REMC Calls for Harmonized Data Collection for Racial Equity

Report offers pathways for screen sector to implement calls for action

7 mins read

Racial Equity Media Collective (REMC) is calling upon leading public agencies in Canada to harmonize their methods for collecting race-based data. A National Data System and Benchmarking for Racial Equity, released today from the national not-for-profit committed to removing barriers for BIPOC creators and improving the sustainability for production companies, uses feedback from over 40 stakeholders in Canadian media.

The report follows a 2021 study by REMC that called for the collection and disclosure of equity in Canada’s screen sector. The reports aim to increase representation across Canadian media and to put into practice the calls for equity made amid the racial reckoning of 2020. The new report, financed by the Canada Media Fund (CMF) and supported by Nordicity, concludes that a seven-step approach will guide the industry towards consistent data collection and reporting, which will foster an equitable landscape for producers. Participants in the survey noted a need to streamline and mobilize the recent pledges to harness the momentum.

“Three years removed from 2020’s reckoning, it’s crucial that momentum for racial equity initiatives is not allowed to dissipate. To maintain that momentum, the industry needs tools that will enable us to evaluate progress and provide accountability,” said REMC managing director Julian Carrington in a statement. “A harmonized, nationwide system of data collection is key to these efforts. Our latest research report offers a thorough analysis of the associated benefits and challenges, providing actionable recommendations as to how such a system might be established. It also provides guidance on the design and implementation of equity targets and quotas, drawing on lessons from both the Canadian and international contexts. We hope that our findings can offer the industry a roadmap towards a meaningful—and measurable—expansion of opportunities for racialized creators.”

The report notes that a streamlined process offers a practical way to implement data collection. “From producers to funders and broadcasters, reporting one time to one body would save time, energy, and cost,” notes the report. “Many research participants noted the benefits for producers. Rather than indicating their identity data multiple times on multiple forms, a centralized system would allow producers to identify themselves only once and share the information between funding bodies.” Production companies often draw funding from sources both national and provincial, which often results in burnout and redundancies amid excess self-identification processes. The report suggests that a streamlined method would aid producers and funders alike.

Organizations like Telefilm Canada have begun to collect said data, but concerns regarding privacy and the collection of personal data by public entities remain a concern. Other tools, like CMF’s PERSONA-ID, which “captures aggregated data across all CMF programs,” and Creative BC’s Creative Industries Economic Results Assessment (CIERA), which collects data across programs in visual media, music, publishing, and multi-creative industries, offer viable guides for the secure sharing of personal information, but are still in early stages having been implemented only recently. (PERSONA-ID was in its first year of data collection during the report’s publication, while CIERA has published findings over three years.)

Additional findings in the report include an appetite for an arms-length not-for-profit organization and a steering committee to oversee the collection of data, as no one organization can currently mandate the process across Canada’s screen sector. However, REMC notes that while any oversight body must be cognizant of privacy concerns, “wherever possible, de-identified or anonymized data should be used.”

The report also notes that harmonized data collection requires sensitivity with regards to personal identification for factors that include having a disability or identifying as LGBTQ+, while additional considerations must be given to producers in Quebec regarding languages and cultural uniqueness, as well as to Indigenous creatives. “There is a need for Canada’s film and television industry to move forward in a way that respects community needs and concerns and establishes a foundation of trust with the communities it aims to support,” says REMC.

The report also considers upon findings for equity targets and quotas in the United Kingdom, noting that results may disproportionately impact certain groups if practices for implementing equity do not have an intersectional approach. The report cites the National Film Board of Canada’s recent efforts to achieve targets for both women and Indigenous creatives, with both groups growing in representation in terms of productions and budget allocations. The report cites an appetite for quotes based on the feedback of respondents. It notes recent efforts by Telefilm Canada and the CBC as early guides, but adds that target numbers should be developed with community consultation.

“Targets and quotas must be designed to ensure representation is meaningful,” notes REMC in the report. “To do so, criteria to meet quotas must mandate that applicants are the primary rights holders attached to a project, and where applicable, a section should be added to application forms that addresses the applicant’s relationship to the communities and content represented.” Currently, Telefilm Canada and the NFB have targets for creatives who identify as Black or People of Colour, while the CMF indicates intent to set quotas in 2023. Across the provinces and territories, only Ontario Creates has targets for specific programs, while the Nunavut Film Development Corporation has targets for Inuit creatives.

The report will be presented at the ReelWorld Summit on November 2nd in a panel featuring Julian Carrington in conversation with industry panelists Mehernaz Lentin from Telefilm Canada, John Christou from the NFB, and Marcia Douglas from the CMF. Read the report here.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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