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Our Roots

Towards the end of 2004, the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) realized that as the population of Ottawa was growing, there was a corresponding increased demand from new immigrant arts and culture professionals and communities for services and opportunities in the Ottawa area. While Ottawa. s profile is similar to that of Canada. s largest urban centres, arts funding from all levels of government is among the lowest in Canada, even though residents in Ottawa spend more per capita on culture than the residents of any other metropolitan area in Canada.

OCISO was in a position to respond to this new demand through their Community Development Program, which provided organizational capacity building, proposal writing, and access to space to groups interested in arts and culture. The Community Development Program also fostered partnerships with local organizations including the Broken English Theatre, SawVideo, the Cross Cultural Sound Exchange, the Ottawa Folk Festival, and MASC.

A concerted effort was started early in 2006 to determine the scope of opportunities available to new immigrants interested in arts and culture and, from this, a Coalition evolved. Original Coalition members wanted to encourage Aboriginal people, the established Anglophone and Francophone communities, and young people to join the Coalition. Bylaws were developed, a Board of Trustees was formed, and the CNCAC submitted a formal registration request to the federal government. The CNCAC was incorporated as a non-profit organization in April 2008. 

Over the past five years, the CNCAC has undergone a significant internal evolution. Originally conceived and led by a small group of committed volunteers, the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) provided one staff person at the inception of the CNCAC to develop program logic, consolidate resources, and initiate activities. A volunteer Board of Directors was established and the Board, along with several interns and volunteers, worked to build up the membership, organize activities and programs, apply for and administer grants, and make connections with various arts organizations in Ontario, Canada, and abroad.

 Much of this work was done by a few individuals and was heavily reliant on personal networks, relationships, and informal access to community resources. As key individuals moved on or disengaged, much of the work of the CNCAC disintegrated.

The CNCAC had received several grants: an Art Funding Grant through the Diversity in Arts Pilot Project from the City of Ottawa in July 2007. Also, a grant from the Newcomer Settlement Program Sector Development from the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, Province of Ontario in May 2008. In 2011, the CNCAC was awarded a two-year Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF). This allowed the CNCAC to hire two part-time staff as well as funds to carry out a number of other commitments outlined in the grant application. Finally, in 2013 CNCAC got a Diversity Fund grant from the City of Ottawa to continue its programming.

We have taken the steps to become autonomous and are beginning to develop our own capacity for the future. We know that we need to become financially stable and independent. We are beginning to expand our funding base to include operational funding from the City of Ottawa, the Ontario Arts Council, the OTF, as well as other granting agencies and foundations. We also want to expand our membership, continue to support and engage new Canadian artists and cultural professionals, expand and strengthen our partnerships locally, provincially and nationally.