National Support of Culture in Canada

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 1999

22 Pages, Grade: 2,0



1. Introduction to the topic

2. Canada‘s Cultural Policy
2.1. Past
2.2. Present and Future

3. The key objectives and values
3.1. Multiculturalism
3.2. The environment vs. the economy
3.3. Diversity

4. Old and New Media

5. Conclusions

1. Introduction to the topic

Support of culture in Canada has no tradition. A uncertainty what Canadian culture is, is one of the results of this lack. First of all Canadian culture is unique because of the multicultural concept. This concept is based on the idea to preserve and enhance the heritage, emerging from the existence of different ethnic groups, different languages, and cultures in one nation. But what does the term ‘culture‘ mean?

“Culture“, states Neil Bissoondath, “is a complex entity shaped in ways small and large. A preference for coffee over tea or beer over wine...“1. There is a similar meaning in T.S. Eliot‘s words: “Culture is not merely the sum of several activities, but a way of life.“2. This is a true, but vage, meaning of culture. Asking a dictionary, you get these meanings of the term:

1 the customs, beliefs, art, music, and all other products of human thought made by particular group of people at a particular time [...] 2 artistic and other activity of the mind and the works produced by this [...] 3 the practice of raising animals and growing plants [...] 4 (a group of bacteria produced by) the growing of bacteria for scientific use3

Here ‘Culture‘ is understood as the arts and other works produced by human mind. These works are produced within a special framework of customs, beliefs, art, music and are produced out of a special way of life. So this framework has a certain influence on the therein produced works and the works cannot be regarded seperately.

The aim of this writing is to give a diachronical overview of Canadian cultural policy, to show the values, that are held dear in that policy and, since as “we are the first human beings, ever, whose world-view has been transformed not by our parents or by our schools but by the media, by popular culture“4, I will try to give a synchronic overview of the use of new media, like radio, television, movies and films, and the Internet in Canada. The fact that I am not Canadian, that I can only give the information that I myself read in books or on web-sites is a problem. I cannot really say what is on TV or on the radio in Canada, when I never used these sources. So I had to be satisfied with the information I got from the accessable sources. These information can then be interpreted in terms of present state and probable future states of cultural affairs in Canada.

2. Canada‘s Cultural Policy


The situation for artists and creative workers in Canada during the first half of the twentieth Century was described by the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences5 in 1950:

No novelist, poet, short story writer, historical biographer or other writer of nontechnical books can make even a modestly comfortable living by selling his work in Canada. No composer of music can live at all on what Canada pays him for his compositions. Apart from radio drama, no playwright, and only a few actors and producers, can live by working in the theatre in Canada.6

Before 1949 there was nothing in Canada you can call federal cultural policy. There were intitutions, companies and alliances. The Canadian Pacific Railway for example organized annual music and folk arts festivals especially during the 1920s and 30s, after 1936 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was “the principal source of encouragement for Canadian artists“7 The National Film Board was found in 1939, and had grown into one of the largest film studios in the world by 1945. In 1942 the first issue of the Canadian Review of Music and Art was published and as soon as autumn arrived it was calling for the establishment of a federal ministry of fine arts. In 1945 artistic organizations and prominent individuals sent a letter to the Turgeon Committee, a Special Committe of the House of Commons, recommending the formation of a non-political board to dispense public aid to the arts and formed the Canadian Arts Council.

This Council together with Canadian universities made the government see the need of a national art board. It was in 1949 that the government set up, what became later known as the ‘Massey Commission‘. The Commission had the function to analyse Canada‘s cultural state, namely the state of arts, literature and sciences in Canada.

One of the most important result of the Massey Commission‘s analysis was that Canada was a dependant of the United States of America concerning the analysed subjects. The Massey Report stated:

In consideration of American generosity in educating her citizens Canada “sells down south“ as many as 2,500 professional men and women in a year. Moreover, Canada by her too great dependence on American fellowships for advanced study, particularly in the humanities and social studies, has starved her own universities which lack not only money but the community of scholarship essential to the best work.8

Has national support of culture been inconsistent and uncoordinated until World War II, Canada woke up now. Canada owned no national library -the National Library in Ottawa was established by Parliament in 19539 - and the National Gallery‘s budget for acquisitions averaged $32,000 annually,10 although painting was the most used way to express Canadian culture. There also was a lack of cultural exchange with other countries as there was no central body to which the Department of External Affairs could turn for guidance in establishing a Canadian image abroad.

The Massey Report adviced to make the ownership and control of broadcasting, namely the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), public. Nowadays it is often recommended to make public services like railways, telecommunication, and the like, private. Regarding the influence of television and radio on people‘s minds, a government should have at least one broadcast station under control if it wants to inform people and provide them with cultural products.11 Another recommendation was to build up a broad public support system for artistic and intellectual pursuits.

A public body was then created, the Canada Council. In 1965 this council received $ 10 million from the government and an additional $ 17 million one year later, primarily for the humanities and social sciences.

Since 1957, when the Canada Council began to exist, things began to change. Had there been a lot of underground creative work, there now was an explosion of cultural activity. Five theatre companies existed in 1957, in 1989 there were 190 theatres in Canada. There were also filmand video organizations, dance- and opera companies, orchestras, public galleries and artist-run centres funded by the council.

Out of this a new problem has arosen: “even with an annual budget of over $100 million, [the council] no loner has sufficient funds to carry out ist mandate.“12 The arts have become bigger buisness in Canada. This fact hides the risk of again becoming dependent on even bigger buisness makers, like the United States of America. The U.S. American budget, as they have a much bigger market in their own country than Canada has, is not that easily limited.

2.2. Present and Future

The Manitoba Cultural Coalition finds “Four major themes or issues are often the focus of current public discourse as it relates to government support of culture. [...]

1. Fiscal Restraint and the Role of Government - this includes privatisation, downsizing, program cancellation, consolidation, budget cuts, streamlining, consolidation, centralization, priorization, etc.
2. Constitutional and Jurisdictional Rationalisation- this includes inter-governmental agreements within Canada, devolution and/or consolidation of program delivery and/or maagement, third-party program delivery, reduction of duplication and overlap.
3. Globalization - this includes international trade agreements, regulation of Canadian content or ownership, investment, intellectual property rights, etc.
4. Technological Change- this includes the Information Revolution, convergence, digitization, direct broadcasting, the Internet, etc.13

Mavor Moore14 has a rather pessimistic point of view on recent developments in Canada‘s cultural policy and touches the first three topics named by the Manitoba Cultural Coalition. Moore fears the loss of Canada‘s cultural sovereignity, a shared fear since “the WTO [World Trade Organization] declared that the Canadian magazine industry policy could not be sustained without violating obligations Canada had undertaken in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.“15, and Moore sees the essence of the difficulty “not between culture and commerce, but between culture and culture.“ He explains this statement with the sentence: “Canadians can`t sing their own song if, as in American culture, American commerce calls the tune.“ American‘s entertainment industry, including the movie and music production companies, is seen as a serious threat for Canada‘s own culture.

Canada has succeded in fostering “a strong and dynamic cultural identity [...] despite the dominant influence of our neighbour to the south [the U.S.], the most aggressive purveyor of mass entertainment on Earth.“16 But “there is a trend in the land [Canada] now, a strong inclination among our governments, to dismantle the genertors of that same growth - our research capabilities, our universities, our schools. The budgets are shrinking for the CBC, for the National Film Board, for orchestras, theatres, galleries, libraries - unless of course they can pay their way.“17

The Working Group on Cultural Policy, created by the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) at the end of 1997, observed:

Agencies such as the CBC/SRC, the Canada Council for the Arts, the National Film Board, Telefilm Canada and the National Arts Centre have undergone profund changes as a result of the spending cuts of recent years.18

Now marketability of cultural products, such as movies, TV-series, music, plays and letters, seems to become most important for creative workers and their products. Sara Diamond a formerly artist now working in an artists‘ learning centre states: “Getting paid was, obviously, really important for my ability to pay for my new work, and even to sustain myself.“19

What becomes even more important is the quantity of capital present in each production company. Big U.S. companies can surely pay better for any creative work than Canada‘s companies. So the U.S.companies are- provided there is free trade in liberal form- able to buy any artistic work they want to, they are able to do the marketing on the whole American Continent, Europe and other parts of the world, and they are, as the ones spending the money, able to choose what is promoted and what isn‘t.

The problem Canada is facing now is indeed between culture and culture. Moore suggests the solution to this problem was to build up a strong Canadian cultural industry to be able to compete and not being swamped. This is exactly the idea Étienne Parent (1802-74)20 had.

In order to survive, a nation must rest on men gathered in a social organization, and these men must have a social influence which is equal to any force dénationalisatrice which might be exerted from without. And what is the source of social influence, particulary in America? There can be no mistake about it, it is industry.21

Parent advocated the idea of giving up any protectionism (“has the effect of making all nations enemies of each other“22 ) and turning to free trade (“will tend to make nations interested in each other‘s prosperity“23 ) .

In the long run it is a must to have a prosperous and healthy economical environment if there are the aims of liberal and general free trade and of having social and cultural influence in such a world. So one question for the future is how is a national industry with the asked qualities achieved?

For future cultural policy the Working Group on Cultural Policy made a summary of sixteen recommendations24, which I will briefly summarize. The first is that the policy must be based in legislation which should reflect certain elements as articulation of the key objectives of Canadian cultural policy, such as the government‘s vital role in the development of a cultural industry, the bilingualism, the broadest possible access by Canadians to Canadian works and productions, the respectation of regional and ethnocultural diversity, the revision of the Copyright Act, the Status of the Artist Act, and the Cultural Property Act, the development of a strong domestic base of creative workers.


1 Neil Bissoondath, Selling Illusions, Toronto: Penguin Books, 1994, page 81

2 The Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. IV, Second Edition, Oxford: University Press, 1989, page 121, ‘Culture‘

3 Dictionay of Contemporary English, Second Edition, London: Longman Group, 1987, page 251, ‘Culture‘

4 Mavor Moore: A Position Paper on Canadian Cultural Policy in: Glen Carruthers and Gordana Lazarevich et al., A Celebration of Canada‘s Arts 1930-1970, Toronto: Canadian Scholars‘ Press, 1996, page 228

5 In the following I call this Commission ‘the Massey Commission‘

6 Report of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences 1949- 1951 (called ‘Massey Report‘ in the following), Ottawa: Edmond Cloutier, 1951, page 182

7 Audrey Forster From the CPR to the Canada Council in: Glen Carruthers and Gordanna Lazarevich et al., page 214

8 Massey Report, page 14, This quotation was taken from Audrey Forster, From the CPR to the Canada Council in: Glen Carruthers and Gordana Lazarevich et al., page 219


10 Audrey Forster, From the CPR to the Canada Council in: Glen Carruthers and Gordana Lazarevich et al., page 219

11 For information on the impact of massmedia on social systems see Niklas Luhmann, Die Realität der Massenmedien, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1996. Also see Niklas Luhmann, Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft, Frankfurt/M.:Suhrkamp 1998. Also see Detlef Krause, Luhman-Lexikon. Eine Einführung in das Gesamtwerk von Niklas Luhmann, Stuttgart: Enke 1996

12 Audrey Forster, From the CPR to the Canada Council in: Glen Carruthers and Gordana Lazarevich et al., page 223 (The 41st Annual Report of the Canada Council for the Arts deals with the period 1997B1998. The total budget in this report is $ 100 million. See )

13 6/13/99 "Federal Cultural Policy Review", page 10

14 Mavor Moore, A Position Paper on Canadian Cultural Policy in: Glen Carruthers and Gordana Lazarevich et al., page 227-231

15 6/13/99, "Final Report of the Working Group on Cultural Policy for the 21st Century"

16 6/13/99, "Preliminary Findings of the Working Group on Cultural Policy for the 21st Century"

17 Mavor Moore, A Position Paper on Canadian Cultural Policy in: Glen Carruthers and Gordana Lazarevich et al., page 229ff

18 6/13/99


20 See Dominique Clift, The Secret Kingdom, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1989, "How Culture Failed the French" , page 125-134 (Qoutations of Étienne Parent in Clift, The Secret Kingdom are taken from Guy Bouthillier and Jean Meynaud in Le choc des langues au Quebec, Montreal: Les Presses de l‘Université du Québec, 1972. Here Parent is qouted after Clift‘s translation.)

21 Dominique Clift, The Secret Kingdom, page 128

22 Ibid, page 127

23 Ibid, page 127

24 6/13/99

Excerpt out of 22 pages


National Support of Culture in Canada
Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel  (Englisches Seminar)
Canada in continental perspective
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ISBN (eBook)
File size
436 KB
National, Support, Culture, Canada
Quote paper
M. A. Patrick Schinowski (Author), 1999, National Support of Culture in Canada, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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