Line Beauchamp, ministre de la Culture et des Communications du Québec, Luxembourg, le 27 juin 2005 – 2005/06/27
At the invitation of European Union president Luxembourg, Québec culture and communications minister Ms. Line Beauchamp addressed the meeting of European culture ministers in Luxembourg last June 27. Ms. Beauchamp presented Québec’s main institutions and cultural industry support policies, notably CALQ, SODEC, and support measures for the film industry, which attracted the interest of the European culture ministers in attendance. The minister also noted that the constitutional powers wielded by provincial governments enabled Québec to put very effective mechanisms in place in the 1960s to bolster and promote Québec culture. Québec society has thus “immersed in the big North American complex that includes nearly 280 million Anglophones (…) has responded to the threat of assimilation and acculturation by taking control of (its) means of cultural expression and creating work that is both original and globally attuned.”
The minister notably stated that for the Québec government, culture remains the basis of the cultural identity to which Quebecers of all origins have added their own contributions. Its Cultural Policy includes the main principles that are the foundation from which Québec adopted or forged new cultural development tools: policies, institutions, and department-administered assistance programs managed by the Ministry. Those include many areas; the development of a network of public corporations such as CALQ and SODEC, making culture a government mission; the establishment of a Film and Audiovisual Production Plan; the establishment of a social safety net to seek to improve the professional living conditions of ours creators and artists; and the diversification of funding sources by creating a new financial lever and enhancing existing tax measures to encourage cultural sponsorship and investment.
The minister stated that over the last 40 years, Québec has fostered culture through public support for artistic creation and the development of networks of cultural institutions in virtually every field of endeavor. However, she stressed that “Current threats to our cultural policies prompt us to consider the globalization of cultural issues,” which is why the governments of Canada and Québec, like the European Union, support UNESCO’s current work toward a Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions at UNESCO in October 2005. In this respect, the minister maintains, “What concerns the Government of Québec is that culture may be perceived as nothing but marketable entertainment and treated like any other consumer item. Supporters of wholesale globalization believe that cultural policies interfere with market mechanisms and competition. According to this legalistic interpretation, any public assistance program for artists and cultural expressions is an unacceptable obstacle to free enterprise. We believe this view falls flat when it comes to culture. Furthermore, we are deeply convinced that only when states and governments respect and promote the principle of cultural diversity can all cultures survive and prosper.”
This is why Ms. Beauchamp emphasizes how important it is for ministers of culture to carry on the fight to adopt the Convention for the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions: “We will have a crucial role to play before final adoption of the Convention for the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. We must not only continue our efforts, but intensify them in order to achieve maximum support from UNESCO member countries and ensure that the text we have had since June 3 is in no way challenged. From now through October 2005, we must continue unwaveringly to explain, convince, and highlight the importance for countries to refrain from making any commitments to liberalization in trade negotiations, which would limit application of the UN Convention. With this support, we can hope that the next UNESCO General Conference will lay the political and legal groundwork for an international instrument that will stand as a benchmark for culture. It will help us maintain and develop cultural policies to support our creators and cultural industries, thereby ensuring the vitality and survival of the diversity of cultural expressions (…) For Quebec, cultural diversity is a matter of survival.” In this respect, the minister concluded, “the European Union is a model of cultural diversity and a key player on this issue.” [05-21]