Festival Funding Conspiracy

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A year after Canada Economic Development cut $50,000 from the First People’s Festival’s budget, festival organizer André Dudemaine is still irate over the funding drop and claims that there was something much more sinister at hand.

In 2008, just weeks before the June festival was slated to kick off, Dudemaine and his team were told that they would no longer be receiving the $50,000 they had been receiving since 1999 to go towards international promotion of the festival.

Those precious dollars would have not only gone to foreign advertisements to promote the festival abroad but also to fund foreign Indigenous press to come to the festival.

At the time Dudemaine was told that his grant was being cut so that more money could be given to Montreal’s larger festivals, in particular the Montreal International Jazz Festival. He found the decision puzzling however.

“That $50,000 accounts for a lot at the First People’s Festival. It might not mean a lot for the Jazz Festival or Just for Laughs and the government was not able to give me any response to that argument,” said Dudemaine.

Though he has no way of knowing for sure, Dudemaine said that he believes that the government has a hidden agenda in withdrawing their funding particularly as that specific fund was for foreign promotion. In his mind, the less Canadian Indigenous groups and filmmakers communicate with other nations, the better it stands for the Canadian government as less attention will be drawn to Canada’s deplorable treatment of its Indigenous people. He compared the situation to Canada’s history of colonization by force and the isolation tactics they are synonymous with.

Dudemaine was also quick to point out that as of late, Canada has also been fostering trade deals with nations that are systematically wiping out their Indigenous peoples over land and mining deals.

“We are seeing that this government is dealing with Colombia in developing a common market in a free-trade agreement and we know that in Colombia there are paramilitary groups that are known to be protected by the Uribe government and those paramilitaries are killing Indigenous leaders,” said Dudemaine.

Between the negative press that could come from the festival internationally and the lessons Canadian Indigenous groups could share with foreign nations on how they have dealt with colonization and genocide, Dudemaine is claiming that this is why the funds were really cut.

Aside from having less funding for foreign promotion, Dudemaine said that the festival at home faced a great deal of strain this year as these funds also went into the administrative budget. As a result they had less manpower on hand this year and greater chances of plans going awry as the staff he was able to retain faced a greater burden this year.

Fortunately for the festival, many of the journalists who managed to attend the festival were able to acquire funding from their own territorial organizations, including a large delegation of Polynesians and Ma’ohi tribe members. The festival had a French Polynesian theme this year.

The First People’s Festival was also able to get new funding from other local and federal groups including the City of Montreal, the Canada Council for the Arts and other institutions like La Grande Bibliothèque, the NFB and the Cinémathèsque Québécoise.

In the end the festival found themselves with only $25,000-$30,000 less than they would have had without the grant cuts but the effects of the cuts were still felt.

Beyond that, Dudemaine said that this year, with its French Polynesian theme, could have really generated a tremendous amount of visibility for the City of Montreal and the Quebec region. In his opinion, the “stupid Conservatives” were simply shooting themselves in the foot by cutting the festival’s funds because of the spin-offs the funding would have brought in.

Despite the cuts, Dudemaine said that they, as always, expect to break even this year just as they have every year since the festival’s inception.

“I find it very insulting that this government is giving millions of dollars to banks, the automobile industry and all of those people who have so badly managed their money that now they are in financial difficulty when we have managed our money very carefully and very skillfully. We have not had a single deficit in 19 years and yet they have penalized us and I think that this is incredibly unjust,” said Dudemaine.

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