Martha Rans of Pacific Legal Education and Outreach (PLEO) has written a letter to the Hon. Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, seeking support to improve the organization's capacity. Through its programs including Law for Nonprofits and Artists' Legal Outreach, PLEO offers legal services and education to countless arts and culture organizations across British Columbia, but has faced trouble finding ongoing funding.
The full text of the letter is reproduced below. To add your voice in support of PLEO, join the list of signatories to this letter by clicking here.
Dear Minister Beare,
Re: the position in BC’s arts and culture sector of Pacific Legal Education and Outreach Society (PLEO)
First, we wish to extend a sincere thank-you to the Ministry and the Government for demonstrating their commitment to BC’s cultural life by significantly increasing their investment in arts and culture.
I am writing today in my capacity as Founder and Legal Director of the Pacific Legal Education and Outreach Society (PLEO), a Vancouver-based non-profit society that operates two pro bono legal programs: the Artists’ Legal Outreach (ALO) for individual artists, and Law for Non Profits (LFNP) for non-profit organizations, including arts organizations. This letter is focused specifically on the work PLEO does with artists and arts organizations. We are the only organization in the province that provides legal services on an ongoing, specialized basis to the arts and culture sector, and have been doing so since 2006. Notwithstanding over a decade of services, we have not been treated as an arts service organization and do not fit the categories of existing funding to the arts. We are hopeful that in directing this letter to you we will open a discussion to rectify this apparent gap in supporting the creative economy of the province.
PLEO is the only integrated public legal information provider with insurance coverage to provide legal information, education and advice on an ongoing basis to artists and non-profits. LFNP is currently 4 volunteer lawyers and 6 law students, and is supported through individual and organizational donations, as well as project support from the City of Vancouver, the Columbia Basin Trust, and many small community foundations across the province.
PLEO has worked with countless arts organizations - the attached list is just a small sample. Our services have only proven to be more critical as artists and arts organizations grapple with both the new provincial Societies act and the federal Copyright Act. Over the years we have reached more than 1,000 creators in all disciplines through our clinic and copyright workshops, which have been held in Vancouver, Victoria, Nelson, Salt Spring Island, Nanaimo, Prince George and Kelowna. Our Societies Act workshops have been held at the Arts Summit, Arts BC, Heritage BC and related arts conferences reaching over a thousand organizations since November 2016.
PLEO fully supports The Creative City Strategy, newly unveiled by the City of Vancouver, and its commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, building a culture of reconciliation, including previously underrepresented voices and communities, and cultivating partnerships across communities. These values are embodied in our upcoming workshop series focused on the recent changes to the federal Copyright Act: one workshop will deal specifically on cultural appropriation as it pertains to First Nations communities, and the series as a whole will feature, as panelists and speakers, numerous Indigenous and culturally diverse artists.
Most creatives possess a vague awareness of the formal legal constraints within which they operate - whether it be quoting from a published book, incorporating a piece of already-existing music, or abiding by the Province’s new Societies Act. For creatives who are aware of PLEO, we are generally their first point of contact vis-a-vis these legal questions; however, many creatives remain unaware of PLEO, due in large part to our limited organizational capacity, which affects our ability to publicize and promote our services within the broader arts community.
In order to bolster the work we do for artists and the arts sector, we are taking proactive steps to enhance our administrative and organizational capacity. We truly applaud the healthy and much-needed increase in the Province’s investment in the arts, and hope that the Ministry recognizes the unique and vital service PLEO provides to the arts and culture sector.
I would be happy to meet with you in person to speak further about PLEO and our place in the province’s arts and culture ecology.