Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Issue No. 36 - Evidence - Meeting of December 14, 2017
OTTAWA, Thursday, December 14, 2017
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met this day at 10:35 a.m. to study the impact and utilization of Canadian culture and arts in Canadian foreign policy and diplomacy, and other related matters.
Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade is empanelled today to continue its study authorized by the Senate, and the study is the impact and utilization of Canadian culture and arts in Canadian foreign policy and diplomacy and other related matters.
Under this mandate, the committee will hear from two witnesses: Mr. Daryl Copeland, Senior Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former Canadian diplomat; and Mr. Gaston Barban, also a former Canadian diplomat. Our witness Mr. Copeland has been delayed in traffic and is going to arrive imminently. We have decided that we will start with Mr. Barban. We will incorporate Mr. Copeland’s testimony when he arrives. I thought it would be a more efficient use of our time to begin now.
I am Raynell Andreychuk, the chair of the committee. I would ask the senators to introduce themselves, starting on my right.
Senator Oh: Senator Oh, Ontario.
Senator Saint-Germain: Senator Saint-Germain from Quebec.
Senator Cormier: Senator Cormier from New Brunswick.
Senator Massicotte: Paul Massicotte from Quebec.
Senator Cordy: Jane Cordy from Nova Scotia.
The Chair: We have your biographies. What we do nowadays is not take the time of the committee to read your very distinguished background, but the senators are aware of your contribution to Canada’s diplomacy from your many years of service. You are very well placed to be before us today to talk about our reference on cultural diplomacy and the responsibilities within the government for that.
Thank you, Mr. Barban, for accepting our invitation, and the floor is yours. I think you’ve testified before, so you know that we love questions at the end. Thank you for coming.
Gaston Barban, Former Canadian Diplomat, as an individual: Thank you very much, senator. Good morning, senators. May I, on a personal note, say how happy I am to see Senator Andreychuk again. She and I, along with the late Mauril Bélanger, worked together in Mauritius and Lesotho with the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association. It warms my heart on this cold day to see you again. When we last saw each other, it was much warmer, wasn’t it?
I am honoured to be here today to share my ideas on the matter of cultural diplomacy and the conduct of Canada’s international relations. As you have seen from the biography, I come to this subject as a former Global Affairs Canada executive and diplomat who has worked in Canada and abroad. More pertinently, I was a practitioner of public diplomacy —la diplomatie ouverte — and used the full panoply of tools and techniques, from advocacy and traditional and social media to academic relations, sports and the arts and culture to enhance the image of Canada and to advance our international objectives. It is with this experience, and in the context of public diplomacy, that I can attest to the significant value that Canadian art and culture bring to the achievement of our global trade, development and foreign policy objectives.
While not always a priority, the international promotion of Canadian arts and culture has been a feature of federal and provincial government programs and of our diplomacy for some time. I think there are three kinds of motivations or drivers for these programs: First, there is the deeply held view — and I would like to think it is the majority view — that there is intrinsic value to culture, an ars gratia artis, an “art for art’s sake” view, which sees art and culture and their public expression as fundamental to the human spirit and, writ large, a significant expression of a society or a country, and, by extension, that the international promotion of a country’s culture is essential to the national identity and for its citizens to locate their place in the world. I call this the existential driver.
Second, arts and culture is a human activity that generates wealth. Others can tell you exactly how many thousands of people are employed in and how many billions of dollars are produced by our cultural industries. Suffice it to say that the numbers are significant and, just like other economic activity we would like to see grow in this country, arts and culture and the individuals and companies involved warrant government support across the gamut of education and training, timely investments in the way of grants, loans and tax incentives, as well as assistance with market access and export. This is the economic driver.
The third driver is the diplomatic driver. Here I am referring to how arts and culture can play into the advancement of our international interests, primarily as an element of public diplomacy. “Public diplomacy” is a term which has been around for a while with varying definitions and is closely associated with the notion of soft power. In my definition, public diplomacy is about communicating with and reaching foreign publics to project an attractive image of and create a positive disposition towards one’s country. Ideally, if this is successful, it prepares the ground for other forms of international engagement. Whether it is advocating a policy position, attracting tourists or students to our shores or selling our goods or services, effective public diplomacy can increase chances for success.
Among the greatest tools for public diplomacy is the broad field of cultural diplomacy. It encompasses everything in the performing arts — music, dance, theatre — and the visual arts — painting, cinema, photography, film, digital — and can involve all manner of concerts, performances, exhibits, festivals and screenings, as well as museums, institutional and people exchanges. Some would also throw in sport, food, fashion, architecture and design, to name some others.
While all of these can be of assistance to the artists or institutions involved and also provide economic benefit, the paramount utility is the extent to which the investment in cultural diplomacy assists in the promotion and protection of Canada’s interests.
I know that most Canadian diplomats understand how the promotion of arts and culture can further our international interests. They and their teams, especially some of the locally engaged staff we have dedicated to this area, are very adept at using the relatively small funding available to good effect.
Whether it is helping to project a positive image of our country, build networks of contacts, gain access to important persons and assist with advocating our policies, points of view or values, Canadian art and culture have been an effective component of the public diplomacy tool kit and play a key role in our diplomatic efforts.
Despite a decade of reduced attention, I can tell you that in the field, as opportunities arise, Canadian culture is being promoted to advance our international goals. While public diplomacy and culture is a dispersed function across the headquarters’ branches of Global Affairs Canada, it has been given a boost by the Prime Minister’s mandate letters and by the injection of some financial resources via Canadian Heritage. But if we want Canadian culture to be better promoted and to confirm that Canada is indeed back, more must be done.
I humbly propose that cultural diplomacy, in the context of public diplomacy, be made a clear, national priority; that an international art and cultural promotion strategy, as part of a public diplomacy strategy, be developed by Global Affairs, Canadian Heritage and other relevant Canadian departments, institutions and agencies in consultation with the Canadian cultural community; and that this strategy outline a set of objectives and a program of action designed to engage the arts and culture community in the mutually beneficial effort to advance Canada’s international trade, development, and foreign policy goals, assign senior government leadership and provide adequate resources for its delivery.
To close, I want to underscore my view that the international promotion of Canadian culture is essential to our national identity, a strong contributor to our economy and an indispensable element for the promotion of our national interests. It needs to be a government priority, coordinated, strategically planned, and delivered with committed leadership and sufficient resources.
The Chair: Thank you Mr. Barban.
Mr. Copeland, your timing is impeccable.
Daryl Copeland, Senior Fellow, Canadian Global Affairs Institute, as an individual: Just-in-time delivery.
The Chair: We realize that you were stuck in traffic or there was some other problem.
Mr. Copeland: Four full closed parking lots. Let’s not go there. May I say that the last time I saw you was in Nairobi when I was working in Addis.
The Chair: You were in Ethiopia, and I was in Nairobi.
Mr. Copeland: That’s right.
The Chair: Exactly. We won’t tell them how many years ago that was.
Mr. Copeland: We could. Decades.
The Chair: Decades is correct. I don’t think this is the introduction that you wanted, Mr. Copeland. I did introduce you before you arrived. We do not read out the biographies. We want the time with you. The senators do know your background. Mr. Barban has started out. We thought it would be efficient. You arrived just on time for your presentation before we go to any questions, so floor is yours. We will then turn to questions from the senators. Welcome to the committee.
Mr. Copeland: Many thanks for the kind invitation to share my thoughts with you on this important matter.
When I was reflecting on the subject, I was drawn to what might be considered a radical assessment, at least in the sense of a fairly high level of analysis of trying to get to the roots of three key issues that I think are in play today. I’m going to set out my argument in terms of a background, a foreground and a conclusion, a bit like a briefing note.
I would like to begin by posing three of what I think are the most fundamental questions. When we speak of culture, diplomacy and science, what exactly do we mean? In each case, if at all, how are these big blocks of human enterprise interrelated?
Culture is perhaps the most all-encompassing yet amorphous of the three concepts, but it is not airy-fairy and fuzzy. In fact, it can be defined or understood as a collectivity of the norms, customs, characteristics, traditions, artistic expression and behaviour of human groups. It’s transmitted through social learning, which I think is key.
Science, which is often regarded as dense and impenetrable, is an empirical, objective and evidence-based method of knowledge creation which, through interrogation, trial and error, and rigorous analysis, provides systematic insights into the nature of things. Its methods include postulation, experimentation, data analysis and theorizing.
Diplomacy, sometimes described as the world’s second oldest profession and usually terribly misunderstood, is actually an approach to the management of international relations characterized by dialogue, negotiation, compromise, problem solving and complex balancing. Its tools include soft power, the power of attraction, advocacy, persuasion and influence.
Culture and science, along with education, media relations and advocacy, when bundled together and used by governments internationally to pursue their interests, promote their policies and project their values is commonly labelled “public diplomacy.”
Let’s dig deeper by unpacking and examining the connections among and between these three critical but too often misunderstood aspects of Canadian foreign policy. That’s the background. Now I’m going to move you into the foreground.
As a form of international political communication, diplomacy through active listening and meaningful two-way exchange privileges talking over fighting and supports the peaceful resolution of differences. In so doing, diplomacy encourages and reinforces values such as cooperation, non-violence, accommodation and peace as elements of culture. Diplomacy’s art content, by the way — creativity, imagination, innovation, improvisation — remains largely unappreciated.
Through the generation and application of knowledge, science is used to address problems of underdevelopment and insecurity, ranging from climate change and diminishing biodiversity to public health and management of the global commons. In so doing, science encourages and reinforces the values of openness, transparency, collaboration and constructive dissent as elements of culture.
Science and diplomacy once enjoyed pride of place in the firmament of Canadian foreign policy, as illustrated convincingly in a survey of modern Canadian diplomacy and international relations from Pierre Trudeau to Justin Trudeau. These historic achievements and their legacy, which I would be happy to go into in the Q and A, have contributed to shaping Canada’s values, cultural identity and brand. Think: helpful fixing, honest brokerage, peace keeping and enlightened thinking about international policy, more generally.
Culture, science and diplomacy transcend borders and serve as a bridge between nations, groups and peoples. In the context of public diplomacy, international cultural relations and artistic expression deepen understanding and forge new networks and partnerships. Together, they represent an antidote to some of the downsides of globalization and salve the paradox of connectivity. They also help weave together the exquisitely delicate fabric of civilization.
In conclusion, culture, science and diplomacy are undervalued instruments of statecraft and should once again be integral in the definition and construction of Canada’s contemporary image, reputation and brand. So I hope you’re fine with all of that, because my next sentence is “and yet, and yet . . . .” Here I launch into the challenges or the critique.
Here’s the rub: When it comes to governance and public administration, the responsibility and accountability for public diplomacy, culture, arts and science are splintered, atomized, disintegrated and uncoordinated. I believe my colleague Gaston touched upon this, because he is in the midst of it. These functions are split between Global Affairs Canada; Heritage; Innovation, Economic Development and Science; Environment; Natural Resources; Parks Canada; the Canada Council; the granting councils and on and on. Now ethereal, almost invisible, that key focal point that we would like to see is, in fact, scattered in the wind. There is no strategy; there is no plan; there is no central point.
Second, I think we have to consider the lasting but in-large-part unheralded damage that resulted from the decade of darkness, 2006 to 2015: The muzzling of scientists and diplomats; the firing of thousands of federal scientists; huge program and resource cuts; and, not least, the sidelining and marginalizing of then-DFAIT, which, I might add, as GAC, and I hope we can get into this in the Q and A, remains adrift, struggling, near catatonic and appallingly under-resourced.
Canada 150 has been a significant marker, mainly as an unrealized opportunity to showcase Canadian diplomacy, culture and the performing arts. But to expect something better, such as an active, engaged foreign policy that Canadians were promised and now expect, from a reamed-out, beaten-down public service is a bit like asking a former athlete who has been lying on a gurney for 10 years on life support, with muscles atrophied and reflexes dulled, to get up and run a marathon. It’s not going to happen.
Of course, there are always public policy and administrative challenges. I certainly appreciate that, having spent 30 years trying to address them. One must always hope for improved performance and a better tomorrow. If the interrelationship between these disparate swaths of enterprise can be properly understood and constructed, then the possibilities are actually limitless and the potential enormous.
At the end of the day, culture in the arts, diplomacy and science should be understood as the defining features of “brand Canada.” We’re the globalization and innovation nation.
So what are five take-aways for you? First, identify culture, science and diplomacy as international policy priorities. Situate them firmly within an integrated and coordinated framework, strategy and plan.
Second, rebuild. Reinvest in culture, diplomacy and science. There is a direct dialectal relationship between results and resources. Moreover, this formula is highly cost effective and leveraged. I was a skeptic, I’ve got to tell you, when I entered government in 1981, but after 30-plus years of actually doing it, I have become a believer.
Third, public diplomacy, including culture, the arts and science, connects with democratization, transparency and openness. Therefore, pitch to the popular, not just the elites. Focus on grassroots, students and the general public. Go storefront. Go retail with this stuff. But don’t forget the grass tops: the opinion leaders, the organizations and associations, and the influence aggregators. All of this is to say, we need a really comprehensive approach when we think about using culture as an instrument of foreign policy.
Fourth, the government is committed to culture, arts and science but has overpromised and, in my view, largely under-delivered, resulting in the real risk of plunging headlong into a say-do credibility gap. What, for instance, is Canada doing to substantially, as opposed to rhetorically, support the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals?
Finally, point five, the next federal election is now only two years off, our G7 presidency and summit hosting are coming up next year and we have declared our candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council with the campaign in 2020 and the election in 2021. What, I ask you, exactly is on offer? The emperor desperately needs some presentable new clothes.
Senators, now is your chance to help turn adversity into opportunity. I say to you, carpe diem.
The Chair: Thank you. We will go to questions now.
Senator Cormier: Thank you very much for your presentations. A look at your resumes shows the diversity of the countries you have worked with. Some are more complex than others when it comes to international relations.
As background to my question, I come from the arts and culture sector. I have worked extensively as an artist, internationally in Europe and Africa. The issues you have identified are fairly clear. In the means you identified among them, there was the idea of a strategy. One witness recently told us about the idea of having an agency that could work on the issue of diplomacy.
There are three parts to my question. The first is what type of device does the Canadian government need — and you have laid out certain avenues — so that there is coherence between the different actions of the Canadian government in cultural diplomacy? What are the links between Global Affairs Canada, Canadian Heritage and Environment Canada? What kind of structure do we need? I would like you to explain this further.
Second, since culture is perceived, as you said, in a very different way depending on where we are, how should a strategy be adapted to the realities of the countries targeted by cultural diplomacy? Whether in Europe, Africa or Asia, the vision of the role of culture and the types of cultural policy of these countries are very different from each other. How can this be taken into account in a strategy?
Lastly, how do we take into account Canada’s domestic policy on cultural policy, that is, the relationship with the provinces? How is this policy deployed in the country itself? How do we reconcile this idea of needing a device, the relationship with the target countries and the way we operate here, within the country?
Mr. Barban: These are three good questions and things that certainly I and others have thought about. I would be clear that I would not want a politburo for culture at the head of government. I don’t believe that it needs to be centralized at the very heart of government, and that is the agency. But I do believe that leadership should be given, for the international promotion of arts and culture, to Global Affairs Canada and that it should be housed in that ministry, but at a senior level in that ministry so that it has attention within the foreign affairs, trade and development objectives and workings of the department and that it has the authority, in fact, it is told, to work extremely closely with Canadian Heritage, first and foremost, because that is the ministry that has, in effect, the mandate to work with the cultural community in Canada. But Canadian Heritage has other objectives as well, including the whole cultural industries aspect, which Global Affairs can support, but it’s not really the primary mandate in the way that Global Affairs are interested in our international objectives.
To answer your question, I would house it in Global Affairs, make sure that it works very closely with Canadian Heritage and, of course, all of the subgroups underneath Canadian Heritage, which extend to the museums and the Canada Council for the Arts and so on. It is through Canadian Heritage that you have the outreach to the Canadian cultural community.
This links into your third point about how to deal with provincial governments, many of which have active programs. As an aside, as a diplomat, I was actually happy to see the Canadian cultural community being supported by the provinces because, as a diplomat, that just put more Canadian culture on the ground for me to use — that’s not too strong a verb — to the ends of Canadian diplomacy.
I would leave that to Canadian Heritage to deal with, for the most part, but the coordinating function must reside with Global Affairs because we’re talking about the international promotion of Canadian arts and culture for the benefit of Canadian international objectives.
Your second point was about the strategy. If we had a proper public diplomacy strategy, which we don’t have in the department, at the highest levels, it would, of course, take into account the kinds of changes you would have to make and the modifications you would have to make as you target different countries in the world with very different political systems, different socio-economic situations, languages, cultures and so on. So it would be part and parcel of the strategy on how you would employ the renewed effort in the promotion of Canadian arts and culture in the word.
So, yes, let’s have something. Let’s put it in the Global Affairs Department, but that department can’t do it alone. It has to do it with other agencies, primarily with Canadian Heritage. That’s my first cut at that.
Mr. Copeland: Thank you, Senator Cormier, for your very specific questions. I would like to point out that I fully agree with Mr. Barban’s remarks. I would like to answer in English, if you don’t mind.
Your comments reminded me when you were talking about how can we best adapt any kind of an international cultural strategy to the huge diversity of conditions that we find in various other parts of the world, and my answer to you is that we can make much better use of the people that we have on the ground in those places, whose job it is to interpret and to understand not just the politics and the economics of the places that they’re in through the unique prism of Canadian values, policies and interests but, rather, to come to a deeper understanding of the importance of place.
I’m reminded of Trudeau the first’s quip in about 1970 to the effect of why did he need the Department of External Affairs when he could read whatever he needed in the New York Times. What you can’t get out of the New York Times is that aspect of the Canadian lens because quality policy advice, if it’s not run through that lens, is going to be deficient in all sorts of ways.
I think the answer to that is if, in the context of reviewing and reconstructing the way that we use culture as an instrument of our international policy, we would call upon that inherent but largely underutilized expertise that we have resident in our hundred-plus missions abroad, with a view to coming up with the kind of subtle, supple and nuanced approach, that could make Canadian cultural programs in those countries connect directly with populations.
Gaston’s point about how to organize the public administration, how to construct the strategy, I’m completely — and you will have gotten this from my remarks — with him on that. The extent of disintegration in the design and delivery of our international cultural programs is appalling. Again, I’m not expecting any presto-change kinds of solutions. We watched, at Foreign Affairs, as our international arts program was decimated and as the division that was responsible for international educational relations was melted down. There’s just not much left. We’re talking here about very fundamental reconstruction. It’s not going to happen overnight.
Senator Oh: Thank you, gentlemen, for the very informative information.
Canada is the guest of honour at this week’s 2017 Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival in China, and 12 Canadian documentary films, including Freelancer on the Front Lines, Soaring Highs and Brutal Lows, and the Angry Inuk, et cetera, will play at this festival, which covers multiculturalism, youth, environmental issues and reconciliation with First Nations. Are you aware of the initiatives, such as this one, to promote Canadian arts and culture around the world? Also, is there any evaluation done to assess these efforts and the effects of this?
Mr. Barban: Senator, I’m a private citizen now and I’m not aware of that particular initiative that’s taking place in Hong Kong, but I can tell you that many other similar events have happened in the past. They certainly happened in my past when I was with the department. We would take great advantage of such events, not just for the promotion of their intrinsic value as, in this case, documentary films, but we would analyze the subject matter of those films, understand who it was that was coming with that particular package of films and whether or not there were any connections with the local society, be it at the high levels of decision makers or people that we wanted to meet or connect with to build our network or to gain access. We would make sure that they would be a part of that. We would employ such an example of the international promotion of art and culture, in this case, documentary film, to the extent that we could with the resources that we had in the field. I know that other Canadian embassies would do that, as they could.
Of course, part of the nature of what we do is that we have to measure it at the end. These are always hard to measure, both quantitatively and qualitatively. We would count how many people would come to these things and how much press coverage they got. Qualitatively, we would find out anecdotal evidence of what people found and how people reacted to the event. Qualitatively, we would find out whether or not having the serendipity of someone attending a particular film that we always wanted to get to know and we got to know that person, and that person knew another person that was the person that we needed to meet in the local government. That’s the way it works sometimes, that kind of two degrees of separation to build a network.
I can’t underscore enough how events like the one you’ve just mentioned are really important to how we conduct our diplomacy. It just reinforces the importance of cultural diplomacy as an arrow in the quiver of public diplomacy.
Mr. Copeland: I mentioned, senator, that when approaching this issue, it’s important to bear in mind, in terms of target audience, both the grassroots and the grass tops. One of the great things about film is that it has virtually universal appeal in ways that ballet, for example, or the visit of a symphony orchestra doesn’t, so I’m a big booster of film.
You might be interested to know that back in the day, the then Department of Foreign Affairs had a very large film library — that was when it was all on celluloid — and there was a division that coordinated the dispatch of Canadian films to missions around the world and they would put on Canadian film festivals. I’ve done a few of them. They were always a big hit and very effective. That is all gone. Don’t underestimate the importance of culture generally, but let’s look at film in particular.
I can give you a case study that happens to involve a friend of mine. At the height of the rather acrimonious disputes between Cuba and the United States with the Helms-Burton Act and so on, a Canadian musician named Jane Bunnett went to Cuba. She went on holiday. She travelled around the island, as she likes to do, and found that as a result of the collapse of the special relationship that Cuba had had with the then Soviet Union, all of their musical instruments, from the small town orchestras to the public high schools to the universities, most of which were made in the Eastern Block, were falling apart and desperately in need of service. Stringed instruments needed strings and tuning hardware. Woodwinds need new embouchures, horns needed new mouthpieces and so on. The valves got stuck. As we all know, Cuba has a tremendous comparative advantage when it comes to music. So Jane goes. She looks around and finds the place in crisis. She goes back to Canada and starts talking to her friends, and her friends include people in the music industry, people that sell musical instruments and a lot of music teachers. She returned to Cuba about a year later with a small army of Canadians that came laden with spare parts and expertise. They travelled across Cuba restoring their reservoir of musical instruments. You can inform yourselves, if you’re interested in following up on this, in a fabulous documentary made by my friend Bay Weyman called Spirits of Havana.
We talked about how culture can help build relations in a way which is neither political nor commercial. It’s deeper. It gets at something very basic and very human. It enlarges understanding. It encourages cooperation. It somehow finds its way into matters of the heart that politics and economics just cannot penetrate. As a result, the sorts of connections that are forged through those deep cultural relations tend to be enduring. And that, I would surmise, is part and parcel of why Canada’s relations with Cuba have remained excellent through many years and despite many challenges.
So yes, film, absolutely. Undervalued hugely. I’m delighted we’re in China doing it, because at the moment there is nowhere more important to show Canadian documentaries.
Senator Massicotte: Thank you for being here this morning. It is greatly appreciated.
When we look at why all this is important, there are always three reasons, including economic reasons. However, perhaps the main reason relates to the projected image and the need to project a more accurate picture of our country abroad. This is a public relations exercise aimed at changing the impression that the world has of Canada and raising awareness about our country, and then increasing our power to convince.
In my experience, it’s a bit like the communications and public relations issue. According to industry experts, on average, 50 per cent of funds are wasted because it is not something very logical or sequential. The difficulty is that we do not know what proportion of the 50 per cent is wasted, and we continue like this. However, when we decide to participate in such a venture, we always have to ask ourselves what the objective is, and we must choose the desired audience or target in order to maximize our impact. Otherwise, like all organizations around the world, there is never enough money. When experts give such broad goals and a lot of money can be wasted, people become discouraged, and it becomes less credible.
In your experience, when the government decides to spend money for a particular cause, is an analysis done to target a particular group that might be more easily influenced in a given community, society or country? Is an effort made to establish a relationship between the effort and the result, or is it easier to simply agree to all the requests?
For example, for the past two years, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra has travelled the world extensively. It is a very important institution in Montreal that I think reflects well on us. I have attended a few of their performances, and I always wonder if the audience attending the performance is positive toward Canada. Does it help us project a better image? What is your experience with this methodical and determined calculation as a governmental agency?
Mr. Barban: When you use words like “targets” or “objectives,” that speaks to strategy. Both of us have said that there is a lack of an overarching strategy in the Department of Global Affairs when it comes to public diplomacy. That’s lacking. But it’s not to say that at the working level, when events occur, when the Montreal Symphony Orchestra arrives in your territory, that people are not thinking this through. They’re thinking, “They’re coming and doing this particular event at this particular venue. We can invite these particular individuals. How can we best organize this particular event to meet our objectives as a Canadian embassy or a mission,” wherever it may be in whatever country. So that kind of thinking does occur at the level where the rubber hits the road, to use that expression, when things are actually being done.
As I explained to the other senator with regard to documentary film, efforts are made thereafter to try to measure the relative impact of that particular event. It’s not that easy to measure impact, because with a lot of government things, you can measure outputs. You can count the number of people who were in the audience. You can count the number of Tweets that were received with regard to that particular performance. What you have difficulty measuring is outcomes. Not outputs, but outcomes. In other words, did all of that really get to what you were trying to do? That’s the objective. If the ultimate objective was to promote a positive image of Canada as a culturally sophisticated country, how would you know that that actually happened?
It needs a lot more work, and it’s a very sophisticated pseudoscience to try and determine what exactly were the outcomes of a visit of a large symphony orchestra like that in a particular country. That requires more work and a higher level of sophistication when it comes to metrics in measuring, and we don’t employ that. We don’t have the people to do that. You have the orchestra from out of town. The next day there is a business delegation coming in, and the same person that was working on the cultural event now has to go and organize the business event. So people on the ground are harried, but they do the best they can with what they’ve got and they take advantage of these events when they occur.
The other point is what Daryl Copeland mentioned earlier on about the nature of particular events. We have to ask ourselves, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra may work in Berlin, but does it have the same impact in Bogota? I have some thoughts about that. But you would have to be sure where we send these groups, which are very expensive. That is part of the cultural strategy that we say has to be thought out. We don’t just give money to a symphony orchestra and say go ahead and tour. We need to think that through, and I don’t think enough thinking has been done on that.
Senator Massicotte: I agree. In your answer, you talked about what happens with the symphony orchestra arrives in New York. When they chose the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, they had to have a strategy in mind, in addition to execution. They had to have a strategy at the outset.
Mr. Copeland: I think the problem is that because our act is so disorganized on all of this, the careful thinking and analysis that one would hope would go into that sort of planning and implementation simply isn’t there.
You’ve raised a very important point, and let me give a concrete illustration. I was in Thailand in the early 1980s and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens was coming to Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul and Singapore, but they desperately wanted to come to Southeast Asia. The department resisted, but the people at the ballet had friends who were politically connected, and we were basically told to deliver the visit. That, as the consular and cultural affairs officer, fell onto me.
Well, I spent most of my time in Thailand visiting Canadians who were in jail on drug offences and performing medical evacuations and otherwise ministering to the many miscreants who are attracted to the world of vice that Thailand offers. I’m not saying it’s not a great place. It’s one of my favourite countries, but —
So I have this visit and in they come with their 35 tonnes of equipment, and we have to do the customs clearance and it’s only me. We do three shows at the national theatre. I got them to do workshops at a couple of ballet schools. This is again getting from the elite down to the mass to try and get more cost-effectiveness and value for money. And Her Majesty the Queen and King were — it was great, but it was very elite.
My students often ask me: What did you learn in 30 years of doing diplomacy? I say I learned there are a lot of surprises. I learned that there is objectivity and merit and performance management that we pretend is really important, but at the end of the day it’s things like chance, luck and timing that really make or break the success or failure of an event.
So let me continue. I’m having a dinner party at my place for the ballet members and their administrative staff and the artistic director, and I have invited all of my cultural contacts from across town and everybody is there and it is wonderful Thai food and delicious drinks and time passes. A lot of the official guests left, but a lot of the dancers stayed, and at one point one of the young ladies said, “Mr. Copeland, do you have any dance music?” I said, “I have lots.” She said, “Would you mind playing some?” So I put on Tears for Fears, which was a very big hit in those days. All of a sudden my living room was transformed into a gyrating mass of feminine form, which I thought was pretty interesting. I hadn’t seen them dance that way during their performances.
Half an hour went by, and one of them said, “This is great, but we would actually like to go out to dance.” And I said, “Well, there are a couple of discos, and the big fancy hotels have places to go dancing, so we could go there.” And they said, “No, that’s actually not where we want to go. We want to go somewhere that is a bit more downmarket.” And I said, “Well, the thing about Thailand is that there is the upmarket, but if you want to go downmarket, you’re going pretty far downmarket.” They said, “Fine, we’re comfortable with that. Let’s go.”
So it’s decision time. Do I, with flags flying, and I have a few embassy vans out there, go to Patpong, which is the district for entertainment of that sort in Bangkok, or do I say, “No, I’m absolutely not going to do this. Sorry.” Then I have a really unhappy bunch of campers in my living room. One of the points I make about diplomacy is it has to be less about risk aversion and more about risk tolerance. I’ve always been way on the risk tolerance side. So I said, “If that’s what you want to do, I’m a good host, so let’s go.” So off we went, flags flying, down to Patpong.
We went into one of the clubs called Kings Castle, which I happened to know had a large area for dancing. Within moments, not minutes, the ballerinas were up on the catwalk dancing. With the Thai dancers, it’s pretty formulaic and frankly rather boring and it has a lot of things to do with things other than dance. Well, the ladies from Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, who undoubtedly had years and years of training in contemporary dance, got up there and just absolutely dazzled everybody in the place. Within minutes, there were lineups out into the street, long lineups, because word travels like the California wildfires in downtown Bangkok. I’m going to abbreviate this story. They went from there to another bar, to another bar, each time attracting more and more people.
This didn’t turn up in any newspapers, but by word of mouth, the jungle telegraph, taxi drivers, overnight the reputation of Canada in Thailand was transformed. The image, the brand of Canada, was transformed from marginalized and, to the extent it was known at all, kind of distant and clunky to utterly cool. This was an unplanned benefit, but it turned this visit, which I didn’t want to do and thought was going to be a disaster, into a major public diplomacy coup. These things don’t always work as planned, but when they work, they can really work.
The Chair: We’ve heard from many of our witnesses about the term “soft power,” and it’s been used again here. Most Canadians would think of “soft power” as military or soft power. You’ve used soft power, but you’ve also used public diplomacy, I guess. Is it wise to use soft power and culture, or is it better to use it in the context of public diplomacy? If we were writing this report, we can zero in on culture, the benefits that you both have put out, and not get trapped into this military versus soft power, which is a political debate many people have, and it would concentrate it better on the cultural benefits that we need to highlight.
Mr. Copeland: Well, yes. The hard power versus soft power or, under Secretary Clinton, the smart power, where you are trying to combine the two. Senator Andreychuk, I don’t like the formulation much either because of the word “power.” I’m fine with “soft,” but “power” connotes some kind of dominance dependence, some kind of winner-loser underlying relationship.
Whenever power comes into the equation, whether it’s soft or otherwise, you’re into territory that culture is better off considered outside of. Personally, I prefer to situate culture within the public diplomacy frame, so I’m with you on that, but the reality is that soft power is such a salient term. It’s hard to avoid. It’s often said that public diplomacy runs on soft power. We don’t have to construct it that way, but out there in the literature, for example, you’ll come across that frequently.
If you were asking for my advice, I would say that although you probably couldn’t avoid reference to soft power, the power of attraction, making others want what you want through persuasion and influence, is what it’s all about as opposed to bonking them on the head or buying them off or invading them. It is softer but it’s still power, whereas the idea of persuasion, influence, advocacy, argument and culture, broadly cast, need not be focused around any kind of power. It’s much more about relationships and understanding.
Mr. Barban: I don’t have much to add except to agree that you can get into a semantic rabbit hole when you go down the soft power. However, it’s true and it’s out there. You probably have to at least address it. But I would focus on the noun rather than the adjective. Culture is powerful. Culture is power. It should not be seen as something insignificant. We do have that aspect to keep in mind. In the way it’s worded, I understand the semantic difficulties associated with it and I agree with what my colleague just said.
Mr. Copeland: I think culture is influence rather than power.
The Chair: To follow up on what Senator Oh was talking about, the film issue, one aspect we have yet to touch on or identify is the “brand Canada” we’ve talked about and all the assets we have. We have also talked about trying to bring the modern, today Canada to the world through the culture we have. I believe Mr. Copeland used the example that it can be formal or informal. You bring them for one purpose but they show another side of Canada. We have been touching on all of that.
We also are a nation with many cultures within Canada and many regions. We, of course, have our indigenous culture that is coming to the fore more and more and becoming known. How do we build in all of that, the multi-culture? Is that what we use in bringing our Chinese films done here to Hong Kong? We have some pretty good writers and actors coming from Canada to Bollywood. Do we maximize that? Or do we want to bring the Chinese films to somewhere else in the world, and the Indian capability and difference of the Indian film making here as opposed to that in India to somewhere else in the world? In other words, how do we expand culture not simply from the country you came from?
Mr. Copeland: When Gaston and I were working together — and I don’t know if he mentioned that from 1999 to 2001 we worked in the communications bureau of the Department of Foreign Affairs together — Gaston charged me with putting together what we called an international communications framework, but it was actually sort of a branding strategy. We focused on what we called at the time the six Cs for Canada: Cosmopolitan, which picks up on your point on diversity; competitive, so that’s our economic prowess; civil, which is rule of law and all of that; captivating, which is tourism; caring, which is our empathy and our social safety net and all of that good stuff; and creative. That didn’t go anywhere because the political centre wasn’t ready for a major “brand Canada” initiative back in the 1990s. It was too bad, but we got all the documentation.
Similarly, but before I arrived, Gaston put together something called the Canadian International Information Strategy, which went as far as cabinet and lost out to land mines at a time of scarce resources during program review. That too was an integrated whole-of-government, whole-of-Canada approach to doing what you’ve suggested.
What you’ve suggested, Senator Andreychuk, is what we need to do. It’s what we’re not doing. There isn’t really an answer to whether we should do this or do that because we haven’t really done the analysis that is required to inform that answer. It’s the kind of thing that we used to do, but it’s the kind of thing that has been lost. I don’t know if the capacity is gone forever. It may just be a matter of restoring culture to priority status within the firmament of international policy.
Do you remember the third pillar? Some senators resigned over the fact that the third pillar was stillborn. That was 1995 in a foreign policy review, which I believe was called Competitiveness and Security.
Ten years later, we had the International Policy Review, Mr. Martin’s contribution. It was really interesting because instead of being done by the policy planning staff in the foreign ministry, participation was much broader. It included trade, defence and immigration. It was towards this kind of comprehensive approach but, interestingly, it did not include Canadian Heritage. Culture was not a third pillar in that review. It might have been, but it wasn’t.
The point is, unless somebody is told to start addressing these things in that kind of radical way that I began my presentation with, which is to say, let’s try and get to the roots of this, let’s think it through and let’s figure out whether it’s smarter to send Spanish-language films made in Canada to Latin America than it is to send Korean-language films or Japanese-language films made in Canada to Japan or Korea or China or whatever. We haven’t done the analysis. Unless we do the analysis, we’re going to remain flailing around, which is what has been going on, and treading water and getting nowhere.
Mr. Barban: On the question of diversity and the fact that we have a country that is multicultural, which is a huge advantage, I think a lot of Canadians think that we’re the only country that’s like this. In fact, most of the countries that I’ve visited are very diverse. My last country was South Africa. They have 11 official languages in their Parliament. You wouldn’t think that at first blush, but that’s something that everyone has. What is different is how we deal with our diversity and how we have established a set of laws and governance that deals with our diversity in a very progressive and a humanitarian, tolerant way. That is really what we want to promote. If it makes sense to do that using the cultural and ethnic groups in the country that way, let’s do it because that is an advantage we have.
To pick up on Daryl’s point, we’re not thinking this through. There is no priority placed on cultural diplomacy and public diplomacy. It needs to be made a priority and then the strategies need to be put in place and then delivered.
Mr. Copeland: If I could give you a little more on this, Raymond Chan used to talk about Canada’s hidden advantage. That’s what he called our diversity. In our international communications framework, we called it cosmopolitan, but call it multicultural, call it whatever you want. The fact is it has become a defining feature of contemporary Canada, and one which is celebrated and frankly is a success story that I think we should be doing a lot more with.
Gaston says yes, a lot of places are multicultural. That’s true, but if you’re talking about who the cultural superpowers are, who the soft power/superpowers are, again, you have got to refine your analysis a bit. What makes France France is that it’s very French. The same thing about Germany. The same thing about Italy. The same thing about Greece. The same thing about Spain. The fact is Europe is a cultural superpower, and what makes Europe a cultural superpower is that ethnicity, nationality and language tend to align very directly in most places. Italian food. Right? French chefs. Swiss watches.
Or if you look at the United States, another cultural superpower, well, yes, the U.S. is a pretty diverse place, but let’s face it, it’s Hollywood and it’s pop music that is really powering all of that, and actually it’s quite centralized and it’s a bit of a machine and it is very corporate.
I called Canada the globalization nation, which I think we are. I agree with Mr. Chan. I think it is our hidden advantage. I think it’s something that we have not used. I think it’s something that we could make much better use of.
One of my many, many recommendations to the foreign ministry, which was completely ignored, is that we should post foreign service officers to major Canadian cities in order to connect directly with the diaspora communities. Let’s connect with the Chinese in Toronto and Vancouver. Let’s connect with the South Asians. Let’s connect with the Haitians, if we want to be generating intelligence. If after the 2010 earthquake we had good connections with the largest community of Haitians in the world outside of Haiti, instead of flailing around trying to provide international humanitarian assistance, we could have talked to some of the fixers who live in Montreal and found out how they have always been getting stuff into Haiti, and it doesn’t involve formal ports and airports and customs clearance and so on. But we’re not there.
It is our hidden advantage, multiculturalism, and it’s time to use it.
Senator Cormier: If I may, I would like to make a comment before I ask my question. Cultural diplomacy is very important. Listening to you, we feel that, at the heart of the challenges of cultural diplomacy, there are the very challenges of defining how our cultural identity is embodied within our country. If our Canadian cultural policy is not articulated well enough, it has an impact on our international action on cultural diplomacy.
What message do we want to convey? Who do we want to start a dialogue with? Who do we want to talk to? Are we talking about diplomacy with the elite, the government, the institutions, the people? Who are we aiming for with a cultural diplomacy strategy? Maybe all these categories.
We often hear about major institutions, including Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. As for the young ladies of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens who went to Thailand to dance, you talked about the risk of tolerance, and another dynamic took hold. In order to be clear and succinct in a strategy of cultural diplomacy, according to what you said — because you said there is no plan in this regard — how could there be a plan to address this issue? In the context of a cultural diplomacy strategy, could we take specific actions to promote this meeting zone that supports diplomacy, but is not linked to major institutions or major missions? There are many networks other than the major networks in the industry. I wonder if Canada can benefit more through this strategy.
My sub-question, which is a bit broader and more difficult, concerns the entire digital world. Is the digital world — social media, cross-border communication — an instrument of diplomacy and, if so, how do we plan a co-ordinated digital transformation action to engage in diplomacy?
Mr. Barban: There are many questions in all that. I will start with the last one.
About the whole aspect of social networks, something people are calling digital diplomacy, if it’s one thing that I think Global Affairs has at least started to move towards, it is to move into this sphere, although a lot more needs to be done and that has to do with the fact that it’s nascent and just coming to the fore.
This is of great potential for the way we conduct public diplomacy. Social media, for example, allows to us build networks very quickly. I said before that one of the advantages of cultural diplomacy is it helps you build a network. I always tell my people that a diplomat is only as good as his or her network, because you need a network if you’re going to be an effective diplomat. With social media, you have the potential to create all kinds of networks in an entirely new way. Not only are they larger, they can also be very specific. You can actually target particular audiences and groups through the social media. As well, the reach is potentially planetary. Then there is the nature that this technology is interactive. You can actually go back and forth. It’s not just dissemination of messages.
It is a field that has potential for all international endeavours, so all of diplomacy has to take this into account. It is a platform. It is a modus operandi for diplomacy in the 21st century. It’s a big question. We could be talking about this all day. It’s a very interesting one.
I think that culture will play into that as well. Daryl talked about having movies brought in with a diplomatic bag and this sort of thing. Nowadays you can just stream them. Maybe we have to think about how we get Canadian visual cultural products to the audiences that we want. Well, if you have your network, you’ll know where and who to target. It has great potential.
There is a focus, but again, it is just starting. It has not been put together at Global Affairs since I left. I have not seen it made a priority at the highest levels and given a focus at the senior executive level to deliver a public diplomacy strategy, which includes the digital side, and it works with other government departments and with Canadian Heritage when it comes to culture.
When you use — I said this to the answer to the other senator — words like what is the message, who are the targets and what are the objectives, well, that’s what a strategy is supposed to do. It is supposed to identify your messages and your objectives and who it is you’re trying to reach with those messages to achieve particular objectives. Again, that’s done in the micro. You know, it’s done on the day-to-day basis. But there is no macro strategy in the department for this. We would all benefit. It doesn’t have to be very prescriptive right down to you must do this on that day with that particular group, but it does need to be clearly articulated.
What are the five or six things that constitute the Canadian brand? I don’t like using the word “brand,” because a lot of people don’t understand it or at least there is confusion about that. People think it’s designing a logo or something. It’s much more than that, and we do need to articulate the five or six messages we want all our diplomats to keep in mind. We want all of our cultural products to be congruent with whatever those messages and whatever those themes are that we want our diplomats to project internationally.
Then when it comes to the question — and I have had this trouble myself — what do you do when you have a guitarist from Moncton who just arrives at your doorstep? He says, “I am here,” some troubadour, and he wants to know, “Can you help me? I would like to have a concert.” You don’t have any money for that. Why that particular guitarist and not the country singer from Timmins? What do you do? They could all show up at your door thinking the Canadian embassy is there to help you promote.
Sometimes serendipity intervenes and last minute, la Francophonie is next week, I could use you. Then I go back to Ottawa and ask, “Do you know this young guy? Does he have any credibility? Can I use him at an event or can I have him come to my home and play some Acadian music and help us play into the Journée de la Francophonie?” So we have that difficulty all the time.
At the risk of appearing to be an elitist, I like to go big or go home. If I’m going to spend a lot of my resources as a diplomat, I like the big stuff. I like the Cirque du Soleil in town. I like the big groups. I like to be able to bring my whole embassy together and maximize the experience. I like weeks of cultural events.
The Chinese in South Africa didn’t have a week of China. They had a year of China in South Africa. The whole year was programmed from January to December with films, speakers, dancers, exchanges, university professors, the whole thing.
Canada is not doing that. We need a strategy. Daryl mentioned the United Nations Security Council seat and the G7. We need to think about this year, what are the five or six countries? Are we going to do weeks and help the embassy ahead of time. “These people are coming in this year. We will give you money and resources to do it.” Right now it is catch as catch can, and often and usually small.
I’m proud of my department and the diplomats. They do a good job with what they have got, but they do not have much. They don’t have the muscles. They are atrophied, as Daryl said, because we have been inactive, but the bones are still there. I hope that answers your question, senator.
Senator Oh: Daryl, you mentioned earlier that the Canadian government used to have a film library that was distributed all around the world. I recall my father used to borrow films from the Canadian embassy in Singapore and play them on a 16-millimetre projector. He would invite the community and the whole family to watch a Canadian documentary film. That’s probably why I ended up here.
Mr. Copeland: That’s what builds people-to-people ties. There is no doubt that culture is this undervalued instrument of international policy. Canada has enormous but unrealized comparative advantage. If we were able to marshal the concentrated effort required to put culture front and centre among the priorities that we are pursuing internationally, there would be great gains that could be made.
But again, the analysis must be done. There is an awful lot of that ground to cover. It does strike me that unless and until we become much more serious than we have been about considering the possibilities associated with using culture to project our values, to promote our policies and to pursue our interests, it will be just more talking. There is nothing wrong with just talking, but if you don’t join it up with doing, then you’ll never get from where you are to where you want to be, and I think we would all like to be somewhere better in terms of our performance, because our performance is not what it could be.
The Chair: Is there anything else you wish to add before we close?
Mr. Barban: I would just implore the committee to consider my humble propositions in my opening statement of what needs to be done, beginning with making cultural diplomacy a priority. Thank you, senators.
The Chair: Mr. Copeland, we have some of your documents that we have been able to find. If there is anything particular you wish to pass to our committee, that would be helpful. Our researchers do a good job here.
Mr. Barban, you were involved in a study that was recently commissioned for cultural diplomacy for Global Affairs. Is that a private document or is it one that we could lay hands on? Should we be asking the department, or can you provide it? I know when you give advice, sometimes it stays there, and we respect that, but if it is available to us, that would be helpful.
Mr. Barban: I provided that as a private consultant. I handed it to the Assistant Deputy Minister for Public Affairs. I’m certain it is easily available. It looks at public diplomacy in the department and sets out some recommendations on a way forward.
The Chair: So we should contact the department?
Mr. Barban: Absolutely. I highly recommend it. It’s germane to what we have been talking about.
The Chair: If there are any other documents from your sources, we would appreciate them.
You have expanded our thinking and perhaps the work that we have to address. We are in that exploratory state to see how we can manage a very broad topic and be of some worth to the government and the Canadian people.
It’s interesting that Senator Oh talked about an advantage. The digital side of it is one that is totally unexplored, as e-diplomacy totally, and we have to think about that. That may be where we should be. We need to weigh all of the what used to be called pillars. I’m not sure we use those terms these days, but the interrelatedness of our presence abroad has to be taken into account.
We’re going to take a Christmas break and come back after the holidays. We will really dig in to produce a report that will be helpful. Your input today has been helpful to get us thinking outside the box, but also to give us a look at where we have been. On behalf of the committee I want to thank both witnesses for coming today.
Senators, I wish you the best of the season, as well as to our witnesses and all our staff. May all of us have a good holiday, a good rest, and come back with great energy to complete this study.
(The committee adjourned.)