Canada/ 3.4 International cultural co-operation  

3.4.1 Overview of main structures and trends

Canada is active internationally in the field of culture by virtue of bilateral and multilateral cultural agreements. The two institutions most involved are Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) and the Department of Canadian Heritage. Culture and the arts are recognised in Canada's foreign policy as important tools to showcase Canada's rich diversity internationally and to encourage dialogue and inter-cultural understanding abroad.

International intervention takes the form of a range of activities such as provision of export support through the Canadian Heritage Trade Routes Programme which includes five cultural trade development officers in missions abroad; provision of bilateral technical assistance; exchange of best practices; participation in international sporting and cultural events; international expositions and co-production agreements; and in various multilateral fora. Canada is signatory to audio-visual co-production treaties with 53 countries. In 2006, Canada partook in a total of 62 co-productions comprising 51 bipartite, 9 tripartite and 2 quadripartite projects with a total budget of CAD 420 million, up from CAD 372 million in 2005. About 35% of the projects are film and 65% are television. The United Kingdom and France remain Canada's largest co-production treaty partners, with total budgets for bipartite projects of CAD 245 million in 2006. In 2006, the government announced its plans to develop an international audio-visual co-production framework over three years. The policy framework is being developed and will be implemented and completed through the re-negotiation of treaties over the next few years. The planned review of international co-productions will result in clearer objectives, selection criteria for new partners, and integrated performance measurement (Report on Plans and Priorities 2006-07).

On the multilateral level, Canada has taken a leadership role in the international dialogue on cultural diversity and international cultural co-operation. For example, Canada was a key player at UNESCO in the development of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (UNESCO 2001). Canada also supported statements and declarations on cultural diversity that have been agreed to at the Organisation for American States (OAS), the G8, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the Council of Europe and the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP), the latter an informal network of Ministers of Culture established in June 1998. As a founding member of the INCP, Canada played a key role, including acting as the Secretariat, in helping to establish the INCP as an international venue to discuss cultural policy issues. Canada also played a leading role at the INCP Meeting in Spain in September 2007 in regard to intercultural dialogue.

This initial work and awareness-raising by the INCP was also reflected in the development of the International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions at UNESCO. Canada played a key role in the negotiations of the Convention at UNESCO. In cooperation with the provinces, territories and civil society, Canada worked towards a Convention which recognises the dual social and economic nature of cultural goods and services, and which reaffirms the right of governments to adopt and maintain policies and measures in support of culture. The Convention was adopted at the 33rd UNESCO General Conference October 20, 2005 and in November 2005, Canada became the first country to formally accept the Convention which Canada believes will act as a benchmark in cultural affairs at the international level and will give culture its rightful place in the practice of international law. Throughout 2006, Canada promoted the timely and widespread ratification of the Convention. On December 18, 2006, the 30 ratifications needed for the Convention to enter into force were reached. The Convention entered into force, March 18, 2007. Canada continued its active role in the implementation of the Convention through the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee in 2007 (see planned priorities below). On 21 May 2008, Canada celebrated World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

Canada is also Party to the UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972) and the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954 / 1999), also known as the Hague Convention. In December 2005, Canada became a Party to the First and Second Protocols to The Hague Convention, and the Protocols came into force in Canada in March 2006. Also in the UNESCO context, Canada is a long-standing participant in the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation, a forum for mediation of disputes between states that fall outside the various international agreements on the subject, and the body that informs and guides UNESCO efforts against illicit traffic in cultural property. In 2005, Canada was elected Chair of the Committee.

Planned priorities given to Canada's cultural interests abroad (see  chapter 4.1) include the following key initiatives:

  • International Strategic Framework (ISF): The ISF is an integrated, long-term approach to international activities and programmes related to culture and sport, which helps the Department of Canadian Heritage and its Portfolio partners identify priorities, align resources, and achieve new synergies. Through this initiative, Canadian Heritage can better focus on key areas where it plays an important international role and contributes to furthering Canada's international trade and foreign policy priorities. The Department of Canadian Heritage and Portfolio partners work closely with other federal departments and agencies active in the international sphere of arts, culture, social inclusion, and sport - such as Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT), the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) - to translate these objectives into action and concrete results (see  chapter 3.4.2).
  • International Cultural Trade: the Department of Canadian Heritage is developing a focused cultural trade strategy to assist small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in optimising their export capacity, carry out cultural trade missions in both emerging and established markets, provide market development support through export-marketing workshops for cultural industries, foster bilateral trade negotiations in all of the ongoing negotiations of free trade agreements involving Canada, provide expert cultural advice to MERCOSUR on its regional handicrafts market project, and contribute to multilateral trade negotiations in the Doha Development Round of the World Trade Organisation;
  • UNESCO Convention on the Protection and the Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: The Department of Canadian Heritage continues to collaborate with DFAIT in playing a leading role in the implementation of the Convention, engage with civil society and NGO partners, undertake consultations with provincial and territorial governments, and carry out activities in support of the implementation of the Convention. In the Convention, international cooperation is of central importance, and states are encouraged to create the conditions conducive to promoting cultural diversity by: facilitating cultural policy dialogue; building public-sector strategic and management capacities pertaining to cultural institutions through professional and international cultural exchanges and sharing best practices, in particular with developing countries; strengthening partnerships with and among civil society, NGOs and the private sector; promoting the use of new technologies; fostering partnerships to strengthen information sharing and cultural understanding, in particular by signing joint production and joint distribution agreements; and establishing an International Fund for Cultural Diversity. In June 2007, Canada was elected to the Intergovernmental Committee which held its first session in December 2007 in Ottawa, Canada; and
  • International Exhibitions: The government of Canada has accepted the invitation by the People's Republic of China to participate in the Shanghai 2010 International Exhibition, with the theme, "Better City, Better Life" (see  chapter 3.4.6).

Chapter published: 19-01-2011


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