Research and Collections

Research and Collections

Four ‘Constants’ in Canadian cultural policy

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Dr. Victor Rabinovitch

President and CEO

Canadian Museum of Civilization

Based on opening remarks made by Dr. Rabinovitch at the Canadian Culture and
Digital Technology Forum, organized by the Department of Canadian Heritage and
the Association for Canadian Studies (Gatineau, Quebec, October 2007). An
earlier version of this article was published in
Canadian Issues / Thèmes canadiens (Winter 2007), a
publication of the
for Canadian Studies
. Reproduced with permission.

The author has been a leader for many years in cultural policy development.


Political and public attention to cultural policy in Canada goes through
cycles, varying over time, and has often been motivated by technology change.
Many programs, rules and strategic directions were developed over the past
century, giving rise to a unique national model for promoting and enhancing
cultural expression. Today, in response to the global revolution in communications
and information management, Canadian cultural policy is again being challenged.
The history of previous public initiatives shows that it is entirely possible
for Canada’s cultural strategy to adjust creatively and effectively to this
latest set of conditions. This is important because an assertive cultural policy
is an essential condition for Canadian unity and continuity.


Even as we continue to be affected by the world wide revolution in digital
technology, it is important to keep the cultural impacts on Canada in perspective.
Canada’s ability to express its independent cultural voice has often faced
dynamic challenges. Whether these were technological or demographic, institutional
or artistic, there have been certain patterns to cultural policy debates which
have asserted themselves regularly. We need to recognize these patterns, even
while agreeing that the digital revolution has introduced a profound global
challenge to sustainable cultural diversity. In my opinion, there are four
fundamental constants – we can call them Canada’s cultural ‘verities’ – that
describe how this country has responded to past challenges and shaped a
successful record of cultural policy initiatives.


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