Mr. Chair, I will also make a presentation, somewhat like my colleague did.
First of all, to put the government's actions in context, I would like to introduce you to some of those who are here with me and who are longstanding colleagues and partners. First, the Minister of State for Multiculturalism, who is always ready to answer any questions regarding multiculturalism, the Minister of State responsible for Amateur Sport and my parliamentary secretary who is a tireless arts advocate.
I would like to introduce my colleagues, Deputy Minister Judith LaRocque, Associate Deputy Minister Susan Peterson and Assistant Deputy Minister for Planning and Corporate Affairs Bruce Manion. They have also contributed to putting all this together.
I also want to tell you that if there are any questions or requests, we are all ready to answer them or give briefings if necessary.
The department I have had the honour to head for four months deals with issues that are central to the leading debates of our time. These issues have considerable impact on our society and our future. I am referring to intercultural relations, to the impact of culture on our quality of life and our prosperity, to the preservation of our forms of expression, to the place of artists in our society, to the development of sport, to the status of women and more. Its area of responsibility is wide-ranging, from official and aboriginal languages to artistic creation, museums, broadcasting and multiculturalism.
My department also oversees major institutions with a mandate to promote the growth of our culture, such as the CBC/SRC, the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board.
In this area of globalization, the mission of the Department of Canadian Heritage has never been as relevant or as crucial. In Canada we face an inescapable reality. We share the longest undefended border with a global superpower and a cultural giant. That distinguishes us from the rest of the world.
What is it that defines us? It is our history, our culture, our artistic works, our national institutions, our linguistic duality and our heritage languages, the way we integrate different cultural communities without making them fit into a single mould and our vision of the world.
It is this diversity that we must protect and promote in an increasingly uniform world. And that is exactly why this department exists.
We work toward three main objectives: promoting excellence in the cultural sector, from creativity to production to presentation; facilitating diversity of choices, perspectives and viewpoints; and encouraging the celebration of the diversity that gives us our strength.
Let us start by recognizing that our cultural policies have, over the years, enabled our creative people to achieve an enviable position within Canada and abroad. Our policies are based on the following premise: We want to have access to the best of what the world has to offer, including cultural products from the United States. But we also want to have access to the best of what we in Canada have to offer in terms of culture.
Furthermore, it is important not to underestimate the impact of Canada's arts and cultural sector on our quality of life, our success and our prosperity.
The figures speak for themselves. Each year, the cultural sector directly contributes 27 billion dollars to our gross domestic product. The Government of Canada spends an average of 3 billion dollars on culture. That is what is called a good investment. We would like to invest more of course, but we see that it is profitable.
We believe that the sector provides employment to 760,000 individuals in Canada. That is more jobs than there are in the agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mining, oil and gas extraction, and public services sectors combined.
In this context, to increase cultural offerings, the department that I head invests in our greatest source of creativity; this is, our artists and our creative people.
In May 2001 the Government of Canada announced an unprecedented initiative called Tomorrow Starts Today. This is the Government of Canada's most significant investment in culture since the founding of the Canada Council for the Arts. It has greatly helped our artists to create, to express themselves, to innovate, and to reach their audience. This is aside from the direct benefits to our community.
Let us take a specific example. Through the support of one of the programs of Tomorrow Starts Today, Nettwerk signed a contract with Sarah McLachlan to distribute three of her albums. The resulting commercial success helped transport Nettwerk into an international company that launched the career of such Canadian artists as Avril Lavigne.
In addition, performance halls, cultural institutions, festivals, art schools, publishing houses and theatres across Canada have received our support through Tomorrow Starts Today.
I am thinking of and this is to answer my dear colleague's question: the Tintamarre Acadian Parade in Caraquet; the Fondation I Musici in Montreal; the community of Owen Sound, which was named a cultural capital in Canada in 2004; the Soulpepper Theatre Company in Toronto; the Royal Ballet School in Winnipeg; Thistletown Press, a Saskatchewan based publishing firm; the Arts Touring Alliance of Alberta; the Nunavut Arts Festival; the Belfry Theatre in Vancouver; and the Dawson City Music Festival in Yukon.
Let us also take another interesting example. The circus and magic partnership program known as CAMP is a project that we have supported under Tomorrow Starts Today. It makes use of professional performers in the fields of circus and magic to raise the self-esteem of young people at risk in downtown Winnipeg and to expand their artistic experience. The success of the project will ensure its introduction in northern Manitoba.
The effectiveness and the needs for the Tomorrow Starts Today program was recognized by my provincial and territorial counterparts at our most recent meeting 15 days ago in Halifax.
Tomorrow Starts Today is certainly one of the most important cultural initiatives of my department, but there are others.
To offer diverse Canadian cultural choices, it is also necessary to invest in the cultural institutions that support our artists, and in a structure for presenting their works and enabling them to reach their audience.
For example, let us consider our support for the audiovisual sector. Since 1996, through the Canadian television fund, we have been able to produce 18,000 hours of programs in English, French, and Aboriginal languages. The total value of these productions is $6 billion.
The fund brings together efforts of the Government of Canada and the private sector to create high quality cultural content. In attracting audiences, the fund shows that popularity and quality are not mutually exclusive. It enables us to provide to our artists a forum in which they can express themselves in our own market, and to offer to our population programs that reflect their own lives.
It is impossible to overlook the successes of Canada's film industry in recent years. This shows us that Canadians want to go to see films produced here in our country. A film such as Séraphin: un homme et son péché achieved the feat of making three generations of francophones run to the movie houses, breaking all the records for box office receipts by a Canadian film. The world has greatly changed since then. New distribution technologies have emerged, and it is ever easier to copy or obtain works without paying for them. This is the case, for example, in the music field. And it is our artists who ultimately pay the price.
We must give our artists the means to receive remuneration for their work. It is exactly for this purpose that the Department of Canadian Heritage is working with the Department of Industry to modernize the Copyright Act. We must achieve a fair balance between the needs of creative people and those of users. This is an issue facing all societies in this time of globalization and new technology.
However, culture is not limited to forms of artistic expression alone. It includes all the forms of expression and activities that bring us together within our communities.
Sports are essential to the lives of our communities. For this reason, through the Minister of State responsible for Sport and Sports Canada, the Department of Canadian Heritage will give our athletes the means to excel in sports and give the general public the means to practise sporting activities. Sports also play an important role in the lives of individuals. Not only do sports give Canadians a chance to express their pride during large sports gatherings, but they are also a healthy way of life for the population in general.
Culture is also an important voice of our communities across Canada. Our culture is shaped by the men and women who have lived on this land for centuries or who have come here with the hopes of putting down roots. There are aboriginal people, anglophones, francophones, and people from all over the world. They are young people, they are women, they are men. Diversity enriches us, but with one condition, and that is that all communities and all citizens can express their differences and make their viewpoints heard. The Minister of State responsible for Multiculturalism helps us fulfill this condition. In my opinion, and that of the majority of Canadians, this is what gives us strength.
In the Canadian Heritage portfolio, for which I am responsible, some programs specifically seek to strengthen the cultural identity and language of aboriginal Canadians, support official language minority communities, promote multiculturalism, ensure the participation of women in all sectors of activity through Status of Women Canada, and invest in Canada's young people. We must give each and every one the tools to express individual differences, aspirations, and an eagerness to contribute to the betterment of society.
But we must also give every person the tools to celebrate the diversity that is characteristic of Canadians. Just observe how Canadians flock to festivals on the theme of world culture. The entire world can be found within our borders. And my department seeks to increase opportunities for celebrating this diversity. It may be on the occasion of Canada Day, or through initiatives promoting Canadian symbols. While diversity gives us strength, it also highlights the values that we have in common. Values that we all share and that are rooted in democracy. Values connected to an ideal of freedom. An ideal that has built a tolerant society, in which the concept of equality has the strongest influence.
The expression and celebration of diversity is a national objective that has become an international issue. The debate currently drawing attention is undoubtedly that on cultural diversity.
I firmly believe that each country must be able to adopt its own cultural policies and to have the tools for protecting its own forms of expression. This is why I am committed to working for the adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Content and Artistic Expression within the framework of UNESCO.
During the meeting of Canada's ministers responsible for culture, which took place 15 days ago, I conveyed to my colleagues the significance and scope of this convention. A resolution submitted by Saskatchewan and seconded by Alberta assured me of their support. I would also like to mention the valuable cooperation on this issue, from the outset, of the Government of Quebec. Not to protect one's culture is to put one's soul up for auction.
Culture is not a luxury and our assets in this area are fragile. Our market for culture is one of the most open in the world. It enriches us, but at the same time this openness represents a challenge to our own creativity and to the distribution of our cultural products. This is why it is important to continue supporting our artists, and maintaining and indeed, strengthening our cultural policy.
Moreover, the promotion of diversity requires unwaivering efforts. It is central to our Canadian identity. We must continue to defend it and enhance it. It is an engine for cultural, economic and social development. It is an asset that will enable Canada to become a leader in the 21st century.