Peter Zanette is pushing for cultural organizations to adopt progressive policy

While the arts generally have a long history of spearheading movements towards tolerance and goodwill, their individual programs don’t always demonstrate this. Peter Zanette, a producer and stage manager for classical music ensembles in Ottawa, is working to remedy this.

Zanette has recently launched an initiative towards setting up an anti-harassment inclusion policy to be implemented universally in arts programs across Canada with the goal of better protecting LGBTQ+ members and those of other vulnerable groups.  

Zanette is a former student of the University of Ottawa, having quit his engineering program almost 30 years ago. Though that particular interest has fallen by the wayside, his experience in Gay Campus in the early 80s sparked a lifelong passion for activism.

He has advanced the policy primarily on the grounds of the enumerated rights in the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977, and believes that they should be both strongly upheld by arts organisations, but also proudly displayed on every art organisation’s website. He believes this will convey greater accountability and transparency.

“Doing so makes the statement, this is what we are doing, this is what we’re trying to achieve  and we are doing our best to make this a safe place,” Zanette said.

Zanette highlighted that the policy would support and encourage closeted or otherwise shy or afraid artists.

“You should not have to call an arts organisation and ask if they have an anti -harassment policy or see if it has this or that specific policy. What that does is implicitly outs them,” Zanette said.

While the policy is primarily geared towards arts programs, they are not the only organisations that this policy targets—it was adopted by the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) at their 2018 convention in Ottawa. The NDP has agreed to post the policy on its website and mission statement, and instructed all Electoral District Associations to include the same policy in their by-laws and respective websites.

As a member of the arts and LGBTQ+ communities, Zanette felt it was important to “clean house,” as he put it, before taking his policy to the political stage. He worked off the idea that “charity, justice and inclusivity begin at home.”

Despite these advancements, one organization he has yet to bring his policy to is the U of O, because of how many different programs there are, and that each has an existing anti-harassment policy. While the initiative has met with a large amount of early success, Zanette continues to expand the policy wherever he can.

“It’s a philosophy I have, as a gay dude if I want to be included, I have to be inclusive, I have to think not just about my rights and struggles but all rights and struggles, that’s the approach I’m taking,” Zanette said on his reasoning for fighting so hard for this policy.