Canadian Culture


National Ballet, 1957. Source: Library and Archives Canada/National Film Board fonds/e011176704.

By the mid-twentieth century, Canada’s relationship with the US had changed considerably as the two countries grew closer together. Diplomatically, strategically, economically, and culturally, Canada was becoming enmeshed with the US. These growing continental ties raised concerns about the erosion of Canadian sovereignty.

Those concerns about sovereignty extended to questions about Canada’s cultural identity. English-speaking Canadians were awash in the cultural products of the US. Radio, film, books, music, magazines, and television poured across the border and English Canadians consumed it voraciously. Cultural producers and some policy makers in Canada were concerned that the domination of US cultural products left the country impoverished and threatened Canadian national identity.

In 1949, Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent appointed the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences to investigate the state of arts and culture in Canada. Led by Vincent Massey, the commission eventually published its final report in 1951 after hearing from thousands of witnesses from the arts and culture communities of the country. The report made a number of recommendations that would shape federal policy to foster and protect Canadian culture, including the founding of the Canada Council for the Arts and Library and Archives Canada.

In this module, you will read excerpts from the final report of this commission, including one of its primary recommendations, the creation of a Canada Council for the Arts, Letters, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

Historical Documents

  1. Report: Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, 1949-1951. Ottawa: Edmond Cloutier, 1951.
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