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June 15th, 2022 - Bill S-208, An Act respecting the Declaration on the Essential Role of Artists and Creative Expression in Canada - Various Witnesses

Senator Poirier: I didn’t think I had a question to start off with, but I just received a brief letter. I want to quote some parts of it. First, thank you to the witnesses for being here. It’s greatly appreciated.

I received a brief letter, and because of the time constraint I can’t read all of it, but I’m going to quote certain parts of it and ask Simon Brault for an opinion on it. The letter comes from the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française, or FCCF.

From the outset, it is essential to salute the ambition and efforts of Senator Bovey in drafting and tabling Bill S-208 …

However, several elements essential to the support and ideal development of the arts and culture sector seem to be missing from Bill S-208 …

… the FCCF considers that an amendment should be made to the preamble of the bill in order to expressly recall the nature of the country’s international commitments towards the country’s arts and culture sector. The preamble of Bill C-81 could be an excellent example on which S-208 can build.

Issues and particular needs of artists and cultural workers in the Canadian and Acadian Francophonie.

In particular, the declaration intends to include the individual cultural specificities and origins of all Canadians. Such an approach is insufficient to take into account Francophone minority communities whose specific realities and needs have a collective dimension.

The crumbling or erosion of the artistic and cultural sector in the Canadian Francophonie has a double challenge: that of the viability of its organizations, but also that of the viability of a community that lives its culture in French. Amendments must be made to the bill in order to recognize the specific issues of sustainable cultural development of Francophone minority communities. Specifically, for example, Francophone minority communities (FMCs) must imperatively be named in section 2 of Bill S-208.

Mr. Brault, I wanted to know whether you agree with that. What are your thoughts on that comment? As I said, you really need to read the whole brief to see the whole picture of what they’re saying, but I’d like to hear from you on that issue.

Mr. Brault: Obviously, I know the FCCF very well, and I agree that it’s something that is missing at this point. It opens the door for me to a general discussion of the bill.

As I said, I do support the content of this bill, but I find it a bit challenging in that it’s a bill with a preamble, a declaration and that moves directly to an action plan. The problem is that between the preamble and the declaration, a lot of people argue that Canada would need a cultural policy or a cultural policy framework, which we don’t have in Canada for a lot of historical reasons.

Any idea of organizing a plan for the cultural development of this country means that we need to deal with different jurisdictions; we need to deal with many ministries, even at the federal level; and we need to take into consideration different perspectives and realities, including those of the communities represented by the FCCF and the North of Canada and I can go on and on.

Moving directly from the general intention of the bill to an action plan will appear to be quite complex because of the reality of the cultural system in Canada. This is why I think we need to be very aware of what we have in Canada. We don’t have that cultural policy, but we have different institutions and mechanisms in order to support film, television, arts, architecture and literature. All these different institutions have specific mandates and are not coordinated by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, who, according to the bill, is supposed to present a plan.

Even if the core and the intentions and the ideas of this bill are very solid, very generous and very relevant, I guess, on the question of making those ideas actionable in the context of this country, we’d have a lot of work to do in order to attain the goal that is there.

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Senator Poirier: Thank you to the witnesses for being here.

[Translation]

My question is for Ms. Déry.

A letter from the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française says the following:

Amendments must be made to the bill in order to recognize the specific issues of sustainable cultural development of Francophone minority communities.

The FCCF also expresses concern about the viability of French-Canadian arts and culture organizations and the viability of a community that experiences its culture in French.

Do you agree with the FCCF’s concerns and can you comment on that?

Ms. Déry: Thank you for the question.

There are a great many issues relating to diversity and inclusion and problematic situations that many of us are considering today, but they are not sufficiently documented as regards the francophonie.

I do not know what Senator Bovey would say, since she worked in the museum sector for many years, but in my experience we have lost a form a contact in a national conversation.

I remember grants that the Secretary of State used to provide to assist with translation, but those grants no longer exist. There is a magical idea that everyone in Canada has access to funding for translation, which is not the case at all.

I will talk about what I know. I think there is breakdown in the visual arts; there is a loss of contact which leads to increasing isolation of francophone and anglophone cultures in Canada.

I fully understand that new groups, which want to take part in the national conversation in view of cultural diversity and the inclusion of Indigenous communities, have expectations and concerns as to the challenge of truly sharing culture across Canada. In my opinion, this sharing is quite inadequate.

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