TCAF’s Commitment to Ending Anti-Black & Anti-Indigenous Racism

“Stay safe.”  We say it so often and without thinking. It’s even starting to lose its meaning. 

These words have a very different meaning to Black and Indigenous peoples, groups who are subject to greater precarity, particularly when intersecting with gender, class, and other forms of systemic discrimination.

In the wake of recent events, including the widespread outpourings of solidarity against anti-black racism in North America, and specifically in Canada, the killings of 8 indigenous persons by police since just this April — we are taking stock and acknowledge the systemic and institutional barriers we play a part in. 

Simply put, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF)—whose leadership currently lacks Black or Indigenous representation —can do better. 

We exist to support creators of comic works in their broad and diverse voices in order to promote the medium of comics as a legitimate medium of literary and artistic worth. We believe we have a role to play in supporting diversity in our field and are making a commitment to do so, with intention. 

We will begin with a commitment to learning by ensuring our staff and volunteers and the board receive resources and materials to help facilitate their understanding of issues raised by BIPOC communities, with attention to intersectional identities, including but not limited to QTBIPOC identified individuals. We are also exploring new ways of applying an anti-racist lens in building our community, including our staff and volunteers, with the understanding that accounting for anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism must be at the forefront.

We do not see this as a one-time project, but a life-long one that will inform the organization we aspire to be going forward. We look forward to working with the larger comics industry, and community to do so and will provide updates as we develop our plans.   

— Christopher Butcher, Miles Baker + The TCAF Board (Coralie D’Souza, Gary Sherman, Kawai Shen, Khris Cuthbertson, Peter Birkemoe)

Regarding Conduct & Harassment in the Comics Industry

In light of the recent allegations made by women against various men in the comics industry, we at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF) wish to make it unequivocally clear that all forms of harassment and predation, including subtler forms such as grooming, are not tolerated by the festival.

We recognize that TCAF plays an important role in the comics industry, that the festival is an active space for networking, and this tasks us with the responsibility of continually addressing and revisiting the challenges of maintaining a safe space for all attending and aspiring creators. 

We are currently reviewing our existing Conduct & Harassment Policy, with the aim of explicitly addressing events we host or co-host with our cultural and business partners off the main exhibition sites of the festival where TCAF staff are harder to identify. We will announce revisions before our next live event.

In addition, we will be reviewing our past and current processes for inviting and handling reports of harassment and will provide updates as necessary.

— Christopher Butcher, Miles Baker + The TCAF Board (Coralie D’Souza, Gary Sherman, Kawai Shen, Khris Cuthbertson, Peter Birkemoe)

Word Balloon Academy: Labour Organizing with Vanessa Kelly

As a part of the Word Balloon Academy program, TCAF presents an interview Vanessa Kelly from the Art Babbitt Appreciation Society (ABAS), a Vancouver-based labour organizing group that has exhibited at the comic arts festival, VanCAF. Please note this interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You can learn more about ABAS at their official website and from this article by Our Times which goes into more detail about specific working conditions for animators and their relations with employers.
The groups mentioned by Vanessa include IATSE, the Animation Guild, and ACTRA. Listeners may also be interested in GWU, an organizing group in the gaming industry who you might have seen at the Hand Eye Society Ball, an event hosted by TCAF’s partner, Hand Eye Society.
One of the challenges in talking about labour organizing is that workers can take on the significant risk of retaliation from employers. Because of this, organizers are often not at liberty to disclose certain details about campaigning, especially ongoing campaigns. This makes knowledge more difficult to share. While there are online resources that document and analyze past campaigns, learning about organizing is greatly benefited from contacting groups experienced in labour rights like ABAS.

Vanessa and other organizers contacted regarding this program also noted that labour organizing can improve working conditions outside of a collective agreement between unionized workers and their employer. In addition to ABAS’ campaign to have employers recognize overtime pay of non-unionized animation workers, workers can achieve other goals such as pooling funds to purchase healthcare or creating a public payment schedule like the one organized by CARFAC. These types of goals are especially beneficial to freelance workers who usually do not have a central employer, or even a small group of central employers, to organize around.

If you found this podcast helpful or would be interested in similar content in the future, please let us know. We are always trying to improve the Word Balloon Academy to support the professional needs of artists. We’d also sincerely appreciate it if you could support our emergency fundraiser for Page & Panel. Thank you!

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is looking for a Volunteer Coordinator!

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is looking for an enthusiastic individual to help recruit and coordinate a team of approximately 250+ volunteers. The Festival attracts 25,000 attendees per year across multiple downtown Toronto venues in early May. The Assistant Volunteer Coordinator will work with the Volunteer Coordinators to help provide support for some of the best volunteers in the industry! (It’s true! We get compliments on our volunteers all the time!). 

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