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BriefsReportTable of ContentReport IndexRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences

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OUR task has been neither modest in scope nor simple in character. The subjects with which we have dealt cover the entire field of letters, the arts and sciences within the jurisdiction of the federal state. But although numerous and varied they are all parts of one whole. Our concern throughout was with the needs and desires of the citizen in relation to science, literature, art, music, the drama, films, broadcasting. In accordance with our instructions we examined also research as related to the national welfare, and considered what the Federal Government might do in the development of the individual through scholarships and bursaries. Such an inquiry as we have been asked to make is probably unique; it is certainly unprecedented in Canada.

2. Our primary duty was precisely defined in our Terms of Reference. We were required to examine certain national institutions and functions and to make recommendations regarding their organization and the policies which should govern them. These subjects are listed in the Order in Council which established the Royal Commission. They were extended by a letter from the Prime Minister which appears with our Terms of Reference on page xxi. Our recommendations will be found in Part II of our Report.

3. This major task involved a further undertaking. The agencies and functions with which we were required to deal are only certain threads in a vast fabric. To appreciate their meaning and importance we had to view the pattern into which they are woven; to understand them we had to study their context. We found it necessary therefore to attempt a general survey of the arts, letters and sciences in Canada, to appraise present accomplishments and to forecast future progress. This stocktaking appears as Part I of our Report.

4. In the preamble to our Terms of Reference appears the following passage:


"That it is desirable that the Canadian people should know as much as possible about their country, its history and traditions; and about their national life and common achievements; that it is in the national interest to give encouragement to institutions which express national feeling, promote common understanding and add to the variety and richness of Canadian life, rural as well as urban."

There have been in the past many attempts to appraise our physical resources. Our study, however, is concerned with human assets, with what might be called in a broad sense spiritual resources, which are less tangible but whose importance needs no emphasis.

5. The introductory passage quoted above suggests two basic assumptions which underlie our task. First, it clearly implies that there are important things in the life of a nation which cannot be weighed or measured. These intangible elements are not only essential in themselves; they may serve to inspire a nation's devotion and to prompt a people's action. When Mr. Churchill in 1940 called the British people to their supreme effort, he invoked the traditions of his country, and based his appeal on the common background from which had grown the character and the way of life of his fellow countrymen. In the spiritual heritage of Great Britain was found the quickening force to meet the menacing facts of that perilous hour. Nothing could have been more "practical" than that appeal to thought and emotion. We have had examples of this truth in our own history. The vitality of life in French-speaking Canada and its effective coherence as a living community have come of a loyalty to unseen factors, above all of fidelity to an historic tradition. When the United Empire Loyalists came to British North America they were carried as communities through the years of danger and hardship by their faithful adherence to a common set of beliefs. Canada became a national entity because of certain habits of mind and convictions which its people shared and would not surrender. Our country was sustained through difficult times by the power of this spiritual legacy. It will flourish in the future in proportion as we believe in ourselves. It is the intangibles which give a nation not only its essential character but its vitality as well. What may seem unimportant or even irrelevant under the pressure of daily life may well be the thing which endures, which may give a community its power to survive.

6. But tradition is always in the making and from this fact we draw a second assumption: the innumerable institutions, movements and individuals interested in the arts, letters and sciences throughout our country are now forming the national tradition of the future. Through all the complexities and diversities of race, religion, language and geography, the forces which have made Canada a nation and which alone can keep her one are being shaped. These are not to be found in the material sphere alone. Physical links are essential to the unifying process but


true unity belongs to the realm of ideas. It is a matter for men's minds and hearts. Canadians realize this and are conscious of the importance of national tradition in the making.

7. Our task was opportune by reason of certain characteristics of modern life. One of these is the increase in leisure. The work of artists, writers and musicians is now of importance to a far larger number of people than ever before. Most persons today have more leisure than had their parents; and this development, along with compulsory education and modern communications, enables them to enjoy those things which had previously been available only to a small minority. But leisure is something more than just spare time. Its activities can often bring the inner satisfaction which is denied by dull or routine work. This lends added import to an inquiry concerned with such matters as books, pictures, plays, films and the radio.

8. At the outset of the inquiry we were asked whether it was our purpose to try to "educate" the public in literature, music and the arts in the sense of declaring what was good for them to see or hear. We answered that nothing was further from our minds than the thought of suggesting standards in taste from some cultural stratosphere. A correspondent quoted by one witness complained that he was confronted by too much "cultural tripe" on the air. If his grievance was that he had no alternative to the serious programmes he found unpalatable he was a legitimate object of sympathy. Our hope is that there will be a widening opportunity for the Canadian public to enjoy works of genuine merit in all fields, but this must be a matter of their own free choice. We believe, however, that the appetite grows by eating. The best must be made available to those who wish it. The inquiry will have served one important purpose if it contributes to this end.

9. Today governments play a part not foreseen a generation ago, in the matters which we are required to review. In most modern states there are ministries of "fine arts" or of "cultural affairs". Some measure of official responsibility in this field is now accepted in all civilized countries whatever political philosophy may prevail. In Great Britain, to avoid the danger of bureaucratic control or of political interference, semi-independent bodies, referred to later in this Report, have been set up for the promotion of the arts and letters. We have given careful consideration to this experience as it may apply to Canada.

10. In this country we have two problems. One is common to all states, the other is peculiar to ourselves. First, how can government aid be given to projects in the field of the arts and letters without stifling efforts which must spring from the desires of the people themselves? Second, how can this aid be given consistently with our federal structure and in harmony with our diversities? On these matters we have received


many and varying views. The response of the general public reflects an acceptance of the usefulness of the inquiry and the assumption underlying it, that the Federal Government has some measure of responsibility in this field.


11. There is, however, one problem which has troubled a number of those presenting briefs to us. We feel it to be of sufficient importance to warrant attention at the beginning of this Report. Although the word culture does not appear in our Terms of Reference, the public with a natural desire to express in some general way the essential character of our inquiry immediately and instinctively called us the "Culture Commission". We have listened to many interesting discussions on the significance of culture: "The greatest wealth of the nation," says a French-speaking group; of "equal importance" with bathtubs and automobiles observes a more cautious English-speaking counterpart.1 Some witnesses have welcomed an investigation into our cultural life and its possibilities. Others, however, have shown some concern lest in occupying ourselves with our national cultures, we should encroach on the field of education obviously so closely related.

12. We feel that on the delicate and much disputed question of education there is a good deal of unnecessary confusion which can and should be cleared away. A more precise understanding of the word in its several implications may help to remove the atmosphere of tension which unnecessarily worries many serious people, including some who have presented briefs to us. "Education belongs exclusively to the provinces", say some. "But that", is the retort, "does not affect the right of the Federal Government to make such contributions to the cause of education as lie within its means." The confict [sic] can be resolved very simply by a clarification of the issue. The whole misunderstanding arises from an imperfect grasp of the nature and the end, the kinds and the methods of education.

13. Education is the progressive development of the individual in all his faculties, physical and intellectual, aesthetic and moral. As a result of the disciplined growth of the entire personality, the educated man shows a balanced development of all his powers; he has fully realized his human possibilities. Modern society recognizes, apart from the common experience of life, two means of achieving this end: formal education in schools and universities, and general non-academic education through books, periodicals, radio, films, museums, art galleries, lectures and study groups. These are instruments of education; when, as often happens, they are used by the school, they are a part of formal education. They are, how-


ever, more generally the means by which every individual benefits outside school hours, and much more after his school days are over.

14. This point brings us to the relation of culture to education. Culture is that part of education which enriches the mind and refines the taste. It is the development of the intelligence through the arts, letters and sciences. This development, of course, occurs in formal education. It is continued and it bears fruit during adult life largely through the instruments of general education; and general or adult education we are called upon to investigate.

15. The essential distinction between formal education and general non-academic education has been reflected in submissions made to us and in our public sessions. For example, the Canadian Catholic Conference, in its brief, says:

"We feel it appropriate to observe that we could not properly deal here with the specific problems of formal education at its various levels. This is a matter which belongs entirely within the competence of the provinces. . . . It is our wish to speak in particular of this kind of education which is ordinarily referred to as 'adult education'."2

The delegation of the Comité Permanent de la Survivance Française en Amérique made the following further observation in giving evidence in Quebec City:

". . . The domain of formal education belongs to the provinces, but beside the domain of formal education is that of culture or general education; and this you have been instructed to review. In our view, culture should be a matter for federal and even for international interest."3

16. In a country which boasts of freedom based on law and inspired by Christian principles, it is perhaps unnecessary to say that education is not primarily a responsibility of the state at all, whether provincial or federal. Education is primarily a personal responsibility, as well as a fundamental right of the individual considered as a free and rational being. Naturally, however, the individual becomes entirely himself only as a member of society; and for his education he must depend first on his parents and then on various more or less formal social groups, including those controlled by Municipal, Provincial and Federal Governments. To maintain that education must always be primarily a personal and family responsibility is not to deny the supplementary but essential functions of these groups and their governments, nor their natural and permanent interest in the education of the individual. These functions in each country are determined by law.

17. There is no general prohibition in Canadian law against any group, governmental or voluntary, contributing to the education of the individual


in its broadest sense. Thus, the activities of the Federal Government and of other bodies in broadcasting, films, museums, libraries, research institutions and similar fields are not in conflict with any existing law. All civilized societies strive for a common good, including not only material but intellectual and moral elements. If the Federal Government is to renounce its right to associate itself with other social groups, public and private, in the general education of Canadian citizens, it denies its intellectual and moral purpose, the complete conception of the common good is lost, and Canada, as such, becomes a materialistic society.

18. In accordance with the principles just explained, we are convinced that our activities have in no way invaded the rights of the provinces but may rather have been helpful in suggesting means of co-operation. We are happy to have been confirmed in this belief by several provincial departments of education which, by presenting briefs and discussing freely with us those general aspects of education in which they and we have a common concern, have given us most valuable help and encouragement in our work.


19. In the pursuance of our task we have held public hearings in sixteen cities in the ten provinces. We have travelled nearly 10,000 miles, over 1,800 of these by air. In all, the Commission has held 224 meetings, 114 of these in public session. We have received 462 briefs, in the presentation of which over 1,200 witnesses appeared before us. The briefs included submissions from 13 Federal Government institutions, 7 Provincial Governments, 87 national organizations, 262 local bodies and 35 private commercial radio stations. We were aided in our work by four advisory committees, one on scholarships and research, another on museums, a third on a national library and the public archives and a fourth on historical sites and monuments. We also commissioned a number of eminent Canadians, each an authority in his own field, to prepare critical studies on a variety of subjects to provide a background for our work.4 Certain of these studies have been published in a companion volume to this Report.

20. On our journey across Canada we made an effort, in so far as a heavy programme of public hearings would permit, to get in touch at first hand with activities in our field. It is useful to see things as well as to hear about them. Thus we profited from the opportunity to visit universities, local museums, provincial archives, historical monuments, local art centres, exhibitions of handicrafts, private collections of Canadian pictures; to visit broadcasting stations, privately and publicly-owned; to witness television programmes; to attend a typical showing of National


Film Board films in a prairie village, the rehearsal of an opera under the auspices of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a programme of local talent at a private radio station, a performance by a Canadian ballet group, a play by a representative amateur company and concerts by two symphony orchestras. We wish that our schedule had made it possible for us to do more.

21. We should like to record our deep appreciation of the warm co-operation we received from Provincial Governments; we greatly valued their interest in our task and the collaboration and hospitality they so kindly offered us. Municipalities and universities also were our generous hosts. Through the kindness of many persons we had the advantage of meeting groups of representative citizens whose views and opinions were of the greatest use to us. We would like to record our appreciation of the frankness with which witnesses appearing before us met our requests for information. We much appreciated the friendly co-operation of the Press. The active interest of the public generally throughout the period of the inquiry encouraged us greatly and emphasized the importance of the task with which we had the honour to be entrusted.5

22. We had before us a complete cross section of the Canadian population. In fact our agenda has been created by the public at large. The response to our efforts has been even greater than we had expected. The interest in our inquiry has grown as the work proceeded and this was reflected by the friendly help we received wherever we went. We were conscious of a prevailing hunger existing throughout the country for a fuller measure of what the writer, the artist and the musician could give. There appears to have been a widespread recognition of the fact that the inquiry was timely, that Canada was ripe for such a study. It was clearly realized that our economic stature and political maturity are not in themselves enough; that these must be matched by progress in another field.

23. We have been concerned with both producers and consumers, and the briefs presented have been nicely balanced between the two groups. We have been impressed throughout with the need to provide in Canada wider opportunities for our own workers in the arts, letters and sciences. In this respect we have arrears to make up. The delegations of professional groups of painters, authors, musicians, artists, architects, teachers have been fully representative of their respective fields of work, but everywhere we have sat we have heard also from the average citizen. Indeed by the briefs which have come from the three largest religious bodies in Canada, trade unions, chambers of commerce, universities, agricultural organizations, associations of women, and numerous national societies of various kinds, a large proportion of the public of Canada has been directly represented.


24. An impression has apparently been created in the minds of some observers that in the submissions from most voluntary organizations appearing before us were requests for financial aid. That was not so. With few exceptions these bodies fully realized that the Commission was not authorized by its instructions to recommend grants of public funds for such purposes. If the financial difficulties of various organizations were mentioned in their briefs, and seldom could they claim affluence, this naturally followed from an effort on their part to tell the Royal Commission about their affairs. Without a reference to finance the picture would have been incomplete. What we were impressed with was the disinterested effort which lay behind these briefs. The persons appearing asked nothing for themselves. In each case they represented a cause in which they believed and often the delegates had come to our sessions from great distances and at personal inconvenience and expense. A Nootka Indian travelled 125 miles to tell us about the vanishing art of his race and how in his view it might be saved.

25. This long and searching inquiry and the generous co-operation we have received have enabled us to see in a new perspective the various national institutions and services which we were called upon to examine. We have gained a new conception of their value in Canadian life and of their possibilities of growth and development. In Part I of this Report we describe the activities and the needs of these institutions. In Part II we offer recommendations which seem to us to arise naturally from what we have observed.

* From: Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Report. Ottawa : King's Printer, 1951. By permission of the Privy Council Office.

**The preceding pages in the original Report read as follows: page 1--"PART I"; page 2 is blank.

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