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Time for a Confederation of Canadian Writers?

What we need here in Canada is a Confederation of Canadian Writers.This is not my idea, but I like it. Merilyn Simonds, chair of the The Writers’ Union of Canada, has been marking TWUC’s 40th anniversary by meeting union members across the country. In Toronto the other night, she mentioned that Calgary authors have voiced the idea of “one big union” comprising writers’ groups. I’m calling it a Confederation.
Why do we need it? Because there are any number of issues that effect not just book writers, like those represented by TWUC, but freelance writers of all kinds. And in Ottawa, nobody is listening. They can’t hear us.
Writers used to be able to spread their taxable income over a period of years. That is long gone and should be brought back. In the House of Commons recently, a private member’s bill to make a certain amount of royalty income tax free -- something the province of Quebec already does -- went down in flames. Look at copyright legislation. Look at freelance rates. Nobody wants to pay the writer. On almost every issue, writers are getting killed.
Maybe if we spoke in one loud, clear voice, we could make things change.
Think about it. Every year, more than 17,000 writers receive cheques from the Public Lending Right Commission -- and those are just authors who have published books. How many writers produce other kinds of works: plays, filmscripts, travel articles, ebooks, make your own list.
Maybe it’s time for a Confederation? The Writers’ Union of Canada. The Canadian Authors’ Association. The Canadian Association of Journalists. The union des ecrivaines et ecrivains quebecois. Crime Writers of Canada. The League of Canadian Poets. The Playwrights’ Guild of Canada. The Professional Writers’ Association of Canada. The Writers’ Guild of Canada. This list is not exhaustive. Add your own names.
Think about it. The Federation of B.C. Writers. The Alberta Writers’ Guild. The Quebec Writers’ Federation. The Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild. The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia. The Manitoba Writers’ Guild. You get the idea. At a wild guess, the writers’ groups and organizations across this country must represent at least 40,000 or 50,000 writers. What if we could channel that concentrated energy through a single, articulate entity -- a Confederation.
Could we make a difference? If you think so, spread the word: Confederation.
Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.