• Jordan Bolay

On Canadian Content: By the Artists

In our last post on CanCon, we talked a lot about numbers, requirements, and how to reach them; now we’d like to look more closely at what makes something “CanCon.” Canadian radio requirements follow the MAPL system—yes, as in “maple,” we aren’t joking and we couldn’t make this up—to determine if a song/band meets CanCon standards. MAPL stands for music, artist, performance, and lyrics. To be considered CanCon, two of those four factors must be Canadian. But the standards in literature are far more fuzzy, and Canada has a long history of ‘borrowing’ and ‘claiming’ authors from abroad as its own.

For example, postmodern prairie poet and novelist Robert Kroetsch wrote and published all of his early books while living, studying, and teaching in the United States despite the texts’ overtly Canadian content. By contrast, French Canadian Nicole Brossard’s novel Le désert mauve (Mauve Desert) is set in the U.S. and nearly all of the characters are American yet it’s a canonical Quebecois novel. Science fiction trailblazer William Gibson first came to Canada from the U.S. as a draft-dodger but has been adopted as one of the fathers of our speculative fiction tradition. Alix Ohlin was born in Montreal and now lives and teaches in Vancouver, but most of her education, writing, and publishing happened in the U.S. And the list goes on and on, with each of these grey zone cases being adopted or sometimes even assertively claimed as part of Canadian literature.

The question then becomes “what makes something CanCon?” especially when we aren’t dealing with a famous author that people have ruled on. Some of our contributors live abroad but write about Canada, others live, study, and write in Canada but aren’t citizens (and some are in the process of becoming citizens). We would love to consider all those people as “Canadian writers” in the same vein as Canadian writers have always been claimed, but we don’t want to hurt our chances for funding that would allow us to pay contributors or help cover operational costs.

So, how do we decide what ‘counts’ as CanCon and how we can best—literally—count our CanCon for grant applications? We have decided to go with a fairly clear understanding of “Canadian”—someone who has citizenship or permanent residency (the latter being an immigrant granted permission to live in Canada indefinitely without citizenship). We decided that permanent residents will be considered ‘Canadian’ for us because we aren’t in charge of voting stations—we’re a non-profit literary hub trying to build community—and to us this means celebrating a diversity of views and experiences, including those of immigrants who help create the mosaic that Canada boasts it is.

In our previous post on CanCon we asked our readers to let us know how they would like us to count the amount of CanCon in our issues (by page, contributor, piece, etc.) on Facebook and Patreon. We received arguments in favour of each way of counting, but having then considered who counts as ‘Canadian,’ we decided that we will be counting our CanCon by contributor. This will make our jobs easier when putting together our issues because we won’t have to do complicated math to balance page numbers (i.e., ‘if we take this 5 page international submission, then we need 25 Canadian pages before we can take another international’). Counting contributors also makes counting soundbite easier, especially as we are considering the combined total of our contributors from both publications together (the grants ask for our CanCon by project, and we consider The ALP one project).

What does this mean? It means we’re going to start asking our submitters to declare if they are Canadian citizens or permanent residents in their cover letters. We will never share your personal information with anyone, but you will become a statistic (either part of our 80% CanCon or our 20% international). But don’t worry—we’re already looking into globalisation grants that don’t have such strict regulations on CanCon (however, we need to have existed for a longer time to qualify for those, so, until then we will play by the funding rules and count our CanCon contributors).

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