Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to draw the attention of my colleagues to the specific impact on culture of the current trend towards globalization. We are now examining Bill C-57, an Act to implement the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization. The purpose of this bill is to harmonize Canadian laws with the broad principles negotiated by GATT members.
During the Uruguay Round, we maintained and we continue to maintain, that in these wide-ranging global trade talks, culture should enjoy special safeguards that respect the sovereignty of states and their desire to preserve their specific identity. We are of course referring to the demands made by the Americans to include culture in free trade.
The Americans have been trying to impose their cultural industry throughout the world for some time. The U.S. audio-visual industry is their second largest export sector. They have been able to develop a very powerful industry, since their domestic market is the biggest in the world.
That is why according to them, culture should be considered as just another commodity, like a pair of shoes or a computer. In fact, the Americans totally dominate the industry.
As early as 1947, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade contained a major provision, article IV, which was intended to protect national cultures against the unbridled implementation of the principle of the free movement of goods. This article covered special provisions relating to cinematography. Member countries were allowed to set screening quotas, in other words, a minimum of domestic films to be screened in the country concerned.
In 1961, the Americans demanded national treatment as provided under article III and felt that the quantitative restrictions imposed by certain states, including Canada, with respect to U.S. television programs were discriminatory and violated article III. Canada argued that its right to impose such restrictions arose from article IV of the agreement, which provided that a country had the right to limit access to its film market. In fact, Canada extended to television its right to limit the screening of foreign films. Of course in 1947, when the GATT agreements were signed, television was a technology whose impact was hardly predictable.
Various attempts to reach an agreement were unsuccessful, so that as far as television programs are concerned, the intent of article IV is still not quite clear. However, the controversy clearly showed the lack of enthusiasm of the American government for trade restrictions on cultural grounds.
In the late 1970s, the Americans are at it again. The GATT secretariat is mandated by the contracting parties to compile a list of all non-tariff barriers. The US list mentions various foreign practices designed to limit the importation of American cultural products. Also and for the first time, the United States denounced the subsidization of national film producers and distributors practised in 21 member countries. Again, the principle of financial freedom advocated by American interests clashes with that of cultural development and national identity.
This exercise did not result in any concrete measures at the Tokyo Round, in particular because the major part of the cultural product was often considered within the OECD as falling under trade in services instead of trade in goods, which automatically excluded it from the scope of the GATT agreement.
Starting in 1986, at the insistent request of the United States, three new subjects were to be covered in the new round of trade negotiations: intellectual property, investments and services, culture being assimilated to a service. It then became increasingly difficult to exclude cultural products from the market logic peculiar to GATT.
In 1990, in the context of these negotiations, a special committee was set up to look into the liberalization of trade in the specific area of audiovisual. Two opposite sets of views were represented in this committee, with the United States insisting that no restriction be put on the movement of goods and services, while the European Community was asking that, where the cultural identity of a state were involved, the State in question not be forced to make concessions that could put its cultural identity at risk. This committee was eventually dissolved, it being absolutely impossible for its members to come to an agreement.
At the same time, Canada was negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States. And again, culture and cultural sovereignty were at the centre of the debate. All the lobbies directly or indirectly associated with cultural industries set out to convince negotiators and the public that cultural products had to be excluded from this agreement. The Conservative government changed its mind on this issue depending on which way the wind was blowing: one day, culture was on the table; the next day, cross my heart and hope to die, it was not.
Completely contradictory statements made it impossible to get at the truth. The government claimed that the question of cultural sovereignty was not negotiable, but in fact did not demand the exclusion of the cultural industries for fear of jeopardizing the success of the negotiations. Furthermore, during the negotiations, the government scrapped a film bill designed, among other things, to guarantee better control over the distribution of foreign films within Canada.
In other words, even while the North American Free Trade Agreement was being hammered out, the Canadian government was backing away from one of its fundamental responsibilities intended to support cultural development. Knowing that Americans produce 97 per cent of the films we see, we cannot help but be concerned by the lack of vision of the Canadian government of the day.
The withdrawal of this bill is a threat to our cultural future. In fact, according to the experts, the cultural protection obtained by Canada in the Free Trade Agreement and renewed in NAFTA remains ambiguous and could be challenged. This ambiguity is summed up in article 2005 of NAFTA. Paragraph 1 provides that cultural industries are exempt from the provisions of the agreement, and paragraph 2 allows the Americans to take reprisals in other areas of activity if they feel that Canadian cultural policy goes against their interests. So much for Canada's ability to undertake any legislative measures necessary to further its cultural development. Such measures could be ill viewed by the Americans, who would take retaliatory action by virtue of the powers given them under paragraph 2 of article 2005.
Now we understand why the Canadian government withdrew its bill limiting distribution of foreign films within its jurisdiction and why the present government is dragging its feet on amendments to the Copyright Act.
In the last round of GATT negotiations, we are told, culture had a narrow escape. The Americans' push for unanimous agreement that culture is a product like any other and should be exempt from national and international regulation failed because of the forceful intervention of France, supported by the European Economic Community.
In this last-ditch attempt to save cultural expression and the democracy of ideas, Canada played a minor role, overshadowed by our cousins from France. The current government, need I remind you, belatedly supported the agreement after a period of guilty silence. This attitude reveals Canada's position on the whole issue of culture.
The Ginn Publishing affair reveals just as much about Canada's position on protecting our cultural development. Under the Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA, the Canadian government can take measures to protect its publishing and book industry. This provision was designed to allow the Canadian government to maintain its policy on foreign investment in publishing.
Why did the Minister of Heritage agree to sell Ginn Publishing? By enacting a law on foreign investment, the Canadian government had given itself a tool to protect the Canadian publishing industry. Yet, the Minister of Heritage ratified the americanization of one of our publishing houses with a smile and his proverbial naivety. This minister submitted to our neighbour's blows by willingly abandoning what nothing was forcing him to relinquish.
Do you really believe that, in the current circumstances, we can trust this minister to protect our country's culture in the next round of multilateral negotiations?
Cases like that of Ginn Publishing make us wonder about what many call the "secret clauses" of the Free Trade Agreement. Is it normal that, in a democratic country, our government makes its decisions not by consulting Parliament and the people in accordance with its own laws, but under pressure from other countries?
Some observers noted that Canada's lack of involvement in the GATT multilateral negotiations was due to the fact that it considers its cultural sector as already protected by the FTA and NAFTA. But, as we know, this protection is limited by the fear of retaliation from the American giant, by verbal agreements that leave traces and by the Canadian government's unwillingness to stand up in promoting this country's culture.
Furthermore, Carla Hills told Congress that GATT had precedence over the FTA, that there was therefore no cause for concern about this concession to Canadians. I should point out that she said this to the U.S. Congress. In fact, the FTA has precedence over GATT. Still, this statement by the woman who was in charge of FTA negotiations for the American side says a lot about the relative importance given to this agreement by the U.S. and their intention of re-opening it in the future.
Let us go back to the last round of GATT negotiations, which addressed for the first time the issue of intellectual property. The bill before us today contains some 20 clauses on copyrights. As with the rest of the bill, these amendments are proposed to make our Copyright Act comply with the agreements in the Trade Related Aspects of International Property Rights , a document containing the rules of the World Trade Organization, including those related to copyright.
These changes are minor, to be sure. They create only one new right: they allow the performing artist to authorize or refuse to permit the recording and broadcast of his performance. The remaining clauses on copyright are intended to update our Copyright Act by including the agreements in Trade Related Aspects of International Property Rights and the provisions of the Universal Copyright Convention, to which this international agreement refers.
As examples of these changes, note the clarifications made to the definitions of "infringing" and "performance". Accordingly, industrial piracy and trade in illegally copied merchandise will be limited.
The changes imposed by international trade are commendable. Nevertheless, they put the Canadian government's inaction on copyright on the national agenda. Phase II of the Copyright Act review was planned for last spring. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, who appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on May 4, said this: "I have said right from the beginning, probably even when I became responsible for this portfolio, that our copyright legislation is out of date. There has not been any major change for many years. It is not even fully in keeping with the international agreements on copyrights. We need an overhaul. We are working on it. We have teams of people doing an examination of all this. They are doing the economic impact studies and extensive consultations -I am quite determined to see amendments to the Copyright Act before too long".
But like everyone in the cultural community in Canada and Quebec, we are still waiting for this Copyright Act. This delay is tragic. Of course, it is tragic for our working artists who for ten years or so have been calling for major changes to this law. It is also tragic because we suspect that this delay could be due to the difference of opinion between the Department of Industry and the Department of Canadian Heritage.
On December 22, 1993, the Union des artistes wrote this to the Prime Minister: "The Copyright Act is now being reviewed -Under the previous government, there was an obstacle to the harmonious review of that legislation: The sharing of responsibility between the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. That arrangement led to a dual vision which, more often than not, resulted in contradictory objectives. That act is the only one protecting the right of Canadian creators".
As for the Minister of Canadian Heritage, he said on CBC radio that he did not really know what the content of phase II of the legislation on copyright would be, and that there would probably be a phase III. It seems that the heritage minister no longer has any authority to impose his views on that issue. He finds himself in a weak and isolated position in his wrestling match with the Minister of Industry. This is truly tragic, considering that it is incumbent upon that department to protect the cultural interests of Canada.
The government resorts to a stopgap measure, namely Bill C-57, to make up for the tragic and unacceptable delay. The Department of International Trade is trying to ensure that the current act is in compliance with international agreements.
I want to emphasize the importance of cultural development for a society.
The role of the department in this issue is crucial and vital. Why? Because, as evidenced by the Ginn episode, as evidenced now by the government's apathy regarding the review of the Copyright Act, and as evidenced also by what observers called a very close call with GATT, the right to culture, on one hand, and economic considerations, on the other hand, are on a collision course. And if the Minister of Canadian Heritage does not start creating strategic alliances right now, it is not only Canadian cultural industries which will be in jeopardy, but also democracy itself.
To understand that, we have to define culture. We could, of course, quote several authors. Let us take the definition given by British sociologist Raymond Williams, whom authors Marc Raboy, Yvan Bernier, Florian Sauvageau and Dave Atkinson quote in their book Développement culturel et mondialisation de l'économie : ``At various times and in various contexts, the term culture has been used in one of three ways. First, it may refer to a general process of intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development; second, it may describe the way of life of a people or a
group in a specific location or time; third, it may refer to the activities of artists or intellectuals in a given society".
Except for the last definition, which only applies to cultural producers, it appears that culture includes a wide array of information and knowledge which allow individuals to develop (including through education, as shown by Williams' first definition), to adjust and to play a role in their community (as shown by the author's second definition). From this viewpoint, it would seem that artists and intellectuals as well as cultural producers not only participate in the intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development of individuals, but also help create an awareness of their living environment. This shows the importance of their activity, which comes under all three definitions of culture according to Williams."
Canadian economist Michael Walker also gives the following definition, and I quote: "What we refer to as culture is simply a society-wide summation of the individual choices people make".
From this perspective, culture is essentially demand as expressed by the markets. This definition puts less emphasis on cultural content, as a set of information and knowledge, than on the mechanism that promotes culture, namely a market free of any restrictions.
To compare the definitions provided by Williams and Walker is somewhat of a joke, but it goes to show the conflict between sociological and economic approaches to culture, and particularly the historical conflict between economy and culture which has characterized to this day the evolution of industrialized nations.
To conclude, the proposed amendments to the Copyright Act are imposed upon us from the outside, as a result of multilateral trade agreements signed by Canada. Are we going to let foreign countries decide what is good for Canada in terms of culture or will we pass legislation that reflects our directions, our wishes and those of our creative artists as well as the needs of our cultural industry, which promotes Canadian and Quebec talent? The Bloc Quebecois has made a choice and opted for the cultural sovereignty of this country.