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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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THE task assigned to this Royal Commission was conceived by its authors in the Government with imagination and boldness, and this throughout our work we have found stimulating. We have been more and more impressed by the timeliness, indeed by the urgency, of our inquiry. If, at the outset, we were convinced of the importance of what we were to do, as we proceeded this conviction deepened. The work with which we have been entrusted is concerned with nothing less than the spiritual foundations of our national life. Canadian achievement in every field depends mainly on the quality of the Canadian mind and spirit. This quality is determined by what Canadians think, and think about; by the books they read, the pictures they see and the programmes they hear. These things, whether we call them arts and letters or use other words to describe them, we believe to lie at the roots of our life as a nation.

2. They are also the foundations of national unity. We thought it deeply significant to hear repeatedly from representatives of the two Canadian cultures expressions of hope and of confidence that in our common cultivation of the things of the mind, Canadians--French and English-speaking--can find true "Canadianism". Through this shared confidence we can nurture what we have in common and resist those influences which could impair, and even destroy, our integrity. In our search we have thus been made aware of what can serve our country in a double sense: what can make it great, and what can make it one.

3. In the preceding pages, we sought to present a view of our cultural landscape. We cannot claim that this is a close appraisal; such a subject does not lend itself to statistics even had there been time for such exhaustive methods. The stock-taking, therefore, reveals the brush strokes of an impressionistic painting rather than the precise lines of a blueprint. The subject matter did not lack volume or variety. The materials for this study have been derived from a close examination during a year and a half of the hundreds of briefs and the many volumes of oral evidence heard at our sessions, and of the numerous studies commissioned from


authorities in various fields. The survey covers a wide territory: from the ballet to philosophy, from totem poles to medical research. For all its diversity, however, it will be found to disclose a unity of pattern. In our Terms of Reference appear some words which we have often invoked, and which serve as a leit-motif for our Report. Our attention was directed to: ". . . institutions which express national feeling, promote common understanding and add to the variety and richness of Canadian life . . ." Nothing can so well achieve these high purposes as the subjects which we have had under review.

4. But the institutions, the movements, the activities we have examined share something more than a purpose; they suffer in common from lack of nourishment. No appraisal of our intellectual or cultural life can leave one complacent or even content. If modern nations were marshalled in the order of the importance which they assign to those things with which this inquiry is concerned, Canada would be found far from the vanguard; she would even be near the end of the procession. Some of the reasons are suggested in an earlier chapter: vast distances, a scattered population, our youth as a nation, easy dependence on a huge and generous neighbour. But while engaged in these material matters we were confronted with new problems which we share with all modern states. "Unfortunately", says the author of one of our special studies,

"just as in the western world, we are beginning to understand how deeply our spiritual traditions need guarding, just as we are ready to divert some of our energy from technology for that purpose, our society is being challenged to defend itself against a barbaric empire which puts its faith in salvation by the machine. We are tempted to forget the spiritual necessity in the face of the more present danger."1

The tidal wave of technology can be more damaging to us than to countries with older cultural traditions possessing firmer bulwarks against these contemporary perils.

5. It seems to us that two things are essential to restore in Canada the balance between the attention we pay to material achievements and to the other less tangible but more enduring parts of our civilization. The first must be of course the will of our people to enrich and to quicken their cultural and intellectual life; our inquiry has made clear that this will is earnest and widespread among our fellow-citizens. The second essential is money. If we in Canada are to have a more plentiful and better cultural fare, we must pay for it. Good will alone can do little for a starving plant; if the cultural life of Canada is anaemic, it must be nourished, and this will cost money. This is a task for shared effort in all fields of government, federal, provincial and local. We, however, are concerned with the federal field alone; in the rest of this volume we shall


give our views on how the national government may appropriately advance our cultural and intellectual life.

6. If, in Canada, the state is to assume an increasing measure of responsibility in these matters, we shall find ourselves in step with most modern nations. Governmental support of the arts and letters has long been a reality in most countries of the world. Even in Great Britain, so loyal to the voluntary principle, where cultural life was for so long the beneficiary of private wealth, the state has steadily intervened as funds from traditional sources have diminished. But state intervention in Great Britain, as we have pointed out, has left the artist and the writer free and unhampered. British Governments have paid heed to Lord Melbourne's dictum, "God help the minister who meddles in art".

7. The United States remains the one conspicuous exception to the general rule that modern governments are increasingly becoming the principal patrons of the arts. The reason for this is not far to seek. In no other country in the world are there still vast reservoirs of private wealth from which cultural and intellectual life is nourished. The great trusts and foundations existing for these purposes control massive sums in capital and in annual expenditure. 2 The Americans can, therefore, still afford to leave such matters largely in their hands. Other countries cannot afford to follow their example.

8. It has been our task not only to examine the state of the arts, letters and sciences in Canada, but to give our views on how the Federal Government may aid them. In many countries throughout the world, government assistance has been necessary both in economic and in cultural matters because of the inequalities imposed upon the population by geographical factors; in Canada, a variety of such geographical factors has made government aid in a wide range of matters of particular importance. Much has been done in this country, and much more has been frequently advocated, to ensure that the harsh accidents of distance do not impose inequitable hardships on the shippers or the consumers of certain commodities. It seems to us that the logic and the communal justice which underlie these accepted practices might properly be extended to include the movement throughout Canada of companies of players, of orchestras or of concert artists whose regular and frequent appearances in the great and small communities of Canada are of importance to our well-being as a civilized community.

9. In the following pages will be found a series of recommendations proposing federal action in certain of the matters which we have had under review. These, if accepted, will involve administrative or legislative action, and the use of public funds, both in capital grants and in annual outlay. If all our recommendations were accepted, the total figure might in isolation appear substantial; but in comparison with


the costs of other activities of Government, it would be modest, almost insignificant.

10. The most striking items in governmental budgets today are related to defence. This is a subject rightly high in the thoughts and responsibilities of statesmen. As our task reaches its conclusion and our Report goes to press, we find ourselves working against a darkening horizon in the international world. This may suggest to the citizen that the objects of our recommendations are at the moment irrelevant. Are not tanks more needed than Titian, bombs more important than Bach? It has been said more than once that however important our suggestions may be, their acceptance might well be delayed until the sky is clearer. To answer this, we must ask another question. If we as a nation are concerned with the problem of defence, what, we may ask ourselves, are we defending? We are defending civilization, our share of it, our contribution to it. The things with which our inquiry deals are the elements which give civilization its character and its meaning. It would be paradoxical to defend something which we are unwilling to strengthen and enrich, and which we even allow to decline.

11. It was during the war years in Great Britain that a hunger for the finer things of life had to be appeased by special measures which later became permanent. The Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts came into being along with the Home Guard. C.E.M.A., as it was called, was founded to quicken and maintained to satisfy interest in music and drama and pictures. These things were not cherished for their own sake alone; they became in time of war a spiritual weapon. In such times, national morale is of paramount importance. This could perhaps be left to the superficial short-term methods of propaganda, but spiritual strength can be built only on foundations which are laid in time of peace. For this further reason we must strengthen those permanent instruments which give meaning to our unity and make us conscious of the best in our national life. Posters and pep-talks are not enough.

12. The circumstances in which our Report has been finished and presented have given point and urgency to our recommendations. We have, of course, been keenly aware of the practical problems of the moment, and have had them constantly in mind in the preparation of this document. We have reduced our recommendations to the minimum. If we felt obliged to propose a new activity or function, we have urged the establishment of no new body to perform it if one in being could be made to serve the purpose. We have not suggested the erection of a new building if existing premises could possibly be made to provide quarters. Therefore, when we ask for the expenditure of money it is only because we are convinced that nothing less would achieve the end which we assume the Government had in mind when this Royal Commission was appointed. We might properly have gone much further. In this present crisis we


have tried to propose the necessary measures through the simplest and least costly methods; but we have not for a moment lost sight of the paramount importance of strengthening those institutions on which our national morale and our national integrity depend.

13. Our military defences must be made secure; but our cultural defences equally demand national attention; the two cannot be separated. Our recommendations are the least we can suggest in conformity with our duty; more, indeed, should be done. We now proceed to these recommendations.

* 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 269--"PART II"; page 270 is blank.

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