TORONTO — Telefilm Canada says it has launched an investigation into allegations of misconduct made against one of its employees.
The federal agency says the investigation is being conducted by a third party, the consulting firm Le Cabinet RH, which specializes in complaints involving discrimination and psychological and/or sexual harassment.
A statement from Telefilm does not name the employee, citing privacy concerns, but the investigation comes after allegations surfaced on social media about the conduct of Telefilm feature film executive Dan Lyon.
Last Friday Canadian writer-director Pavan Moondi posted a series of tweets criticizing Lyon’s “opaqueness” in his decision-making at the Crown corporation, and his reasons for rejecting funding for two of his projects.
He called for Lyon to step down, alleging the executive as well as Telefilm have taken too long to commit to their 2016 pledge to reflect more diversity onscreen and enhance diversity initiatives by 2020.
Responding to Moondi’s tweets, writer Melissa D’Agostino alleged that Lyon made a sexually inappropriate comment to her at a party while offering her a meeting at Telefilm to talk about one of her screenplays.
D’Agostino said she spoke about the incident in the film “#MeAfterToo” in 2019 and sent an email to Telefilm HR asking about filing a formal complaint, but no one emailed her back.
Telefilm, Moondi, and D’Agostino have declined requests for interviews.
Lyon has not responded to requests for comment.
The tweets from Moondi and D’Agostino have sparked calls for transparency, accountability and change in leadership to reflect more diversity at Telefilm, which also vowed in 2016 to achieve gender parity in key film roles by 2020.
On Tuesday the Canadian grassroots organization BIPOC TV & Film called on Telefilm to reveal its statistics on its funding for marginalized groups and its staff makeup.
The group also called on Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault and Telefilm Canada executive director Christa Dickenson to make several changes at the corporation, including to its board of directors, to reflect the racial diversity of the country.
Telefilm responded to BIPOC TV & Film in a statement on Wednesday, addressing its questions about diversity and inclusion within the agency, and noting it cannot provide detailed numbers to the group’s questions about certain funding, “as the data was not collected.” However, it did provide other statistics, including those for projects funded from its Indigenous stream, and data collected in the recent COVID-19 Top-Up for underrepresented communities.
As a feature film executive at Telefilm for the Ontario and Nunavut region, Lyon decides who receives financing for their projects.
In his tweets last week, Moondi said Lyon has an “inordinate amount of power” in his position, and “totally unpredictable” taste that is “disconnected from any knowledge of the (indie) film scene outside Canada.”
“I don’t know exactly how long he’s even been in that role, but it’s been long enough to shape entire generations and what we perceive as a ‘Canadian film,'” tweeted Moondi, who’s written and directed three feature films: “Everyday is Like Sunday,” “Diamond Tongues” and “Sundowners.” He’s also written for series including “Schitt’s Creek.”
The Los Angeles-based filmmaker also shared emailed correspondence he had with Lyon about why he didn’t get funding for his projects.
The screenshots of the email exchange Moondi posted show Lyon wrote to Moondi that the script for his most recent project didn’t seem “close to production-ready,” and that the industry-wide mandate towards gender parity “makes the situation even more competitive” for projects that don’t have women in key creative roles.
Moondi replied saying it’s the second year in a row that Lyon cited “gender parity” as a reason for rejecting his projects, and that he “seems to entirely discount that the writer, producer, and director of the project is a person of colour.”
D’Agostino tweeted that in the past two years, she has looked for other avenues to fund films.
“You shouldn’t have to build your own funding/streaming system to avoid harassment & discrimination,” she tweeted.
“We must reckon with the fact that women, BIPOC & other marginalized filmmakers continue to be discriminated against, harassed & misled by funders & key orgs in the Cdn film industry. There’s PR & lip service, but no real change or action.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2020.
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press