Ottawa, October 3, 2005 – 2005/10/03
In a release, Minister of Canadian Heritage Liza Frulla declared, “Today, I had the pleasure of co-chairing a roundtable with my counterparts, the Ministers responsible for culture Ms. Line Beauchamp from Quebec, the Honourable Madeleine Meilleur from Ontario, and the Honourable Eric Robinson from Manitoba, in which representatives from Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Alberta, and Nunavut as well as representatives of civil society and artists, creators, and cultural professionals from across the country took part. Together, we decided to give a single message. All of Canada is calling on UNESCO and the entire international community to adopt the draft Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in the coming weeks.”
“Our discussions,” Minister Frulla added, “allowed us, as governments and professionals, to clearly establish how important this Convention is to the cultural community: it will help us ensure that cultural policies are recognized as fundamentally important to the social and economic development of the signatory countries. Today, the Ministers and representatives of civil society unanimously supported the draft text of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which resulted from the last meeting of governmental experts in June 2005. We will work together to ensure that the delegates at the UNESCO General Conference (…) adopt the Convention. Each of us has a role to play to ensure that our languages, our culture, and our identity—as a diverse society, its Aboriginal heritage, and its boundless creativity—is preserved and promoted for future generations. Adopting this Convention is the best way to ensure the future of our cultural diversity.”
In turn, Line Beauchamp, Minister of Culture and Communications for Québec, declared, “I like to think that the scope and depth of support from civil society and numerous states will guide UNESCO members when it comes time to vote on the Convention. On the strength of our meeting today, my ministerial colleagues and the representatives of civil society support the most recent draft and ardently hope it will be adopted in its present form.” Ms. Beauchamp also hailed the outstanding job done by the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity, especially the untiring efforts of Pierre Curzi, Robert Pilon, and Jim McKee: “They have played a crucial role in sparking the creation of so many coalitions worldwide. I am convinced that this partnership with civil society must be strengthened further because it will be essential to the work awaiting us after the Convention is adopted—i.e., ratification by UNESCO members and implementation.
Speaking at a press conference, Pierre Curzi, the co-chair of the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity, which represents 38 of Canada’s leading cultural organizations, and president of Union des artistes added that “the UNESCO Convention recognized that books, films, television programs, and other cultural products and services are more than mere commercial goods. They incarnate values, identities, and meaning. The Convention will allow countries to maintain cultural policies that ensure access to their own cultures and those of other nations. Scott McIntyre, also co-chair of the coalition, and president and publisher at Douglas & McIntyre, noted that “the initiative for an international treaty on cultural diversity originated in Canada, but rapidly gained international support because of its global relevance (…). The Convention is the result of sustained efforts on the part of our government and our cultural sector to drum up international support.”
In a press release, they underlined that “The UNESCO Convention is an historic achievement in the campaign to entrench in international law the right of countries to have cultural policies to ensure we have access to our own culture, as well as culture from other countries around the world. (…) Trade agreements have been placing increasing pressure on countries to give up this right, which is why the UNESCO Convention is so important.” While hailing the imminent adoption of the convention as a watershed achievement, Curzi and McIntyre stressed that the campaign is not over but instead now shifts to a new phase: ratification. Curzi noted that the Canadian Coalition’s own work at the international level had sparked the creation of similar coalitions of cultural organizations in 29 other countries. These coalitions are all committed to persuading their governments to move quickly to ratify the convention, and to mobilize cultural organizations in other countries to do the same, he said.
So far, as Radio-Canada reports, the UNESCO Executive Council and virtually all of the nations of the world seem to stand behind the project. They include China, India, the European Union, Brazil, Russia, Japan, and Turkey. Only the United States and Israel are openly opposed to the draft document. Since 1999, the Canadian government has been working with its provincial and territorial counterparts, the arts and cultural community, and governments abroad to develop the Convention. Current wording acknowledges the dual social and economic value of cultural goods and services and clearly establishes the right of individual countries to take measures supporting the diversity of cultural expressions. The Convention will be on equal footing with other international instruments. According to Canadian Press, Ms. Beauchamp admitted that the convention was a compromise, but termed it a “reasonable” and balanced” one.