moved that Bill S-205, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Visual Artist Laureate), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill S-205, which seeks to create the position of Parliamentary Visual Artist Laureate. This would be an officer of the Library of Parliament, similar to the current Parliamentary Poet Laureate's position. The mandate of the Parliamentary Visual Artist Laureate would be to promote the arts in Canada through Parliament, including by fostering knowledge, enjoyment, awareness and development of the arts. In this bill, the arts are defined as drawing, painting, sculpture, print-making, design, crafts, photography, videography and filmmaking.
I would like to thank the sponsor in the Senate of this bill, Senator Patricia Bovey, for her work in moving this legislation to the House. I would also like to acknowledge the artist Peter Gough of Nova Scotia, who was the originator of this wonderful idea. Sadly, Peter passed away before he could see his idea become a reality. However, there are many other incredible artists in Nova Scotia and across Canada who I am sure will be happy to see this bill move forward and honour his memory and the work of Canada's arts community.
Bill S-205 is based on the same concept, as I said, as the Parliamentary Poet Laureate. The Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada, the chairperson of the Canada Council for the Arts, and the president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts have all provided their witness testimony about this important bill, as has the director of the National Gallery of Canada.
The position would have a two-year term with a mandate of promoting the arts in Canada through Parliament, including by fostering knowledge, enjoyment and development of the arts. I cannot emphasize enough or too greatly the contribution that Canadian artists make to our society, our collective well-being and our understanding of each other: lifelong Canadians, new Canadians, immigrants, first nations and refugees. The arts can break down barriers that exist between us, which is something we need today more than ever. Canada's artists have been illuminating what it means to be Canadian, where we have been and where we are going through many different media and from the views of many different cultures and regions. These are sometimes critical, but are reflective of who we are.
Over the past year and a half, we have been living through some of the most challenging times faced by our country in decades. The pandemic has forced us into isolation. It has led to loneliness and despair for many Canadians and for our youth, as well. I have to say our youth are looking forward to the day they can get out and enjoy the arts in person again and as my dear, departed niece, Maia, said to me shortly before she passed away this week, “What would life be without music? Life would be so depressing without music.” I have to say that I completely agree with her. Throughout this pandemic, Canada's artists have been there to provide us with a bit of light and hope while we await a time to come when we can be together again as friends, families and colleagues.
The arts are also economic generators. As the third-largest employer in Canada, the arts and culture sector employs some 600,000 Canadians and contributes 7.5% of our GDP. Research has demonstrated that the arts contribute positively to our health, education and the environment, and I suggest we need more arts in schools. The arts are mental health programs. Members can ask any child to tell their story, and I am sure they would rather do it through drawing, through writing or even through drama and putting on a personality, than try to speak as themselves. Sometimes this is much easier for people to do.
Where would the tourism industry be without Canada's arts and artists? The arts are a universal international language and the lens through which other nations recognize us as Canadians. It makes us different from the Americans. The Americans have their own arts and culture, but we need to support ours so we are not drowned out and so people can hear our own stories and our own voices, not just American ones.
The cultural components of international events are there not just to entertain but to show the world who we are, and we are very good at doing this. The Government of Canada has committed to restoring the cultural pillar to our foreign policy. We are depicting ourselves to the world through the arts, which on the international stage creates a greater understanding of who we are.
I believe it is time for our Parliament to have a visual artist laureate, whose works would preserve for posterity the events that grip us as parliamentarians and the work we do to make Canadians' lives better. I ask for members' support in making this initiative a reality. It is a tangible manner of thanking our artists for their contribution to Canadian society, especially during trying times such as these.
I would like to say the words of George Elliott Clark, our former parliamentary poet laureate. The poem is entitled “On the Proposal for a Visual Artist Laureate”:
The blank page—the blank canvas is—
Like fog, which obscures, then reveals—
What Hope imminently congeals—
A fantastic architecture—
Imagination born secure:
What Vision— the I of the eye—
Had dreamt, is What answering Why. . ..
Rainbows erupt from paint or ink—
And film sculptures light—in a blink;
A needle, weaving, is lyric,
And whatever is shaped is epic.
Art's each I articulate,
Whose vision ordains a laureate.