ACTRA says Canadian TV has a long way to go when it comes to diversity

'I cannot think of a Canadian show that has shown a Black family.'
June 10, 2020 12:23 p.m. EST
June 12, 2020 12:01 a.m. EST
Lisa Michelle Cornelius and Samora Smallwood, two actresses from Toronto, and also co-chairs of the ACTRA Toronto Diversity and Inclusion Committee, say that when it comes to diversity on the small screen, Canada falls way short of the mark.“I cannot think of a Canadian show that has shown a Black family,” Cornelius said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, and even if you can recall one, when was that? And yet I know plenty of Black families outside of my own who live in this city and around the city, all over Canada.”[video_embed id='1973137']RELATED: The #PullUpOrShutUp Challenge calls on beauty brands to reveal their staff's diversity[/video_embed]ACTRA (the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists), which unionizes performers in Canada to ensure safe and fair working conditions (among many other duties), released a statement last week, saying it, “strongly condemns anti-Black racism, police violence and all forms of discrimination.” It also stands “in solidarity with all those who seek to create a free, fair and truly inclusive society, here in Canada and around the world.” With that in mind, both Cornelius and Smallwood (whose acting credit include big name productions like Star Trek: Discovery and Black Mirror) will chair and moderate a video-conference meeting with up to 100 union members this Friday to hear how the union can do better.Smallwood noted that removing Black characters from the Black family unit is damaging, on top of how Black women and women of colour are portrayed on screen. “I watch TV and I’m constantly keenly aware of how many women of colour are in subservient positions, if the people of colour in the show are the butt of the joke, or are they in on it, or are they teller of the joke?”Cornelius added, “In this specific instance, it shapes how people think about Black people. So are we only telling stories that show Black people in a certain way? Are we only greenlighting the stories that show Black people as victims or as aggressors? Or are we showing them as full-bodied human beings?”As Smallwood noted that most of the shows and movies in this country are greenlit and written by cisgendered, heterosexual white men, and therefore unable to accurately portray the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Person of Colour) experience, she said as a working actress, it feels like Canada is behind the U.S. on representation.Cornelius and Smallwood hope that the video-conference meeting will allow for BIPOC performers in Canada to share their views in a safe space free from reprisal. The ACTRA Toronto Diversity and Inclusion Committee was founded in 1984 with the goal of supporting and fostering change for performers from all walks of life, including members of the LGBTQ+ community and the differently abled.[video_embed id='1974045']BEFORE YOU GO: Chris Cuomo accidentally bares it all on his wife’s Instagram live[/video_embed]

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