Line Beauchamp, ministre de la Culture et des Communications du Québec, Montréal, le 26 septembre 2005 – 2005/09/26
On September 26, Québec minister of culture and communications Line Beauchamp spoke to heads of mission and consular corps members at a meeting to discuss the UNESCO Draft Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: “ With the UNESCO General Conference just days away, I felt it was important to meet with you. For it is to this conference that the draft convention negotiated over the past several months will be submitted for adoption. Over the course of the last two years, I have had the opportunity to speak with representatives from a number of countries, either in private or at various forums. I have occasionally encountered diverging perspectives on issues raised by the convention. But I have also observed—with considerable satisfaction I might add—a steadily increasing convergence of views in recent months ,” the minister noted.
The minister reaffirmed the Québec government’s commitment to protecting the diversity of cultural expressions. This commitment is reflected in government support for cultural expression [and in] a wide array of policies, programs, and measures that promote the actions and initiatives of the cultural community and of artists and creators themselves: “For us, it is obvious that the vitality of our culture and its expressions would be threatened if our governments were deprived of the leeway they need to adopt cultural support measures and policies. This threat is particularly acute in today’s era of globalization and exploding technological potential. The challenge is to take advantage of these changes while avoiding cultural impoverishment and homogenization. This is the perspective framing Québec’s ongoing efforts to defend the principle of diversity of cultural expression and the means to protect it.”
Minister Beauchamp recalled that the Québec government was one of the first governments to officially support an international convention on the diversity of cultural expressions: “Our position on protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions dates back to the 1980s, when Québec demanded that cultural industries be excluded from the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Québec expressed similar concerns during North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations (NAFTA) which took effect in 1994. […] In 1999, the Government of Québec officially came out in favor of an international instrument on cultural diversity that recognized the right of states and governments to support culture. This stance was reiterated in a number of Cabinet decisions, notably the adoption of the government’s position on cultural diversity on September 3, 2003. The Government of Québec also decided to refrain from making trade liberalization commitments and to use reservations in order to protect its policies whenever issues arose that could potentially affect its ability to adopt cultural support measures (e.g., matters involving goods, services, investment, competition rules, intellectual property). The decision was motivated by the fact that culture is not a product ‘like any other.’ Cultural expression is a vector for identity and its vitality and diversity often depend on public support.”
In addition, the minister asserted that for Québec, the draft Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions “may not be perfect, but it does have the inestimable merit of being a reasonable and balanced compromise acceptable to the greatest number. The convention includes a number of elements that we strongly support: reaffirmation of the right of states and governments to implement policies and measures in support of cultural expressions; recognition of the special nature of cultural goods, services, and activities; the principle of openness to other world cultures; the desire to promote international cooperation and support the development of cultural industries in developing countries, in a spirit of solidarity; the clear non-subordination of the convention to other international instruments; the invitation to civil society to contribute to the goals of the convention. In substance, we believe that the convention, in its current form, has all the fundamental ingredients it needs to serve as an international benchmark for cultural issues and fill the legal vacuum that currently exists.” The minister added, “At this point, we are ‘cautiously optimistic,’ given the number of countries that have already signaled their support for the convention. […] I was also pleased to see that virtually all UNESCO Executive Council members attending the meeting held a few days ago supported the Canadian resolution recommending adoption of the draft convention at the upcoming General Conference.”
Minister Beauchamp therefore urged all consular corps members “to encourage your governments to support the adoption at the General Conference in October of the draft text produced by government experts. Once the convention has been adopted, other important steps will obviously follow. We can all be proud of the achievements that have crowned these years of effort and dialog, but we cannot let down our guard just yet, because the impact of the convention will obviously depend on the number of countries that ratify it. The ratification phase constitutes a major challenge. We will have to maintain and even step up our efforts if we are to achieve our objectives. But until the UNESCO General Conference, the main goal is to have the convention adopted by as wide a margin as possible in order to take a crucial first step toward protecting and promoting the universal heritage of the world’s cultural expressions,” the minister concluded.