Key Equity Policies and Practices

Equity in Awards Programs

Invitational Language
In order to encourage award nominations from equity-seeking communities, Toronto Arts Foundation includes invitational language on all of its nomination guidelines.

Sample text:

“Toronto Arts Foundation is committed to equity and inclusion and welcomes nomination from diverse cultural and geographic communities within the City of Toronto, including artists of colour, artists who are Deaf, have disabilities or are living with mental illness, Indigenous artists, artists who self-identify as 2SLGBTQIAP, newcomer and refugee artists, young and emerging artists and artists working outside the downtown core.”

Reducing Eligibility Barriers

Nominations to the Foundation must meet the published eligibility criteria laid out in each of the Foundation's awards programs. However, the Foundation recognizes that due to systemic barriers within the broader arts community that some flexibility may be required in interpreting eligibility criteria to take into account equivalent professional experience and contexts.

The Foundation also regularly reviews its nomination processes and develops strategies to reduce barriers for equity seeking groups (for instance, artists with intellectual disabilities or artists creating work in Indigenous or other languages).

Equitable Representation in Awards Adjudication

Peer Assessment—which is predicated on the notion that artists and arts professionals are the most qualified individuals to assess, adjudicate and make awards recommendations on the work of other artists—is a fundamental principle of the Foundation.

Jury members are selected to ensure balanced and equitable representation of artistic practices and specializations, as well as genders, generations, persons of colour, Indigenous people, persons who are Deaf or have disabilities and individuals who identify as 2SLGBTQIAP. The goal is to engage highly qualified assessors who collectively reflect the multiplicity of experiences, perspectives and communities that make up Toronto’s diverse arts sector and population.

The Foundation has adopted the following equity measures to achieve equitable representation and reduce barriers to its peer assessment processes for all equity groups:

  • The Foundation ensures 50% (or more) of the assessors on its juries belong to one of its equity priority groups.
  • Where underrepresentation of a particular equity group is identified, as is currently the case for Deaf and disability arts practitioners, the Foundation works to increase representation from the underrepresented group on its award juries.
  • The Foundation provides, upon request, accessibility supports and/or accommodations required to eliminate disability-related barriers to participation in its peer assessment processes (e.g. sign language interpretation, documents in alternative formats that can be read by individuals using assistive technology, wheelchair accessible transport, etc.).[1]
  • The Foundation ensures that its awards managers are well versed in how to provide accessibility supports and/or accommodations to peer assessors who are Deaf or have disabilities (for instance, how to retain and work with ASL interpreters) and are actively working to widen their artistic networks to include more individuals from Deaf and disability arts communities.

Equity in Operations

Employment Equity

In order to ensure that its workforce is representative of the diversity of Toronto’s arts labour force and that its employment practices are bias-free, the Foundation takes active measures to remove barriers to recruitment, training, promotion and retention of individuals from historically disadvantaged groups. The Employment Equity (EE) designated groups stipulated by the Employment Canada Act are: women, people with disabilities, Aboriginal people and members of visible minorities. The latter three groups correspond directly with three of the Foundation's self-identified equity priority groups.

The Foundation has adopted the following employment equity measures to achieve equitable representation in its workforce:

  • The Foundation annually collects information and conducts an analysis of its workforce in order to track the level of representation of each Employment Equity (EE) designated group as compared to the population and arts labour force share. Using this data, the Foundation determines potential gaps in its workforce, ensures that individuals from EE designated groups are not clustered in lower-paying positions, and monitors its progress in maintaining or increasing representation from EE designated groups at all levels of the organization.
  • As part of its training program for new employees, the Foundation ensures that its management and personnel are familiar with relevant federal and provincial employment equity and accessibility acts.[2] 
  • The Foundation ensures that its hiring committees for management-level positions include representation of persons of colour and/or Indigenous people. 
  • The Foundation includes invitational language on all of its job postings to encourage applications from EE designated groups. TAF also indicates that accommodations are available, upon request, for candidates who are Deaf or have disabilities taking part in the interview process.
  • The Foundation regularly reviews its strategy for advertising positions to ensure that members of the EE designated groups are able to access job postings.
  • Where underrepresentation of specific designated Employment Equity group is identified through analysis of The Foundation's workforce, the Foundation prepares and monitors the implementation of Employment Equity Plans outlining specific measures and short-term (3-year) goals to increase representation of individuals from the underrepresented groups. These plans may include: targeted outreach and recruitment, prioritizing qualified applicants from particular groups, increasing the representation of hiring committee members from underrepresented communities, etc.
  • The Foundation actively researches and puts in place measures to increase the accessibility of its work environment. This may include: provision of adaptive technology, individualized accommodation plans, ergonomic workstations, workplace emergency plans, etc.
  • The Foundation regularly evaluates its employment practices to ensure that its recruitment, selection, evaluation, compensation, promotion and retention systems are equitable and bias free.
  • The Foundation also applies an equity lens to the hiring of independent contractors and service providers, ensuring that its process for accepting bids or proposals is transparent and that individuals and organizations belonging to equity-seeking groups have an equal opportunity to compete for contracts.

Board Representation

The Toronto Arts Foundation board is comprised of up to 15 directors which are recruited and selected by the Foundation based on a community nomination process. The board includes civic leaders, arts professionals and arts patrons with professional backgrounds in a variety of fields, including law, finance, media, etc.

The Foundation has adopted the following equity measures to achieve equitable representation on its Board of Directors and equitable board recruitment, selection and retention practices:

  • The Foundation has set the objective that its board be reflective of the population of Toronto and that it have representation on the board from all of its equity priority groups.
  • The Foundation ensures that there is gender equity representation on the board.
  • Where underrepresentation of a particular equity priority group is identified, the Foundation engages in community consultation with the underrepresented group and establishes annual targets to gradually increase representation on its board.
  • The Foundation provides, upon request, any necessary accommodations required to eliminate disability-related barriers to board membership.
  • The Foundation ensures that its board nomination process is clear and transparent and easily accessible on its website. TAF also regularly reviews its strategy for disseminating calls for board nominations to ensure that individuals belonging to its equity priority groups are able to access these postings.
  • The Foundation ensures that its board nomination committee includes representation of persons of colour and/or Indigenous people. 
  • The Foundation includes invitational language on its calls for board nominations that encourages nominations from potential board members from equity priority groups.

Equity Training

The Foundation, working with TAC, has adopted the following measures to ensure that its personnel are imbued with a common language and shared understanding of key equity principles and are equipped to work with and provide services to members of diverse equity-seeking communities:

  • Knowledge of equity and culturally inclusive practices and experience working with diverse communities are built into the list of qualifications for all the Foundation positions, including full-time, part-time and contract workers.[3]
  • As part of its regular orientation process for new staff, the Foundation provides mandatory equity and anti-oppression training covering such topics as anti-racism, anti-homophobia/transphobia, anti-ableism, and anti-classism.
  • In accordance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, the Foundation also provides education to its personnel on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. This includes skill-based training in intercultural competence, conflict resolution, human rights and anti-racism.
  • All new staff persons and board members are asked to read and familiarize themselves with The Foundation's Equity Framework and to commit to furthering the values and practices articulated in this document. New staff members are also trained on implementing specific equity measures.
  • As equity and anti-oppression practice is a perpetual learning process, staff members are provided ongoing professional development in these areas, as well as regular opportunities to expand their knowledge and share best practices in equity implementation.
  • The Foundation ensures that sufficient staff time and resources are allocated for internal work related to equity training and implementation.  

Cultivating internal expertise on diverse arts practices

In addition to ensuring fair representation of equity groups in its workforce and decision-making bodies, the Foundation:

  • Regularly reviews its awards assessment processes to ensure that dominant cultural practices and influences, and/or Eurocentric, ableist or heterosexist assumptions and “norms” are not dictating artistic standards and decision-making practices.
  • Engages in a number of professional development activities designed to advance its staff, board and volunteers’ knowledge and understanding of Toronto’s diverse arts practices, expressions and aesthetics.[4]

Toronto Arts Foundation recognizes that definitions of “artistic merit” are fluid, that notions of excellence vary among cultures, traditions, genres and styles, and that the process of making art occurs within specific cultural and geographic contexts. The Foundation also acknowledges that diverse artistic practices have historically been devalued by such labels as “community”, “non-professional”, “traditional” or “ethnic” and actively resists and challenges stereotypes and generalizations about culturally specific and Deaf and disability art forms. The Foundation further endeavors to break down misconceptions about its initiatives by using inclusive language, and profiling diverse projects and art forms in its program materials and communications.

The Foundation also acknowledges and respects Indigenous values and protocols that inform the creation and use of Indigenous cultural materials.[5]

Equitable Environment

The Foundation is committed to ensuring that it maintains a positive and harmonious environment where staff, volunteers and applicants/program participants are protected from discrimination and harassment, feel their contributions are appreciated, and have a strong sense of investment in the organization. Racism, ableism, homophobia, discrimination based on pregnancy or family status, classism, religious discrimination and other forms of oppression are not tolerated.

The Foundation is further committed to cultivating a space where people of all races, ethnicities, religions, sexualities and abilities—and their respective histories, cultures, and worldviews—are equally valued and central to the organization’s vision. Whiteness, heterosexuality, and able-bodiness are thus decentred as the dominant or "normative" orientations of the organization and the institution functions as a fully shared multi-racial, multi-cultural space, characterized by diversity, collaboration, equity and justice.

The Foundation has put the following measures in place to ensure that it maintains an inclusive and anti-oppressive environment based on mutual respect:

  • The Foundation encourages employee voice and engagement through regular all-staff meetings or forums, where personnel are encouraged to discuss global issues affecting the organization, share information on their work, connect their individual portfolios with the broader goals of the organization, and build team synergy.
  • In order to promote shared equity values across the institution, the Foundation actively works to break down organizational silos. This is accomplished through effective internal communications, encouraging collective problem solving, incorporating participation on horizontal teams into individual job descriptions, and facilitating team-building activities and events.
  • The Foundation fully leverages the benefits of a diverse workforce and cultivates an inclusive environment by inviting all staff members to have meaningful input into decision-making and strategic planning processes and by valuing diverse thinking and diverse approaches to problem solving as key organizational assets.
  • The Foundation encourages respect for difference and promotes workplace sensitivity around issues of diversity and inclusion.
  • The Foundation ensures that is it fully compliant with Canadian employment and human resources standards and legislation and is committed to taking a leadership role in modelling best employment practices for the arts community.
  • The Foundation acknowledges that unconscious bias may influence individual behaviour and organizational culture and builds bias awareness training into its orientation and professional development programs. TAF encourages staff members to challenge their own attitudes and assumptions, and creates forums to openly discuss issues of hidden bias within the institution. TAF also exercises vigilance to challenge and combat micro-aggressions or other subtle forms of oppression.
  • The Foundation expects its entire staff and volunteers to maintain high standards of personal conduct, treat colleagues, peers, program partners and participants with dignity and respect, and refrain from any form of harassment or discrimination.[6]
  • The Foundation maintains elected staff representatives to whom employees can address concerns. The Foundation also ensures that a formal internal workplace harassment procedure, including a transparent complaint, investigation and mediation mechanism, is in place to protect its personnel. Staff and volunteers are encouraged to speak out and report incidents of discrimination or harassment that they experience or witness, without fear of reprisal. Where necessary, the Foundation works with an impartial, external third party ombudsman to investigate complaints related to equity and fairness.
  • The Foundation ensures that all new staff members are provided an orientation package outlining all relevant equity and human resource policies.
  • The Foundation conducts an annual anonymous organization-wide staff survey to ensure that its personnel are able to provide confidential feedback to upper management on the work environment. These surveys provide a forum for The Foundation personnel to raise equity issues, address hidden bias or unfairness, and suggest concrete recommendations for improvements.[7]

The Foundation also acknowledges that staff members, volunteers and applicants belonging to equity-seeking groups may be exposed to bias and discrimination in their everyday lives and is committed to fostering a safe, healthy and accommodating workplace. The Foundation appoints safety representatives, promotes the wellbeing and mental health of its employees, and models best practices in occupational health and safety.

Communications, Marketing and Outreach

The Foundation recognizes that providing equitable access to awards and initiatives information is an essential step to ensuring equitable access to its programs and services. The Foundation has adopted the following measures to cultivate equity in its communications, marketing and outreach:

  • The Foundation regularly reviews and, where necessary, amends its documents to eliminate any linguistic or other forms of bias, for example, adjusting any outdated or exclusionary (e.g. Eurocentric, ableist, heterosexist) language based on current discourse and community feedback.
  • The Foundation also adheres to progressive language and style guides in the development of its communications materials. For example, adopting people-first language conventions (e.g. “artist with a disability” rather than “disabled artist”).
  • The Foundation researches and takes steps to guarantee that its website, program guidelines and nomination forms are accessible to artists who are Deaf or have disabilities. This includes but is not limited to ensuring that the Foundation website meets full Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and providing key documents (e.g. program guidelines) in accessible, alternative formats (e.g. audio, Braille, screen-reader, large font, plain language, etc.).[8]
  • The Foundation maintains a list of ASL language interpreters and, upon request, provides sign language interpretation at events.
  • The Foundation performs tailored outreach to underserved communities primarily through the programs and initiatives of Neighbourhood Arts Network and Arts in the Parks.
  • When organizing outreach activities, the Foundation exercises cultural competence, actively engages community members and partner groups in the planning and hosting of events, identifies and reduces barriers to event participation (e.g. geographic, physical, psychological, linguistic, cultural), provides a safe and welcoming environment for all participants, follows cultural protocol or etiquette (where appropriate), actively listens to participants (in addition to presenting information) and conducts timely follow-up with attendees.
  • The Foundation maintains a list of community-based partners (e.g. arts, cultural or social service organizations, community centres, libraries, etc.) to support its outreach initiatives and actively works to nurture and expand this network. Building long-term relationships and trust with community members is prioritized.
  • All Foundation-organized information sessions and external events are conducted in venues that are accessible to individuals with disabilities, including but not limited to those who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids.[9]
  • In cases where the Foundation is participating in an event organized by another party and does not have control over the choice of venue, the Foundation encourages the host organization to use an accessible space. If the host is unable to provide an accessible venue, the Foundation informs potential participants of this restriction and offers alternative ways for artists to obtain the information that is being shared (e.g. through a one-on-one meeting or by posting the presentation materials on line).
  • In order to ensure that its public events and meetings are accessible to individuals who are Deaf or have disabilities, the Foundation offers sign language interpretation or other accommodations, upon request. The Foundation also ensures that accessibility is considered at all stages in event planning. Details about the accessibility of events (e.g. who to contact to arrange sign language interpretation, location of accessible entrances, etc.) are included in event invitations or promotional materials.
  • When opening Foundation-organized public meetings or forums, the Foundation follows Indigenous protocol by acknowledging the host Nation and their traditional territory.[10]
  • The Foundation reduces access barriers for English-as-a-second-language artists and artists who use sign language by translating key documents (e.g. awards program guidelines) into the mother tongues of Toronto’s largest language groups (e.g. Cantonese, Italian, Mandarin, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, Urdu) and producing ASL videos.[11]
  • In order to maximize accessibility for ESL artists, artists with intellectual or learning disabilities, and artists with less formal education, the Foundation adopts plain language, wherever possible, and avoids using unnecessary jargon in its communications.
  • The Foundation's printed and electronic materials (e.g. strategic plans, annual reports, website, etc.) articulate the organization’s commitment to equity and reflect the diversity of its constituency in both content and imagery.
  • The Foundation is committed to incorporating fees for translation services for their communications, promotions and evaluation materials as part of program/initiative budgets that serve ESL communities and participants.
  • When posting on social media, the Foundation expands its reach by identifying and tagging organizations that serve equity priority groups and by providing sample text that can be forwarded to these organizations’ followers.
  • the Foundation includes non-mainstream media in its communications activity.

Accessible Premises and Inclusive Spaces

The Foundation takes the following measures to ensure its premises are accessible to all artists:

  • The Foundation ensures that its entranceway, lobby, elevator, meeting rooms, hallways and washrooms are wheelchair-accessible, well maintained and free of obstructions. In the event of renovations or malfunctions (e.g. an elevator breakdown), the Foundation ensures that potential visitors are informed of any disruption of service and alternate accessible meeting spaces are made available.
  • The Foundation maintains a scent-free environment.
  • The Foundation ensures that there is an evacuation plan that takes into account the needs of individuals with disabilities, including but not limited to those who use mobility aids.
  • The Foundation maintains and disseminates accurate information on accessible street parking spots and/or public parking lots with accessible spaces in the vicinity of its premises.
  • The Foundation ensures that entranceways are clear of snow, ice and waste.

Several of the Foundation's programs are focused on art in public spaces and involve partnerships with a network of pre-identified venues, including parks, community centres and libraries. In order to ensure maximum accessibility for artists engaged in these programs/spaces:

  • The Foundation considers issues of equity and access in selecting partner venues.
  • The Foundation provides program participants and audiences detailed information on the physical accessibility of each site.[12]
  • The Foundation acknowledges that communities may have legitimate concerns about artists/arts organizations “parachuting” programming into their neighbourhoods and encourages the active involvement of local artists, respectful community collaboration, and site-specific programs that reflect the histories, composition and dynamics of the local community. Projects that involve local artists (or are proposed by artists with strong existing ties with the local community) are prioritized in Foundation space-based programs.

Equity Research

Under the leadership of its Research and Impact Manager, the Foundation periodically proposes, conducts and/or participates in equity-related research and evaluation initiatives designed to:

  • Assess the extent to which the Foundation's programs are responsive and meeting the needs of Toronto audiences and, in particular, its equity priority groups;
  • Evaluate whether the partnerships in which the Foundation invests are meeting the Foundation’s equity and global objectives;
  • Identify programming gaps within the Foundation or the larger Toronto arts sector; and
  • Advance the understanding and practice of equity in the arts locally and nationally.

[1] In order to plan and budget for these accessibility supports, peer assessors are sent a brief questionnaire where they can indicate any accommodations they may require, as well as dietary restrictions.

[2] These include: the Canadian Employment Equity Act and the Integrated Accessibility Standards: Employment Standards section of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

[3] These competencies are likewise reflected in job postings and interview questions.

[4] These activities include: encouraging regular staff and volunteer attendance at performances, exhibitions, screenings and other arts events presented by diverse artists and arts organizations; organizing internal workshops and presentations for Foundation staff and board featuring guest artists/arts professionals from equity-seeking communities; and participating in external conferences, talks and workshops.

[5] For a detailed exploration of Indigenous cultural protocols, see the Australia Council for the Arts’ on-line series of Indigenous Cultural Protocol Guides.

[6] According to the Canadian government’s Policy on Harassment Prevention and Resolution, harassment includes: any improper or unwelcome conduct by an individual that is directed at and offensive to another individual, which the perpetrator knew or ought reasonably to have known would cause offence or harm. This may include objectionable acts, comments or displays that demean, belittle, or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment; acts of intimidation or threat; and discrimination based on personal characteristics such as race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation or disability.

[7] These surveys includes questions about the extent to which staff members feel that their workplace is free of bias, harassment and discrimination, their ideas and contributions are valued and respected, and that opportunities and benefits are allocated equitably within the organization.

[8] Note that this measure requires dedicated financial and human resources and will be implemented as funds become available.

[9] This includes providing accessible washrooms.

[10] Example: “We would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is located on the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat People.”

[11] Note that this measure requires dedicated financial and human resources and will be implemented as funds become available.

[12] For instance, whether a venue is fully or partially accessible to individuals using wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

Toronto Arts Foundation Equity Framework

Equity at Toronto Arts Foundation & Toronto Arts Council: A Brief History
Equity Guiding Principles
Equity Priority Groups
Key Equity Policies and Practices
Implementing Equity