This morning I sent an important message to my senators and representative.  Some of you no doubt will have seen the recent article on Huffington Post Canada highlighting the inordinately high, if not downright prohibitive, costs for Canadian musicians to obtain a P2 visa to perform legally here in the United States.  (The article also details the risks of touring without said visa, which are all too real.)

Over the past several months, Team GDW has traveled every few weeks to Canada to hear our favorite musicians live.  Many of these musicians are just beginning their careers, and the likelihood that they can afford the several thousand dollars it takes to tour legally in the US is minimal at best.  What is particularly unfair is that American musicians do not face the same costs to tour in Canada; the Canadian government ended similarly expensive requirements over two years ago.

Last April, the Canadian Independent Music Association published a lengthy report on Canada’s music industry and US border policy.  Even if you don’t read the entire document in detail, I encourage you to read the executive summary.  The first recommendation in the report is a critical one: “Reciprocity in the treatment of Canadian musicians crossing the border to work in the United States.” (emphasis mine)  We in the United States are being neither welcoming nor reciprocal in our treatment of Canadian and other foreign musicians.  How can we expect to expand our horizons in this global and globalizing day and age, when we consistently restrict access to our cultural landscape to all but the wealthiest and most successful musicians from outside the US?

Omar Khatib of Waterloo, ON, recently created an online petition for changes to the P2 visa requirements; to date, it has garnered over 10,000 signatures. We here in the United States, however, can and should do more:

  • Educate yourself on the details of the issue by reading the resources linked in this post.
  • Never contacted a member of Congress or advocated for public policy before?  Here is a good list of tips to get you started.
  • Prepare your letter (if you’re writing) or your talking points (if you’re calling) in advance.  Here is the draft of my letter (based in large part on Omar’s great petition text, thanks!) to give you a starting point.  Add some personal notes about why this is so important to you as a constituent.
  • Contact your senators and representative.  Don’t know who they are?  Go here to enter your address (be as specific as possible – using your zip+4 code can help correctly identify your representative in the House).  You can find contact information for your elected officials on their respective websites.  (Don’t just contact any congressperson – contact yours.  They will be much more responsive to messages from their own constituents.)
  • Postal mail to Congress can be quite slow, so be prepared to place your letter in a webform.  You may need to reformat your message somewhat.
  • If you’re calling, stick to your talking points and be concise and courteous.  You will likely be speaking to a congressional staffer; don’t be discouraged as your message will still be heard.

If you are a fan of Canadian music, you likely have benefited greatly from the tremendous gifts and talents of these artists over the years.  Help those artists to expand their fan base, make a more secure living, and share their gifts more widely by advocating for a fairer visa policy.

~ L