Writers Guild of Canada Confronts Criticism Over Inclusion: "There's No Hidden Agenda"

The CW
The CW's Canadian drama 'Coroner'

The union's executive and council ranks have been called out for its lack of diversity despite the organization's measures to see Canadian screenwriters from diverse communities hired and elevated.

After the Writers Guild of Canada took to social media to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, the Canadian screenwriters union has had to defend its policies on diversity and inclusion.

"They are accusations and of course we want to be the best employers that we can be... But I don't believe that the assertions made in this anonymous account are correct or accurate," WGC executive director Maureen Parker told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday.

Parker was responding to an apparent former staff member of the WGC who came forward on Twitter to anonymously accuse the guild's executive ranks and volunteer-led council of being too white. "The WGC is, unfortunately, another structure of systemic racism that needs to change. From the lack of representation in the office, to the lack of representation in membership and matters in between... it seems clear that the DNA of the WGC has made it a structure resistant to change," a thread created by "Anony Staffer" claimed in tweets made on June 12.

The anonymous claims followed the Canadian union initially voicing its support for the Black Lives Matter movement via its official Twitter account on June 2: "The WGC stands with Black communities everywhere. Let this be a time to listen, relect, learn and, most importantly, act to amplify Black voices and stories. #BlackLivesMatter."

On June 19, the WGC also responded via its Twitter account to the apparent ex-staffer's criticisms by insisting it took workplace allegations seriously. "We are committed to taking any and all measures necessary to ensure that the guild is a fair, safe and inclusive environment for all," the union added.

The WGC came in for particular criticism that its seven-member council, last voted in on May 1, 2020 for another two-year term, has only one visible minority member, Marsha Greene, a TV writer on the Canadian drama Coroner, which also airs on The CW. The WGC's Parker defended the makeup of the voluntary council, and its efforts to encourage the professional development of screenwriters from diverse backgrounds.

"I don't know why people are feeling a need to attack their guild on Twitter. We are a professional organization, a union. We're not a political organization. We're run by a council of volunteers and employed staff. There's no hidden agenda here," Parker said. And while acknowledging historic barriers that Black Canadians and other members of minority communities face in getting work in Canadian TV writers rooms, Parker said the job of hiring TV screenwriters lay with local producers.

To that end, the WGC has launched a number of measures led by its volunteer-led diversity committee to connect emerging screenwriters with Canadian content producers to diversify local writers rooms and content. These include getting scripts from diverse screenwriters into the hands of key industry decision makers, encouraging one-on-one networking by diverse screenwriters with showrunners, producers and broadcast execs, and relaxing requirements and waiving WGC initiation fees for diverse screenwriters to join the union long aligned with the Writers Guild of America. 

Parker also touted an online membership directory created by the WGC to help producers and showrunners connect with talent that have self-identified as being from a diverse community. "It's a searchable data base for divers[e] writers that hooks them up with work," she explained.

These and other measures come as the Canadian TV industry has sought to promote meaningful diversity well before current efforts to tackle historical racial injustice, including via the Black Lives Matter movement. 

While Canadians have access to a slew of U.S. TV shows created by African-American showrunners, local TV dramas written by Black Canadians, like the CBC's Book of Negroes and Global's Da Kink in My Hair, are rare. Among exceptions currently on Canadian TV is the CBC legal drama Diggstown, created by Floyd Kane and picked up stateside by BET+.

Canada's drive towards greater diversity and inclusion on film and TV screens follows the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiling changes in its structure and voting regulations to similarly promote diversity.