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BriefsReportRoyal 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

submitted to
The Royal Commission on National Development
in the Arts, Letters and Sciences
on behalf of

April 1950.

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Views submitted to the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences.

Ottawa; April 1950

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  1. It is the view of the Canada Foundation that Canada is endowed with resources in the arts, letters and sciences to an extent not adequately realized officially or unofficially, and that there is urgent need for action which will draw together into some form of loose national understanding the widely scattered aspects of our cultural life. Therefore, we are gratified by the federal government's decision to make a substantial enquiry into the matter, and particularly pleased by the appointment of the five notably competent and distinguished Royal Commissioners before whom we are privileged to appear today. We wish to express our appreciation of the opportunity which has been provided for consideration of our brief. Our purpose in appearing before the Royal Commission is to express certain views which are an outcome of our experience and study, and which we hope may be helpful to the Royal Commissioners in the performance of the task they have undertaken and which is fraught with heavy responsibility.

  2. The Canada Foundation is a non-profit corporation operating under a Charter issued by the Secretary of State of Canada in 1945. One of its chief aims is the promotion of public interest in the cultural life of the country and the development of a national point of view in cultural matters. It consists of (a) Members, who are elected for two-year terms and who determine policy (at present there are 104 Members from all parts of Canada and from all walks of life), and (b) Associates, who are financial supporters, but have no voice in policy-making (at present there are approximately 400 Associates). The organization is financed entirely by voluntary contributions received from well-wishing persons, organizations and corporations.

  3. Since 1943 the Canada Foundation, (and its immediate predecessor, the Canadian Committee) has been engaged in activities intimately associated with cultural developments throughout Canada, and with cultural matters related to Canada and other countries. The Foundation has maintained a full-time centre to provide cultural information and advice, and has rendered its services without charge to a very wide range of enquirers both at home and abroad. In matters of Canadian cultural activity it acts, upon request, as adviser to federal and provincial governments in Canada, and to the governments of other countries. During 1949 it corresponded with individuals and organizations in forty-two countries. The Foundation has been continuously active in promoting public support for the arts in Canada; through scholarships, bursaries, grants-in-aid and the use of artistic and literary works. The Canada Foundation's experience in relation to the cultural life of Canada has been many-sided and unique. Out of that experience have emerged the undernoted views, which are submitted to the Royal Commission for consideration.

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  1. A national policy of development in the arts and letters should be regarded as a positive and necessary aspect of Canadian nationhood, and the factors of such a policy should be understood and supported with conviction by the Government, the Parliament and the people of Canada.

  2. As a preliminary step toward the achievement of a national policy official leadership should be given to dispel the belief, which is widely held among Canadians, that cultural development is an impractical frill and a matter of concern only to specialized interests. That erroneous belief needs to be supplanted by a realization that natural, mature cultural pursuits can contribute materially to the well-being of the nation at home and to enhanced prestige abroad.

  3. The development of national cultural policy is an activity in which a high degree of harmonious cooperation is possible among many bodies whose working-together could be an important unifying factor in Canadian life; or, conversely, one in which disharmony among the interested parties could result in bitter, deep-rooted and prolonged division.

  4. The development of national cultural policy should involve a basic formula which would provide for suitable consideration to the views of all major agencies contributing to the promotion of the arts and letters in Canada. (Helpful parallels might be found in the procedures employed in developing national agricultural and national labour policies in Canada.)

  5. A national cultural policy for Canada must have two distinct aspects, domestic and external; and it does not seem possible for either of these to be developed independently of the other.

  6. Cultural policy for Canada should not be regarded as an exclusive concern of the federal government; but should be regarded as falling within an area of jurisdiction which is divided among federal and provincial governments, and an area of interest which is rightfully shared by the State and Private Enterprise.

  7. While there can be no doubt concerning the necessity and desirability of State participation in the cultural development of Canada, our governments, federal and provincial, should guard against the temptation of assuming that the cultural field is one of natural monopoly from which the State can properly exclude Private Enterprise.

  8. The State should encourage Private Enterprise, (individuals, corporations and organizations,) to participate more fully in the cultural life of the country. (Pertinent parallels can be found in the many inducements and concessions provided by the State to encourage Private Enterprise in the economic development of the country.)

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  10. The national policy of cultural development should have as one of its positive aims the stimulation of private philanthropy and voluntary action in support of the arts in Canada. It is desirable to recognize that a too heavy preponderance of financial contribution by the State will tend to dry up the normal springs of voluntary giving.

  11. It is likely that even the minimum of suitable participation by the federal government in the field of cultural development will seem relatively costly to Canadian taxpayers who are not accustomed to such expenditures. It is desirable, then that national cultural policy shall be devised and directed, in its early stages, without the setting up of extensive and costly administrative machinery. Whenever it is feasible to do so the federal authority should be willing to employ the services of competent non-governmental agencies in the promotion of the national arts program. Both economy and efficiency could be expected from such procedure.

  12. When national policy for development of the arts, letters and sciences in Canada is devised, first consideration should be given to the specific and peculiar needs of Canada, and only secondary consideration should be given to the application of policies and methods adopted by other countries for the solution of their specific and peculiar cultural problems.

  13. The national authority should welcome the assistance of active and self reliant non-governmental agencies functioning in the field of the arts and letters. At the present time there are few, (if any,) financially strong, non-governmental, non-profit cultural agencies in Canada; and it should be the aim of the national government to encourage and foster a number of such agencies, in the expectation that they might become increasingly self-reliant, in due course. It should not be the purpose of the government to provide full financial support through subsidy, grants-in-aid, or otherwise, for the maintenance of non-governmental bodies, but the government might find it advisable to provide limited financial assistance to some agencies in some instances.

  14. National policy for the development of the arts and letters in Canada should not be merely a brain-child of the federal government or its agencies, but should be the outcome of collaboration by the federal and provincial governments and major cultural organizations. Such collaboration might be mainly in the form of an annual "policy conference" convened by the federal government and attended, by right, by representatives of the federal and provincial governments, and by invitation, by representatives of bodies like the Canadian Universities Conference, the Canadian Arts Council, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Daily Newspaper Association, the Canadian Humanities research Council, the Canadian Education Association, national radio and film agencies, etc., etc. The organizations invited would vary from year to year. At this conference federal representatives would be concerned mainly with the structure and content of a national cultural program in relation to the requirements of Canada's external affairs, and particularly as related to our obligations under the UNESCO agreement. The provincial and non-governmental

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    representatives would be concerned mainly with ways and means of promoting the country's manifold cultural resources and coordinating them into a more or less integrated national program. The complete function of the "policy conference" would be to consider, advise and recommend.

  15. Formation and administration of Canada's national policy of development of the arts and letters should be entrusted to a National Arts Commission consisting of not fewer than three and not more than five full-time commissioners. The commissioners should be appointed for five-year terms, and the chief commissioner should enjoy the rank of a deputy minister. The Commission should function under the Prime Minister as President of the Privy Council. The Commission should be provided with necessary staff and quarters and should be empowered to secure advice and assistance from time to time from specialists.

  16. The National Arts Commission would plan the nature and extent of the federal government's participation in Canadian cultural activities, both at home and abroad, being guided substantially by the advice and recommendations of the annual "policy conference" referred to in (13) and by the experience of federal government agencies operating specifically in the cultural field; and it would administer such plans at the initiating level whenever necessary. The Commission would recommend money appropriations by Parliament for the performance of the Commission's work.

  17. The National Arts Commission would function as Canada's "national commission" for UNESCO purposes. When acting in this capacity it would be required to consult at least twice a year with a body of not fewer than ten and not more than thirty advisers who would be named each year by the Commission for that purpose. This body, to be styled the Canadian UNESCO Advisory Board, would be representative of the Department of External Affairs and of non-governmental agencies having an interest in Canada's cultural activities vis-à-vis other countries.

  18. It does not seem especially helpful for us to recommend with assurance, at the present time and in the light of our limited knowledge, that certain cultural activities are more deserving than others of quick and substantial aid under a hoped-for national policy to be financed largely by the taxpayers through the federal government. However, it may be appropriate to mention the following as matters which we believe to be representative of the many aspects of Canadian cultural life now neglected and requiring consideration at the national level.

  19. The establishment of an adequate national library as an urgent need..........The setting up of a program for the exchange of cultural and intellectual personnel between Canada and other countries has been long delayed..........The setting up of a subdivision of the Dominion Bureau of Statistics for the accumulation and classification of Canadian cultural information is needed..........The need to carry greater cultural enjoyment to rural Canada is related to the deplorable "drift to the cities" by young, farm-raised people, and is a matter which demands greater study and cooperation

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    between federal and provincial authorities..........Canadian magazines and books should be used regularly and substantially by the federal government to inform the people of other countries about the way of life in Canada..........Methods of subsidizing the publication of worthy book-manuscripts and musical compositions, under certain circumstances, should be an accepted element of national policy..........A scheme of national scholarships in the arts, letters and sciences is desirable to provide aid for deserving senior students and to help stimulate greater public interest in the work of Canadian artists and writers..........Much greater recognition should be given to the importance of the work of the National Gallery of Canada.......... The federal and provincial governments should frequently commission works of art by Canadians for the embellishment of public buildings and sites..........An official or semi-official periodical publication is needed to provide current information about the arts and letters in Canada..........A method should be devised to enable the federal government to render financial assistance to universities and other institutions of higher learning in Canada..........The federal government should be actively sympathetic toward the idea of an eventual National Theatre in Canada..........Substantial and persistent action should be taken to familiarize English-speaking Canada with the literature of French-speaking Canada, and visa versa..........The establishment of at least two national "music centres" in Canada should receive early consideration..........

  20. There is urgency about the establishing of a national policy for development of the arts, letters and sciences in Canada, and getting it into operation. The times are out of joint again; and Canada cannot afford to overlook any major factor which may contribute toward greater national unity at home and greater respect from friends abroad. A strong national cultural policy, wisely administered, would be such a factor.

*From: Canada Foundation. Brief Submitted to the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences on behalf of the Canada Foundation. [Ottawa] : [Canada Foundation], April 1950. 5 p. By permission of the Privy Council Office.

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