Here's where Canadian artists and freelancers can find help during COVID-19 shutdowns

This continuously updated list will direct you to the resources you may need right now.

This continuously updated list will direct you to the resources you may need right now

Toronto's Paradise Theatre left a message on its marquee as it temporarily closed its doors. (Peter Knegt/CBC)

COVID-19 has devastated the Canadian arts community. With social distancing heavily encouraged, theatres, concert venues, art galleries and stores have been forced to close. Touring musicians have cancelled gigs, book launches have been postponed and film productions across the country are halted. As a result, many workers who already were in precarious positions find themselves even worse off.

On March 18, the federal government announced it was creating two new benefits to support workers not normally eligible for EI. However, the application won't be available until April. In the meantime, there are a number of resources for artists that will help them through a difficult time — whether that's financially, mentally or just to improve their own skills.

Following the footsteps of a group of American artists and writers who created a COVID-19 freelance artist resource list, we've created a Canadian companion list. This list will be updated as more resources become available. To add a resource, please email H.G. Watson.

Emergency funding

  • CBC Creative Relief Fund — In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, CBC has launched The CBC Creative Relief Fund to provide immediate, urgent support to Canadian creators. The unprecedented new Fund will provide $2 million in development and production funding for a diverse range of innovative, original Canadian storytelling, including scripted comedies and dramas, unscripted entertainment, kids and young adult programming, podcasts, play adaptations and short documentaries.

  • CBC and Canada Council for the Arts Digital Originals — A new $1 million fund to help artists, groups and arts organizations pivot their work to online audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Creators can apply for a maximum of $5000 in funding per project, a selection of which will be curated and digitally showcased by CBC/Radio-Canada.

  • Woodcock Fund Grant — This grant provides emergency funds for writers mid-project.

  • The AFC — Provides emergency financial aid for entertainment professionals.

  • Unison — Provides financial aid for musicians.

  • Emergency Survival Fund for LGBTQ2S artists, performers, tip-based workers – Administered by Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto, this fund will help cover emergency aid and paid work for LGBTQ2S artists, performers and tip-based workers. 

  • Canadian Low-Income Artist/Musician Relief Fund — A group fundraising to support a relief fund.

  • Behind the Scenes Basic Needs Grants — Provides financial assistance for seriously ill entertainment technology professionals in the U.S. and Canada.

  • Facebook-National Arts Centre Fund for Performing Artists — Accepting applications from artists who post a 45 to 60 minute online performance between today and March 31, 2020. Financial grants will be given out from a $100,000 relief fund.

  • The Photographer Fund — A $25,000 fund to help self-employed photographers facing hardship.

  • Canadian Cinema Worker Fund — Fundraiser to create a fund for cinema workers who will not be compensated by their employers for the foreseeable future.

  • GTA Black Community Emergency Support Fund — Artist-organized community fundraiser for Black people in the GTA, particularly those working in the gig economy.

  • Toronto Arts Council — To assist Toronto artists in dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, Toronto Arts Foundation and Toronto Arts Counciare introducing the TOArtist COVID Response Fund. The Fund will allocate up to $1000 to self-employed, individual artists resident in Toronto whose creative work and income have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Canadian Writers' Emergency Relief Fund — The Writers' Trust of Canada and The Writers' Union of Canada (TWUC) announced the creation of the Canadian Writers' Emergency Relief Fund to provide support to professional authors financially affected by the COVID-19 health crisis. The fund will begin with an initial amount of $150,000 and distribute grants in amounts of $1,500 to writers that have seen contracted or projected income evaporate due to the current public health crisis. Financial support for the program is supplied by three program partners: the Writers' Trust, TWUC, and RBC.

  • MusicTogether — A $300K emergency relief fund for Ontario musicians put together by the provincial government and members of the music community. Musicians can apply for a one-time $1,000 performance fee tied to a livestream.

  • City of Windsor Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund — The City of Windsor has relaunched the Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund (ACHF), offering $60,000 worth of grant money as a means of helping support local artists whose livelihoods have been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Ownr — A $25,000 fund to help support Canadian entrepreneurs with a grant of up to $1000 for each successful applicant.

Advocacy groups

Online training resources

  • Skillshare — A free resource with classes on writing, acting and many more topics.

  • Toronto Public Library eLearning portal — Free films and access to library materials for library card holders.

  • Calgary Digital Library — Access to library materials for card holders.

  • Sourceful — Publicly sourced Google Docs and Sheets.

  • Sur Place — Montreal-based nonprofit offering online arts workshops.

  • Isolate/Create — Free resource providing creatives with digital assets to spark creativity and inspire digital collaboration.

  • Pandemic University — A pop-up writing school for, and by, locked-down and quarantined writers.

  • Artscape Launchpad Learning — Free daily programming including artist talks and skill building workshops.

  • Somebody's Watching With Me — Guests pick a film, television show or image-based media they're watching, and then connect on Instagram Live for a Q&A.

Health and mental health resources

  • Crisis Services Canada — Providing suicide prevention and support. Call 1-833-456-4566.

  • Distress Centres of Greater Toronto — Volunteer-delivered crisis, emotional support and suicide prevention, intervention and postvention service agency. Call 416-408-4357.

  • NABS support line — Confidential and professional assistance to marketing and communications professionals. Call 1-888-355-5548.

  • Unison — A toll-free number to connect Canadian music professionals with resources and support for personal and practical issues in English and French. Call 1-855-986-4766.

  • TO Community response to COVID19 Facebook group — Facebook group connecting people in need with helpers in Toronto.

  • Calltime; Mental Health — An initiative created by British Columbia's motion picture industry unions to provide mental health resources for motion picture industry workers.

Temporary and remote job/volunteer opportunities

CBC Arts understands that this is an incredibly difficult time for artists and arts organizations across this country. We will do our best to provide valuable information, share inspiring stories of communities rising up and make us all feel as (virtually) connected as possible as we get through this together. If there's something you think we should be talking about, let us know by emailing us at See more of our COVID-related coverage here.


H.G. Watson is a journalist based in Toronto. She teaches at Toronto Metropolitan University, and has worked for the National Observer, TVO, J-Source and more. You can find her at or on Twitter at @hg_watson.

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