NFB Creates Two Director Positions in New Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan

By Pat Mullen

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) released today a new plan to address systemic inequity and unconscious bias. The NFB’s new commitments for diversity, equity, and inclusion include two management positions to ensure a voice at the table for Indigenous persons and inclusion oversight. These commitments follow the NFB’s new strategic plan released in December 2020.

The new Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will be a member of the Board’s senior executive team and be responsible for equity and anti-racist practices while implementing the goals of the plan. Similarly, the new Director of Indigenous Relations and Community Engagement will work with the Indigenous Advisory Group to develop the Board’s connection with Indigenous filmmakers in Canada to ensure better representation, as well as offer advice on production and distribution. The NFB recently saw its 2020 success story Inconvenient Indian implode when challenges to director Michelle Latimer’s claims of Indigenous heritage halted one of the most acclaimed festival runs in recent memory. The story reignited conversations about inclusion, access, and narrative sovereignty for Indigenous artists.

“We want to help eliminate decades of injustice and systemic racism in Canadian society, as well as within our institution. This is why this plan includes targets and concrete actions that will have an impact not only on our recruitment, productions and distribution methods, but on the entire culture of our organization,” said Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson, in a statement from the NFB.

“The end of racism and discrimination will not come in one day, but action is urgently needed. Measures for diversity, equity and inclusion are all the more crucial since across the country and around the world, racialized or underrepresented groups, and Indigenous communities, are rightly calling for concrete actions and much more transparency in the ways in which they are implemented.”

The NFB’s diversity, equity, and inclusion plan draws from conversations with internal and external stakeholders. It also builds upon the Board’s Indigenous Action Plan and targets for gender parity. Although the former has found varying degrees of success—Indigenous productions coming out of the NFB are more frequent and notable, while the Board is struggling to meet its hiring target for 4% Indigenous staff representation (only 0.8% as of June 2020)—the gender parity plan has largely met or surpassed targets. The diversity, equity, and inclusion plan adds to these commitments, noting that at least half of all new hires for directors general, directors, executive producers, and producers will be candidates who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, LGBTQ, or persons with disabilities. Similar, the Board will prioritize hiring for management positions as they become available with a target of two of three roles filed by members of these underrepresented groups.

Diverse voices will also be represented in the Creation and Innovation committees to ensure that filmmakers who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ, and persons with disabilities have a say in the NFB’s equitable approach to programming. The plan aims to include cross-country representation as part of its equitable plan by developing a strategy for feedback from filmmakers and producers from diverse regions. The audience-facing components of the plan include a recommitment to the Board’s focus on films and projects with progressive themes and social issues with an intersectional lens. Films such as John Ware Reclaimed, Stateless, The Forbidden Reel and nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up are recent examples of titles that have won over audiences by engaging them with pressing issues of equity, justice, inclusion, and representation.

The Board also commits to finding a clear and respectful method for data collection. This point was one emphasized by the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) in its recent response to the Board’s strategic plan. (Another of DOC’s concerns, that two seats on the NFB’s board of trustees be allotted for BIPOC filmmakers, was not addressed in the plan.) During the conversations inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, many organizations in the Canadian sector admitted that they simply lacked the data to report on inclusion and equity in production. (The omissions frequently related to privacy concerns.) However, the collection of data and transparent reporting affords parties both external and internal a chance to measure success and find new areas for improvement. The plan aims to achieve these targets by March 31, 2023 and have a diverse and equitable workforce that is representative of all Canadians.

Read the NFB’s diversity, equity, and inclusion plan here.