, helping conceptualize the initiative, and managing the collective’s Facebook page and Instagram account. At first, applications were sent to her personal Facebook account. Instead, she redirected applicants to an email linked to the collective.

Over the course of the summer, lots of work started to pile up on Tremblay’s desk. In response to the collective’s growth, Tremblay decided to register the collective as a non-profit organization. She has an advisory committee from the artistic community to guide her with grant applications, and is in the process of creating an administrative council.

Since July 13, the collective has asked for a contribution of between $20 and $30 from both artists and buyers after each time a piece is sold to help fund the collective.

“That gives us a little money,” Tremblay  said. “It’s not much for now, but eventually we will be raising funds.”

As a result of the first call for applications, 425 artworks were received, of which 275 were selected. The collective took up the challenge of selling 96 per cent of the works chosen from the first callout. Most artists have many artworks, which gives them a chance to reach a wider audience.

For the second call for artworks, Tremblay wants to attract more of an audience of seasoned collectors, and will do so by increasing the quality and maintaining a tighter selection of works.

“The success that the initiative has generated proves that it was necessary to distribute, for free, the work of artists who are not represented by art galleries,” said Tremblay. “At first, we did present the work of artists that were already represented, but we had to clarify our mandate to not interfere with art galleries. Now, we represent independent artists that can be spotted by galleries.”

Tremblay will be teaching an introductory digital photography course at the University of Sherbrooke this fall and will participate in an online residency project called 3 fois 3 from le Centre d’exposition de l’Université de Montréal on Instagram. In order to stabilize her other projects, she has delegated some of the collective to other members of the team.

“My purpose is to promote artists that don’t yet have a platform. This can be a first step for them,” she said. “The people who follow us on social media have an interest in discovering new talents. Not all of the artists are new in showing their artworks, but they may not be represented by an art gallery. My team and I circulate art and that’s my goal.”

Les Encans de la quarantaine’s second call for applications is open until Wednesday, Sept. 30.


Photo credit: Pardiss Amerian


Mindfulness project receives funding for the third year

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) allocated $5,000 to Concordia University’s mindfulness program to fund the Mindful Project during last Wednesday’s council meeting.

The Mindful Project, which hosts mindfulness events throughout the school year, was at risk of financial insolvency if denied funding. Co-founder of the Mindful Project Lea Homer pitched a $22,000 total budget citing positive feedback from the initiative’s participants.

Homer told The Concordian that the Mindful Project is an integral part of CSU funded initiatives to combat mental health struggles.

Homer’s pitch included data from last year showing high rates of positive feedback. Students reported less stress and an overall increase in their wellbeing. Scientific studies have found the practice to effectively lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and overall improve physical and mental wellbeing. Data collected by Homer showed Concordia students self-reporting similar benefits.

According to Homer, the CSU-funded mindfulness programming is no longer sustainable as a pilot program. She said meeting the increasing demand for mindfulness requires more than the previous year’s budgets, and $5,000 no longer meets the project’s needs.

“We can’t run it this year if we don’t get funding,” said Homer.

Although the resolution only allocates $5,000 towards the Mindful Project, CSU councillors and executives said they would try to secure funding for the proposed budget.

Désirée Blizzard, the CSU finance coordinator, said she would look into the matter and try to get as much of the remaining $17,000 requested as possible. Despite a lack of a concrete commitment, Homer left the meeting optimistic about the CSU’s reaction.

“I trust that the committee for finances is going to do all they can,” she said.

Maha Siddiqui, a CSU Arts and Sciences councillor, told the Concordian she valued presenters like Homer taking time to attend the CSU meeting and share their budgets. Siddiqui said that face-to-face interactions with students give councillors a thorough understanding of the proposals.

“Having them here, able to answer our questions right away makes a huge difference,” said Siddiqui, referring to representatives like Homer.

Siddiqui also said the in-person pitches and the subsequent question period help CSU councillors better understand student needs.

“We are receptive to student’s needs — that is why we were elected,” she said.


Feature photo by Cecilia Piga


A conversation with Alan Shepard

Article written by Étienne Lajoie and Matthew Lapierre

Concordia president talks funding, pension plans and sexual misconduct

Concordia president Alan Shepard sat down with The Concordian on Monday, April 9 to answer questions about government funding, library employee pension plans and the university’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Q: In its 2017 budget, the federal government invested $117.6 million to launch the Canada 150 Research Chairs competition to “boost Canada’s brain gain.” Twenty-four chairs previously working in the United States were brought in. Has or will Concordia benefit in any way from this funding program?

A: We did apply for that grant; we didn’t get it, but we got others. One would be the Canada Excellence Research Chair program. There were 11 chairs given out to nine institutions. We were one of the nine universities, so that comes with $10 million in funding.

Q: How does that work? Do you receive funding and then reach out to researchers?

A: These processes are very complicated and highly audited. We have the opportunity to hire a chair. We have to identify that person, they have to be vetted and ratified by an internal committee at Concordia, then it goes to the federal government for further ratification. The person you are proposing has to be a strong international player. Then, if that’s all accepted, the person arrives and you get the funding over a number of years.

Q: There seems to be a disagreement between the university and the Concordia University Library Employees’ Union concerning pay cuts that the library employees have had to take. Both agree there’s more money going to the pension plan. Does the university intend on sitting down with the union to solve this apparent conflict?

A: We are in a period of negotiations with many unions. The government, two years ago, adopted pension reform legislation for our sector. What had been happening is Concordia had been paying 80 per cent of the pension contribution, and the employees paid about 20 per cent. And as it happened with public sector employees, the government had a desire to make it either 50/50, or 55/45, where the institution pays 55 per cent and the employee pays 45 per cent. Those were the parameters.

When you go from contributing 20 per cent to 45 per cent of your salary to the pension plan, that’s noticeable. We did a lot of preparation over a year and half to get people to understand that. We’re in negotiations, and we’re mindful that employees have had to pay more.

Q: The Concordian obtained a statement written by Emma Moss Brender, the department of philosophy’s chair assistant, regarding allegations of sexual harassment in the department. Would you like to comment on these allegations?

A: We feel like the university has been proactive with these files. Since I arrived at Concordia, my team and I have been working in a proactive way to make sure the environment we have is safe, respectful and appropriate. When we have allegations, we investigate them. If the investigation shows some kind of sanction is warranted, we don’t shy away from that. I do think over the last seven years every university has had cases where lines have been crossed. I do think the cultural milieu has changed from even when I began my career.

Q: Concordia provost Graham Carr was part of a delegation of university executives who visited Switzerland’s post-secondary institutions from March 25 to 29. Can you tell us why Carr was part of this delegation, and how Concordia will benefit from this?

A: Quality Network for Universities is a national organization, and it tries to provide professional development opportunities for senior leaders of universities. One of my criticisms of the Canadian higher education system is sometimes that it operates in a bit of a bubble. Switzerland is one of the most innovating countries [in higher education], so we’re always trying to figure out how we can either emulate or borrow ideas from other jurisdictions.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Grey Nuns to receive $851,000 for restoration

Downtown residence granted funding under Parks Canada initiative to support National Historic Sites

Concordia’s Grey Nuns Motherhouse was granted $851,000 for preventative and restorative maintenance earlier this month as part of the Parks Canada National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places.

Concordia spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr said the funding will be invested in measures to reduce deterioration to the 146-year-old building. Barr said planned restoration efforts include replacing the building’s masonry and thoroughly cleaning all the surfaces in the Grey Nuns Chapel.

On Oct. 12, Marc Miller, the member of Parliament for Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Sœurs, made the funding announcement on behalf of Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who oversees the cost-sharing program. The funding was granted after an application process in which the university outlined the need for and costs associated with restorative work. According to Parks Canada records, Grey Nuns is one of 143 National Historic Sites that are receiving funding from the cost-sharing program.

“Our government has taken a leadership role in the protection and promotion of Canada’s invaluable and irreplaceable heritage such as the Motherhouse of the Grey Nuns in Montreal,” Miller said in a public statement. “This new funding will ensure the preservation of one of Montreal’s treasured heritage sites for future generations and help foster a healthy local economy and thriving tourism industry.”

Completed in 1871, the building was originally the Motherhouse for the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, commonly known as the Grey Nuns. For decades, the Grey Nuns used the building to serve the poor and take care of community members, including in times of hardship, such as the Great Depression and the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. According to Concordia’s website, the building was officially designated a historical monument under Quebec’s Cultural Property Act in 1976.

In 2007, Concordia University purchased the building. It was renovated and refurbished before being officially opened as a campus building in September 2014. Currently, the building offers a reading room, cafeteria and daycare centre, and serves as the only residence building on the Sir George Williams campus.

According to Barr, the restoration budget and projects will be managed by the university’s facilities management department. While the current project will focus on restoring the building’s chapel, the university is planning on restoring the facade and interior of the building’s other wings in future years.

“As stewards of this historic building, the university’s goal is to ensure that minimal restoration work is required over the next 100 years,” Barr said.


ASFA responds to election scandal

Student association will increase budget to ensure poll security

The Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) has increased funding for election security in the wake of last year’s invalidated elections.

At a regular council meeting on Sept. 22, the council moved to increase the elections operations budget by $7,000 to hire more security. The new elections operations budget of $16,000 will be divided evenly between the election and by-election held during the 2017-18 academic year. The motion passed 24-1 with three abstentions.

Interim ASFA President Julia Sutera Sardo endorsed the motion. “Having been VP Internal in the past, I know how contentious elections can be, especially with ASFA,” she said. “If we want to move forward, I think this is a great direction.”

“Our goal this year is to stick to procedure to guarantee ASFA elections run properly,” Interim VP of finance Francesco Valente told the The Concordian.

A lack of security at polling stations contributed to ASFA’s general elections in March being invalidated. Starting in the 2015-16 academic year, ASFA chose to increase the number of polling stations around campus, but did not increase the security budget. According to Valente, the original 2016-2017 election operations budget of $4,500 per election was no longer adequate.

According to ASFA’s website, this lack of security led to “several security breaches.” These included several ballot boxes being left unsealed with only one person to supervise them, The Link reported in March. Section 232-F of ASFA’s standing regulations states that, “Ballot boxes must never be left with one person unless sealed.”

Furthermore, according to section 232-B of ASFA’s standing regulations, “Every ballot box must be accompanied by a campus security guard from the moment they leave the strong room in the morning of voting to the time that they are returned each evening.” According to The Link, this regulation was violated as well.

Valente said he doesn’t know why security was not increased to match the new demand.

Since the elections were invalidated, each council member is officially only serving in an interim capacity. In order to keep their positions, they will have to be re-elected during the fall by-elections, which are scheduled for Nov. 20 to 23.

Valente said $3,360 is the “absolute minimum” additional funding required for each election to ensure proper security. This funding will be used to hire security guards for the polling stations.

The money needed to increase the budget will come from the Member Association Special Projects Fund (SPF), which currently stands at about $32,300. Valente said any money that is left over after each election will be returned to the SPF.

According to Valente, this budget is only for ASFA elections. Member Association (MA) elections, during which executives for each MA are elected, are not mandated to implement the same security measures.

Photo by Kirubel Mehari

Student Life

The art of formally asking for money

FASA hosts a workshop on the art of grant proposal writing

Many students will have to write a grant proposal at some point during their careers. Since a grant proposal is essentially a money request, writing one must be done with care.

On Feb. 1, the Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) held a grant writing workshop aimed at arts students, but it was relevant and open to students from all faculties.

The workshop focused on tips for writing the perfect grant application for various projects.

Guest speaker and regular grant writer Amber Berson said grant writing is basically an application process where you ask for money for your work. The PhD student said the first and most important thing to focus on is mastering writing skills.

“Grant writing is an important skill, and it is a wonderful way to fund your art practice. But being a successful grant writer does not make you a successful artist,” she said. Berson said the skill is also useful when writing an artist statement, or, a description of the project, in a cover letter for a job, residency or an open call for submissions to galleries.

Berson said it’s important not to feel discouraged when applying for grants. “Even if you keep applying and you do not get positive results, it should not and does not take away your value as an artist,” she said.

Berson advised students to be clear and precise in their proposals—introduce yourself, and explain what your project is, what you need the money for and why would you or an organization needs to fund this project—why the project is worthwhile.

“You should never try to apply for all of the grants just because you need the money. That is very transparent to the grant agent. In certain cases, it even hurts your eligibility for grants in the future,” said Berson. She said students should contact the FASA agent or another grant agent if they have doubts or questions about the process.

As with any application, deadlines are very important with grant writing. “If you absolutely cannot meet a deadline, contact your agent immediately,” Berson said.

She stressed it’s also crucial to follow the instructions and meet the word limit or minute count for video submissions. While it seems obvious, she said, it isn’t always executed.

Asking for money must be handled with delicacy. Being realistic in terms of budget is an important thing to keep in mind.

“When you apply for a grant, you are applying for a not-for-profit project, which means you should not be making money off the project. Asking and getting [money] are completely different, and you should always ask for what you or your project are worth, and it should be realistic.”

For any student interested in applying for a grant to fund a project, Berson highly recommends visiting the Canadian Artists Representation (CARFAC) website.  This website is a useful tool for helping students with grants and planning their budget. For students interested in finding out about arts funding, the Regroupement des Centre d’Artistes Autogérés du Québec (RCAAQ) and Artère are also great resources that have helped many artists get grants for their art.

For more information or to apply for grants, visit their website.


Another notch of cuts for Concordia

Concordia to receive $13 million less from the government in 2014-2015

Just a few weeks ago, Concordia received word from the government concerning just how much less they would be receiving this year: $13 million for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

They also learnt that it would no longer be possible for the school to have a deficit this year. Since Concordia had one of $2.7 million – which was carried from last year’s compressions – this meant that the total amount that would need to be cut from this year’s budget would add up to $15.7 million.

Total compressions between 2013-2015 will therefore amount to a total of $29 million.

Coming up with a plan of action was quite a challenge for the school, especially since they found out they would need to make major cuts for a fiscal year that began last May.

“That’s the tricky part. It’s hard to change the tires of the car while you’re driving on the highway,” said Concordia President Dr. Alan Shepard.

In order to comply with the government’s new rules, Concordia announced a Voluntary Departure Program (VDP) on Wednesday Sept. 24, and hope that 180 administrative, support, and professional staff members will choose to opt for the package. Staff accepted into the program will begin leaving Concordia on Nov. 30.

“It’s important to me that we not move into the world of involuntary layoffs. I can’t imagine anything worse than coming into work and finding out that the job you love and the place that you’re loyal to has just laid you off,” Shepard said. “I know that happens in the private sector but it’s not something I am eager to do, so we worked really hard for the last several weeks trying to devise a program that would give opportunities to people who were prepared to take a package to leave Concordia.”

Members of staff who have worked a minimum of 10 years of service are eligible to take the package, including both full-time and part-time employees. It is important to note that this only includes administrative staff, and not professors.

Graphic by Marie-Pier LaRose.

Employees who have worked over 10 years at Concordia would receive a severance package equal to 12 months of pay, while those who have been at the university for over 15 years would receive 18 months worth of salary. There are currently 900 staff members who are eligible for the package.

This program would allow the school to save up to $5 million this fiscal year, and $12 million per year starting in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, permanent and temporary administration and support staff accounted for 2,113 positions at Concordia. Reducing the staff by 180 would represent a reduction of about 8.5 per cent. These 180 positions represent 2 per cent of Concordia’s salary expenses.

“I don’t think that you can make 180 reductions and positions and pretend that it’s just like it was yesterday, because that’s not true,” Shepard said. “At the same time, what we’re going to do is that we planned for 180 departures, and we know that some number of those, maybe 20, 25, 30 we’re not sure, will be in positions that are critical, you can’t do without that so we’ll have to rehire those roles, and when you make a voluntary program you can’t pick. I can’t say ‘I want you to depart, you can’t depart,’ so what we’re going to do is we are going to invite people who are eligible under the terms of the program to make a decision. Once we know their decisions, we’ll see what rebalancing needs to be done.”

Another 3 per cent will be cut in operating expenses. For example, Concordia will put off replacing some computers in offices, which will save $1 million. Concordia’s Vice Presidents are still hard at work, trying to find just where they can spare some money.

Concordia has also reduced the Chief Financial Officer’s reserve—which is an amount built into the budget for the unexpected which usually represents one per cent of the budget—by $1 million.

Other public institutions have used similar programs, and they have been quite popular within the staff. McGill, for example, used a voluntary departure program last year when they had to cut $43 million, according to Doug Sweet, director of Internal Communications at McGill. In this instance, 250 employees opted to take the package.

“You have a year’s pay, so you have the time to look around for something else. It depends on your personal circumstances, maybe you have kids at home, or you have a second career, maybe you want to go back to school, there’s as many circumstances as their are people.”

Paul Eifert, an IT technician for IITS who is eligible to take the package, agrees.

“Personally, I think that a lot of people here will take a buyout and maybe retire a little earlier,” he said.

Eifert explained that many would also consider taking the severance and seeking employment elsewhere, or maybe even use the time to travel.

A maximum of 180 employees will be able to take the package. It is a one-time deal, and will not be offered again in the next few years.

Concordia took special care in deciding where to make cuts in order to make sure that the student experience and quality of education would not be affected.

Concordia’s budget compressions are a part a total of $172 million reclaimed from universities in the province for this year, according to Le Soleil.

“I think that what the message is that no matter which government is in power, there are constraints on all our resources, and we are trying in the most respectful way we can to respond to the restraints that were given,” Shepard said. “And we’ve experienced it under both governments actually. It’s not about the government of the day, it’s about the economic reality were in.”



Concordia profs get $5.4M to lead projects

Seven-year projects will look at aging and technology & northern and rural communities

In late August, the announcement was made that two Concordia professors had received $5.49 million in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to lead a pair of massively collaborative projects on social change.

Mapping cross-generational attitudes towards technology

Technological progressivism has taught us that technological progress is equated with improvement. Yet the only individuals who have come through the technological revolution – those decades of breathtaking change between room-sized computing machines to ubiquitous apps – are the baby boomers and their immediate predecessors, and what their attitudes and experiences have to teach us is what Concordia Communications professor Kim Sawchuk’s 7-year, $2.99m grant will be looking for.

“I’ve been working on issues of digital technology for the past 20-25 years,” said Sawchuk of the Ageing, Communication, Technologies (ACT) initiative. Sawchuk’s career, as well as her experience as a feminist media scholar and collaborator in community-based learning projects, will help her in her work. “This project to a certain extent is an extension of that kind of impetus but as well is taking into account two really large megatrends in our society,” she said of her passionate curiosity on the effects of the circuit on the modern man.

Like Reimer, Sawchuk’s project will cross international boundaries and include dozens of fellow researchers in opening up the discussion on how older adults use technology in a rapidly aging society with an increasing predominance towards mobile and digital communication.

A good part of the research will be gathering data and dispelling stereotypes. Sawchuk is keen to clear up misconceptions tied to digital ageism. (Or, as she puts it, the idea  “that young people are just born knowing computers and digital media and older people aren’t.”)

Take for example the notion that all seniors past a certain cutoff like retirement – what she calls the ‘grey zone’ – are homogenous without taking into effect their sometimes widely different experiences with gadgetry. By carefully untangling concepts and analyzing them, the researchers aim to explore the shifting and fluid concept of age under  various cultural, national, and urban/rural contexts.

“The whole question is not to just accept age as a demographic variable [but] to really ask the question: how do we age well, and [about] the art of aging given our new media environment,” she said.

“We’re asking questions on how we can set up intergenerational connections between different types of users of technology and within media studies [and] trying to shift the focus away from a preoccupation on young people,” she said on the importance of giving the experiences of older adults proper weight.

She’s quick to point out that contrary to popular beliefs, plenty of studies show septuagenarians, octogenarians, and beyond taking up computers – and others show them choosing to consciously opt-out. By finding out how seniors are integrated into network societies, and how they are not policies and strategies, could be developed in increasing their inclusion at a time given when the digital landscape forces certain exigencies forced on them.

“You can say they’re cynical [about modern technology] but what it is is that they’re realistic about what it will do for them. Older people don’t tend to care about cool, they tend to care about whether or not it is useful for them to maintain connections and to get what they need to get done done,” she said. Yet sometimes this leaves them behind the curve; for example as when care facilities relying on landlines to keep families in touch while communicating with the families themselves have shifted to Skype and webcams.

“It is asking the question of what it is they actually do know that may have to teach us about the present technologically-saturated world we live in.”

RPLC: The importance of Rural and Northern communities

Retired Concordia sociology professor William Reimer, meanwhile, will be using his 40+ years of experience with Canada’s northern and rural communities to begin work on systemizing and exploring the complex workings of such communities and their relationship with urban centres for the sake of better, more informed policy formulation.

Photo by robWall on Flickr

Reimer said the $2.5 million received for his project, called the Rural Police Learning Commons (RPLC), won’t be so much for research purposes as for the fostering of partnerships with other organizations and individuals.

His research over the years has pointed to a decline in small communities (a wide definition that, albeit roughly, encompasses small and oftentimes unique population centers outside the commuting sheds of metropolitan areas) far from cities – save those tied to mining, oil, or special touristic advantages like Banff. The amenities of rural communities rely much more on the delicate balance of  social services pooled from their limited population. Should these shrink, a domino effect takes hold. “That whole package of services starts to shrink and gets into a kind of a cycle whereby that makes the place less attractive and in turn more people move out – [it becomes] a cycle of decline which can be very problematic for [their] sustainability,” Reimer said.

Meanwhile rural areas adjoining urban centres are facing the opposite problem, as a population eager to leave the cities stream in a move that alters their fundamental identities as rural areas.

Seeing as these regions serve as crucial intermediaries for Canada’s food production and resource extraction, understanding the reasons behind the changes and better understanding northern and rural groups are of critical importance.

Reimer says his experience working with large networks will aid in increasing cohesion between the approximately 30 institutional participants and 60 individual partners. As he describes it, his job will be figuring out how to operate under such circumstances.

“The problems of simply coordinating and communicating become extremely difficult, but on the other hand there are tremendous advantages because it means we get the opportunity to find out what’s happening in Norway or Italy or the U.S. and so on, and what they’ve done that have ameliorated some of the challenges we’re facing here and vice versa.”

To build and maintain connections, Reimer and those working with him plan to attend many conferences and events and videoconferencing when physical presence is impossible. He calls the project a tremendous opportunity for students and participating faculty, and says the efforts will be very interdisciplinary. Not only sociologists will be present, but social workers, economists, those in the health and environmental sciences, and geographers, among others.

“A lot of these types of analysis require perspectives from these many different disciplines,” he said, highlighting the special role of both Canadian and Quebecois participation..

“From a research point of view it’s a fantastic blessing,” he said of our geographical breadth. Canada’s sheer size means “you can’t have a one-size-fits-all type of policy, because of variation”

Quebec, aside from its colourful range of unique rural communities, is also the only province with a rural policy governing the political and economic relationship between government and non-metropolitan regions.

“There’s plenty that’s going on in Canada, and particularly in Quebec, that’s of great interest to other countries.”

The project’s seven-year lifespan may seem like a long time, but it’s really just the beginning.

“If we’re looking at the long term consequences, our objective would be to establish a robust partnership network that will go on beyond the seven years. We don’t know what the pressing issues are going to be in seven years. We can’t set up a mechanism to address them all but what we can do is set up a mechanism whereby the people who are most likely to be informed and the people we want to train for this uncertain future are well equipped,” he said.

“Our objective is to make sure there’s a strong, well connected, informative, collaborative network established by the time our seven years are up.”


Unbalancing the budget

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

With four revisions to its operating budget in eight months and little communication from the provincial government, Concordia University is heading for a deficit, all the while waiting to hear about additional funding from the Parti Québécois.

It was revealed Friday during a Senate meeting that confusion and uncertainty have clouded the university’s finances during the entire academic year. Following the PQ’s decision in December to cut universities’ budgets across the province, Concordia lost $13.2 million for the last four months of the year — a slash that runs so deep that the university is now backed into a corner.

President Alan Shepard discussed the issue with Senators, saying that the revision created “so much uncertainty” for Concordia.

“It’s a very difficult time,” said Shepard. “We’re trying to figure out where we could get more money.”

In order to offset the cancellation of the tuition fee increase initially proposed by the Charest Liberals, the PQ was supposed to provide additional university funding. During Senate, Chief Financial Officer Patrick Kelley said that the provincial government has not been forthcoming with information as to when Concordia will be provided with that money.

“It’s absolutely physically impossible to not declare a deficit,” said Kelley. “We will have a deficit.”

During this year alone, the university’s projected funding dropped from $372 million to $359 million by December. The provincial government promised Concordia an additional $3.4 million for the 2012-2013 academic year to compensate for the shortfall they incurred from the freeze implemented in September when the university announced they would refund students the additional tuition they paid.

According to Kelley, the provincial government “categorically refused” to answer when Concordia requested a date for when they would receive the funding.

In the meantime, Interim provost Lisa Ostiguy emphasized that administration will have to cut funding to all sectors and that the university will have to be more careful with its fiscal management.

“We need to be fiscally responsible,” said Ostiguy. “It’s going to be difficult because reductions and changes are shared by all and there is no one sector that will take the hits.”

Ostiguy explained that the larger cuts will affect sectors such as the president’s office and advancement in order to minimize the setback for academics and student services. Furthermore, suggestions about how to use resources more effectively and ideas to “generate official revenue” are also welcomed by the administration.

What concerns the administration now is the lack of directives for the following academic year and if additional cuts will follow. Shepard stressed that while information has not yet come to light regarding potential reductions in the future, Concordia’s administration did ask Premier Pauline Marois if the shortfall in funding was an isolated incident.

“We asked Madame Marois if it was a one-time occurrence,” Shepard said. “And she said to wait until the education summit.”

At the meeting, Shepard urged Senators not to propose a motion to denounce the PQ as he deemed it a “dangerous move” in a time of unpredictability.

Until more is known, Concordia will not declare a budget until March or April for the 2013-2014 academic year that starts on May 1, so that the university does not commit to a budget it may not be able to handle.

The Board of Governors will hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss declaring a deficit.

Exit mobile version