In the realm of cultural identifiers, Canada’s place in the world always left me questioning. After recently spending a semester abroad, a new-found pride for my country arose. Lately, it has become apparent that the world is also starting to pay a little more attention to Canada. Maybe it’s because of our new, internationally popular Prime Minster? Maybe it’s because Canada is a beautiful land with many different cultures and peoples? Maybe it’s just because we are so darn polite?
Despite looming problems, Canada is moving forward. With rising international interest in Canada, I wonder if this will create a more active and informed Canadian citizenry. Canada’s cultural policy seems like a myriad of occurrences, with its rapid growth of culture attributable to a large range of national, provincial and territorial policies and programs that contribute to the development of arts, heritage, and broadcasting. Our defining bilingual status and multicultural society, foreign trade and opportunities, beautiful landscapes and much more are becoming recognized at the international level. A recent article by the New York Times even labelled Canada as the number one place to go in 2017. With this new attention drawn to our nation, is there a more prominent place for Canada as a global economic and cultural force? And if so, what needs to be done to fully realize this potential?
In December 2016, Melanie Joly, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, was in Paris attending meetings with French and European cultural leaders. These other leaders face the same dilemma found in Canada: How does a mid-sized country maintain cultural sovereignty and development (of sorts) in light of FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google)?
Integrate Canadian Content into the Global Stage
Investing in Canadian content creation is necessary given increasing global competition and the rapid development of new technologies. The concern of losing Canadian talent and content to other markets remains a common concern. Integrating a strong creative sector within the policy landscape will both provide economic growth, and promote Canadian culture and local content that fosters national and community pride.
On top of this community building, cultural experiences expose other perspectives across the country and around the world, ultimately fostering more informed citizens. Canada is one of the highest ranking nations in terms of spending on Research and Development, with a growing research community that is becoming increasingly recognized for its work. This move forward will help Canadian talent gain global recognition, and encourage investments in the economic development of research and innovation.
Have a Strong Public Broadcaster
A common factor of successful creative economies around the world is a strong public broadcaster. Countries that invest in public broadcasting have better outcomes, as they are able to maintain and develop strong cultural ecosystems for open and honest broadcasting. The BBC is a prime example of this, particularly since it has developed into a growing international news source. This past April, the BBC reached a record weekly audience of 348 million people worldwide, which is a 13 per cent increase from the previous year.
In Canada, the CBC and Radio-Canada has a critical role in supporting democracy and promoting Canadian content, artists, and creators. However, only long-term sustainable funding for public broadcasting that relies less on advertising-based funding schemes will allow these broadcasters to fully focus on the cultural impact of their mandate. This would allow for deeper engagement with the Canadian public, and build a stronger relationship with Canadian creators, communities, and cultural institutions, resulting in more Canadian content that can be promoted domestically and internationally.
Ensure a Clear Cultural Recognition of Indigenous Rights and Representation
A growing cultural policy framework is required to better incorporate cultural perspectives and languages into various outlets of mainstream media and ways of life. In alignment with Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), this calls for the nation to take measures to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as “revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions…to designate and retain their own names for communities, place and persons.”
With recent advancements and commitments to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Canada has the ability to become a world leader as it moves forward on commitments made in UNDRIP. As the cultural recognition and integration of Indigenous rights becomes increasingly apparent throughout Canada, Canadians will be made more aware of their historical connections, and will continue to build strong and healthy relations moving forward.
Canadians want and need Canadian news, information, entertainment, and want to see Canadian-made products that invest back into our economy.
Here are a few important steps in responding to the cultural dilemmas facing Canadian culture, particularly in light of an internet-based, globalized world that supports the FANG organizations over local content. Canadian media is under threat in the internet ocean of online streaming and subscriptions to networks that send profits to places like California. However, it seems that Ottawa is aware of this problem. But more importantly, it seems that Canadians want and need Canadian news, information, entertainment, and want to see Canadian-made products that invest back into our economy. On top of this, Canada has the power to become a leader, particularly in developing a way for Indigenous culture to be highlighted and celebrated throughout the Canadian and international communities.
So yes, Canada is becoming more known as a force to be reckoned with. Is it where it needs to be? Not yet. But we certainly have a fighting chance.
Shannon Brooks is a second year Master of Public Policy student at the University of Toronto. She recently spent her fall semester abroad in Paris at the Sciences Po School of International Affairs. Her policy interests include social policy, municipal policy, immigration, and international affairs. Shannon recently worked as a co-op analyst with the Regional Municipality of York, where she was able to learn more about internal Human Resources policy and municipal finance policy.