Canada/ 1. Historical perspective: cultural policies and instruments  

Autor: John Foote, Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe

Governments in Canada at the federal, provincial / territorial and municipal levels have long intervened in culture. Cultural policies in Canada are based on a variety of factors including perceptions of the public good, the national and regional interests, economic growth, social benefits, Canada's two official languages and multicultural society, foreign trade and investment opportunities.  View of Ottowa

Canada's cultural fabric has been shaped by a small and geographically dispersed population, limited economies of scale and high costs of production, the ubiquitous proximity and presence of the United States of America (the world's largest and most influential cultural super-power) and a unique blend of multicultural demographics, official linguistic duality (French and English) and diverse Aboriginal cultures. The ongoing development of a national cultural policy, or policies, for Canada by the federal government has focused on the need to protect and affirm Canadian cultural sovereignty and to promote national unity and a Canadian identity.

The creation of Canada's national cultural institutions in the late 19th century and early 20th century stems from the federal government's recognition of its responsibility for preserving the young country's national cultural assets for the benefit of all citizens and future generations. The early federal role was therefore a builder of cultural infrastructure (e.g. radio in the 1920s and 1930s) as well as owner, custodian and arbiter of national heritage (e.g. Historic Sites and Monuments Board dates from 1919). This long period of limited but direct federal intervention in culture gave rise to many institutions still active today such as the National Gallery of Canada (established in 1880 and incorporated in 1913), the National Archives of Canada (1872) and the National Film Board (1939). The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation / Radio-Canada was established in 1936 pursuant to the Report of the Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting (1929), better known as the Aird Commission.  Aird characterised the fledgling new service of broadcasting as "an instrument of education ... entertainment and ... informing the public on questions of national interest."

As new technologies emerged and Canada's economy diversified following the Second World War, the federal government's role in culture broadened beyond the operations and funding of national public institutions to include the development of programme-based cultural support institutions. This second period of federal intervention was initiated by the release in 1951 of the Report of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, co-chaired by Vincent Massey and Georges-Henri Lévesque. In setting out a blueprint for a more active federal scope of intervention in the cultural sector, particularly in regard to the arts and heritage, the Massey-Levesque Commission, like the Aird Commission before it, argued that the capacity for "successful resistance to the absorption of Canada into the general cultural pattern of the United States" is one of the principal objectives of the Canadian broadcasting system. It was soon to become a more generally applied principle throughout the cultural sector during this period which started with the creation of still more national cultural institutions, including the National Library of Canada (1953), the Canada Council (1957), the Canadian Film Development Corporation (1968), the National Museums (1968) and most significantly, the Department of Communications (1969) and the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (1969). The latter established the policy and regulatory basis for the further development of the broadcasting system in Canada in the era of television. This period of institutional growth was highlighted by the country's first centennial celebrations in 1967 that sparked a renewed interest in Canadian culture among its citizens and a great expansion of cultural infrastructure particularly at the community level through the funding of arts and heritage activities and organisations.

The last three decades of the 20th century witnessed rapid growth of culture in Canada attributable, in no small part, to the creation of a wide range of national and provincial / territorial policies and support programmes designed to contribute to the further development of arts, heritage and broadcasting and to begin to provide support to the cultural industries (including film / video, sound recording, periodical and book publishing, new media) and the enactment of legislative amendments governing such cultural legislation as the Broadcasting Act (1991) and the Copyright Act (1985 and 1997). In 1980, the Department of Communications absorbed the arts and culture programmes then housed in the Department of the Secretary of State. This period also marked the growth in Canada's international cultural role exemplified by accession to UN conventions and international showcasing of Canadian talent through such global events as Expo 67 hosted in Montreal in 1967.

The current period marks a further broadening of federal cultural policy in Canada and features the consolidation of heretofore separate functions within the Department of Canadian Heritage (created in 1993, with the enactment of the Department of Canadian Heritage Act, and given royal assent in 1995) including culture, citizenship and identity, Sport Canada and until recently, Parks Canada. Federal cultural policies continue to reflect the two official languages of Canada, the changing multicultural nature of the Canadian population and the rights and needs of the diverse and growing Aboriginal population.

Pursuant to the federal election in 2008, the responsibility for multiculturalism was transferred to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, responsibility for the Status of Women was transferred to the Minister of State (Status of Women) and responsibility for La Francophonie was transferred to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and La Francophonie and the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada.

Governments in Canada at the federal, provincial / territorial and municipal levels have long intervened in culture. Cultural policies in Canada are based on a variety of factors including perceptions of the public good, the national and regional interests, economic growth, social benefits, Canada's two official languages and multicultural society, foreign trade and investment opportunities.


Capítulo publicado: 13-01-2011


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