Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Issue No. 50 - Evidence - Meeting of September 27, 2018
OTTAWA, Thursday, September 27, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met this day at 10:30 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: Honourable senators, I should advise you that the CPTPP legislation is moving in the house, and our researchers will start inundating you with papers, analysis and comparisons. One of the papers will be on what was TPP? What is CPTPP? You will have everything given previously on our trade studies and on our TPP analysis.
We are hoping we will be in a position of readiness. The reason I mention it is that if you have any witnesses you wish to call in that legislative study, please think about it and be ready to provide the clerk with names.
Also, the Arms Trade Treaty is in the chamber and will be coming to us. We do have a list of witnesses, but if you think of anyone that you wish to call, please advise the clerk so that we can move quickly on those two pieces of legislation. We will be in readiness for them. This is just a reminder.
Today we are here and 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 is pleased to welcome Christophe Rivet, President, International Council on Monuments and Sites Canada, which is the Canadian National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites.
Mr. Rivet, we have your biography. We want to give you the maximum time. This is an area we need to cover in our study. You contacted us, and we are very pleased that you are here.
Welcome to the committee.
Christophe Rivet, President, ICOMOS Canada: Thank you to the members of the committee. I am Christophe Rivet, President of International Council on Monuments and Sites Canada, Canadian Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites.
On behalf of ICOMOS Canada, I would like to thank the committee for initiating this study. It is timely to address this subject because the world is a place that requires more engagement from countries like Canada with values of openness, sharing, innovation and a sense of collective destiny.
ICOMOS is the only global, non-governmental organization dedicated to the conservation of the world’s cultural heritage buildings, sites, landscapes and areas. It carries out its work through more than 100 national committees and 28 internationals scientific committees. The expertise available through that network of professionals, all volunteers, includes architecture, archaeology, engineering, landscape architecture, history, geography and many more that together allow a holistic approach to the conservation of cultural heritage.
ICOMOS has the mandate to advise UNESCO on cultural heritage matters, especially in the context of the World Heritage Convention. It focuses on developing theory and guidance for best practices through a series of charters.
International Council on Monuments and Sites Canada is the Canadian national committee of ICOMOS. We have been active since the early 1970s in influencing the theory and best practices in conservation in Canada and abroad. We are an independent and multidisciplinary organization with members from coast to coast to coast. Recently we have taken a leadership role internationally on sustainable development policies and bridging policies between environmental and cultural conservation. We have also strategically aimed to build close ties with colleagues from the Americas and the countries belonging to the Francophonie.
We are happy to share a few important observations about our experience with cultural diplomacy, both in terms of what Canadians in our field have achieved, and in terms of what other countries have invested to build relationships through heritage conservation. To be clear, our comments consider cultural diplomacy as not solely about promoting Canadian cultural heritage abroad, but rather about Canada actively engaging in supporting the conservation of cultural heritage as a mechanism to build relationships with other countries. This is in line with other countries’ definitions of cultural diplomacy.
First, it is important to note that there are a number of international frameworks that promote the use of cultural diplomacy. In fact, Canada made commitments toward the protection and conservation of cultural heritage as early as 1976 by adopting the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, or the World Heritage Convention. In 1998, it ratified the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, or Hague Convention. Canada led the development and ratification of UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions 2005. Through these commitments, where Canada illustrated itself as leader, the federal government has demonstrated that it recognizes the importance of cultural heritage and building relationships with other nations.
An overview of the history of our own organization illustrates the relationship between cultural heritage, building ties and creating the conditions for economic and diplomatic relationships. Over the years, our members have been involved in international efforts to bring peace and restore normalcy in parts of the world that have suffered natural and human-induced disasters. These include participating in United Nations-sanctioned missions in Cyprus in the 1970s and Dubrovnik in the 1990s. It also includes reconstruction efforts after earthquakes and hurricanes in places like Haiti and Iran, or due to the ravages or war such as in Afghanistan.
Canadians have led international bodies involved with cultural heritage conservation, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. Through these experts, Canada’s presence was felt throughout the world.
Beyond these times of crisis, Canadians are also involved in establishing bridges of cooperation between countries through non-government organizations and academic institutions. For example, universities like McGill, Université de Montréal, UBC, University of Alberta and Carleton have all had projects abroad that involved cultural heritage conservation through initiatives in archaeology, architectural conservation and engineering.
The Willowbank School of Restoration in Queenston signed a cooperation agreement with the World Heritage Institute of Training and Research for the Asia and the Pacific Region in Shanghai to share expertise. Their presence is felt positively in the countries where they operate, as their expertise helps these communities preserve what is most cherished.
ICOMOS Canada recently signed a cooperation agreement with the city of Quito which focuses on applying a sustainable development approach to conserving the historic centre. This was the result of the successful Canadian presence at Habitat III in 2016. What we witnessed through the establishment of our cooperation is that other countries, such as Spain and France, have consistently invested in conservation programs to help Quito manage its rich heritage. The interest of Canadians to contribute to the long-term management of the historic city was received positively by the authorities because it offered a new perspective on best practices and new relationships to share experiences. In particular, we were seen as strong on democratic governance practices and community engagement tools for social inclusion and economic growth. It is worth mentioning that the Canadian embassy in Quito was supportive of our endeavours.
What is clear from these examples is that Canada has much to offer the world. Our expertise in cultural heritage conservation, such as in architecture, engineering, urban planning and archaeology, is respected worldwide for its rigour and its principles. Furthermore, we are seen as bridge builders offering expertise that marries European and North American approaches, and French and British traditions, and that increasingly demonstrates inclusion of Indigenous perspectives. We are trusted in sharing experiences that aim for good governance and social inclusion. These are not simple matters to demonstrate professionally, and it is a testimony to our values as a people.
Of note, however, is the fact that Canada lacks a coherent and invested approach in facilitating these initiatives, which limits considerably our ability to leverage the benefits from this work. Other countries establish relationships first by investing in cultural programs, not just to export their own culture, but to nurture their potential trading partners’ culture. The impact of these investments is well understood. It establishes a strong presence in the country and symbolizes a commitment to the relationship. It also creates the conditions for economic growth to occur as investments in cultural heritage lead to attractive tourism destinations, better infrastructure and resilient and proud communities. These conditions are essential to establish promising trade relations.
I was invited earlier this year to participate as an international expert on a panel organized by the European Commission to discuss the impact of cultural diplomacy. The premise of the discussion was that culture is a source of job creation and growth, that it promotes social inclusion and cultural diversity, and for these reasons the European Union’s diplomatic efforts include culture in order to promote intercultural dialogue. This conclusion confirms that for Europe, establishing an intercultural dialogue is the foundation of trade and diplomatic relations.
Other countries have for years invested in development projects that targeted cultural heritage. Ambassadors from the United States have benefited from discretionary funding in the form of the Ambassador’s Fund that allowed investments in conservation projects where they were posted. Australia has invested in promoting Australian conservation expertise for export across Southeast Asia and the Pacific. This not only strengthened the professional body in the country but established Australia’s presence in the communities across the region. China currently pursues a policy of establishing trade agreements that include sharing of resources and investments in cultural heritage conservation projects, such as the ones in Cambodia or Central and Eastern European countries.
In essence, these countries make their presence felt in other countries by investing in conserving other peoples’ heritage as a sign of goodwill and respect. In return, they are perceived as respected partners diplomatically and economically.
International development initiatives led by national development agencies, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund all consider that conserving cultural heritage is part and parcel of carrying out development work. This means that international engineering firms, many of them Canadian, implement their major infrastructure projects in ways that conserve and respect local heritage. It is a condition sine qua non of a successful project that takes root in the communities.
What about Canada? There is no deliberate strategy from our country to invest in development the way other countries do. In the past there were efforts to establish cooperation programs between agencies such as Parks Canada and Parks Victoria and the agency responsible for Angkor Wat in Cambodia. But these were narrow in focus and did not establish relationships for the breadth of expertise available in our country. In consequence, from our experience, we are missing out on an opportunity to be first in line to establish relations that are deeper and lead to future economic and diplomatic opportunities.
Yet the benefits are real. Investing in something your potential diplomatic partner cares about creates goodwill that benefits in the long run. It establishes your presence in that country and is a strong symbol of the commitment to and value of the relationship. Furthermore, investing in projects like these improves the lives of communities through better infrastructure and creates the conditions for economic growth and future trade, tourism and infrastructure opportunities.
Canadians are already doing it, but with little support from government and with limited recognition for our country’s contribution. It is a missed opportunity and, more importantly, a condition for strong relations.
In Latin America and Africa, Canada is competing with other countries who invest in the heart and soul of these countries, establishing a strong presence and a preferred relationship. We no longer can ignore this fact if we wish to strengthen our network of trading partners.
ICOMOS Canada would like to offer a few recommendations deriving from our experience. The Government of Canada should develop a cultural diplomacy policy that is anchored distinctively in both the export of Canadian expertise and the investment in cultural heritage abroad. This policy should be accompanied by a road map identifying the intersection between Canada’s economic interests and the type of cultural heritage conservation activities so as to better leverage its presence in these countries.
The Government of Canada should establish a cultural diplomacy advisory committee composed of members of industry and NGOs to offer recommendations to the minister responsible for Global Affairs on means to strengthen the value of Canadian investments through cultural diplomacy.
And third, the Government of Canada should consider assigning international development investments specifically towards projects that relate to the conservation of cultural heritage so as to promote Canadian expertise, technology and goodwill. In particular, an analysis of funding provided for research, innovation and development work abroad should be carried out so as to clarify the picture of existing and potential investments made by the Government of Canada abroad on cultural heritage.
In conclusion, what we see through these observations is that countries around the world care about their heritage; it is core to their identity, and it is key to establishing relationships based on mutual respect and understanding. Canada stands as an international example of respect of diversity and openness to other cultures. It is incumbent on us to take advantage of that reputation to further our economic and diplomatic interests through a long-term presence in the cultural heart of our potential trading partners.
Thank you. I would be happy to answer your questions in French as well.
The Chair: Thank you, Dr. Rivet. I think you have hit at the heart of what we are struggling with, so we appreciate your testimony.
Senator Cormier: Mr. Rivet, welcome. Since I know that you have been very involved in the process for the landscape of Grand Pré, thank you for your work.
In 2012, the landscape of Grand Pré, in the Annapolis Valley, became the sixteenth World Heritage Site in Canada to be inscribed by UNESCO. Are there any lessons you have learned from the landscape of Grand Pré approach that could be enlightening and useful today in cultural diplomacy? Also, what national legislative or regulatory frameworks or international agreements support or hinder Canada’s participation in cultural diplomacy?
Mr. Rivet: Let me answer your question from a number of angles and in the most structured way possible, because the question can be addressed from two perspectives. I will answer as a professional who conducted this exercise and, of course, as the president of this evaluation committee, ICOMOS Canada, which was responsible for evaluating this nomination.
As a professional, our exercise, which lasted nearly six years, was an exercise that demonstrated exemplary expertise on the part of Canadian professionals in understanding the intent of the World Heritage Convention. The convention shows an intent to open up to the world and also to share Canadian values with the rest of the world in a spirit of international cooperation.
The Grand Pré exercise was sensitive, because it brought together very different cultural communities that had a history of conflict and tension. It was a unifying and hopeful exercise, fully in line with the terms of the World Heritage Convention. Those terms are in a humanistic and sharing spirit. The success we have had in bringing communities together and the exercise we have carried out was used as an example by the international community when the Grand Pré site was inscribed.
Since then, as a professional, I have been invited by several foreign governments to speak about the Grand Pré experience, the Canadian experience of bringing communities together in terms of social inclusion, transparent governance and so on. Those were truly very strong points.
In terms of the evaluation by my committee, ICOMOS Canada, it was noted that this approach was very inclusive, very methodical in respecting multiple values, and visionary in allowing all of those values to be preserved in such a complex environment. As I mentioned, this has been noted by the international community, both by UNESCO and by the states.
As for the tools that have helped us — as you probably know — at the federal level, we do not have legislation that protects heritage designated of national importance. This is an issue that we have frequently raised with our elected officials in the House of Commons and Parliament, because it is a significant shortcoming in our national legislation. That said, we have been able to use other tools to achieve our objectives of demonstrating our values. The international conventions that have been signed and committed to by Canada for many decades have enabled us to communicate those approaches.
So that’s basically the scope of the action we can take within the framework of the legislation and international tools.
Senator Cormier: Thank you.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for your testimony this morning. Can you elaborate on to what extent and in what ways the work done internationally by Canadian cultural heritage contributes to the implementation of Canada’s foreign policy? Would you have any specific examples?
Mr. Rivet: To my knowledge, there is no clear relationship between the work that Canadian experts do in terms of conservation abroad and an official Canadian policy on this matter. Canadians are sought after by international organizations, governments, NGOs and government agencies from around the world to advise them. Canadians have been very active with the Aga Khan Foundation, very active with UNESCO, with the American development agencies, but in Canada we have not seen this evidence of a close relationship between the work that we do internationally and the way it reflects on Canada’s image internationally. That was one of the points I wished to stress from my statement, that the relationship is not obvious, and perhaps this is an opportunity to consider for Canada’s strategy.
Senator Ataullahjan: You say the relationship is not obvious. Why is that? Is there a lack of interest, or what could we do?
Mr. Rivet: I would say that the relationship is not obviously for two reasons: first, there is no explicit policy that says it is a priority for the Government of Canada to build relationships based on culture; second, there is no stream of funding. The example I gave earlier about our cooperation agreement with Quito is void of any obvious mechanism for the Government of Canada to support this initiative. We are turning to colleagues from other countries to see if they are willing to support us in this initiative. That lack of obvious investment and lack of obvious policy makes it very difficult for us as an NGO to project that image of Canada abroad.
I was proud to see our embassy in Canada very present in supporting us and facilitating the relationship with the Ecuadorian authorities. In return, the Ecuadorian authorities were pleasantly surprised and very enthusiastic about seeing the Canadian officials present in doing that. However, there are clear limitations. We do not have access to funding to support the exchange of graduate students or emerging professionals, for example. We do not have funds that will help our volunteer professionals work directly on the heritage of Quito. So this lack of obvious prioritization through funding and policy is a major impediment for us.
Senator Massicotte: Mr. Rivet, thank you for being here today. It’s very much appreciated, because you’re an expert in the field.
I will summarize my comments to make sure I have understood correctly. You strongly recommend the creation of a committee to better pursue cultural diplomacy efforts in terms of architecture. You also say that more funds are needed to achieve this.
Earlier, in response to a question from my colleague, you stated that, even by using your conservation and architecture tools and knowledge, we did not have a significant diplomatic impact. You also said that there is a significant potential, but that Canada is not reaching it at all. Did I understand correctly?
Mr. Rivet: To clarify, I would say that Canadians have certainly been very active in the field internationally for 40 or 50 years. What is missing is a connection with the diplomatic representation, a direct connection to the state’s desire to be present.
Basically, whether we are talking about the export of Canadian cultural products or the presence of expertise abroad, even if the financial returns are not immediate, what we are talking about is the Canadian presence and investment in the Canadian presence. We are present at the level of NGOs and the various volunteers, but we are not in the position of having a Canadian government presence. That is the difference.
Two weeks ago, I was in Quito for an event celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Quito’s inscription on the World Heritage List. Canada is the other country that inscribed the first sites on the World Heritage List. Quito and Canada have that in common. They organized an event for a week. The French ambassador, the Italian ambassador and various diplomatic representatives from other countries, such as Spain, which has been investing millions of euros for decades, were present.
Because of their presence, we felt that the ties were strong. They were present through investments and the highest diplomatic representation. Canada was there, there was in fact diplomatic representation, but our presence was not sustained because it was not part of our policy. I hope I am making this very important distinction clear.
Senator Massicotte: Because the conservation of historical architecture is very important in the human sense. If I understand your message correctly, you say that you were involved, but that you received no diplomatic benefit for your efforts.
Mr. Rivet: I never saw a Canadian flag on a poster indicating that Canada has invested $10 million to conserve a building, whereas I saw it for Spain, I saw it for the European Union and I saw it for other countries.
Senator Massicotte: You recommend that we be more open-minded by investing in the conservation of buildings in other countries, not just our own.
Mr. Rivet: This is both a sensitive and interesting question. You are certainly aware that the history of French, Spanish and British presence on a global scale stems from their past colonial ventures, which have established those ties.
In Canada, we are clearly not a colonial power, but the question is this. How will we establish this relationship of trust and respect for the heritage of others? What we are building through our relationships with our colleagues in the Americas is the idea that we have a common history of Europeans who have created this heritage in order to adapt it to a completely different environmental reality, with indigenous values incorporated. This gives us a very unique identity. Telling themselves that Spain was not the only one able to guide them resonated with my colleagues from Ecuador and other Latin American countries.
We have partners across the Americas with similar experiences and a comparable heritage. That is why our expertise is not only welcome, but also relevant in this context.
In Canada, we do not have the colonial history in our relationship with those countries, but what is the nature of those long-term relationships that we want to establish? We have decided to invest in Latin America and the Francophonie, which seems natural to us. Canada will also have to ask itself this question.
Senator Massicotte: Thank you, Mr. Rivet.
Senator Oh: Thank you, Mr. Rivet.
In your opinion, how is Canada perceived by other countries in terms of its culture, values, image and national identity? How does this perception align with or benefit Canada’s foreign policy objective? The Prime Minister has said that he wants to put Canada on the world stage. So far, how have we done that?
Mr. Rivet: Well, as I alluded to earlier, Canadians have been present for a long time on the international stage in various responsibilities and have been doing work in multiple countries around the world. What distinguishes us from other nations is, for one, the lack of past political relationship through colonialism, which gives us a brand of trust and openness. We also have the reputation of being oriented towards bridging differences. And in that respect, these values are perceived consistently wherever we present ourselves around the world, whether it is in Africa, Latin America, Asia or Europe. We are consistently called upon for these values.
The matter of national identity is much more complex, as you are well aware, when we talk about Canada. But the experiences of the values we represent, our history of having multiple cultures here and our history of living in peace with multiple cultures are examples that other countries wish to emulate and understand, as well as how we develop professional tools to achieve that.
When I was a member of the panel for the European Commission, that was primarily the reason they wanted me to be there, namely, to talk about that Canadian experience of bridging different cultures. That is really the strongest point we have to offer. We have a brand, if I can call it that, of openness, of bridge building and of respect for diversity. Those values are as important in trade as they are in building friendships. I hope that answers your question.
Senator Oh: During the Commonwealth times, in the early days, they offered scholarships to all Commonwealth countries and other parts of the world. Do you think those concepts are good?
Mr. Rivet: If I look at our competition — if I may refer to other countries that way — what other countries have access to is exactly that. It is funding for actual projects on the ground, cooperation through educational and academic institutions, and opportunities to create fora where people meet. We are definitely not able to present the same type of benefits to our Canadian citizens for these things.
I mentioned earlier that universities have had programs around the world for many years. I have done archaeology in the Republic of Georgia and in France, all through mechanisms of cooperation at a university level. These are all moments of goodwill for Canada. I was present in a small village in the centre of the Caucasus, and people knew I was Canadian. I wish, as a Canadian, that I could have seen that my country understood that importance. As I said, one day I would like to see those panels around the world that say Canada invested in this place because it is important.
Senator Oh: Thank you.
Senator Bovey: Thank you very much for your presentation, for your insights and for your recommendations.
I’m going to go back a bit, if I may. It’s no secret that this bill has been part of my background. I’m well aware of the Canadian experts who have volunteered to go to places in the world without Canadian funding to help preserve, designate and repair these sites. I’m well aware of those who have had to use their sabbatical leaves from universities to be able to do this work.
Could you talk a bit about the relationship you have with ICOM because, of course, it was Martin Seeger, Canada’s lead on ICOM, who did a lot of work to get the work rolling in Dubrovnik? I’m well aware that our Canadian representative to ICOM, Dr. Ann Davis, whom I’d hoped we could hear from at some point, is off to Iran a week after next. I’m well aware that it was the Metropolitan Museum of Art that was at Palmyra during that dreadful devastation.
Can you talk a bit about the relationship you have with ICOM and dig a little deeper about the war-torn parts of the world? I was proud when Canada signed that convention in 1976 and doubly proud when the 1988 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict was signed.
Mr. Rivet: Indeed, the world of international cooperation is a complex one. It’s a challenging one to try to articulate as clearly as possible right now, but I will try to do a clear job of it. ICOM is the International Council of Museums and ICOMOS is the institution that deals with monuments and sites. We have a relationship. We’ve been around for well over 60 years, and together we have worked on joint projects, especially under the auspices of the United Nations, around the world. In fact, we have a scientific committee that joins the expertise of those two organizations as well as other organizations, such as the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, and bodies called the Blue Shield that deal with war and heritage. So we do have these relationships established.
One common denominator is that Canadians are leaders in all of these organizations and have been for 50 years. We have been leaders not only in providing expertise but also actually in heading these organizations or heading key committees of these organizations. I could provide you with a long list of our professionals who have done that.
That long track record makes it natural, when these terrible circumstances arise, for people to turn around and look for Canada and Canadian experts. One other organization that is precious in these situations is ICCROM, the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, in Rome. It’s an intergovernmental organization also under the auspices of UNESCO. Canada is a participant in that centre. In fact, it’s the Canadian Conservation Institute that represents Canada on that school.
I wish to emphasize that Canadians have systematically been present and leaders in these organizations. There’s a systematic disconnect between the efforts of Canada and being present in these countries and the efforts of individuals and organizations in having volunteered for this. In war-torn areas, it started as early as the conflict in Cyprus in the 1970s, where my mentor, Jacques Dalibard, was mandated by the United Nations to monitor heritage sites and identify those that needed to be protected through the Blue Shield program. That was the first major presence of Canada on that international scene of conflict, but since, we’ve been present in essentially all the major war-torn areas. We were present for the reconstruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the destruction of Iran, the citadel of Bam. We were present in Syria as well. Often we’re present through other organizations, not Canadian organizations. We are present through the Getty Conservation Institute in the U.S., for example. We are present through United Nations organizations. But we do not have that direct investment — at least I cannot say I have seen that evidence of direct relationship between Canada’s diplomatic presence and those efforts.
Senator Bovey: If I can just add, prior to the 1976 convention, I’m going to say Canada led the way post-Second World War when John MacAulay, who had been head of the Canadian Red Cross, was in fact head of the international Red Cross endeavours to return Nazi war-torn treasures back to their rightful owners. I would like to contend that the UNESCO agreement grew out of what Mr. MacAulay did all those years back.
All that said, I certainly concur with what you say. I believe UNESCO now recognizes international archival treasures and that the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives was the first such to be recognized internationally by UNESCO. I can’t remember if that was 2005 or 2006, but I think probably 2006.
My question — and I think you’ve addressed it — is why has Canada as a government not done more when Canadians have done so much? I appreciate your recommendations and trust that we’ll have good dialogue around them. Thank you.
Senator Ataullahjan: You mentioned the Buddhas in Afghanistan and said you were present. Could you give us an update? We haven’t heard much in the news about it. It might be intentional. They may not want attention attracted to the site in Bamiyan again. Have they been reconstructed or rebuilt? What’s happening there?
Mr. Rivet: I should clarify that. I personally was not there. It was colleagues from my organization. Second, I don’t have a recent update, other than much effort has been done to reconstruct, along with other countries. Germany invested tremendously in the reconstruction of those Buddhas, and other European and Asian countries as well. Unfortunately, I cannot provide any further details.
Senator Cormier: We are trying to understand or imagine how a policy on cultural diplomacy could be implemented in the government. In your opinion, and in light of your international experience, who are the main players who should be involved?
Mr. Rivet: The connection is clear between diplomatic mechanisms, such as Global Affairs Canada, but there are also relationships established between other departments. Canadian Heritage is certainly a department with a strong presence in archives, but also in collections and the management of other technical expertise.
Earlier, I mentioned that Parks Canada, which is under the authority of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, is an organization with a mandate for heritage conservation in Canada that had previously established relationships with other agencies internationally. I mentioned Parks Victoria.
This expertise had already been demonstrated within the government, and the actions indicated that this was a concern of international value. However, those actions were carried out for a specific period of time, but were not sustained. The partnerships involved two government agencies rather than the government as a whole.
The second point to emphasize is that we used to have international development agencies that were clearly established and had a very specific mandate around the idea of international development. When I see my colleagues from European, Asian and American countries, I see that these international development agencies are often the mechanism for action. There may be international development investment funds, but there is also a mechanism.
To date, most states have signed international agreements, conventions, declarations and comprehensive agreements emphasizing that, in order to achieve coherent sustainable development goals, investments in natural and cultural heritage conservation are essential. Canada is one of the leaders in addressing sustainable development. We signed those goals two or three years ago now. There is some consistency in favouring mechanisms that focus on international development because, like heritage conservation mechanisms, they are already part of the definition of sustainable development.
Senator Cormier: You talked about your commitment to the Francophonie. What is the role of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the OIF? How is that relationship going?
Mr. Rivet: We have no established relationship with the OIF. We are trying to establish relationship frameworks. Our African colleagues and all international organizations have recognized that it’s challenging to create this sort of professional capacity in Africa for each country to achieve heritage conservation and training objectives.
We and our colleagues from Mali, Nigeria and South Africa — this country is not a member of the Francophonie, but I mention it anyway — have discussed whether any relationships are established between Canada and those countries that could be mechanisms for leadership and investment in those areas. Would our presence in the Francophonie and the OIF give us an advantage in building those relationships? Unfortunately, I cannot say that we have achieved those objectives at this time. We continue to explore.
Senator Bovey: We’ve talked about heritage sites globally, Canada’s participation and war-torn sites. There has been a great movement in Canada in the last 20 years to do what we can internationally to return stolen works of art, treasures, objects, family goods, whatever, that have been stolen. It all started, of course, with the Second World War, but it has continued thereafter, and there’s movement afoot, and treasures have been returned that had been sold not knowing that they had originally been stolen.
What role does the return of stolen goods play in cultural diplomacy policy for Canada and the work that you do?
Mr. Rivet: My organization focuses primarily on sites, and we do not focus on movable objects. However, I think the spirit is identical in the sense that an acknowledgment of the importance of cultural elements to a potential partner, diplomatic or otherwise, is an acknowledgment of the importance of that relationship and the important steps required to understand the culture, understand the mindset, understand what preoccupies our potential partners. It is an acknowledgment of the steps that are required to build that trust. Irrespective of the possibility of having these stolen goods in Canada and sent elsewhere or us being present and doing work elsewhere, the spirit is identical.
In the 1990s, I was invited by my professor to go to the CBSA warehouse in Montreal to look at objects that had been seized, and they were mosaics from probably a site in Syria. That was in the mid-1990s. The expertise that Canada demonstrated in understanding that, and the commitment to understand how these mechanisms were in place to trade illicit goods of that nature, was a testament to our commitment to respect all those who care about their heritage.
The other point I’ll stress is that there are many other countries that invest in heritage and in mechanisms of cooperation around those lines that do not have a direct interest in other people’s heritage. If I look at the example of China, they’re extremely present in Africa and in Latin America, investing in projects of infrastructure where there’s clearly also an interest in preserving heritage. When I mentioned the examples of Central and Eastern Europe, I’m pretty sure there’s no Chinese heritage in Hungary of a nature that would validate such investments on the part of the Republic of China. So there is a clear understanding that creating that goodwill and that mutual respect is essential to setting up a foundation for trust through trade.
Senator Bovey: Thank you. I think this is another case where we underline the fact that organizations have made these international commitments and engaged in sector-wide policies, but perhaps they have not been articulately defined in Canadian cultural policy.
The Chair: Dr. Rivet, could you touch on whether part of our dilemma of bringing it all together is our Constitution, federal and provincial, and to what extent do you contemplate or have thought about the fact that to try to bring it under federal jurisdiction is sometimes obvious but very difficult to accomplish? I don’t know whether you’ve had any experiences. Some provinces have a presence internationally. Has that been the subject of your work at all?
Mr. Rivet: Well, it is certain that individual provinces and agencies within these provinces have established relationships with other countries and other agencies abroad, but in that respect, it’s no different than, say, Spain or Germany, where provincial agencies have invested specifically in other countries.
I can again give the example of Quito, where the Government of Andalucia invested directly in Quito. It reflects on Spain, and it’s the same euros that they’re using, so in that respect, the image and the brand is coherent.
From my experience, irrespective of who from Canada invests, there is still a role for the federal government to establish its presence internationally and to project Canadian expertise, know-how and values in those countries.
If I look at the investments made by other countries through mechanisms of international development, that is still the purview of the central governments, wherever they are, and those are effective mechanisms to address a slate of matters.
I’m not sure I’m sufficiently informed to debate the constitutional matters of jurisdiction in this circumstance, but from my experience, being present as a Canadian with our values abroad, there is clearly a role for the federal government.
The Chair: Let me play devil’s advocate. You were saying that Canadian identity is difficult to project but Canadian values are easier. One of the Canadian values was to respect, and we’re not colonial, et cetera. So it is often a love-hate relationship, to be very simplistic, between countries that invest into infrastructure, no matter what kind, cultural or otherwise, and the country’s independence. So I think Canada has, throughout many administrations, been reticent, reluctant to project itself into other countries. I know Europe is now changing its policies. If Canada goes the route of others, do we then perhaps fall into that trap of saying, “You’re investing saying it’s our culture, but really, you’re getting more out of it than we are”?
Mr. Rivet: Well, I think we would be hard-pressed to end up in the same situation as other countries with the history that they’ve had through these relationships.
Perhaps what I need to clarify is that when I speak of Canadian values, I speak in terms of how these values are interpreted in the way we work. That’s really where our value as practitioners comes in.
As planners, for example, we’ve developed strategies that look at engagement of communities and openness to listening to other perspectives throughout the planning process, whereas other countries may very well have a top-down approach or may be selective in the types of elements they would consider in planning.
So this is not a matter of projecting how we think. It’s projecting how we work about how we think. This is what’s desirable for other countries. This is not a matter of Canadians posing things. It is already out there as the way we function, and it is appealing to our potential partners. They don’t want to hear that Canada thinks this or thinks that. They want to hear how Canadian professionals manage these situations and these challenging environments and complexities tied to cultural heritage.
So there is a distinction to be made between projecting our own values and projecting the way we work to address these complexities.
The Chair: I’ll ask one more question, playing devil’s advocate: You’ve advocated coordination and advisory councils, yet you want a Canadian presence. So should we be going into policy recommendations towards more coordination? Or are we really saying more identity of a body within either foreign policy or the Prime Minister’s Office addressing the cultural aspect? We have trade commissioners. Maybe we need something to counter that.
Is it coordination, or is it an identity within a concept somewhere in the structures of foreign policy?
Mr. Rivet: Two thoughts come to mind. One, when I look at my colleagues from other countries, this approach of cultural diplomacy is embedded in the way that diplomatic representations function. There’s no real clear separation — some of the words I used earlier — that the European Commission has in mind, that the culture is a promoter of inter-dialogue and leads to growth and trade and so on.
The second element specific to Canada is that we do not have a clear image of what we are doing as Canadians already. I mentioned earlier that academic institutions are active internationally doing work, archaeological excavations or conservation projects. These are often funded through SSHRC or other granting agencies. Should we have a record of those investments and start tapping into other initiatives that are maybe funded through trade, infrastructure development or our contribution to the World Bank? Perhaps it would be an important first step to understand how we are present. That lack of clear evidence is a detriment to our ability to think strategically about whether we need to be embedded or to be separate, or whether we need coordination this way or that way.
Senator Cordy: Thank you very much for being with us, Dr. Rivet. As a Nova Scotia senator, I have to thank you very much for leading the nomination of the landscape of Grand Pré for the World Heritage Site. If anyone has not been there, you should go. It’s a wonderful site.
We will be writing a report after we hear from our witnesses, so I was interested when you talked about cultural diplomacy in trade and other avenues around the world. I think you’re right that we do have a reputation when we travel. We hear about Canadians being friendly. We know that we have a reputation as being open to cultural diversity within Canada and accepting others from around the world, and that Canada is often able to be the bridge builder between various countries.
One of the recommendations you made to us today was that a committee should be struck to monitor cultural diplomacy. I wonder, first of all, if you could expand on that. Would that be within various departments? Would it be political people, or would it be people within the departments?
When I look at cultural heritage and the cultural file, I think a lot of people see that as being on one side and trade and diplomacy on the other side, and they should never come together. When I look at the departments, we’ve got Canadian Heritage, Global Affairs and Trade. How do we get them working together? That’s got to happen. It can’t be a siloed effect. They’ve got to work together if, in fact, we’re going to reach the goal we heard not only from you but also from many of the witnesses of how bridge cultural diplomacy is indeed bridge building to other diplomacy within countries and around the world. How do we embed this idea that you spoke of that China does so effectively, embedding cultural diplomacy leading to trade and to relations with other countries?
I guess I have two questions: One is on the committee that’s going to be struck, if you could provide more detail on that, and the second is on removing the silos, three of which I just named. I’m sure there are others that can fit in there as well.
Mr. Rivet: Perhaps I’ll start with the second question because I’ve suffered through trying to understand those silos myself numerous times.
When I was working with the embassy in Quito, the trade file was predominant. The questions that were raised were about how this advances the trade opportunities for Canada. Yet the counter-argument that we were presenting, and where evidence from other countries was there, was before you start dancing with someone, perhaps you can ask for their names, listen to what they have to say and see if you do want to dance together.
So there is perhaps a need to emphasize these soft skills or this soft diplomacy as a prerequisite to gauging the ability to build something stronger. I think traditionally our country has been very skilled at demonstrating these soft approaches to building relationships, and that prerequisite may need to be paid attention to.
In terms of the type of advisory committee that we are suggesting, the primary concern is one that I alluded to a few minutes ago, the fact that we do not have that bird’s eye view of Canada’s presence in other countries and the presence of Canadian professionals in other countries who have built that goodwill and that trust.
Having an idea of academic, NGO and industry investments in those different countries would be a significant step toward understanding how we would develop a strategy. The suggestion here is to have those players who are active around the world, as Canadians, gather to illustrate that presence in a much more comprehensive way so that the Government of Canada would first be equipped with an appreciation of the impact we have as Canadians and that we have had for many decades already.
Senator Massicotte: You are asking for more funds to ensure that we connect our diplomatic role with concrete projects. How much money is involved, and what are the benefits of this connection? I understand that you are referring to the fact that, in other countries, the minister or the political representatives are very present and that this associates the country with projects. Some will wonder why. In other words, it benefits a few people who are going to be there, it flatters their egos, but from the perspective of the ordinary citizen, I’m not sure it helps. Can you connect the two?
Mr. Rivet: Yes. I am grateful for the nature of the question.
I think that, first and foremost, we must see this as a strategy. The intent is not in the quantity, but in the way we will get it done and in the presence we want to bring. In fact, for other countries, the amounts can vary enormously from one year to the next and import-export relations can be diverse between those countries. Spain and Ecuador account for about 2 per cent of product imports, so about $300 million to $400 million; my figures are approximate.
For several years, sustained investments in Quito have amounted to a few million dollars per year, with a very significant impact on the development of the historic centre, that is to say its quality, structure, planning consistency and profile. All this has improved the economic conditions of the community and the community itself, and has also improved the conditions that allow Spain to work with Ecuador. If we do not invest in the conditions of the countries in which we are, we will have a deficit which, in turn, could prevent us from bringing in other projects that could have a greater impact. So this is the strategy that a number of other countries have understood and put in practice for a long time. So we’re asking this committee to consider it and think about it.
Investments of several million dollars are indeed significant for our country. However, the impact has yet to be assessed. This is where we think it is necessary to reflect on this relationship strategically, as other countries have done.
The Chair: Dr. Rivet, you certainly elicited a lot of questions and have been more specific regarding areas we need to address. Thank you for your testimony. If you have further thoughts or suggestions, please contact the clerk as we work our way through this.
On behalf of the committee, thank you. Your presence is very valuable to our study.
(The committee adjourned.)