ISO issues letter of disappointment to Minister of Finance and Minister of Canadian Heritage after being excluded from federal budget - ISO-BEA

Toronto (Tkaronto), ON – On Thursday, April 6th, the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO) issued a letter of disappointment to the Federal government, namely Minister Freeland and Minister Rodriguez, after the organization’s request for increased and permanent funding was excluded from the latest federal budget. ISO’s three-year funding commitment of $13 million per year from Canadian Heritage expires at the end of the next fiscal year, March 31, 2024, and without a guarantee of additional and permanent funding, the organization is at considerable risk.

“The ISO was created in 2017 with an explicit mandate from this government to support Indigenous narrative sovereignty. As partners, we expect to be treated as equals in determining shared objectives and terms of engagement,” says Kerry Swanson, CEO. “In the true spirit of reconciliation and self-determination, we simply want this government to stop creating conditions that undermine our success and theirs. Given the challenges and instability this approach to our funding creates, we are seeking an earlier decision from the government so that we can continue focusing on our mandate.”

In its letter to the Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, the ISO calls on the government to work in the spirit of equality and partnership to provide the required sustainability and investment for the organization to continue to thrive. ISO’s original request for funding in 2019 was $27m per year as a permanent federal allocation, a request made once again for this federal budget process.

The ISO’s pre-budget submission included not only comprehensive data on its funding reach and expansive partnerships, but also multiple testimonials from Indigenous storytellers attesting to the organization’s unique impact and importance. A powerful letter from world- renowned Inuk filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk was also included, articulating the decades of struggle and advocacy that led to the creation of the ISO.

In the last five years, the ISO has been a pioneering organization in the screen, arts and culture sectors, delivering over $24.6m directly to over 320 First Nations, Inuit and Métis recipients across Canada. Over 88% of ISO’s total budget has been delivered directly to applicants and projects over the last two years, with all funding delivered in both official languages. The organization’s work in advocacy, funding policy, program design and delivery, eligibility, narrative sovereignty and protocols have been replicated and advanced across the industry, where ISO is widely acknowledged as a leading organization.

The ISO is the first organization of its kind in Canada and abroad – an independent Indigenous-led and run funding organization that supports screen-based content owned and controlled by Indigenous storytellers on all platforms. ISO’s mandate is in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ratified by Canada, which positions storytelling and self-representation in media as a fundamental right. With 67% of funding in 2022 going to projects with Indigenous languages, the ISO further supports the government’s Indigenous Languages Act and language rights affirmed by this government and by UNDRIP.


Links to the letter to the Ministers, pre-budget submission, letter from Zach Kunuk and ISO annual report are available upon request.

For more information, please contact:

Andréa Grau, Touchwood PR