Source: Report: Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, 1949-1951. Ottawa: Edmond Cloutier, 1951.
THE NATURE OF THE TASK
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.
THE QUESTION OF EDUCATION
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, however, 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.
THE CONDUCT OF THE INQUIRY
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.
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.
A COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS, LETTERS, HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
1. In the preceding pages of this second part of our Report in which we have presented our findings and recommendations, we have dealt with many established federal agencies and institutions. We have also made certain proposals concerning the universities of Canada and systems of scholarships which would enable the nation to discharge more effectively its responsibility to train the ablest of our younger citizens. All this is familiar, if not entirely neutral, ground. It is now our duty to make certain proposals concerning the creation of a new body, partly advisory, partly administrative in character, which, it is our conviction, would be able to resolve many of the problems which led some two years ago to the establishment of this Royal Commission. To this proposed new body, in discussing voluntary organizations, scholarships, the creative arts, UNESCO, and Canada’s cultural relations abroad, we have already referred, either openly or by implication; and to the reader of the first part of this Report it must have been apparent that a new agency or new agencies of government were in our minds.
2. To this conclusion we were inevitably drawn early in our work when various voluntary organizations appeared before us. Whether their interest lay in drama, in music, in the arts and letters or in the humanities and social sciences, with but two or three exceptions they stated or implied that their work would be much aided if there existed some central bureau to serve as a clearing-house of information and to act as an intermediary between them and the government; if such a bureau could give positive help to their activities, so much the better. Early in our deliberations we decided that the principal questions to be determined were whether more than one such bureau would be necessary and how should such an agency be composed; of the need there appeared to be no doubt.
3. It will be recalled that the final clause in our Terms of Reference instructs us to examine and make recommendations upon the “relations of the Government of Canada and any of its agencies with various national voluntary bodies operating in the field with which this inquiry will be concerned”. On the need for closer relations between the Federal Government and Canadian voluntary organizations we have read or heard comments from one hundred and six societies and citizens, and in five of the special studies which we commissioned the question is discussed in greater or less detail. Moreover, several departments and agencies of government have given us helpful information on this important matter. The recommendations of the voluntary societies vary greatly; on the one extreme was advocated the establishment of a new Ministry of Fine Arts and Cultural Affairs; and, on the other, the complete abstention of the Federal Government from all matters relating to the arts and letters; and with mingled feelings of pleasure and dismay we heard one proposal that this Commission remain in being as a permanent National Arts Board.
4. The problem for which we have been invited to find a solution may perhaps be expressed, though at the risk of over-simplification, in terms of the following factors which, it will be observed, differ considerably in complexity and importance:
(a) There does not exist in Canada any government-supported body to do for the arts and letters and for the humanities and social sciences what the National research Council does for the natural sciences and the technical crafts; this matter, which we regard as of prime importance, has been discussed at length earlier in this Report.
(b) Unlike most countries of the world we have in Canada no advisory or executive body to deal with the question of our cultural relations abroad. Earlier in this Report we have suggested that Canadian creative and interpretative artists would benefit both themselves and our country if it were made possible for them to travel for study and experience. We can also well believe that it might be in the public interest, for example, that a Canadian orchestra go on tour abroad, that exhibitions of Canadian paintings be arranged in Europe or that a Canadian theatrical company perform in Edinburgh or London or Paris. At present we have no organization such as the British Council or the French Section des Oeuvres Françaises à l’Etranger to arrange and to underwrite such ventures, although we judge it possible that a company of Canadian players or a Canadian orchestra might do as much for this country as has been done for Great Britain by the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company whose highly successful tours of the United States and Canada have been made possible by the British Council. These tours can be profitable, both financially and artistically; but they cannot be undertaken at all unless their expenses are guaranteed.
(c) We do not possess in Canada a clearing-house or a centre of information on the arts, letters, humanities and social sciences. Inquiries from abroad often come to the Department of External Affairs which, unable to supply full and accurate information on all aspects of Canadian culture, refers the inquiries to one or another of the voluntary organizations, (The Canadian Music Council, the Social Sciences research Council, the Dominion Drama Festival, the Canadian Arts Council). Most of these organizations operate on a very modest scale, and it is not generally appreciated that they find the burden of gathering the information and of answering inquiries, whether from abroad or from within the country, far heavier than their restricted resources can endure. We are informed, for example, that the Canada Foundation corresponded during 1949 with organizations and individuals in forty-two countries, and that its time is almost fully occupied in dealing with inquiries from Canada and from abroad. Very few of our voluntary organizations are affluent enough to employ a full-time secretary;1 but, as they reasonably point out, they are constantly invited to assume, particularly in the interest of Canada’s cultural relations abroad, the role of an information centre which many of them feel is a national responsibility.
(d) There are in Canada many voluntary bodies whose work is of national importance but whose resources are inadequate for their growth or even for their survival. It seems to us demonstrable that the expenditure of public money, not large in amount but wisely directed, would ensure the continuance of these organizations, and that this would be in the public interest. There does not now exist in Canada any Board or Council to advise the Government on this matter. Moreover, as we notice in an earlier chapter, there are in Canada certain voluntary bodies which now receive small subventions from the Federal Government. We believe that a Board or Council competent to advise the government on its present and future subvention lists for voluntary organizations concerned with the arts and letters and with the humanities and social sciences would be a useful innovation and an administrative improvement.
(e) Although Canada is a member of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, there is not yet established in Canada any form of National Commission for UNESCO; an undertaking to create such a Commission or an equivalent forms part of the UNESCO Constitution which Canada has accepted.
(f) Although music and drama and ballet of professional excellence are available in a limited degree to a few of our larger urban centres, our smaller centres, apart from those contracting with concert bureaux, are largely dependent on the radio and on moving pictures, an inadequate substitute for the concert artist and the living drama. On the other hand, there are many Canadians gifted in music or the dramatic arts who, unable to venture on concert tours because of our great distances and costly travel, must be content with a precarious and unrewarding life in Canada, or go abroad where their talents are in demand.
5. These are the principal though by no means all the difficulties which have been brought to our attention by so many public-spirited organizations and citizens. Many of these problems stem, of course, from the stern realities of our geography and economics and for them there may be no full solution, although it is our belief that they may be mitigated by wise and determined action. We are faced, it seems to us, by a three-fold problem: cultural activity within Canada, cultural relations abroad, Canada’s relationship with UNESCO; and we have been at great pains to determine whether this problem must necessarily be resolved by a three-fold recommendation, or whether a single answer could be discovered.
6. As an essential part of our inquiry we secured from many countries abroad precise and detailed information on the manner in which these general problems had been met. In this part of our study, however, we did not fail to bear in mind a point which was very clearly expressed to us in the submission of the Canada Foundation:
“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.”2
On the second and third aspects of the problem noted above (cultural relations abroad and relationship with UNESCO) we found the experience of other countries of considerable interest and value to us, and reference has been made to this in earlier chapters. On the principal question, however, of the manner in which our Federal Government can properly and realistically contribute to the enrichment of Canadian cultural life, we have, with one important exception, not unnaturally received little help from abroad. Quite apart from the fact that the problems confronting us have little in common with those in other countries, we find that in general they are dealt with abroad by a centralized Ministry of National Education or by a Ministry of Cultural Affairs, arrangements which, of course, in Canada are constitutionally impossible or undesirable; for we may say at this point that we are unable to agree with the submissions made to us recommending a new Ministry of Fine Arts and Cultural Affairs.
7. The one exception referred to above is the Arts Council of Great Britain; and we think it worthwhile to give a brief account of its origin and growth. On the outbreak of war in 1939, with black-out conditions and shiftings of the population, the prospects of the arts and of artists were seriously affected. Theatres and art galleries were closed, concerts could not be held, but at the same time there arose a great demand for the stimulus and relaxation which only the arts can give. Those who had known such things felt their loss keenly; others who had never heard fine music or visited a theatre or looked at original paintings became aware of what they had missed. To meet a widespread demand, a private organization, (The Pilgrim Trust), made available £25,000 to encourage the arts in wartime, and a Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (C.E.M.A.) was formed early in 1940. Public response to the early activities of the Council was so encouraging that at the end of three months the Treasury agreed to make a grant of £50,000 conditional on the finding of a like sum from non-governmental sources; and for two years this project was financed by the Treasury and the Pilgrim Trust.
8. In 1942 the Treasury assumed entire financial responsibility for this essential wartime measure and rapidly increased its grants until in 1945-46 they amounted to £235,000. By the end of the war in Europe the main activities of this organization were so closely linked with the general cultural well-being of the nation that its continuance in peace time was highly desirable. The Chancellor of the Exchequer accordingly announced in the House of Commons in June of 1945 that this body was to be established on a permanent basis and was to be named the Arts Council of Great Britain with the object of encouraging knowledge, understanding and practice of the arts2a.
9. In studying the work and the activities of the Arts Council of Great Britain we have noticed with particular interest the Council’s awareness of the dangers inherent in any system of subvention by the central government to the arts and letters and to the culture of the country generally. At the time when the Arts Council was founded in 1945 the late Lord Keynes, then Chairman of the Arts Council, in a broadcast address spoke in part as follows:
“I do not believe it is yet realized what an important thing has happened. State patronage of the arts has crept in. It has happened in a very English, informal, unostentatious way, half baked if you like. A semi-independent body is provided with modest funds to stimulate, comfort and support any societies or bodies brought together on private or local initiative which are striving with serious purpose and a reasonable prospect of success to present for public enjoyment the arts of drama, music and painting.
“At last the public exchequer has recognized the support and encouragement of the civilizing arts of life as part of their duty. But we do not intend to socialize this side of social endeavour. Whatever views may be held by the lately warring parties, whom you have been hearing every evening at this hour, about socializing industry, everyone, I fancy, recognizes that the work of the artist in all its aspects is, of its nature, individual and free, undisciplined, unregimented, uncontrolled. The artist walks where the breath of the spirit blows him. He cannot be told his direction; he does not know it himself. But he leads the rest of us into fresh pastures and teaches us to love and to enjoy what we often begin by rejecting, enlarging our sensibility and purifying our instincts. The task of an official body is not to teach or to censor, but to give courage, confidence and opportunity”.3
10. Sir Ernest Pooley, Chairman of the Arts Council, spoke thus to representatives of the Local Authorities of Great Britain who met on June 9, 1949, in London to discuss the 1951 Festival of Britain:
“As you know, the Arts Council is established by charter and its objects are to develop a greater knowledge, practice and understanding of the Arts, to increase the accessibility of the Arts to the people through the realm, and to improve the standard of execution.
“We are trying to do all these things, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully. We administer a Treasury grant; but we act independently. This is a very important experiment–State support for the Arts without State control.”4
11. The Arts Council of Great Britain is, of course, concerned with the promotion of music and the arts, notably painting and the drama, only within Great Britain. To stimulate the knowledge abroad of the English language, of English literature and of British culture generally, and to foster close cultural relations with other countries, a separate body exists known as the British Council which was founded by the Government of Great Britain in 1935; its purpose and activities are discussed in an earlier chapter. We do not believe that the creation in Canada of a similar body with parallel responsibilities is either necessary or desirable. The encouragement of the arts and letters in this country, we believe, cannot be dissociated from our cultural relationships with countries abroad, and the creation of a separate body for this latter purpose would be otiose and could lead only to wasteful overlapping of functions.
12. We have considered with great care the very numerous representations from voluntary organizations on the importance of setting up in Canada a National Commission for UNESCO, as contemplated in the UNESCO Constitution, in order to make the work of this international body as effective as possible within our country, and that we may duly fulfil our own obligations abroad. We considered a number of detailed plans presented to us to determine whether in practice they would properly fulfil the main purposes of UNESCO–to facilitate in every possible way educational and cultural exchanges on an international scale as a means to better understanding. We have also considered the great variety of National Commissions which have been set up in various countries abroad.
13. Without implying criticism of the practices of other nations, we believe that Canada’s purposes can best be served, not by setting up an additional body to promote the aims of UNESCO, but rather by recognizing that those aims would best be attained by strengthening and furthering the work of organizations already in the field. We have also recalled an observation made to us in another connection, that since our problems differ from those of other countries, we must not hesitate when it seems necessary to find new and different solutions. A council to stimulate the arts and letters in this country, particularly if it were also charged with the encouragement of Canada’s relations abroad, would be doing exactly the kind of work which must be undertaken by a National Commission for UNESCO: it must maintain close relations with voluntary organizations in Canada; it must take an active interest in projects of general education; it must interest itself in all cultural affairs, and in these matters it must be prepared to exchange information with UNESCO and related international organizations. It might not, it is true, be designed to carry on the scientific exchanges which are an important part of the work of UNESCO. It could no doubt for this purpose secure the co-operation of the National research Council which has numerous international affiliations. We believe therefore that if one agency were created to concern itself with voluntary effort in the arts, letters, and social sciences, to encourage cultural exchanges, and at the same time to act as a National Commission for UNESCO, wasteful duplication would be avoided and the influence and the prestige of the organization would be strengthened.5
14. In writing this Report we have been forced to turn again and again to the dangerous neglect of the humanities and social sciences, studies essential to the maintenance of civilized life. It was suggested to us that the success of the National research Council in the encouragement of scientific studies offered an example that should perhaps be followed in the establishment of a National Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. We believe, however, that the implied parallel is misleading; that the essential nature and value of these studies makes it undesirable to isolate them in a separate body; that their present “plight” may be partly explained, as we have previously suggested, by an effort to subject them too rigidly to scientific techniques and methods of organization. Moreover, we are convinced that, in our country particularly, encouragement of these studies must be carried on to a considerable extent through international exchanges, and through closer contacts with France, Great Britain and with other European countries where traditionally they are held in great respect. We think that the very important responsibility of encouraging these studies through a flexible scheme of scholarships and grants can best be carried out by an organization which will be obliged by its other responsibilities to keep in the closest touch with cultural affairs at home and abroad, and with universities, particularly with Canadian universities which, as we have seen, are the focal point for so many of our cultural activities.
We therefore recommend:
a. That a body be created to be known as the Canada Council for the Encouragement of the Arts, Letters, Humanities and Social Sciences to stimulate and to help voluntary organizations within these fields, to foster Canada’s cultural relations abroad, to perform the functions of a national commission for UNESCO, and to devise and administer a system of scholarships as recommended in Chapter XXII.
15. We have given great care, in our deliberations, to the many submissions made to us concerning the appropriate composition of such a Council, notably from Canadian artists and writers who have urged that a Council be established which would be representative of their professional organizations. With this view we are unable to agree. We judge that the members of a policy-making body to be concerned with many complex aspects of Canadian life should be free to consider all problems before them without the restraints which normally would bind them too closely to the organization or to the group which they would represent. We were confirmed in this view by our decision to recommend one body only for the various functions which we have described, functions which cannot properly be carried on by a rigidly representative body. This is not to say, however, that a Canadian artist, a Canadian musician, a Canadian writer, or a Canadian scholar should not serve on the Council; if he does, however, he should sit in his capacity as a distinguished and public-spirited Canadian citizen rather than as the representative of a particular organization or institution, or of a specialized art. We should also consider it a misfortune if this Canada Council became in any sense a department of government, but we realize that since this body will be spending public money it must be in an effective manner responsible to the Government and hence to Parliament.
16. It is apparent that the members of this Council should have those qualities, both individually and collectively, which would permit them to discharge suitably their grave responsibilities of encouraging the arts and letters, the humanities and social sciences, and of making most effective Canada’s cultural relationships with other countries. For its complex and disparate duties we should imagine that the Canada Council would find it advisable to establish permanent committees on which the members would sit in accordance with their special experience and interests; it is, however, our view that in considering UNESCO matters the Council would find it essential to meet as a body.
We therefore recommend:
b. That the Canada Council be composed of fifteen members including a chairman and vice-chairman, all to be appointed by Order in Council, and that appointments be made so that the Council shall be properly representative of the cultures and of the various regions of Canada.
c. That the Canada Council meet as may be found necessary but not less than four times a year; that the offices of the chairman and vice-chairman be full-time appointments; that other members of the Council serve without annual remuneration, but that they be granted their travelling and living expenses and an appropriate per diem fee while engaged on the Council’s business; and that the Council be provided with the necessary secretarial staff.
17. We do not think it advisable that officers of the Federal Government sit as members of the proposed Council; but in its deliberations it would undoubtedly need the expert advice of many departments of government. Similarly, in dealing with such special subjects as music, letters and creative arts, the Council would, we are confident, wish to draw upon the specialized knowledge and experience of many voluntary organizations and of individuals. For this purpose the Council might find it advisable to appoint advisory committees. We think it particularly important that in dealing, for example, with UNESCO matters the Council should work in closest association both with those voluntary organizations through which the work of UNESCO may be made effective in Canada and with certain departments of government, including those of Finance and External Affairs.
We therefore recommend:
d. That the Canada Council have the authority to invite to its sessions officers of departments and agencies of the Government, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the National Film Board, and that it give consideration to the appointment of advisory committees in the principal fields with which it will be concerned.
18. We do not think it practicable or desirable that this Commission attempt to define in detail all the duties of the proposed Council. It will be clear, however, from our previous explanation of its functions that some of these are definite and precise, and that others can be described only in a general directive leaving particular policies to be developed by the Council through practical experience.
19. Of the functions which can be defined with some precision, the first are those of a National Commission for UNESCO. The Constitution of UNESCO and the practice of various member states suggest that a National Commission to perform its functions properly must, as we have said, keep in close touch with all interested voluntary organizations and must keep them in touch with each other, with the government of the country, and with UNESCO.
We therefore recommend:
e. That the Canada Council invite to an annual conference on UNESCO affairs representatives of not more than twenty national voluntary organizations competent to give advice on UNESCO matters; that of the twenty organizations not more than ten be nominated as permanent members of the annual conference; that the remainder be nominated for one year only, until all interested organizations have been represented; that the expenses of the conference, including the travelling and living expenses of the delegates, be borne by the Council.
f. That the Canada Council take appropriate measures to extend the knowledge in Canada of UNESCO’s purposes and programmes and in turn to ensure that those policies and practices best calculated to win the support and the confidence of the Canadian people are brought, through the Department of External Affairs, to the attention of the general conference of UNESCO.
20. A second definite function of the Council we have already dealt with in our recommendations on scholarships, and this is also discussed in the present chapter. We have recommended that those responsible for drawing up a plan for scholarships in the humanities and social sciences bear in mind the valuable experience of the National Research Council in this field. This does not mean that there should be a mechanical reproduction of an existing scheme, but rather that the Canada Council, as did the National Research Council, proceed gradually, working in close co-operation with university authorities and with voluntary bodies interested in the field. It is of the greatest importance that money made available for these scholarships be wisely spent not only to avoid waste, but to gain for the plan the prestige and the public support which we believe it to deserve.
21. To a third useful and even essential function of the proposed Canada Council we have referred at least by implication earlier in this chapter in commenting upon the fact that there does not exist in Canada a centre of information to which inquiries on the arts, letters, humanities and social sciences, both from abroad and from within Canada, could be directed. We have already recommended that the Canada Council perform the functions of a National Commission for UNESCO; for this purpose alone it seems to us apparent that a well-organized information centre will be an immediate necessity since much of the work of a national commission for UNESCO involves the assembling of information on various aspects of national life to make possible effective co-operation in the general programme of UNESCO. In addition, such an information centre could assume most of the burden of replying to inquiries, on matters within the scope of the Canada Council, from abroad and from within Canada, a task which in the past has been left largely to voluntary organizations.
We therefore recommend:
g. That the Canada Council proceed as rapidly as possible to establish a central office of information on those aspects of the arts, letters, humanities and social sciences which fall within its competence.
22. Of the other duties of the Canada Council we shall not speak precisely. Throughout the earlier part of our Report we have pointed out certain deficiencies in our national equipment as a civilized country, many of them of long standing; and we have now stated our conviction that many of these deficiencies might be most readily dealt with by a central body supported by federal funds but exercising wide powers of independent action. We are in full agreement that “the support and encouragement of the civilizing arts of life”, in Lord Keynes’ phrase, is a state duty; we believe that such a Council as we have proposed would be an effective means of providing this encouragement and support. The methods which should be adopted to this end will depend on many factors including the extent to which the council can by wise and practicable decisions commend itself to the confidence of the Canadian people; it may however be found useful if we suggest some of the other responsibilities which in our view the proposed Council might assume.
We therefore recommend:
h. That the Canada Council, without limiting its freedom to advance the arts and letters, the humanities and social sciences in Canada, and to promote a knowledge of Canada abroad in the ways and by the means which it will judge appropriate, give consideration to the following proposals:
(i) The strengthening, by money grants and in other ways, of certain of the Canadian voluntary organizations on whose active well-being the work of the Council will in large measure depend.
(ii) The encouragement of Canadian music, drama and ballet (through the appropriate voluntary organizations and in co-operation with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the National Film Board) by such means as the underwriting of tours, the commissioning of music for events of national importance, and the establishment of awards to young people of promise whose talents have been revealed in national festivals of music, drama or the ballet.
(iii) The promotion of a knowledge of Canada abroad by such means as foreign tours by Canadian lecturers and by performers in music, ballet and drama, and by the exhibition abroad of Canadian art in its varied forms.
23. We are under no illusion that the results which we trust may be achieved from the creation of the Canada Council can be attained cheaply; indeed, we observed in the introduction to this part of our Report that if we in Canada want a more generous and better cultural fare we must pay for it. It is obvious that the system of scholarships and awards mentioned above and the furtherance of the work of UNESCO in Canada would cost considerable sums of money. We have already remarked that the Council must count heavily upon the support of voluntary organizations in Canada and hence no doubt would find it economical to subsidize certain of them with modest amounts of money in order to make its own work practicable and effective. The Canada Council would need a competent staff and its secretary or senior officer would have duties at least as exacting as those of most deputy ministers. There would thus be inevitably certain immediate fixed expenses if the work of the Council is to be worth-while. The development of the Council’s work would naturally depend upon the extent to which it would be able to satisfy with wisdom and moderation a real public need, and, if successful in this, we do not doubt that there would be public support of parliamentary action in making adequate funds available to it. We do not find it possible to propose specific sums; we should, however, imagine that the Council would find it possible to perform its varied duties effectively with an annual budget which would constitute a very slight charge upon all members of the Canadian population. We venture to believe that our fellow-citizens would find this investment modest in relation to the returns which, we are confident, they could reasonably expect.