Cellist Maureen Kelly during the TCML 2018 recording session at Array Space. Photo: Nicola Betts

Cellist Maureen Kelly during the TCML 2018 recording session at Array Space. Photo: Nicola Betts

The Toronto Creative Music Lab (TCML), now in its fourth edition, is an artistic and professional development workshop for early-career musicians, ensembles, and composers.

TCML nurtures the development of risk-takers and change-makers. We are committed to pushing toward a yet unimagined future that connects our music with our social responsibilities, our institutions, our communities, our audiences, and each other.

TCML is a volunteer-driven, peer-mentored, 8-day workshop that fosters professional development, artistic growth, collaborative learning, and community-building through workshops, rehearsals, social events, panel discussions, and performance.

Photo: Bianca Pugliese

Photo: Bianca Pugliese

We want to recognize that we are here because this land was colonized. Indigenous communities and allies struggle against the ongoing consequences of our colonial system. As we prepare for TCML 2019, we want to acknowledge and thank the Mississaugas of the New Credit, the Haudenosaunee, the Huron-Wendat, and all Indigenous people who share this land with us, and allow us to be here as uninvited guests.

It is important to consider the history of state policy that, among other things, criminalized Indigenous cultural expression, and sought to eradicate Indigenous languages and communities. These forms of racism and paternalism also shaped wider cultural policy, privileging and resourcing certain traditions over others—we are keenly aware of this within music-making.

The insidious logic of Canadian cultural policies dispossessed Indigenous communities of their songs while simultaneously funding settler artists who appropriate ‘disappearing’ Indigenous cultural forms. We continue to see settler artists doing so without the consent, credit, or compensation of Indigenous artists and communities.

The Harry Somers and Mavor Moore opera Louis Riel, and its high-profile Canadian Opera Company (COC) production in 2017, encapsulates this deep-seated contradiction that persists in the world of contemporary music. The score of this opera features an aria sung in Cree by Marguerite Riel, Louis Riel’s wife, the melody for which was taken without context by Somers from a Nisga’a mourning song. The mourning song had been recorded, transcribed, and published by settler ethnographers (Marius Barbeau and Ernest MacMillan) in the early 20th century, and was readily available to Somers as a result.

The COC sought to present a critical discourse around Indigenous issues relating to Louis Riel. However, the staged performance still culminates in a frightening tableau: a settler artist posing onstage as a Métis mother, singing a song of death, stolen/misappropriated from the Nisga’a, to a Métis baby.

These moments of cultural and cognitive dissonance occur against a backdrop of continued mistreatment and systemic prejudice against present-day Indigenous communities—racism within the healthcare industry being one example—where systems of hierarchy and colonialism are reinforced and reified, regardless of intention, on the concert stage.

As ethnomusicologist Parmela Attariwala notes in reference to the culture around orchestral music and the training of composers and musicians within Western European models that are prolific in Canada:

Few musical traditions describe themselves as great or even the greatest. This kind of language and set of beliefs emerges from empire, from colonialism, and from capitalism. It is also what makes exoticism possible, such as portraying non-European peoples through music intended to sonically represent them but doing so in contexts that are compatible with a European worldview.

Likewise, the belief in one’s own greatness makes cultural appropriation possible. Who owns sound from a culturally specific people? Until very recently, composers readily tapped into material of folk and non-European musics. In the colonial mindset, such music could be taken because the people to whom it belonged had not copyrighted it.

We challenge those settler artists who claim victimhood when Indigenous communities confront them about the inherent racism of their methods. Centuries of trauma and erasure are exacerbated by these misguided efforts that claim to ‘celebrate’ Indigenous history and culture, rather than acknowledging the sovereignty and autonomy of Indigenous artists. We acknowledge our responsibility to listen when our assumptions and mistakes are corrected.

We acknowledge the contradictory nature of our own context, given that we benefit from the same funding structures that have ignored and undervalued Indigenous artists.

For us, there is not one music, there is not one way to make music, there is not one way to share music.

As we acknowledge the Indigenous communities that have lived here for thousands of years, and their generosity, let us consider how we can be generous to one another during TCML. Let's work together to create a respectful and welcoming space.

The entirety of, or variations on, this Land Acknowledgement is read aloud at the start of TCML events. This statement was drafted in 2016 and evolves based on the reflections and input of TCML organizers and allies. It was last updated in October 2018.

If you plan to use this Land Acknowledgement in your organizing, please be mindful of the territory you occupy and adjust the statement accordingly.

Photo: Nicola Betts

Photo: Nicola Betts

All TCML participants, organizers, volunteers, audience and community members have the right to be safe, and feel safe. With this right comes the responsibility for everyone to be accountable for their actions, and to contribute to a safe and positive environment. TCML participants, organizers, guest artists, and audience/community members are expected to follow this code of conduct.

Expected Behaviour // Anyone participating in a TCML activity and present in TCML workshop spaces is responsible for their behaviour. We expect our community members to:

  • Always act out of respect and concern for the free expression of others.

  • Actively listen to others.

  • Respect physical and emotional boundaries. Understand consent, and act with that understanding. Always ask before touching, and check in before discussing topics that may be triggering.

  • Not make assumptions about identity, experiences, or pronouns.

  • Not use words that are racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, transphobic, cissexist or ableist.

  • Accept respectful correction, or correct yourself, while keeping in mind that the impact of your words on other people is more important than your intent.

Unacceptable Behaviour // We must recognize hierarchical and relational dynamics of power and privilege. In each interaction it is important to consider who is vulnerable, and who is silenced/marginalized by particular language and actions. We do not tolerate oppressive behaviour, harassment, destructive behaviour, or exclusionary actions, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Oppressive behaviour: any conduct that demeans, marginalizes, rejects, threatens or harms anyone on the basis of identity, background, or ability.

  • Harassment: deliberate intimidation; stalking; following; harassing photography or recording; disruption of events; aggressive, derogatory, or threatening comments; and unwanted physical contact or sexual attention.

  • Destructive behaviour: damaging or altering any part of a venue, inside or out, including furniture, equipment, or other people's belongings.

  • Exclusionary actions: denying certain participants opportunities to share views, skills and other contributions.

  • Disruptive or monopolizing behaviour: During group discussion, be aware of how often you are speaking. Avoid interrupting or speaking over other people as this is disruptive, and can affect our ability to follow a discussion.

Remember that making a space safe for the most vulnerable person means that all people are welcome.

Enforcement // Anyone‭ ‬asked‭ ‬to‭ ‬stop‭ ‬unacceptable‭ ‬behaviour‭ ‬is‭ ‬expected‭ ‬to‭ ‬comply‭ ‬immediately.

What to do if you need help // If you witness or are subject to unacceptable behaviour, or experience marginalizing or silencing behaviour that limits your full participation in TCML programming, please approach the organizers of TCML.

  • Your conversation will be held in confidence.

  • When you approach an organizer (or organizers) to identify a breach of the code of conduct, we will take steps to ensure your safety. During an event, this can include providing a separate space from other participants.

  • Whether you approach us during an event, or at a later point, you will have a chance to share your experience or observations with us.

  • TCML organizers will meet to determine a response that will be informed by your input, and the values that TCML participants commit to.

  • At your request, TCML organizers can support your engagement with local law enforcement.

  • If you witness a breach of this policy that directly impacts another participant, we encourage you to check in with that participant. You can remind them of the procedures outlined in this code of conduct, and offer yourself as a support should they proceed with contacting TCML organizers.

What to do if you recognize that your own conduct has breached this policy // If upon self-reflection you recognize that your language or behaviour breached this policy you can approach a TCML organizer to discuss the circumstances, with the possibility of extending that discussion to individuals impacted by your behaviour.

Resolving conflicts and breaches of the code of conduct // In any group there will be disagreements and conflicts, and our ability to acknowledge this and respond respectfully is critical to developing the TCML atmosphere. Everyone has a responsibility to resolve conflicts in a way that is respectful. Everyone is expected to resolve conflicts without using violence.

TCML acknowledges the support and help of Gamma Space, Rania El Mugammar, and past and present TCML participants in the development of this policy.


Sara Constant

Jason Doell

Matthew Fava

Olivia Shortt

Janet Sit

Christina Volpini

Past Organizers

William Callaghan (co-founder)

Anastasia Tchernikova (co-founder)