Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Issue No. 39 - Evidence - Meeting of February 14, 2018
OTTAWA, Wednesday, February 14, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met this day at 4:16 p.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: Honourable senators, the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has been authorized by the Senate to study 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 witnesses today, some by video conference, some in person. Before we do that, I’m going to invite senators to introduce themselves.
Senator Ataullahjan: Salma Ataullahjan from Toronto.
Senator Massicotte: Paul Massicotte from Quebec.
Senator Greene: Stephen Greene from Nova Scotia.
Senator Housakos: Leo Housakos from Quebec.
Senator Oh: Victor Oh from Ontario.
Senator Saint-Germain: Raymonde Saint-Germain from Quebec.
Senator Dawson: Senator Dennis Dawson from Quebec.
Senator Bovey: Patricia Bovey, Manitoba.
Senator Cordy: Jane Cordy from Nova Scotia.
The Chair: And I’m Raynell Andreychuk, chair, from Saskatchewan.
I’m very pleased today that we have before us, in person, Greg Hill, the Audain Senior Curator of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Canada; and also in person is Ms. Kerry Swanson, Chair of the Board of Directors of imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival; and by video conference, Mr. Clayton Windatt — I hope you can hear me and that the video conference is working. Mr. Windatt is the Executive Director of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective.
The Chair: I’m going to start with you because we have had, in the past, problems with our video conferencing. So if it’s working now, I want to take that opportunity to hear from you.
I know that you’ve been approached to make opening statements. We hope that five or six minutes is sufficient. Any supporting material can be forwarded to us by the witnesses. Senators very much appreciate asking questions so they can get into the areas of their particular concern or interest.
To all three of you, welcome to the committee. Thank you for accepting our invitation.
Mr. Windatt, I’m going to start with you.
Mr. Windatt: Thank you very much for having me. My name is Clayton Windatt and I’m the Executive Director of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective, which is a national art service organization dedicated to Indigenous artists, curators and arts and culture workers.
We’ve been in place for just over 12 years, working across the country in a variety of ways, mostly dealing with advocating for better infrastructure within major arts institutions for Indigenous art to be shown and for Indigenous curators to have a little bit more agency over their own culture and how it’s represented.
I’m very honoured to be asked to be part of this committee’s research. I’ll start by going into the paper that we provided, which is dealing with a wide variety of issues in relation to the current arts infrastructure across the country. This paper and the content that I’m discussing was created by many people, including the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective’s board of directors, which consists of 10 Indigenous artists and curators across Canada contributing actively, along with the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective members as consultants.
We looked at the major shifts that have been taking place in Canada in general, especially over the last decade to 25 years. We started out by pointing out that almost all the arts infrastructures that the Canadian government has in place are built upon the Massey commission, which was held in 1949. Because that was the last time that a major research and development initiative looking at culture took place, there are just so many things that still exist within the Canadian arts infrastructure and the systemic issues of Canadian bureaucracy that are a little bit outdated or echoes of the past, we’ll say.
To get into the subjects which we made recommendations for, we made the statement, specifically and right up front, that we think that the artist resale right needs to be made law and explicitly included in trade agreements so that Canadian artists can collect royalties from outside Canada. This has been something the Canadian Artists’ Representation has been pushing for, for some time. We’ve just directed attention to this issue, mostly because it’s something that could happen quickly, and a lot of the frameworks for how it could be implemented have already been put in place.
The one thing that overall we’re looking at is that there is a need for a major national view of the arts, culture and heritage plays within Canadian society. One of the things we looked at was the idea of standards within arts institutions in general. That ranges from major institutions that are large, capital-based organizations that have huge catchment areas, such as the National Arts Centre, or smaller not-for-profits that rely more on municipal, provincial and federal grants, and how a look at the employment standards within these institutions needs to take place in order for the Canadian government to view it as a sector or an industry. That conversation feeds a little bit as well into the idea of defining what some of these employment conditions are in order for agencies such as Statistics Canada to actually start monitoring and projecting the role that culture is playing in the economy.
To go a little further, the paper talks about cultural pluralism and the current statistics on people who are visible minorities, Aboriginal populations and how Canada’s population has been steadily increasing to have a shift of up to approximately 20 per cent of all the population being of these peoples.
With that being said, the infrastructures are only now addressing the need for specific cultural resources. For instance, the Canadian Council for the Arts has created the new Creating, Knowing and Sharing Department, which I celebrate very heavily. The fact that it’s only happening now puts a little urgency on the issue being addressed by other sectors such as Canadian Heritage or other branches of government where approximately one third of the population is now not the typical Caucasian person walking on the street and, therefore, have different needs than maybe the frameworks that come from 50-plus years ago.
This also feeds into the idea that there are major institutions operating in Canada that have just now begun the processes of putting shared governance models in place. Boards of directors and management teams have started reflecting the cultural pluralism that our country already has in place, and steps need to be taken to encourage resources so that those major institutions can transition into having that cultural pluralism through representation.
Lastly, the main focus of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective is talking about Indigenous cultural rights. We want to thank Canada for signing on to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. We wanted to take that, that it has been signed, and say that Canada can play a role in pushing for that document to become international law, as opposed to just agreeing with the steps that have already been taken, to be pushing to have rights for Indigenous people, specifically under Article 31 where Indigenous people having the right to maintain, control, protect and develop the manifestations of their culture. This could become something where Canada takes the lead on best practices in a global environment.
Indigenous sovereignty is going to be part of the new Canadian approach both to our own population and to global markets. Currently we are focusing on inclusion of the existing infrastructures such as the National Gallery of Canada, which we have Greg here to help represent. There is a need for major development for specific institutions as well, and existing Indigenous institutions have more supports and structures in place.
I’ve laid out a lot of information in front of you, and my organization is prepared to respond to whatever the Senate needs to help the process moving forward.
The Chair: Thank you for your initial brief and the opportunity to contact you further if we need to.
I should say to all of our witnesses, we do have your biographies, but with such limited time, we circulate them, and we don’t put them on the record except by way of tabling them here. We know your backgrounds. It’s not that we’re diminishing those; we’re just well acquainted with them because we have the biographies and want to engage in a dialogue with you as we go forward.
Thank you, Mr. Windatt. I’ll turn to Mr. Greg Hill next.
Greg A. Hill, Audain Senior Curator, Indigenous Art, National Gallery of Canada: In addition to my work as a curator at the National Gallery of Canada, I did want to mention that I am a Mohawk Kanien’kehaka, member of the Six Nations Grand River territory, and French. My father is Mohawk; my mother is French. I’m the first Indigenous curator to work at the National Gallery of Canada. During my now nearly 18 years there, there’s been a lot of change. I’ll just touch on some of that.
In an age of increasing globalization, how does Canada distinguish itself in the world? In addition to the emphasis on cultural plurality through immigration, living within Canada are resident populations of Indigenous peoples, each with distinct languages and cultures that can be found nowhere else in the world but within these lands. This makes Canada distinct in the world.
This is important to keep in mind during an era of increased contact and communication globally. The potential risk of the loss of cultural specificity through the homogenization of cultures coming together can be mitigated by supporting and strengthening what makes Canada distinct in the world.
Within the visual arts, this is occurring in the world’s proliferation of international art exhibitions — the many recurring exhibitions at hundreds of biennials and triennials that are critiqued for fostering a kind of art that sheds cultural difference for a universal visual vocabulary.
How Canada has operated in the past and how Canada can work now to support Indigenous peoples and cultures sends a strong message out to the world. I believe cultural diplomacy with regard to Indigenous art has the potential to communicate not only that which makes Canada distinct in the world, but also that Canada is a welcoming nation that upholds the rights of individuals anywhere to live freely and define who they are — as an individual, as a member of a group or as a member of a nation.
How can this be done?
I will mention a few projects that are happening now at the National Gallery of Canada and a few ideas that we can perhaps discuss further.
We’re currently working on the next recurring exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada, which is a global survey of contemporary Indigenous art. There are Indigenous peoples all around the world. We put together an exhibition that brings Indigenous artists from around the world to Canada and we invite people from around the world to come here to Canada to see what’s happening in this global survey.
So that first exhibition occurred in 2013. It was called “Sakahan.” That is an Algonquin word that means to ignite something, so recognizing that these territories are Algonquin lands, we’re privileging Algonquin language in the naming of this exhibition and this recurring exhibition.
The next iteration of this exhibition, in this five-year recurring model, will actually happen in the fall of 2019, so please keep that in mind.
I think one of the important things that does is it works towards a goal of establishing the National Gallery of Canada as a centre for the study and promotion of Indigenous art. It’s unique in the world, this exhibition, and it’s something that I hope you all have an opportunity to witness for yourselves in November 2019.
Also, what’s happening at the National Gallery of Canada right now, having begun in 2017, is the renaming of the Canada galleries that are the permanent collection galleries that show to the world the story of visual art history in Canada. So these galleries are now known as the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries.
There is a very deep inclusion of Indigenous art that goes back thousands of years, before there ever was a Canada, up until the present day, to communicate the idea about not only this Indigenous art history that is part of the visual art history of Canada, but also to communicate the idea and the reality that Indigenous artists in Canada still exist and very much maintain links to cultural traditions of the past and bring them forward to the present day.
Also occurring now, at this moment, at the National Gallery of Canada, is the fourth presentation of the Canadian Biennial. This occurs every two years. It’s a collection show. It’s a show taking selections of recent acquisitions in the previous two years and making an exhibition of these acquisitions to the general public. It’s sort of a transparency model, but it is also to make a great exhibition and share what the gallery has been up to in terms of what it’s buying for the public in building collections for the future.
The Canadian Biennials have always included works by Indigenous artists and this will continue into the future. The Canadian Biennial now is an opportunity to display not only works by Canadian artists that have been collected in the past two years, but also works by international artists. Even though the mandate for the biennials has expanded, I would argue the inclusion of Indigenous art is getting even stronger.
The National Gallery of Canada, as you may know, has been very much involved in the production and presentations of Canadian art at the Venice Biennale. This year, the artist selected for that is Zacharius Kunuk of Isuma, a video production, so the team of Zacharius Kunuk and Norm Cohn have been selected, and this will be the first time an Inuit artist is selected for the Venice Biennale.
These are great things that are happening, and I have some ideas that I would throw out that we could perhaps discuss for the future.
More support for projects that reach out into the world and promote Indigenous art from Canada are important. I’ve mentioned “Sakahan” as an example and some of these other exhibitions. I think we need more support for the work of the Canada Council and their initiatives in developing a global network of Indigenous curators. There’s been a lot of great work that has yielded a lot of great benefits to Canada in developing those international networks and we’re seeing exhibitions come out of that and shared artist residencies in different countries.
That needs continued support, as does the unique collection of Indigenous art that resides within the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. It’s really a gem within the federal government, a collection that was started in the 1960s that has continued up until the present day. This is something that Canada could use diplomatically to promote Indigenous art abroad.
Finally, and with emphasis, this aligns with something that Clayton mentioned earlier about Indigenous sovereignty. An Indigenous cultural centre that is Indigenous-led and Indigenous-run that fosters and supports the many unique Indigenous cultures within these lands is necessary.
In the context of cultural diplomacy, a centre like this could operate as a kind of Indigenous embassy, sending the message of inclusion and strength and diversity out to the world that Canada can be this place.
The Chair: Thank you. We’ll now turn to Ms. Swanson.
Kerry Swanson, Chair, Board of Directors, imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival: Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me today. I’d also like to introduce myself. I’m Kerry Swanson, the chair of the board of imagineNATIVE, and an independent consultant based in Toronto. I am originally from Northern Ontario and my paternal family is from the Chapleau Cree First Nation and the Michipicoten First Nation. I have a long history with imagineNATIVE, and starting from 2004, I was also the previous director of the festival.
Now entering its nineteenth year, imagineNATIVE is the largest Indigenous film and media arts festival in the world. We showcase work made by Indigenous artists from Canada and around the world annually at our festival in Toronto, and throughout the year through a multitude of touring and partnership programs, many of which are international.
We are committed to excellence and innovation. We are a registered charity whose mission is to create a greater understanding of the diversity of Indigenous voices and perspectives.
I’ll talk specifically about our international work, hopefully to inspire and inform you about the things that are going on in the community.
Since the very beginning, imagineNATIVE has promoted cultural diplomacy from Indigenous perspectives. The Indigenous community is inherently international, with shared colonial histories, worldviews and understandings that create immediate social connections and bonds. The imagineNATIVE organization has been instrumental in harnessing the power and potential of these connections to build a global platform for Indigenous-made screen content and to foster a network of Indigenous creators and distributors worldwide.
Through imagineNATIVE, Canada is at the centre of an international network of Indigenous creators, producers and funders who co-produce, co-present, share knowledge and support each other across borders.
As a result of the success of our organizational structures and best practices, imagineNATIVE has supported the foundational development of two new Indigenous film festivals in Australia and New Zealand, as well as supporting the development of an entire international Indigenous film festival network.
We are the prime feeder of Indigenous content to film festivals around the world, resulting in major opportunities for Canada on the world stage.
One of imagineNATIVE’s most notable international partnerships is with the Berlin International Film Festival, also called Berlinale, with whom we have partnered for over a decade. The imagineNATIVE organiation was instrumental in the creation of a biannual native showcase at Berlinale, which allows Indigenous filmmakers from across the world to have their work screened at one of the world’s premiere film festivals.
In addition, imagineNATIVE also participates annually at the European Film Market at Berlinale, promoting Indigenous Canadian screen content at one of the largest film markets in the world. We present the annual Reel Kanata program, in partnership with the Embassy of Canada in Berlin, which is entering its sixth year.
This is a great example of how imagineNATIVE could work with other countries to further increase our Indigenous approach to cultural diplomacy. This is already happening. Our executive director only last month went to Helsinki where he presented a program of Indigenous short films hosted by the Canadian Ambassador to Finland showing Sami and Canadian Indigenous work together.
These are only a few examples of our international work. Over the last 18 years we’ve presented First Nations, Metis and Inuit films and videos in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Nepal, Taiwan, Switzerland, the U.K., U.S., Germany, Scandinavia, Russia and beyond. However, with the exception of the Canada Council for the Arts, there are limited funding opportunities for the international presentation and exchange. In the past, imagineNATIVE would access the Trade Routes program to bring buyers and curators internationally and the loss of that program was felt as a profound loss. Our limited resources for international presentation mean that we cannot come close to meeting the requests we receive from other countries.
When we started this work almost 20 years ago, there were limited opportunities for Indigenous presentation. We are now seeing an explosion of growth in Indigenous content and an unprecedented desire from audiences around the world to access the perspectives and incredible talents of Indigenous artists. This is only going to increase in line with a sector exponentially increasing with new innovations such as virtual and augmented reality, of which imagineNATIVE is already a leading presenter.
From the foundations laid by the festival, international audiences have had the opportunity to learn about the beauty, richness and complexity of Canada directly from First Nations, Metis and Inuit voices. They have heard the brutal truths of our colonial history and current realities as well as about the expansive histories of multiple nations over thousands of years. They have learned that our national identity is richer, deeper and older than they ever imagined.
Senator Murray Sinclair has spoken about the power of media arts in serving as a key mechanism for reconciliation. We know this to be true from our own experiences. Cinema and digital content are the access points for understanding Canada’s true history from the perspectives of the First Peoples. It is only by reckoning with this history that we can move forward in solidarity and prosperity as a nation. This government says that it knows this to be true. By making a real commitment to generational change for Indigenous people, Canada has the opportunity to be a leader in cultural diplomacy at a time when it is needed more than ever.
Canada’s process of reconciliation has the potential to position us in a way where we can imagine a new future for our country. And when we can dream about a shared future in ways that include us all, it speaks to the health, vitality and leadership of our nation, not just at home but also to the world.
If the Government of Canada wants to incorporate Indigenous voices in its international foreign policy in ways that are truthful, authentic and self-determined, we are ready. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you on developing or supporting strategies that recognize the value of Indigenous knowledge and approaches. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you. I thank all three of you for your different perspectives. You have generated a list of questioners from senators. I’m going to start with Senator Bovey.
Senator Bovey: I want to thank you all for being here today. I think, Mr. Windatt, you said it well when you were talking about significant shifts. I think honestly the progress of the work of the Indigenous voice on Canada’s cultural scene has been really significant in the last number of years. I’m thrilled there’s an Inuit artist representing Canada at the Venice Biennale, and of course Rebecca Belmore had that wonderful installation in Venice some years ago now.
Obviously, to go forward internationally, we have to have a solid base nationally.
Mr. Windatt, you mentioned the artist resale right. With all due respect, to get that on the international stage, don’t we need to have the artist resale right extant in Canada too so that when a collector sells a work they may have bought from you, you’re getting some of that resale value? They’re buying it for $25 or $30 sometimes and selling it for $35,000. So I just wonder, can you expect that to happen on the international stage before we have it on the national stage?
Mr. Windatt: In response to that, certain countries around the world already have certain levels of resale rights in place. Canada is one of the countries that currently doesn’t.
I’m definitely not the best person to be speaking about the artist resale right. I’m knowledgeable of it, but I would definitely encourage the Senate to contact the Canadian Artists’ Representation, CARFAC, and April Britski who has been leading the charge in pushing for artist resale rights to become Canadian law.
I think it’s more of a framework of understanding, that if we put it in place for ourselves, then when we’re pushing into trade negotiations, we can be underlining it and putting it in so our artists, when those trades are put in place, other countries have recourse to collect royalties on their work as well.
Senator Bovey: I have sort of a general question, then, for Mr. Hill and Ms. Swanson. I think it’s really exciting to see the cultural plurality. I’m concerned about the risk of losing the cultural distinctions, as you mentioned, Mr. Hill.
Going forward and building on the accomplishments of the last 10 years that you’ve discussed, what needs to be done? You mentioned the loss of the Trade Routes program and what that meant in terms of getting the Canadian material out there.
What would you recommend that we recommend to Global Affairs or the Government of Canada as a whole to put in place to give the tools you feel are required to get the Canadian cultural voice out there? Do we need cultural attachés back everywhere or not? Do we need other mechanisms to promote partnerships? Do we need the Trade Routes program back? What would your recommendation be? That’s what we’re searching for.
Ms. Swanson: We would certainly welcome the reinstatement of the Trade Routes program, but that was one very small envelope for fostering exchange. That just allowed us to bring programmers and curators to the festival, and they would then be able to take the work to their own communities.
Funding to allow us to partner and foster those relationships would certainly be welcome. There’s very little opportunity for that at the moment. We don’t have a staff person, for example, dedicated to building that international partnership. Those relationships have just organically happened on an ad hoc basis. So a strategy that actually allowed organizations to invest in bringing work over to other countries and creating those partnerships would be welcome.
Mr. Hill: I think when we’re talking about establishing new frameworks in working with Indigenous peoples in a diplomatic sense, we need perhaps to recognize at the outset that we’re talking about nations within a nation. Cultural diplomacy is really between Canada and many nations that exist within Canada. When we operate from that standpoint, then we’re recognizing sovereignty for different Indigenous nations in Canada. From there we can go forward in partnership. This puts substance behind a lot of the words that are used in government now to refer to developing a new relationship, a new partnership with Indigenous peoples.
Moving forward through foreign affairs, perhaps you have delegates from different First Nations working with Canada and co-presenting, working from that principle of partnership, putting substance behind this idea of building new relationships with Canada and Indigenous peoples within Canada.
Senator Bovey: I think there are many other people who want to ask questions, so I’ll stop for now.
The Chair: I’ll put you on a second round.
Senator Bovey: Yes, please.
Senator Dawson: I’m going to continue on the resale. If the walls of this room could talk, if you look at the quality of what’s on the walls, the value it has taken and the time they have been here, these ones won’t be resold. But were they to be resold, the artists who produced these products would get nothing out of the raised value of that.
If we’re going to be promoting arts in general from Canada but in particular, in your case, when we’re talking about this room, we have to protect that resale value. We have to be sure that you get a percentage of that. I do believe it doesn’t only apply internationally, and I agree with you on that, but why should we promote if you’re not going to get your share of that value?
Mr. Windatt, I think that should be one of your priorities. Even though it’s a little bit away from our mandate, if we’re promoting an international Canadian presence, we should protect the value of that international presence. I don’t know if all three of you could comment on that resale value and what we can do to protect it.
Ms. Swanson: If we look to Europe, they have this in the EU. Canadian artists are already missing out because with their work, when it’s resold in the EU, they’re not able to receive compensation for the resale of their work in a country that legally requires artists to be compensated for the resale of their work. There are other places you can look to for these models. Maybe Clayton can add to that because this is more his area of expertise than mine.
Mr. Windatt: I’m actually thinking about the different major contributions towards resales that have happened in Canada, to try to give an example. I think of Tony Urquhart’s work The Earth Returns to Life, which is an example CARFAC uses, where the original sold for $250 and recently resold for $10,000. With an effective resale rate in place of 5 per cent, that would only give a return of an additional $375 to the artist, but the amount given as a return was actually more than they had originally received for the work.
So it is about holding a certain level of standards on the value of art. I know there are a lot of varying opinions on how it should move forward within Canada because in the end, people think it will alter the price of work, and it will, but as Kerry said, there are so many countries that already have it in place. Unless Canada falls into suit, as individuals, we have no real recourse to follow up with things in other countries as well as our own.
I think it’s about valuing ourselves. And valuing our artists is really the core of it. I hope that comes across outside of the artist resale rights specific conversations that I’ve presented as well. The reason we’re attempting to push for so many different areas of arts, culture and heritage to be monitored, evaluated or considered is that we all value them and we want other people to see the value in the way that we do.
Senator Dawson: I think that’s a very good example of a recommendation we can make outside of the scope of the Foreign Affairs side of it, but it’s certainly within the interests of Canadians that we make that message clear when we make our report on the resale value. Again, I repeat, this room is a very good example of that.
I’m sure if you go to Canadian embassies around the world, you will see art that is of value. Were it to be resold, you wouldn’t get a percentage of that decent growth in value.
Senator Oh: How much of a budget do you have per year to promote the arts locally, nationally and internationally?
Ms. Swanson: As an organization, imagineNATIVE just received a very large increase from the Canada Council. Our budget at the moment is around $1.5 million. It only got up to that in the last two years. Prior to that, it was under $1 million. We’ve been doing this work for 16 or 17 years with a budget of under $1 million. A lot of that funding is very specific to project-based work, and the majority of it is based in Canada.
For the annual festival in Toronto and for the Canadian touring work and community work that we do, there isn’t a large percentage allocated to international work. In fact, it’s a very small percentage. I don’t know the number, but I think it would be $20,000 or $30,000. It’s a very small amount that we would dedicate to international work. We do get a grant from Canada Council to bring a delegation to Berlin for the film market, but that’s very specific project funding. Our budget has a small amount dedicated to international.
Senator Oh: So far, how many delegations have you taken abroad for promoting Canadian Indigenous arts?
Ms. Swanson: I think it’s the third or fourth year of taking the delegation to the European film market. That is the only delegation that we have participated in. That’s a partnership with other countries, so other countries are working together to host an international Indigenous delegation at Berlinale.
We just send individuals from the festival. Usually, it’s the executive director who goes on his own to partner with other film festivals in different countries. It’s usually just one person going and presenting films. Sometimes the artists are invited as well, in other countries.
Senator Oh: When the art is sold at exhibitions, what percentage does the artist get?
Ms. Swanson: It depends. If the artists don’t have a distributor, then they get 100 per cent. Some artists have distributors and they would get a percentage of the work. The festival doesn’t take any money from the sale of the work. That’s not what we do. In fact, it’s the opposite. We pay artists to present their work wherever we go. It’s our mandate to pay artists’ fees. Whenever we bring work anywhere, we pay the artist a fee for presenting their work.
Senator Oh: And Mr. Hill?
Mr. Hill: It might be important to note that institutions like imagineNATIVE and the National Gallery of Canada aren’t commercial enterprises. We exist to promote artists. We don’t sell our works. For example, the National Gallery of Canada acquires a work for the benefit of everyone in Canada for the future, indefinitely. We buy works for the collection and we keep them in the collection. They’re not to be sold.
So this notion of supporting the artists by selling their work isn’t part of the equation. That said, I think the importance of resale rights for artists is very important, and one that especially impacts Indigenous artists. As we know, visual artists are among the bottom tier of income earners across Canada and then if you look at Indigenous artists within that sector, the problems are much more dramatic.
So the importance of the principle of an artist being able to benefit from the resale of their own work of art — and we’re talking about a small percentage — just as that secondary sale of their work of art, and the owner selling that, benefits tremendously, is something that Canada should do as a part of our cultural diplomacy, not to be dragging our heels on this but to be one of the leading nations to take a stand and say, “This is something that is important, that we support,” and be a model. So that would be, I think, a form of cultural diplomacy that we could all get behind.
Senator Oh: How much funding do you have a year to buy Indigenous art? That’s important to help the Indigenous artists.
Mr. Hill: Yes. So the National Gallery of Canada has a separate appropriation from the federal government specifically for acquisitions, and that is an $8 million pool of money that gets divided between all of the departments at the National Gallery of Canada. In recent years, we’ve been averaging in the area of $500,000 spent on acquiring works by Indigenous artists for the collection. All of these numbers are kind of abstract because they have to be in relation to the scale of the operation. So $1 million for imagineNATIVE does a lot, and $2 million will do more than twice as much. Whereas $1 million at the National Gallery of Canada, which has an enormous budget because it’s the largest cultural visual art institution in the country, has less impact. Nevertheless, when there’s more money, more things get done. When we talk about increasing budgets — and we talk about budgets — the more that can be directed to cultural institutions, we see a great economic impact from that.
The Chair: I’m not sure whether any of you want to answer this. I’m a little confused — and that’s my own lack of knowledge — about resale. Is the movement now to say resale and resale and resale should have some portion that should go back to the artist? Is that the trend? So there’s a new artist in Saskatchewan, and he comes to my door and says, “I’m selling, $25.” That’s what he wants; that’s what I give him. So then, if I resell, I should have to keep track of my receipts, et cetera, to be able to say, “Okay, I’m going to resell, probably through a gallery or something like that, and now it’s worth $150.” I’m going to have to understand that, built into that price, would be something back to the original artist. So it’s like a copyright that you’re going to follow. You’re saying — I think it was Ms. Swanson — that there are countries doing that now or countries contemplating doing it? That’s what I wanted to know.
Ms. Swanson: Yes, I believe the EU does this already for visual arts. Is that not the case?
Mr. Hill: It’s in place in different places around the world. I’m far from an expert in this area, but it’s a small percentage of the total value. I think 5 per cent is a number I’ve heard at different times. But it’s exactly as you’re describing. When a work is resold, a portion of the proceeds goes back to the artist.
Ms. Swanson: It’s a royalty, just like in music and other disciplines.
The Chair: It’s a royalty system. Okay. So we should be investigating this part too.
Mr. Hill: The reason behind that would be that the reason the value of a work increases is because the artist continues to work on their career and produce works. So it’s because of their work that the value of the work increases. In principle, they should be able to benefit from that as well.
The Chair: I just wondered because when we’re talking art and culture, we’re still struggling with defining cultural diplomacy, which is what we have to come back to. So we’re not quite sure what our definitions are and how broadly that would be based. But I wanted that for the record that that’s an area we’ll have to look at and see what the ups and downs are vis-à-vis foreign policy, which is what we’re basically studying. So thank you for that.
You have a supplementary question, Senator Massicotte.
Senator Massicotte: On this issue. I’m not the expert; I’m learning. I’ve got lots to learn, so you may be here for a while.
Having said that, on the resale subject, I’m having a little bit of difficulty. I’d love it to occur. If I bought an Emily Carr, I’d love to do that. It’s a good idea. I don’t know how it works, though because, if I were to buy a piece of art and I have a future obligation at resale, I’m going to pay less because you’re adding on to my net cost. How do you keep track? It looks more like an annuity to me than a warranty package or something. The good and bad news for the artist is that, usually, his work goes up in value after he’s dead. What happens to resale? Do the successors get the money?
Ms. Swanson: I don’t think we have the answers to all of the questions on this issue. It’s definitely something that would require — sorry, Clayton; go ahead.
Mr. Windatt: It’s really intended for when transfer of ownership takes place. It’s not the kind of thing that you think about when the purchase is taking place. It’s more when an estate is being transferred or an auction is happening or you’re transferring everything to a dealer, and it becomes significant.
I really enjoyed the idea of paying something because someone says, “Could you buy a piece of my work for $25?” And then later on it’s $150, and then you have to keep track of that. If you’re talking about times a few thousand pieces of work, suddenly people are doing a lot of administration for a very small amount of money being transferred. But I really feel like it’s more designed for a market, the idea that you buy a piece of work for $100 while there is an artist who is up-and-coming, and then, 10 or 20 years later, you’re selling works at $10,000 or $20,000. That emerging artist doesn’t reap any of the benefits of their intellectual property. They still, 90 per cent of the time, retain ownership over the visual copyright of that work. There are very few instances where, by buying the original piece of work, you actually own the intellectual property of it.
So it’s really about the Copyright Act in Canada, the way that we look at how this goes, and it’s kind of designed more for the art market, where we’re talking about things that are thousands of dollars and not hundreds. They might have been hundreds in the beginning, but, by the time we’re talking about the effort of monitoring it, really we’re talking about thousands. It’s similar to saying, “Would you get insurance for the art work that you paid $25 for?” Most people would say, “No, I’m not going to go and get an insurance policy for that.” But, if someone is monitoring a piece of art work and paying attention to the value that is constantly increasing, they are paying an insurance policy for that art work because, if it is stolen or destroyed, they don’t want to lose out on the investment. It’s really about that idea that art work grows like a stock or a bond, and that’s really what we’re talking about, that idea that, right now, Canada’s art market is hindered as a result of not having this in place.
The Chair: Thank you. I think that’s an area we’re really going to have to explore.
Senator Bovey: For us, we need to flag it, and, as Mr. Windatt said, it is a copyright issue. The Copyright Act, we know, is being redone, so I think that will come back in another guise, in another place.
The Chair: Maybe another committee, with Senator Dawson.
Senator Bovey: The important part is the business side and the international business side. We’re entering into international trade agreements, and how do the arts fit into that?
Senator Cordy: That was actually one of my questions, so I’m glad that a lot of people asked. I was sitting here thinking, “Am I the only one who doesn’t understand this?” So it was nice to have all of the questions asked.
I’m wondering: Do many of our embassies incorporate culture and art into Canada’s foreign policy? Are they using it? You go to the embassy in Washington, and they have their art gallery downstairs with Canadian art, which is really nice to see. I was at the embassy in Paris, and they had just finished a book fair the week before, Canadian literature. Are all of the embassies doing this? Are a few of the embassies doing it, or does it depend on who the ambassador is?
Mr. Hill: I can talk to my experiences at the National Gallery and the increasing involvement and interest in partnerships with embassies that we’ve had over the last several years, partially due to exhibitions like “Sakahan,” which brought 89 artists from 16 different countries, nearly 200 works to the National Gallery. Embassies became very interested in the fact that we were bringing artists from their countries to Canada to show their art here. You cited a couple of examples of Canadian embassies abroad supporting and promoting culture. I think that’s common to many embassies. Part of their mandate is to promote their cultures abroad.
What I hope is the subject of this Senate committee is that we really see Canada get behind this even more and promote, in particular, Indigenous artists as part of Canada abroad. That’s part of what makes Canada distinct in the world. We have a few examples of ways that we’re doing that. This is something that we can do a lot more of.
Ms. Swanson: It does seem to be done on an ad hoc basis as opposed to having a strategic approach across the embassies. We’ve worked with a few of the embassies, but it would be great to see an overriding strategy around incorporating Indigenous art and fostering those kinds of partnerships across the board. We can see how simple it is to do it if the will and the money is behind it. The work is there; the artists are ready. It’s actually an easy thing to do in a strategic way.
Mr. Windatt: I agree fully. I didn’t comment about a lot of the current things the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective is working on, but we are working with the embassy in Washington, D.C., after sharing information and encouraging different collaborations where they had reached out looking for support, recommendations for different actions. As a result, they came up with resources at their fiscal year-end to put together an ad hoc delegation to go to Washington next month and start pushing Indigenous curatorial collaborations between Canada and the United States. We have a team of six people going next month because we were open to helping, which at the beginning had no resources dedicated to it.
I want to agree so much that a bit of initiative being pushed towards Indigenous representation as a priority would result in a lot of the embassies around the world looking beyond the expectations of just status quo and trying to find people on the ground in those regions that are the connecting points between the people on the ground in our regions. Canadian Indigenous people engaging with different Indigenous global markets — it’s kind of awesome.
Senator Cools: I was just glancing at this document and realizing that it is the witness’s document, Clayton Windatt’s. In the third paragraph, headed “intellectual property,” the following statement is made. I think this could motivate us a bit. It says:
The artist resale right needs to be made law and explicitly included in trade agreements so that Canadian artists can collect royalties in other countries.
I think this is something we can look at in a deeper way. It goes on to say:
The Canadian art market is hindered greatly by this absence and requires Canada to take a lead on defending intellectual property.
Well, there it is. There’s something we could work on.
The Chair: I think that’s what we’re saying. This is all a new subject area that we need to explore and see where it takes us.
Senator Massicotte: When you look at the rationale, for example, at the Canada Council for the Arts, and so on, their purpose, cultural diplomacy, is what their objective is. They’re saying that there’s self-objective for governments to spend money and spend money elsewhere, outside of the country. What they basically say all the time is their focus, their rationale is to present Canada in a light that’s favourable but that’s also distinct from other countries. In other words, purposely — and rightfully so — they present us in a positive light in things that distinguish us as a special society. Indigenous art is an easy one. Given your own expertise, what else should we portray outside Canada relative to our country, which is obviously favourable, and so on? Any other suggestions?
The Chair: If you haven’t thought of that, perhaps you could submit it later. Perhaps Mr. Hill is in an institution that covers more than Indigenous art, so you might have a comment on that. I think we’ve covered the importance of Indigenous art in the broad sense of the word “art.”
Mr. Hill: I do work for the National Gallery of Canada. I’m the senior curator of Indigenous art, so my focus has been to promote Indigenous art. We have to think about where we’re coming from to get to where we are now and where we want to be in the future. It wasn’t that long ago that there was no Indigenous art in the National Gallery of Canada. It wasn’t until 1986 that the first work of a contemporary First Nations artist was purchased for the collection.
You ask the question: What can be done to promote Canada in general? I think my role and my responsibility is to promote Indigenous art because that has been so suppressed for so long and we’re only now being able to realize a lot of the opportunities that have been overlooked in the past.
To my earlier point, what makes Canada distinct in the world is its Indigenous artists and the Indigenous cultures that are part of Canada. I want to reiterate that point.
The Chair: Mr. Windatt, we’re really out of time. Will it be a short comment?
Mr. Windatt: Very short. The one thing I can think about to promote outside of specifically Indigenous art is profiling Indigenous relationships, where multiple communities allow for Indigenous leadership to take place. When Indigenous leaders, or curators, or artists are empowered to lead conversations that are not specifically about Indigenous-only issues, that’s something that Canada can work more on. That is, where it isn’t just about Indigenous people as a subject matter; where it’s Indigenous people in real positions where they’re leading initiatives that are guiding the entire population of the country.
The Chair: Thank you. I think that’s a good note to end on.
I want to thank all three of our presenters today. We’ve certainly been informed. We’re trying to get a handle on our study, because it is broad. It was done so intentionally. We thought we could narrow it, but we seem to be expanding and expanding. That’s not a bad thing. It will just be a greater challenge for the committee to come up with some doable resolutions for the Canadian government and Canadians.
If you have any more thoughts or information that you might think helpful to our study, please send it along. You certainly highlighted the presence of Aboriginal art in Canada as a significant force in our foreign policy, and we will continue to study that.
Thank you very much for being with us, Mr. Windatt, by video conference, and thank you, Mr. Hill and Ms. Swanson, for being present today.
In our second panel, we have before us, by video conference, from Los Angeles — and I’m sure the weather is better there at the moment than here, although we’re doing better — Ms. Tonya Williams, Executive Director, President and Founder of Reelworld Film Festival; and here with us in Ottawa is Ms. Louise Imbeault, President, Société nationale de l’Acadie. Welcome to both of our presenters.
I’m going to turn to our video conference guest, just to be sure the equipment is working. We continue to have some small technical problems, but hopefully they’re solved.
The biographies have been circulated. We do not anticipate reading them out so you have more time in your presentation and for the questions.
Welcome to both of our witnesses. I’m going to now turn to Ms. Williams for a short presentation.
Tonya Williams, Executive Director, President and Founder, Reelworld Film Festival: Thank you so much, Madam Chair and the rest of the committee. I feel honoured being asked to come and contribute my thoughts to this debate.
I arrived in Canada in 1970 at the age of 12 years old. One of the first things most immigrants do is turn on the television. For many, it is a way to learn English, but they are also learning about the culture and values of that country. What I saw as a young child was that no one on TV looked like me or my parents. It can be a humbling experience to feel invisible in a community.
It was a few years later, in 1977, when I landed a national campaign for milk that encompassed TV commercials, billboards and magazines, that I really became a household face. People stopped me everywhere, and I saw the pride in the faces of other Black Canadians who finally felt welcomed into a country many of them had lived in for decades.
If Canada wishes to be a country that is more welcoming to immigrants and international businesses, then it is imperative that it shows the world the diverse communities that make up this country, and there’s no better way to show that than through our television shows and films. But we must also be sensitive that these TV shows and films not fall into the danger of presenting negative stereotypes of their diverse citizens. That can have a negative backlash.
In June of last year, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland rolled out a new foreign policy. It was broken down into five points. I was encouraged to see that number one on that list was that:
Canada will make its diversity an example to the world and that it will stand up for the persecuted and the downtrodden.
She says Canada will “set a standard” for how women, gays and lesbians, transgendered people, racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious minorities and Indigenous people are treated in the world. That is a very clear statement.
Number four on her list was that Canada’s new feminist international development strategy will reorient plans so Canada can fight poverty in the world by focusing on women and girls.
It seems we have some clear directives we could be using in the shaping of our cultural diplomacy. These two factors are things that Canada and Canada alone could do really well. Let us bring together those organizations and initiatives in Canada that have a focus on these particular issues and let’s come up with a strategy that gets the word out that Canada is a key world player in promoting these platforms.
We have a rich history in Canada, and we should be encouraging our film-makers to mine that history and the many cultures, religions and races that make Canada what it is today. This is something I believe would be helpful in the quest for better foreign diplomacy.
No one can deny the value of Canadian dance, music, novels, paintings, sculptures, poetry or theatre companies touring the world and how that has impacted the world’s perceptions of Canada in such positive ways. There’s also no denying that a film, a TV show or video from Canada reaches the masses in greater numbers in the fastest way. Those milk commercials I mentioned catapulted me into the national arena, but it was the show “The Young and the Restless” that I starred in for 20 years that catapulted me into the international arena. Within weeks of my first airing on the show, I was receiving thousands of letters from around the world and many of those people were also people of colour, like myself, who lived in countries that were not as welcoming to their communities. So let us remember to use our screen-based programs to enhance our arts and culture diplomacy around the world.
Here is something that happens to me all the time. Someone asks me where I’m from, and I tell them “Canada,” and they pause for a moment, confused, and ask me if there are many Black people in Canada. I explain to them we have a large and robust population of not only Black people but all racialized communities and that in fact Canada is considered one of the most diverse countries in the world. This seems to be something that the world is not aware of, and you only have to look at the arts, culture and programming that we send abroad to understand why people think this. There is very little diversity in the things we send abroad that reflect who and what Canada is.
The stories we create are not just seen by audiences in Canada; they go all around the world and are seen in even some of the most remote places. Those people are getting a glimpse of who we are as Canadians, what our values and belief systems are. Our stories can do much to change the values in other countries too. The American Association of Black Women Physicians honoured me one year and told me that specifically because of a character I played, which was a doctor, there was an increase in registration of Black women to study medicine. That is a powerful impact to have on an audience.
I also played a character whose husband, unbeknownst to her, had HIV. This was eye-opening to many people in the early 1990s when the assumption was that only homosexuals could contract the disease. We won a Red Ribbon of Hope presented through the academy in Los Angeles for informing and educating our audience on this important issue. We can save lives through the messages we send out through our stories. What better use of our arts and culture can there be?
A film can expose someone to a culture, a country that they may never see, and that connects them to the whole world and makes others seem less like strangers and more like family.
In 2000, having worked in Canada and the U.S. for over 20 years in the entertainment industry, I came up with an initiative to fill a hole I felt was sadly missing in Canada. Many of our diverse artists were leaving in droves for the U.S. due to lack of opportunity in Canada. I came up with Reelworld Film Festival. Its sole purpose was to give exposure, promote and create development opportunities for film, TV and media emerging artists for the Indigenous and racialized communities. Although we had a lot of talent, very few people in Canada knew about them and certainly even fewer people worldwide knew of them.
Over the past 18 years we have struggled to survive, but what keeps us going is the desperation these artists have for us to continue. So many of them have directly mentioned that Reelworld was instrumental to their successes and now many of them travel internationally to present their work. They are Canadian arts ambassadors. This has elevated the perception of Canada in so many positive ways.
In Toronto alone, there are 120 film festivals. We have thousands of film festivals across Canada, and this is something that’s not promoted internationally. There should be more exchange between film festivals, exchange of staff, filmmakers, actors and producers between the provinces of Canada and also around the world.
You speak of wanting more international cultural diplomacy, but that diplomacy should start at home in Canada. We need more resources to grow our industry here so that you can benefit from it out there in the rest of the world. So many initiatives that individuals have started with their own funds have benefited the Government of Canada, but these small initiatives need your help.
Without receiving any government funding, Reelworld has had the opportunity to take its programming to other countries, such as Uganda, Zanzibar and some of the Caribbean islands. I have seen firsthand the impact our Canadian stories have had on an audience’s awareness to human rights and how interested and well received our Canadian values are embraced. This all adds to the value of our foreign diplomacy. Our film festivals in Canada should be helped to send more of their programming to other countries.
We cannot view our foreign diplomacy through the lens of trade and finance. One of the things I heard one of your witnesses and senators mention are there are primary countries that Canada focuses on, countries like U.K., Australia, France, Germany, China, India and the U.S. It’s important that we focus some of our energies there, but no one mentioned any African countries or Caribbean countries, and these are areas where we have tremendous populations in Canada.
Here is what I’d love to see: a Canadian delegation goes to China and presents arts and culture from our Canadian, African, Caribbean, Latino, Middle Eastern communities. That would be exceptional foreign diplomacy. With China’s terrible human rights records, what better way to show a positive impact than to celebrate the differences and diversity of Canada? Let’s also be the big, big fish in a small country, where they might be thirsting for arts and culture.
But if you want to speak about increasing revenue for Canada, I have many times had to convince racially diverse directors and producers from Hollywood that they would be able to cast and shoot their films in Canada because there are so many racially diverse actors and crews that exist there. This is not something that is known to many, and I believe we lose jobs because of this.
One of the questions Senator Bovey asked in a previous session that was wonderful was “How does one choose from all this art, between the ballet, the polka or modern dance?” Here’s my simple answer. It doesn’t matter what the dance is. It matters that there is racial diversity in it. Let the dancers who are dancing the polka be from every race under the sun. Let the ballet reflect the true diversity that is unique to Canada. That would be extraordinary and would leave lasting impressions in those countries that have such intolerance to their own diversity.
Resource allocation. I want you to recognize that whenever the government starts talking about arts and culture, you bring fear to the hearts of everyone who works in arts and culture, because many times the talks can be used as a tool to further decrease spending in our sectors. It is hard to build a strong industry when, each year, the policies of a government hold us in precarious financial positions. We never know if we’re going to get our funding for that year, so it’s hard to plan for the long term when the funding is doled out sparingly, year by year. In some years, those same arts groups don’t get any funding at all.
Here is another concern: The word “diversity” pretty much encompasses everything that is not White and English. If you were to tell me that the fund was going to delegate 10 per cent to diversity, that would be a nightmare number for those in that category. Basically, you would be saying that 10 per cent who are not diverse will be receiving 90 per cent of the funding and all other diversities, ranging from race, ethnicity, language, disabilities, gender, religion — all of us — will be fighting for the 10 per cent left for us. Of course, my numbers are not exact, but you get my meaning. We have to look carefully at our allocation, and make sure it’s split up evenly in all sectors.
There is not time here, but we have a problem with the requirements of these grants we write. They are time-consuming, and the measurements are so very hard and daunting for small emerging organizations to handle.
On another note, I’m not sure if you know this, but one of our Black directors, Clement Virgo, who hailed originally from Jamaica, is the creator of the Oprah Winfrey Network show “Greenleaf” that was just nominated for three NAACP Image Awards in Hollywood, which I won in 2000 and 2002. He also directed and produced the “Book of Negroes” that was such a national and international success. We need to celebrate that in Canada.
Are you aware that our actors union, ACTRA, holds an event in L.A. each year and presents an award of excellence? I won it in 2005, Sandra Oh won it in 2008 and Molly Parker won it this year. We have so much talent in and from Canada, and we do so little to promote it. Thank goodness for Canada’s Walk of Fame, something else that should be heavily promoted internationally.
There is just not enough time in my six minutes — which I have gone over — to share with you all my thoughts and ideas on what I believe could be done to enhance our foreign diplomacy. It would entail collaborations with certain entities, and it would involve our Canadian celebrities who live all around the world. It would entail a marketing strategy that would be released in phases, online and through contests. We would need to make it fun and engaging, and we would need to be bold, out-of-the-box thinkers, with no holds barred. It would be a nice blend of political left-brain strategists and free-thinking right-brain artists.
There was a time in the entertainment industry when you could develop a project just for TV, film, theatre or radio, but the world multi-platform is now the goal, and so it should be for us. I love Senator Andreychuk’s idea of arts and culture including so much more: food, sports. Let’s not limit ourselves. Let’s make one delicious pie and not a bunch of cupcakes.
One of the reasons that U.S. foreign diplomacy works so well is that they integrate themselves in other people’s countries. Look at our Canadian broadcasts. The United States has ABC, CBS, NBC and so many American networks that our citizens have become reliant on. It’s hard to compete with those shows and those budgets. Where are our networks in foreign countries? Nowhere. America makes these long-term investments to reap political and diplomatic advantages over other countries.
Have you ever been watching a film and it’s set in New York, and you see the streets and buildings of New York, or it’s in Paris and you see the landmarks that clearly let you know you’re in Paris, or in the U.K.? You mentioned you wanted to create a better branding campaign. The first step is to have films and TV shows set in Canadian cities that spotlight those cities as another character in the story. There’s no better branding than that. You don’t need to stick a maple leaf on it to be Canadian. You show our CN Tower, our streets with its nightlife, the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, Niagara Falls, and the wonderful buildings and vistas that exist across Canada. When you show it enough times, people start to recognize it as Canadian in the way we recognize Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower.
International productions that come to Canada do everything in their power to snuff out that they are in Canada. Canada is the sound stage to look like New York or Chicago. Why can’t Canada be the country the story is taking place in?
Thank you so much.
The Chair: Thank you. That was a long six minutes, I must say, but you covered so much and so many of the areas that I thought it would be disconnecting your message if we only heard a portion of it.
I’m now going to turn to Ms. Imbeault to present her comments, and then hopefully we’ll have time for questions.
Louise Imbeault, President, Société Nationale de l’Acadie: Honourable senators, members of the committee, my sincere thanks for welcoming me here today on behalf of the Société Nationale de l’Acadie, or SNA.
Cultural diplomacy is one of the pillars of Canada’s foreign policy. It is of paramount importance to the people of Acadie, their arts and culture industries and their international presence. As you may know, I have a personal interest in the arts, culture and heritage. I have spent nearly my entire professional life defending Acadian and francophone culture in Canada, first as a journalist, and then as the head of Radio-Canada Acadie. My efforts have continued with Bouton d’Or Acadie, a publishing house that contributes in its own small way to promoting French-language Acadian literature.
The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy defines cultural diplomacy as follows:
. . . a course of actions, which are based on and utilize the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity, whether to strengthen relationships, enhance socio-cultural cooperation or promote national interests.
As a proud representative of the Acadian people in the performing arts in Atlantic Canada, nationally and internationally, the SNA quickly grasped the importance of the arts and culture, from the time it was founded in 1881, 135 years ago.
Culture is an integral part of our Acadian and Canadian identity. Further, it propagates our national values in a way that trade alone cannot. That is why I wish to reiterate to you today the importance of investing in cultural diplomacy and establishing stable, long-term funding so we can continue extending Canada’s influence around the world, and its rich culture in particular.
Moreover, as a strategic and systemic part of Canada’s foreign policy, culture can influence public opinion abroad and thereby generate support for a country’s foreign policies. It is a gentler, but no less critical or transversal part of diplomacy.
People have engaged in cultural diplomacy for centuries, but globalization, digital communications and the multiplication of contacts between cultures have placed Canada’s rich identity, arts, heritage and intellect at the forefront. Taking a step back, it is also clear that we Acadians have benefited a great deal from this, in particular as regards creating and maintaining partnerships, building our reputation and promoting our cultural products and interests internationally. The promotion of the arts and culture effectively opens doors to all kinds of relationships and exports, not just cultural ones.
Cultural diplomacy has been at the heart of the Acadian national vision for over a century. By forging ties with the Francophonie, in Quebec and France in particular, we established our first newspapers, schools and colleges. We imported textbooks in French when they were sorely lacking. We projected ourselves collectively into the international arena starting in the 1960s, through agreements, exchanges and collaboration involving universities, professions and the arts. More recently, we have made tremendous strides in the past 25 years. Among other things, the Congrès mondial acadien, created in 1994, has been held five times; partnerships have been forged between the SNA and Louisiana, Quebec, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and Belgium; the SNA’s membership in the International Organization of La Francophonie; and the establishment of the Stratégie de promotion des artistes acadiens sur la scène international, or SPAASI, a strategy for the international promotion of Acadian arts, and the Office de la mobilité internationale en Acadie, or OMIA, a body that promotes Acadian mobility internationally.
More important still is that Acadie’s desire for international exposure coincided with the shift in Canadian diplomacy. From 1995 to 2005, values and culture were one of the three pillars of Canada’s foreign policy, along with economic growth and global peace and stability. Yet 2005 marked the start of the decline of Canadian cultural diplomacy. Projects that had been federally funded until then, such as the trade routes program and the public diplomacy program, were eliminated, which impacted our artistic, cultural and community development.
That being said, we are pleased to see the current government’s interest in cultural diplomacy. In this regard, we are delighted with the recent appointment of a cultural trade attaché at the Canadian embassy in France, whose presence is already being felt by the SNA, in particular as regards its strategy for the international promotion of Acadian artists. The effective international promotion of Acadian artists depends directly on the commercial development of Canadian cultural products in Europe.
In closing, I would also like to point out how much Acadians from Atlantic Canada have contributed to the development of Canadian cultural diplomacy in the past 25 years, in particular by participating in many international festivals and events. To my mind, this type of diplomacy has two interrelated foundations: first, government support for associations, the arts and cultural communities in Canada; and second, bolstering the resources, especially the financial resources, available to organizations that promote Canada internationally, as the SNA does in countries with which we maintain cultural, trade and diplomatic ties. The establishment of collaborative practices for international cultural development between government, civil society and the culture sector would be a good way of bringing these two areas together.
Finally, as we suggested to the Department of Canadian Heritage a few months ago, the SNA would like to see new partnerships between Canadian Heritage and Global Affairs Canada so we can actively contribute to the development and influence of the arts and culture and linguistic duality at the core of Canadian diplomacy. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you. We’ve had two very excellent, extensive presentations that I thought, at first, were not compatible but I think they are. Both of you come from your own perspectives.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for your presentations.
Ms. Williams, you brought up the very interesting idea that we don’t have any movies from the African or Caribbean countries, or they’re not mentioned. It made we think of the fact that Indian movies from Mumbai, or Bollywood, as they’re called, have made this huge transition where they have this same-day premiere throughout the world.
I do go once a year to see a Bollywood movie and the theatre is packed. What has been the reason for their success?
In Africa, we have Nigeria that turns out as many movies as Bollywood does, yet we don’t get to see them in mainstream cinemas. What is India doing correctly that some of the African countries are not doing? The Indian diaspora and African diaspora are large communities around the world.
Ms. Williams: It’s similar but different in some ways. India is one country and Africa is a continent with so many different countries. It’s the same with the Caribbean Islands: It’s all the Caribbean but these countries don’t always agree or work together and are not always collaborative so it’s a little different, whereas India is under one umbrella.
When you’re releasing something, you’re doing so for all of India. Trust me, if someone in Nigeria is releasing something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is applauding that in South Africa or Kenya. They’re wondering why their movie is not getting out. There can be less support when countries are parsed away.
My comment was more about the racially diverse communities within Canada that are from the African or Caribbean diaspora or India and that are making Canadian films. It’s not so much I’m concerned about these other countries bringing their films to us, but us getting our films to them is more what I’m interested in. It’s not just that we make an Indian movie that goes to India, but how do we get a completely racially diverse Canadian film into those communities? That’s what I’m really pushing for.
Senator Ataullahjan: We have seen that South Asian countries are making movies in Canada with Canadian casts and achieving relative success. They do relatively well.
The reason I brought up Nigeria is because it is known as one of the countries that really makes a lot of movies. That was the reason. I notice that South Asian countries are making films in Canada specifically. In Toronto, it was a success story.
Ms. Williams: Are they making them so that they are set in Canada and they are Toronto? Are we supposed to think it’s India or Toronto?
Senator Ataullahjan: It’s in Toronto. It’s Canadians of Indian or Pakistani origin who play the main roles and it’s dealing with Canadian stories or their lives in Canada.
Ms. Williams: I don’t want to monopolize this, but I know, for instance, Richie Mehta, who started his career through the Reelworld Film Festival and went to India. There is an infrastructure in India and he was able to get financing, shoot a film in Canada and get it there.
When you think about Nollywood in Nigeria, that infrastructure does not exist. The minute the movie is made, they literally need to get it out in a week or someone has pirated it. It’s great, but none of that infrastructure is in place.
You’d be surprised that there are a lot of Nigerians in Winnipeg and Alberta making movies that are doing quite well on a small scale. My thought about those movies is we’re not pushing them and getting them out as best we could. We have the infrastructure, but they don’t really have the infrastructure in these other countries.
Senator Bovey: I want to thank you all. I think it’s inspiring and I think your insights are germane to what we’re looking at.
I want to have us look ahead by perhaps looking back a bit. Many people have talked about the loss of Trade Routes and the cultural attachés. Both of you have given ideas as to the impact and importance of arts and culture in our diplomatic work.
Looking ahead, what do you recommend for us to recommend as to how we do that? Do we call for a reinstatement of the Trade Routes program, or is there something better? Will time give us other ideas? Do we need cultural attachés everywhere instead of just somewhere, or are there better ways of connecting and creating the kinds of partnerships and opportunities that you both talked about?
Ms. Imbeault: I will answer in French because it is easier for me.
But I would also like to answer in English.
What I find hard to understand with regard to the international promotion of Canada’s arts and culture is that those countries also have their own arts and culture. To carve out a place for ourselves therefore, it takes work and investment. That is what the trade routes program had started doing. It had started to invest in certain countries that are either linguistically or culturally close to us so that our artists first become known, and then so the investment gradually pays off.
This is hard to understand because it is hard to carve out a place for ourselves. We talked about Aboriginal artists earlier, but there all the other art forms as well. It is not just visual art. There is also music, theatre, literature. Our artists in all these art forms must develop a presence internationally. We have to give them the resources to do that. They have to be in the country, have good guidance and structure, and opportunities to travel. That can be achieved through partnership with the federal government, the provincial governments and the associations that represent artists or communities’ interests.
Perhaps we do not need to reinstate the same approach as the trade routes program, but we need partnerships with various government bodies. Canadian Heritage and Global Affairs Canada have to communicate and work together. It cannot be done in isolation.
Ms. Williams: I would add that it doesn’t really matter if we go back to previous projects or other ones we have in the future. What you have to understand is that it feels, when you’re getting grants for an arts organization, like a moving target. You’re trying to shoot and get it. One year, this particular grant is all about this. So you focus all your energy and put materials together, supplemental materials, hiring grants, writers. This is expensive for us to do. The very next year, that grant is no longer that grant. That grant now is something else. So you have to reshape the conversation, how you want to present it.
I’m in a state of panic every single year because someone has to read through that grant and we have to refilter what we’re doing to fit into that language or their desire, whatever it is, whatever the moment is asking for, to see if we can get funding. So for whatever funding you come up with, it would be great if it could be a target that stood still so that we wouldn’t have to waste so much time.
Sometimes I end up collecting support materials and then we don’t need those. We need these kinds of support materials now. It’s incredibly stressful. We’re trying to write three grants right now. We have a staff of three people. One person has to focus on that and she’s asking us questions all the time, and they’re always time sensitive. They always come out and they’re due a week or two later. It’s stressful.
Senator Bovey: Having lived in that world, I know that stress and the moving targets. You’re absolutely right. They’re buzzwords and they change regularly. I’m hearing that a consistent investment over time by governments will help more effective planning to be able to take that place on the international stage. I certainly get that.
The other thing I wanted to ask you is this: What role do you think Canada’s embassies around the world could be playing that they may not be now? I know they’re different everywhere you go, but what do you think our embassies can be doing for the benefit of taking Canadian arts in all dimensions, all disciplines, wherever we might take them, so we can spell the benefits back to Canadian society as a whole?
I’m being asked all the time: How much do we get back? Yes, you get back some dollars, but you get back an awful lot more that’s much more difficult to measure.
We’d like your help. What do our embassies need to be able to help our arts organizations and our artists obtain the greatest benefit possible?
Ms. Imbeault: I pointed out earlier that there is now a trade attaché for cultural affairs at the Canadian embassy in Paris, for instance. I think this approach will be successful. We have to build on that, but it needs to be broader.
When we talk about a trade attaché, we think of profits. It is normal to think that way, but we also have to think about exposure. We will not make a profit right off the bat; sales will not be high. We talked earlier about selling works of art. The great masters produced works of art, but so do all of our artists who work every day and need to earn a living.
Our embassies have to be a meeting place for the host countries and Canadian artists who travel abroad. There is a lot more trade than we might think, but it is not always recorded or known. These activities must be recorded and sponsored.
Canadians attend book fairs, present their films at festivals and perform dance around the world. They truly need to be guided and supported so that their efforts are not just one-offs, so it is not just one performance in France or London, but rather a tour of the countries of interest to us. This is part of our Canadian identity. We can sell all kinds of things in other countries, but the arts and culture define us.
Ms. Williams: I would add to that. I’ve been in Los Angeles since 1987, so there has been an arc for me of different consulate generals who have been at the consul here, and I’m invited to a lot of the events. But you’ll notice that it also depends on that Consul General and what his interests are. You had Colin on a few weeks ago; I saw it recently, but it could have been filmed awhile back. He was very passionate about the entertainment industry and about the film screen. So he set up this talent directory, which was fantastic until he left, and then it ended.
So this online thing that had been built that was so successful here just ended. Then he would have constant events at the consulate. One, it was showing off the building we have here in Los Angeles. But I haven’t been to any event in the last year for anything that’s going on here.
There’s another consulate that was here several years ago and we actually had a real-world event where we brought a lot of the press so that they would understand this amazing thing with all this diversity. There were Canadian films and filmmakers and we had a lot of people, including Sandra Oh, and Adam Beach. A lot of diverse Canadian talent was down here. Once again, it’s a thing. Whatever policies you come up with, they’re constantly shifting and changing, so you’re not getting this consistent flow all the time.
Imagine if the Oscars came on for four years and then you didn’t see it for two years, and they made it for three years and then they were missing a year. It’s because we can say it’s the ninetieth year of it that makes it powerful.
Should you have people in each country? I don’t know if that’s necessarily going to help. It can’t hurt to try, but you’ll notice that everyone has their passion. Some people are more focused on film, but there are books and dance. It’s a lot to put on one human being to be aware of every single platform and to deal with it in the same way. And I don’t think you will be able to afford a team, unless you did it in major countries where someone focuses on literacy and someone focuses on film-based things. It depends how much money is in your production budget, as we say.
The Chair: We’re running fast out of time.
Ms. Imbeault, I come from Western Canada, but I grew up knowing about the Acadian fact in Canada. It seemed to me that was driven by a community understanding itself, preserving itself and defending itself. A lot of that was grassroots, as I understand it. The communities themselves were very conscious of their position in Canada and how they needed to fight for airspace, if I can call it that. I think you did an admirable job.
A lot of that, to me, was not government involvement. That was a people understanding what they needed to preserve for themselves. There have been governments that have put emphasis on culture. There are others that haven’t. There have been governments which have selected which arts and culture they’re going to support. As Ms. Williams said, “the year of,” and all of a sudden you have grants. I used to help NGOs and I would say, “Tell me what you want to do, and I’ll fit it into the flavour of the month of the government.” You won’t change what you’re doing, but certainly the report will look like you’ve changed what you’re doing. So there’s a lot of that.
The government has put an emphasis on culture but also on trade—trade being a method of jobs, economy, et cetera. We’re not quite sure what that’s going to look like yet. We’re waiting, because they’ve had some experts.
Could this injection of trade be a positive way to encourage and invest in our cultural community in a different way than simply giving a grant, but getting down to the fundamentals of how they become more self-sustaining? I don’t know if either one of you wants to tackle that. I think that’s one of the things we’re going to have to look at.
Ms. Imbeault: Madam Chair, you are absolutely right. The resilience of Acadians comes from knowing who we are, what language we speak, and the place we want for ourselves in Canada. We also want to grow, however, just as the rest of Canada wants to grow. To do that, we have to look beyond our borders for a wider audience.
That is why I wanted to speak to the previous question. You would be surprised by what we are capable of. The arts and culture also reflect our customs and traditions. It is what we eat, what we do. In Nantes a few years ago, the story of beef and lobster was presented at a gathering. People from the region were invited to sample beef from Western Canada and Atlantic lobster, while taking in performances by artists. You would be surprised by the response. It is in this vein that we will likely continue, by pairing our natural resources with artistic creation.
You are right, we cannot live on love alone; the arts and culture have to live also. We can combine them since Canada is trying to expand its trade internationally. I gave you this example of one specific event, but it can be reproduced at an event that combines culture with agriculture or natural resources.
Ms. Williams: Everybody always wants to connect how you make money, how trade has increased through arts and culture. Somebody might say, “How can I make a living in Vegas at the roulette table?” You don’t know in arts. We don’t know what the audience, what the world will respond to. Every single production and piece of art is a gamble. It’s not the same as a building that you can look at. It’s just impossible.
But keeping that in mind, that it’s still impossible, Americans throw a lot of money at it, because in the bigger game you win. They don’t look at every single production and every single thing as a win and lose, and of course there’s a studio system that doesn’t exist in Canada. When you have a studio you can mentor emerging artists, arms wrapped around them and a marketing department kicks into place and all these things.
In Canada it’s left up to the filmmaker. They have to come up with a marketing plan. They don’t have marketing experience. They don’t know these other areas. They should be left to be the artist and they need to be nurtured in an arena that handles this stuff.
Look at the creativity thing. Look at that new movie Get Out. Could there be a smaller, little Black movie that has just skyrocketed? The director himself doesn’t even know how this has happened. It’s taken off and now it’s nominated for an Oscar. It’s phenomenal. First-time director, a stand-up comedy guy? These are the joys you hope for. But they don’t grow by the side of the road by themselves. They’re being nurtured by groups of people. So if you’re going to invest the money, somehow we need a way for emerging people to be teamed up with really experienced expressive people. They shadow them, they’re with them. They’re understanding and they’re getting a real mentorship in some way that might last years. I know that Norman Jewison did it with the Clement Virgo’s. He stayed years helping to make those people the successes they are now. I don’t think we have that.
The Chair: Thank you. We’ve come beyond our time, and I very much appreciate that both of you have stayed with us. You’ve put a lot on our plates from varying perspectives for the Canadian experience. Our job will be to try to give air and space to all of the concerns in all regions of Canada and all disciplines within the arts and culture community. Sometimes I fear after we finish that we have more than we started with, but it’s a richness of Canada that we have to grapple with.
I trust that not only have you given us something to contemplate and to grapple with and, hopefully, support some of your suggestions as we go along, but I think since this is being televised, that the broader Canadian community has had the benefit of what you have told us today.
So I thank you, Ms. Imbeault and Ms. Williams, for your very different approaches and your very strong commitment to the broader Canadian discussion on culture and diplomacy. Thank you very much.