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News / June 30, 2016

Arts Reps Decry Exclusion from Cultural Advisory Group

Who gets the Heritage Minister’s ear during “a sweeping review of Canada’s cultural policies”? Not, it seems, experts in visual and literary arts.
Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, seen here with a painting by John Hartman and in discussion with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, is known as a fan of the arts, and is a former board member of the Musée d'art contemporain in Montréal. So some are wondering why many arts genres were excluded from Canadian Heritage's new Expert Advisory Panel on Canadian Content in a Digital Age. Photo: Facebook. Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, seen here with a painting by John Hartman and in discussion with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, is known as a fan of the arts, and is a former board member of the Musée d'art contemporain in Montréal. So some are wondering why many arts genres were excluded from Canadian Heritage's new Expert Advisory Panel on Canadian Content in a Digital Age. Photo: Facebook.

Who gets the Heritage Minister’s ear when it comes to what is being called “a sweeping review of Canada’s cultural policies”?

Not, some are saying, representatives of Canada’s visual arts, dramatic arts and literary publishing communities.

On Tuesday, the Globe and Mail broke the news that “the federal government is appointing a dozen outside experts as a ‘sounding board’ to help steer a sweeping review of Canada’s cultural policies.”

In a release later that day, Canadian Heritage called the group an “Expert Advisory Panel” in relation the ministry’s wider “Canadian Content in a Digital World” consultations. The group will meet with Minister Mélanie Joly five times before January 2017, while Canadian Heritage is due to release plans for wider popular consultations this summer, and enact those consultations this fall.

The expert sounding board is composed of 12 people, most of whom represent the broadcast, media and film industries. Here is the full list, according to the Globe:

• Rob Blackie, a producer whose credits include the CBC TV series Republic of Doyle
• Katie Boland, an actor, writer and producer
• Catherine Cano, chief executive officer of public affairs channel CPAC
• Loc Dao, chief digital officer at the National Film Board
• Lisa de Wilde, CEO of public broadcaster TVO
• Michael Donovan, executive chairman of DHX Media Ltd.
• Charles Falzon, dean of Ryerson University’s faculty of communication and design
• Philippe Lamarre, owner of production house Urbania Media
• Jean La Rose, CEO of Aboriginal Peoples Television Network
• Monique Savoie, president and artistic director of Société des Arts Technologique
• Justin West, founder and president of Secret City Records
• Kenneth Whyte, senior vice-president of public policy for Rogers Communications Inc.

Longer biographies for all the members have since been made available on the Canadian Heritage website.

Although the Globe noted that “the group has no decision-making power” and “there is no expectation that the group members will draft a formal report,” several members of Canada’s arts and literary communities spoke up online immediately about their concerns regarding exclusion of key genres.

Others called out the lack of cultural diversity on the panel:

Some people pointed out, however, that there were some creators and theatre representatives on the panel, as well as an Indigenous person:

When asked for comment on the genre-exclusion complaints, a Canadian Heritage spokesperson indicated that the nature of the group, and its small size, meant that some sectors would inevitably be left out.

“The group was chosen to represent creativity and innovation from across Canada’s cultural and technological sectors, and includes a wide variety of perspectives and experiences,” said the statement from the Canadian Heritage spokesperson. “Given the broad nature of the consultation on the topic of ‘Canadian Content Creation, Discovery and Export in a Digital World,’ it would be impossible to create a group of expert advisors who represent every discipline and industry affected by changes in the digital world.”

Canadian Heritage representatives did attempt to point out, however, that the arts community (as opposed to the wider cultural-industries catchment) would have particular consultations on digital strategy and related copyright issues through the Canada Council for the Arts this year.

“There will be many other opportunities to interact with the Minister during the consultations in the Fall,” the Canadian Heritage statement said. “In addition, the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA), Canada’s national arts funding agency, is leading an initiative to learn about how the arts sector in particular is using and adapting to digital tools and technology. The CCA initiative focuses on visual arts, performing arts and literary arts and will inform the Council’s digital strategy.”

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is news and special sections editor at Canadian Art. She has also written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications. She welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.