Registration of arts festivals

Policy statement

Reference number

Effective date
May 29, 1996


This policy statement outlines the Directorate's policy on the registration of applicant organizations that operate arts festivals.


The courts have recognized as charitable organizations that operate arts festivals.


1. This policy applies to applicant organizations and registered charities that operate arts festivals. Arts festivals are held only once, locally and periodically, usually occurring at the same time every year and lasting over the course of one or several days, or a week or more.

2. To qualify for registration as a charity, an organization must operate arts festivals that demonstrate a certain high standard of quality, present in both the art form Footnote 1  and the performers, for example, the promotion of fine arts such as classical ballet, classical music, Shakespearean plays. Art is defined in a number of very broad ways that include human activity that is the product of cunning, imitative skills that appeal to the imagination, for example, painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture, poetry, music, drama, dancing, workmanship, as opposed to the work of nature and skilful execution as an object in itself.

3. An organization must meet the professional standards required to raise the public's artistic taste, knowledge, and appreciation of art. Footnote 2 

4. An organization must provide presentations by qualified artists of a variety of art based on materials, techniques and instrumentation, providing it is esoteric but of high standard, which the public would not otherwise be exposed to. Footnote 3 

5. Arts festivals that are live performance art essentially include human action presented before a live audience and focus primarily on musicals, either instrumental or vocal music, for example, dancing and theatre, as well as dramatic performances on stage with actors and the spoken word. Footnote 4 

6. Entertainment or non-charitable events are acceptable as incidental and ancillary by-products of an arts festival that is a registered charity.

7. Arts festivals do not apply to any other type of festivals. Sports festivals, ethnic or traditional celebrations are not considered charitable, for example, the Mardi Gras, the Carribana, the Carnaval de Québec, or Saint Patrick's Day Parades, as well as historical pageants, stampedes, rodeos, touring events, community or seasonal celebrations such as Winterlude, fireworks competitions, festivals that promote a certain industry or that have a religious origin.

8. Not all festivals are charitable. The popular designation of "festival" is used not only in the realm of art but in many other fields, for example, boat races, seafood or wine, agriculture or horticulture, local history or colour, or performances by named artists rather than a particular art form. Footnote 5 

9. Not all arts festivals are charitable, Footnote 6  for example, sports based on a subjective appreciation of an athlete's skills, movement with rhythmical steps or gestures, usually set to music, such as synchronized swimming, floor gymnastics, figure skating, freestyle skiing, equestrian shows.

10. Arts festivals do not apply to artistic competitions, for example, high-school marching band competitions and music competitions that enable musicians of a certain age and ability to compete against each other for a prize.

11. Events that are essentially celebratory are not charitable, for example, carnivals. They are usually evidenced by:

12. Fringe festivals are different from the events covered in the present policy. Fringe festivals are often advertised as festivals and their main purpose is to enable any artist, regardless of calibre or quality, to perform and to gain experience and exposure. These festivals could be registered but only by analogy, for example, with purposes to promote craftsmanship. Footnote 7 

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: