Evidence of meeting #51 for Canadian Heritage in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was council.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Simon Brault  Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

4:30 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

I would say, rather, that it is a sectoral approach.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

There was talk at some point of replacing certain aspects of your affairs that are a bit weaker.

Will there be good representation from Quebec and francophones within the Canada Council for the Arts? Since you do not play a role in that, to whom should I address my question?

4:30 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

Indeed, I do not play any role in that, since it is the government that makes the appointments.

However, I was myself vice-chair of the board of directors of the Canada Council for 10 years, and so I am very familiar with the council's perspective. When I began my mandate as chief executive officer, I was able to start work on the first day, because I had been vice-president for 10 years.

The board of directors has a governance role. The people appointed to the board are not there to manage the activities of the Canada Council; they are there to ensure that there is real oversight, that some healthy skepticism is brought to bear, and that the right questions are asked.

As we speak, the vice-chair of the council is Nathalie Bondil. She is in my opinion one of the most eminent specialists in the cultural sector. She comes from Quebec. Our director Pierre Lassonde is from the world of arts philanthropy. So there are still people on the board of directors of the Canada Council for the Arts who have a very good knowledge of the area and do their work very well.

We will see whom the government will appoint next. I hope it will try to represent the country's diversity and complexity, and appoint people who have an interest and a passion for the advancement of the arts in Canadian society. The Canada Council has always to my knowledge had very strong boards, regardless of the government in power, and very competent teams. So we await these appointments. That said, the work must continue to go forward.

As for our influence on the sector, the cultural economy in Canada, it needs to be said, amounts to almost $50 billion. The Canada Council for the Arts, despite its budget which will reach $310 million in 2021, remains a modest player in the sector as a whole.

Increasingly, whenever we intervene we try to analyze all of the inputs in the system and to see where we should intervene. We must act to further the situation of creators and artists. We do not seek to change the laws nor the industrial models that are broken; we cannot do that, it is outside of our purview. However, we have an irreplaceable power to act on all cultural industries and the cultural sector overall, and to ensure that we continue to support, value and fund creators who have the necessary time to reach excellent levels of creation that will allow Canada to continue to shine. That is our mission and that is what we are attempting to do.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Please allow me to show some healthy skepticism, as you said. Could we see an intervention on the part of the Canada Council in sectors where creation is normally entrusted to other industrial sectors? For instance, I'm thinking of pop music, which is having trouble, as we saw recently. We could also talk about contemporary music, that is also funded by FACTOR and Musicaction, which is not very appropriate given its artistic nature.

Do you believe that you have a mandate to get involved in those changes?

4:30 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

No. The Canada Council functions at arm's length from the government. When its budget was increased, its mandate was not broadened.

For example, in the publishing area, Heritage Canada deals with the industrial part, whether we are talking about literary publications or not. The Canada Council for its part has a great deal of interest in the situation of authors, and the status of literature. It is interested also in literary magazines and independent literary publishers, for the purpose of advancing literature.

In the same way when it comes to music, we are very interested in several musical genres, and even more in research and development and experimentation. Some of the artists we support become much better known at a certain point, and then function according to more industrial models. So there is a transition.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

The industry takes over.

4:35 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

Yes, there is a transition.

That said, the Canada Council will continue basically to focus on arts and literature. We are talking here about creation and also the appreciation of the arts and literature by our citizens. It's very important that we do that.

I had the opportunity of studying a very large number of cultural policies around the world, especially regarding the digital aspect, and I can tell you that a great deal of thought went into these policies to resolve problems created by the disruption. Our position has always been that, ultimately, we have to support the creators. I think that is what we do, and that that is what will continue to be our focus.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Of course.

In your...

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Mr. Nantel, your time has ended.

We now go to Mr. Vandal, for the Liberals.

March 21st, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Brault.

I am very encouraged that within your strategic plan the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has quite a high profile.

I would like to know how, up to this point, your organization has reflected indigenous reality at both funding levels and how basically this is going to change. I see the TRC calls on the council to establish, as a funding priority, a strategy for indigenous and non-indigenous artists to undertake collaborative works and produce works that contribute to reconciliation.

I have a two-part question. What has the council done so far in terms of indigenous arts, and how will you contribute to reconciliation?

4:35 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

On those two questions, the first thing I want to say is that the Canada Council announced, before the publication of the TRC report, our intention to reorganize completely the way we see the relationship with indigenous artists.

We took all the different programs in which there was a component addressing the needs of indigenous artists and announced that one of the six major programs of the council—its name is Creating, Knowing and Sharing—would support indigenous artists on their own terms. It's a program inspired by self-determination and self-governance, so there are many features in the program that are absolutely unique to the indigenous, Inuit, and Métis people.

In terms of reality, for instance, the Canada Council would not support the idea of cultural transmission, except for indigenous artists, because it's a reality and it's needed. We would support, for instance, the transmission by elders to younger artists. You don't see that anywhere else at the Canada Council.

We committed, in our strategic plan, to triple over the next five years the investment we are making to support indigenous art. We are, then, not only recontextualizing how we support indigenous art but also are adding more resources—and more rapidly, because in fact our investment will triple not over five years, but the bulk of it will happen over the next two years.

On the specific aspect of reconciliation—

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Just quickly before you start on that, this will bring the overall percentage of the budget to approximately—?

4:35 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

We will probably be at about 6.57%, because the way we always calculate it is to try to see what the percentage of the population is and the percentage of artists. We will probably reach something like 7% of all our grants going to indigenous art.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Is that once it's tripled?

4:35 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

Yes.

In terms of reconciliation, we announced a project more than two years ago, co-funded by the Canada Council, the McConnell Foundation, and The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, to really support and fund artistic projects aimed at advancing reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people. That project has been a resounding success. We've already funded amazing projects that had a huge impact. We renewed our commitment to it and we are now integrating this question of reconciliation as a permanent feature of our ongoing support for indigenous art.

We also said that any indigenous artist who wants to be supported by the Canada Council not by the program that has been created to support indigenous artists, but through other programs, can also take that road. We don't force anyone to take a specific road.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

There's about a minute and a half left, so I'll pass the questions over to Julie.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Thank you.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

There is exactly a minute and a half left.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

You mentioned the digital summit, the Arts in a Digital World Summit that was held last week in Montreal. What were some of the main themes or solutions proposed to deal with digital disruption?

4:40 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

We discovered three things. First of all, it's really important to realize that the less disrupted part, for the moment, of the entire ecosystem of culture and communication is really artistic creation. Everywhere else, if you look at the music industry; if you look at screen, no doubt; or if you look at the media, the level of disruption created by digital technology is huge. As you know, disruption is not an intention, but the result of new technology or a new model. Whether it's creating, rehearsing, practising, and developing a dance or writing a book, artistic creation is more or less the same as it was 40 years ago. What has changed is everything related to distribution, to mediation, to libraries, how we can engage; it's all better. That's one piece of good news.

The second piece of good news is that we can adapt, and we saw three very important needs. First of all, the level of literacy is still very low in the arts sector.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Do you mean digital literacy?

4:40 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

It's digital literacy, or numeracy if you wish. There's a need to really make sure that the arts sector develops its collective intelligence of what the issues are and the possibilities related to digital. It needs to be done inside the sector, not making the sector dependent on agencies outside the sector.

So digital literacy is the first priority.

The second one is around the question of how we can develop new ways of engaging with citizens. Clearly the relationship that citizens have with any content, any experience, is transformed by digital. We think that there's a huge need to develop capacities there.

I will give you my favourite example now, the last thing I saw. Last year, in Avignon, France, there was a partnership between the Festival d'Avignon and a high-tech company. They developed goggles that allow translation in eight different languages, with subtitles in your goggles to see a show. If we were to have that in only two or three languages in Canada, already it would be fantastic. It's things such as that to make sure that we use technology to engage and enhance the experience of the audience and the people.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Thank you, Mr. Brault.

4:40 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

The third thing is the transformation of our organizations. The way it is organized, the arts sector is still very granular. As I said in some interviews, right now in Silicon Valley the giants of the Internet know the cultural preferences of 2.4 billion human beings. They know that about each of us. However, still, in any city in Canada, you'll see fights between the orchestra and the opera, who don't want to share their list of subscribers, so there's something that doesn't work.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Thank you, Mr. Brault. I've allowed you to finish because it is fascinating, but we've gone over our time very much on this one.