I want to thank you for your acknowledgement of North of 60. It was a great and wonderful time for me.
Good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to speak with the indigenous and northern affairs committee of the House of Commons. I'm proud to be here and I'm honoured to be speaking at this historic time in Canada.
I would like to acknowledge that I am on the Blackfoot territory of Treaty 7.
My name is Tom Jackson, as you know, and I'm here to speak with you on behalf of the Creative Industries Coalition, a group of unions and guilds representing artists and technicians working in live performance.
With COVID, entertainment was the first to go and it will be the last to return, particularly the live-performance sector. About 50,000 Canadians are out of work. There is virtually 100% unemployment in our industry, and our members are experiencing wage losses of about $130 million per month. Due to the freelance or gig nature of our work, fewer than 2% of our members are receiving support from the Canada emergency wage subsidy. Many contract workers are not eligible for employment insurance. We need an extension of the CERB. Although the program runs until October 3, the maximum eligibility period is 16 weeks. Most entertainment industry workers applied immediately. Their benefits will run out in July.
We need an extension of the maximum eligibility period, to beyond 16 weeks, and of the end date of the program. Until it is safe for us to return to work, we need this financial support.
Now, if you don't mind, I need to tell you a bit of my story.
I'm just an old six-foot-five Indian guy with a braid. I have a treaty number. I was born in the back of a horse-drawn buckboard between One Arrow First Nation and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, on October 27, 1947. That tells you two things: one, I have been around for a long time and, two, I'm a pretty lucky guy. You know what makes me lucky? I became an entertainer. I discovered radio. I discovered radio doesn't have a colour, so I was lucky.
I have more than one number. I have five union numbers. I'm a member of ACTRA, SAG, CFM, Equity and the Writers Guild of Canada. You're probably thinking to yourself, “Wow, that guy must be making a lot of money.” Nope. As a matter of fact, a lot of my fellow artists, people in the entertainment industry, are just like me. Lots of numbers but no money. They are brothers and sisters of mine who bring you happiness, joy and health every time you turn on your screen or your music. Entertainment is the most powerful instrument of change in human history, but right now its players are invisible. They're just numbers.
Let me ask you a question. Would you like to see a better Canada? If you'd like to see a better Canada, say “I”.