Federal government tells arts bodies to suspend cultural events funded by Russian state

Federal government tells arts bodies to suspend cultural events funded by Russian state
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez rises during Question Period, Thursday, March 24, 2022 in Ottawa. Rodriguez has instructed Canadian cultural organizations to suspend activities with links to Vladimir Putin's regime. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has asked arts bodies that get federal funding to suspend all cultural activities involving Russians linked to Vladimir Putin’s regime in protest of his invasion of Ukraine.

Canadian Heritage has written to organizations receiving the department’s funding, asking them to cancel tours and co-productions bankrolled by Russian or Belarusian state organizations.

The demand, issued last month, could lead to cancellation of exhibitions of art loaned from Russian galleries, as well as concerts, festivals, and theatre and ballet productions featuring Russian artists.

It warned that Canadian cultural organizations found to have ties with the Russian or Belarusian states will also no longer get government funding.

But the letter makes it clear that ordinary Russians with no ties to Putin’s regime or to the Belarusian state will not be affected.

The Heritage Department said it had launched a review to identify activities involving Russia and Belarus.

“We urge you to do the same, and to suspend all activity involving the participation of Russian or Belarusian state organizations or their official representatives,” the letter said. “This includes program partnerships, direct and indirect financing of tours, co-productions, participation in festivals or other events involving the Russian or Belarusian governments.”

Rodriguez faced questions Thursday about whether the instruction was so broad it could lead to Russian artists being penalized more generally, while probing all links to the Russian state, including officials, could prove difficult.

Laura Scaffidi, press secretary to Rodriguez, said the scope of the instruction would not capture work by ordinary Russians and Belarusians, or Canadians with Russian and Belarusian heritage.

“Russian culture has given the world so much rich music, literature and other art. We celebrate that,” she said. “This is not about unfairly targeting law-abiding and peace-loving citizens and permanent residents.”

A number of arts organizations have cancelled events involving Russian performers since the invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier this month, the Canada Council for the Arts announced in a blog post that it was cutting ties with Russian and Belarusian artists.

The Vancouver Recital Society and the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal have announced they are cancelling planned concerts with Alexander Malofeev, a young Russian pianist.

In the U.K., the Royal Opera House cancelled a tour of Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet following the attack on Ukraine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2022.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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