COVID-19 #EquityStrong


Council President's Message


The national Council of Equity wishes to express solidarity with our members across the country and our colleagues internationally. We know that behind the headlines, there is a human cost to how COVID-19 has affected our industry; the cancelled productions and contracts mount, and behind each and every one there is an Equity member who is affected emotionally, physically, financially and mentally. To everyone who is losing work due to the theatre closures: my heart goes out to you. Lost opportunities are tough to bear when they are so hard to obtain in the first place. I feel for you all.

These are unprecedented times that affect Equity staff, Council, and members alike.

You may sometimes have seen the online hashtag #EquityStrong, usually used in discussion around labour issues, but now more than ever we need united strength. From the informative emails sent by our communications staff, to Councillors going above and beyond to support members, to our Executive Director Arden R. Ryshpan and the Business Representatives taking your calls, and the members themselves, #Equity Strong means that we are looking out for each other when we need it.

If you have questions, concerns, or needs, please know that Equity is here for you.

Scott Bellis
Council President


Union Support for Performers

Basic Dues

One of the early actions Equity took was to reduce our basic dues billing (usually $90 paid twice annually) by $15 for every month until the many states of emergency across the country have been lifted.

We also delayed our May 1st dues billing run until July, or until the many states of emergency across the country have been lifted.

Joining Fees

Equity contacted members in the process of joining Equity, advising them to delay submitting membership applications and paying any corresponding outstanding joining fees until work opportunities return. [more...]

COVID-19 Member Information Meetings

Equity has been hosting regular online member information sessions using the Zoom platform. We have had excellent turnout for these events and plan to continue to hold them regularly going forward.

  • June 3 - Money Matters: This meeting focused on managing personal finances in challenging and uncertain times, with special guests Chris Enns and Tova Epp. (Video and transcript)
  • May 20 - Special guests Janet Sellery (Sellery Health and Safety) and Don Parman (Actsafe Safety Association) discuss the health and safety requirements needed to open up the live performance sector post COVID-19. (Video and Transcript)
  • May 4 - Special guests, mental health experts Stephanie Kersta MSc RP and Carolyn Plater MSW RSW, with guided meditation by Patricia (Hoame) (Video, transcript and resources)
  • April 22 - Special guest Simon Brault (Director & CEO, Canada Council for the Arts) (Video and transcript)
  • April 8 - Special guests MP Julie Dabrusin, Gord Lewis (Pensions) and David Hope (The AFC) (Video and transcript))
  • March 25 - Contract Questions (Video and transcript)
  • March 17 - Immediate Steps (Video and transcript)


Equity created an Advocacy and Resources webpage listing organizations, activities, and links aimed at assisting artsworkers in live performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. A centralized archive of Equity's own COVID-19 updates and activities is available on this page as well.



Equity created a comprehensive member information FAQ sheet including information on contracts (termination, cancellations, postponement, letter of agreement (deal memo), Force Majeure, insurance and pension plans, auditions, live streaming etc.


Initiatives Assessing the impact of this Pandemic on the Performer Community

Lost Work Opportunities Tracking Survey

Equity launched a Lost Work Opportunities Tracker using an invitation-only Survey Monkey questionnaire, in order to track members’ lost income from terminated contracts. Members invited to complete the survey included:

  • those in good standing or owing up to $200 in basic dues (this restriction was relaxed from “good standing” to increase the catchment pool); and
  • those with an upcoming contract entered in our database or who had worked under an Equity contract within the last two years.

The Lost Work Opportunities Tracker was designed to capture both income lost where there was a signed contract in place, and also where no contract was signed  but a deal memo or other bona fide documentation existed indicating agreed terms.

The survey also tracked income from other sources specifically related to live performance (e.g., teaching, coaching, choir soloist, etc.) but not work under an Equity contract.


  • The survey invitation was sent out to 4,125 members
  • Invitation open rate was 82%
  • We received 1,921 responses (46.7% response rate)
  • Of the responses, the survey had an 87% completion rate, over the five days (only) that it was in the field
  • Members reporting signed contract: 73%
  • Members reporting deal memo or other bona fide documentation: 27%

We are still reviewing the data but topline results indicate the following:

Income paid out as termination (up to two contracts, present and future) Income lost (up to two contracts, present and future) Other live performance sector income lost
$1,397,722.53 $11,898,226.80 $1,219,798.42


Pan-industry Survey

Equity also was an industry partner to Arts Pond and I Lost My Gig Canada’s pan-industry survey capturing lost income across the arts and creative industries.


Canadian Government Launches Emergency Income Relief Benefits for Independent Contractors, Including Artsworkers in the Arts and Entertainments Sector

The Canadian Government has extended income replacement benefits to self-employed contractors (ie. most members of Equity (performers, directors, choreographers, fight directors; some stage managers are considered employees) through their Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This benefit provides $500 CAD/week for 16 weeks and applications opened April 6th. Possible changes addressing independent contractors made ineligible for this benefit are pending.

The Canadian Government has also introduced a scheme to pay 75% of employees salaries (up to $847 CAD/week) and this has been extended to non-profit companies and charities.


Regular “EQUIFLASH” Advisories Sent to Members


Returning to Work Initiatives