The Hon. Sheila Copps Minister of Canadian Heritage
CANADA BOOK DAY AND CANADIAN CULTURE
Chairman: Ann Curran, Third Vice-President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Bart J. Mindszenthy, APR, Partner, Mindszenthy & Roberts Communications Counsel and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Laroux Peoples, CAC Student, Harbord Collegiate Institute; The Reverend Dr. Brian Freeland, Associate Priest, St. Thomas's Anglican Church, Toronto; Jane Cooney, President, Books for Business and President, Britnell's; Wilfred Dinnick, Director, MacDougall, MacDougall and MacTier and Chair, Writer's Trust; June Callwood, Writer; Jack Stoddart, Chairman, Stoddart and General Publishing and President, Association of Canadian Publishers; Riki Turofsky, Member of the Board, Canada Council for the Arts, and Member, Dean's Committee, University of Toronto Faculty of Music; Susan Renouf, President and Editor-in-Chief, Key Porter Books and Chair, Canada Book Day Organising Committee and John A. Campion, Partner, Fasken Campbell & Godfrey and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.
Introduction by Ann Curran
Ladies and gentlemen, fellow proud Canadians: It is a privilege to follow in the steps of the women and men who have spoken to Canada's renowned Empire Club.
First, I have a sales pitch.
Today is Canada Book Day, so I'd like to urge you to buy a book and a rose for someone you love. Getting the rose is the easy part. What's going to be hard is getting the book. There is just such a phenomenal selection. You might have to buy two books... three... four...
Anyone who took a CanLit survey course 20 or 30 years ago can probably still name the books on the reading list. That's the list that starts with "Roughing It in the Bush" by Susanna Moodie.
I'm sure Mrs. Moodie is still there, but she's got a whole lot more company these days than anyone could have imagined. She's joined by our head table guest June Callwood--and by Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Carol Shields, Michel Tremblay, Alice Munro, Rohinton Mistry, and on and proudly on. And not, of course, to forget authors published by my friend Jack Stoddart--like John Ralston Saul, David Suzuki, and even my Liberal colleague from Don Valley West, John Godfrey.
That's why the Chretien government has a strong publishing development programme, a strong publishers' loan programme, strong investment guidelines and a thoroughly modern Copyright Act.
And as Canada's book entrepreneurs know, we're mounting a Team Canada effort to reinforce the competitiveness of Canadian publishers.
The government of Prime Minister Chretien makes Canadian culture a national priority because culture forges the heart and soul of our identity--as citizens, as communities, as a nation and as human beings.
Twenty years ago, comedian Dave Broadfoot told the Empire Club: "If you tell a Canadian he's apathetic, he'll answer: 'Who cares?"'
And it's true that most Canadians are quiet patriots. Most Canadians are soft-spoken about our love of country. But generally we save our nationalist impulses for the Olympics, Team Canada Games or Canada Day. That quality, in and of itself, is part of our national identity. It is a sign of our openness to the world; our sense of internationalism.
But the fact is that we are proud of Canada. We are proud of our heritage and culture and we want to pass it on to our children and to the future.
Culture is the soul of a people. It is the definition of the individual. It gives meaning to community and country. It's what we share with the past, with the present, and with the future. It's what we share with each other and with the world. Culture is what is passed down over the centuries, over the millennia.
Jane Rule, the Canadian author who is of American birth, wrote:
It is important for Canadian readers to encounter their own forests and waterways, their own towns and cities in literature. For people who have had to read mostly about other places, there is a sense of surprise and new reality in seeing their own world described and explained, put on the literary map. Literature is part of what makes a country not only a place to go--but a place to come from.
Make no mistake, Canada is and will remain the most open country to other cultures.
Here's the proof:
• 95 per cent of the films shown in Canada are foreign.
• 70 per cent of the music played on Canadian radio is foreign.
• 60 per cent of the books sold in Canada are foreign.
• 60 per cent of English-language television programming is foreign.
• 50 per cent of magazines sold in Canada are foreign.
The cultural sector contributes over $20 billion or 3 per cent to our GDP It is a terrific source of good, knowledge-based, new-economy jobs.
Culture affects the quality of life of all Canadians. It's equally important to the soul and the purse.
The government of Prime Minister Chretien believes passionately in Canadian culture. And we've made it a priority. Through the new Canada Television Fund, we doubled the number of Canadian television programmes in one year. Shows that target all Canadians, and shows that target specific groups--especially our kids. Just recently, we announced broad-ranging initiatives for Canada's nascent multimedia industry, including work to increase the number of girls and women using the Internet. We are ensuring, through legislation, that Canadian creators are protected where it counts: in the law.
Thirty years ago, when the Beatles and the Stones and the Who were taking the world by storm, Canada had virtually no domestic recording industry. Our nation introduced rules requiring that 30 per cent of what's played on English-speaking radio in Canada must be Canadian and 65 per cent of the selections on our French radio must be in the French language. There was an uproar over that, but today four Canadian women sell 250 million records worldwide. You know the names: Celine Dion, Alanis Morrissette, Shania Twain and Sarah McLachlan.
In broadcasting, market forces in our country, left to their own devices, would have made the Canadian broadcasting system nothing more than a U.S. subsidiary. We want competition to nurture this creativity and diversity, but let us make sure that there is competition and not domination.
Culture is not to be created and then kept in a cupboard. It is meant to be experienced... to be seen... to be heard... to be danced... to be read. There needs to be some space in Canada and abroad for Canadian stories, for Canadian voices--gorgeous operatic voices like Riki Turofsky and the multitude of all Canada's unique voices. It is a matter of whom we are.
That's precisely why four out of five parties in the House of Commons voted last month for Bill C-55, the magazine bill. Foreign magazines are welcome to come into Canada but not by displacing the Canadian advertising dollars that are the lifeblood of our own industry. What Parliament voted on was not about bound sheets of papers. It was about the capacity of future generations of Canadians to have a chance to tell their stories. We voted on an important expression of our culture and how we define ourselves as Canadians going proudly into the 21st century. This legislation will allow future generations to have a choice. This is about choices, including Canadian choices; a choice of reading articles that reflect our culture and whom we are. Canadians not only have the right to protect our cultural identity, we have the duty to do so. With globalisation, of course, we're into a new game and we need to develop new tactics that will ensure access to Canadian voices and Canadian spaces. Bill C-55 complies with the letter and the spirit of all our international obligations, our Charter of Rights, and, most importantly, our commitment to the future of our own country.
The bottom line is that foreign publishers who already enjoy massive economies of scale will be in a position to dump their magazines in the Canadian market and that is blatantly unfair competition. We don't allow this type of dumping in any other sector. Why should magazines be any different?
Imagine if the roles were reversed between Canada and the United States. What if over 80 per cent of the magazines on American newsstands were Canadian? What if Canada said, "That is not good enough. We want it all." They would scream blue murder from Waikiki to Wall Street to Washington.
And let's be clear. Canada is not alone in facing these challenges. That is why, on the eve of last year's Canada Day, our nation hosted the first international meeting of ministers of culture to discuss cultural diversity. Out of that meeting came the International Network on Cultural Policy, which now includes many more than the 19 countries invited to the June meeting. Canada is Chair of the Network for the first year. From September 1999, Mexico heads the Network and Greece will take its turn in 2000.
What do we hope will come out of this new international commitment to culture?
• A concerted effort to promote cultural diversity;
• Significant policy change to reflect the effects of globalisation on culture;
• Strength in numbers.
•What's open for discussion?
• Culture and development;
• Culture and trade;
• Cultural pluralism.
Culture is the very essence of nationhood. It reflects our history, our values, our dreams and our view of the world. And it holds a cherished place in the hearts and lives of every human being and every society.
And cultural diversity really is the heart and soul of Canada. We are a microcosm of the world. We are part of what Canada's own Marshall McLuhan called the "Global Village."
Canadians trace our roots back to more than 100 different ethnic groups. Our members of Parliament come from over 20 cultural backgrounds and linguistic origins.
Canada has the experience and the resources and the will to push this complex but noble agenda of individual--and interconnected--cultural empowerment. Culture must be central to the thinking and actions of all national and international decision makers.
The Empire Club is, in fact, a classic Canadian example of just what our nation hopes to achieve in forum after forum. For 95 years, you have met to hear and debate and reach deeper understanding on the interplay of vital issues which enable our nation to thrive and our world to become a better one. For that, I applaud you--and I ask for your individual and collective partnership as we seek to make Canada's voice--and Canada's voices--heard around the world.
The challenges are enormous. The responsibility to our children and the future is greater.
One of humanity's greatest leaders put it so eloquently. As Mahatma Ghandi said: "I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any."
Thank you and don't forget to buy a book and a rose this afternoon.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by John A. Campion, Partner, Fasken Campbell & Godfrey and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.