Cultural diversity

Interview with Line Beauchamp


Biographical notes
Line Beauchamp was appointed Québec Government representative within the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO on September 10, 2014. At the time of her appointment, she had been working as a strategic consultant in private practice since 2013.

Ms. Beauchamp was elected to the National Assembly of Québec in 1998. She held a number of important positions within the Government of Québec. She served as Minister of Culture and Communications from 2003 to 2007, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks from 2007 to 2010, Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports from 2010 to 2012, and Deputy Premier of Québec from 2011 to 2012.

Prior to her political career, she served as Director of Info-Croissance, a consumer protection association, from 1987 to 1991; Executive Director of CIBL-FM, a French-language community radio station in Montréal from 1991 to 1993; and Executive Director of Pro-Est, a corporation that fosters socio-economic promotion and dialogue in East Montréal, from 1993 to 1998.

Ms. Beauchamp was awarded the insignia of Commander of the Order of La Pléiade, an Order of the Francophonie and Dialogue of Cultures, by the Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie (APF). She also holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Université de Montréal.

Source: Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie

Question - Under the 2006 Québec–Canada agreement on UNESCO, Québec may take part in Convention work and speak at Convention meetings. Can you describe for us the collaboration and dialogue mechanisms in place to ensure that the agreement is implemented to the satisfaction of both governments?

Answer –The agreement has clearly been a huge success, and our governments are working together very well. Our colleagues at Ministère des Relations internationales du Québec who negotiated the agreement deserve a lot of credit for giving us a clear, relevant, forward-looking document that has stood the test of time.

I’d also like to recognize those who implemented it, my predecessors Michel Audet and Michèle Stanton-Jean. They paved the way for the highly effective daily collaboration we have today. Just look at the way we take part in the two bodies of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

A four-party committee comprising representatives of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Canadian Heritage, and Québec’s Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie and Ministère de la Culture et des Communications, along with the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO, meet at least once before each meeting of Convention bodies. We build consensus by discussing our respective positions, strategies to be developed, and actions to be taken as regards other UNESCO delegations and the office of the Convention secretary.

The Canadian delegation has instructions that spell out exactly what Québec and Canada will do and say. This collaboration has allowed Québec to participate fully in Convention work and to have its voice heard at every Convention meeting over the past ten years.

Question - October 20 marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. When it was adopted, you were Minister of Culture and Communications. Today you’re a Québec government representative within the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO. What do you think Québec stood to gain from the Convention when it was being drafted and adopted, and why do you think Québec (both as a government and as a civil society) is still committed to implementing it?

Answer – The work we did 10+ years ago to get the UNESCO convention adopted is one of my fondest memories of my time as a Québec government minister. The Convention is the culmination of the work of many people in the cultural community, including Pierre Curzi and Robert Pilon, officials at Ministère de la Culture and Ministère des Relations internationales, and my fellow ministers, especially Monique Gagnon-Tremblay and Jean Charest, who was premier at the time.

I think we were all well aware of the historic responsibility our government had to reaffirm Québec’s exceptionalism, which is rooted in our French language and our unique, distinctive culture. We were all also aware that Québec culture is both powerful and fragile and that we must support our culture through public cultural policy to ensure its development and influence. The cultural community and Government of Québec took a very mature approach to gradually develop value-generating mechanisms characterized by risk- and responsibility-sharing and, above all, respect for artists and creative people. That was all hanging in the balance when the new free trade agreements were being negotiated.

Québec was very involved. Everyone recognizes the important contributions that Québec academics and jurists made to laying the foundation of this international instrument. The cultural community, led by the Coalition for Cultural Diversity, played a pivotal role. Québec diplomacy also played a big part. We were in a very unique position that garnered international attention. Québec has never renounced its commitment to open markets and free trade agreements, but at the time, as America’s neighbors, we thought we needed to acknowledge the dual nature of cultural goods and services—that they are valuable both to the economy and to the identity of a culture—and that we needed to protect States’ ability to support their cultures. That stance resonated with a number of other governments that we were able to strategize and work with. And the rest is history!

These issues are all relevant today, perhaps more so than ever before as cultural industries adapt to the digital age and artists are being recognized as having a rightful place at the table. It’s dangerous to view the 2005 Convention as a rigid, unchanging document. On the contrary, it must change with the times and things today are moving very fast. Civil society activism and rapid consensus building are needed more than ever. That is a major challenge we face, and I’m confident that once again Québec will rise to the challenge. I’m grateful to Minister Christine St-Pierre for allowing me to stay on and serve Québec and do my part to support Québec culture, which is something I’m extremely passionate about.

Question - What Convention promotion and implementation challenges do you think the Government of Québec and the Convention Parties as a whole will face in the coming years?

Answer  In my view there are three main challenges when it comes to promoting and implementing the Convention over the next few years. First there is the monumental challenge of adapting Convention implementation to the digital age. The cultural community around the world is changing before our very eyes, not just in terms of its creative mechanisms, but also its promotional, marketing, sales, and delivery mechanisms. Digital technology brings with it opportunities as well as threats to the diversity of cultural expressions worldwide. The Parties must address this issue to prevent the Convention from becoming obsolete and to keep it relevant and effective.

Québec, Canada, and France have worked hard in recent years to put the issue of digital technology on the agenda of every Convention meeting. This past June the Parties decided to begin work on operational guidelines for digital technology to be brought up for an eventual vote. This is a somewhat complex undertaking that will require the priceless contribution of Québec civil society and academics more than ever.

The second challenge is the health of the International Fund for Cultural Diversity. You’ll remember that Québec has already made two voluntary contributions to the fund. It is critical that the fund be able to underwrite international projects that expand capabilities, foster public cultural policy, and support the emergence of vibrant cultural sectors in developing countries.

The third and final major challenge is cooperation, namely cooperation between Northern and Southern States to ensure the diversity of cultural expressions on leading digital platforms and cooperation between UNESCO and the main international cultural bodies. This cooperation is essential to ensuring that the 2005 Convention is recognized and respected by other international players.

Question - How would you rate your first year as a Québec government representative within the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO?

Answer – I came to UNESCO at a unique time when terrorist attacks against major cultural and academic institutions and abhorrent destruction of world heritage treasures were on the rise. Current events remind us that culture and knowledge are the foundation of every civilization.

UNESCO’s founders understood that world peace cannot be achieved simply through Security Council resolutions. Peace is achieved in the minds of men and women, through education, culture, and science.

You see, I believe UNESCO’s mission is more relevant today than ever before, and I believe Québec can and must do its part. My first year has also opened my eyes to the outstanding contributions so many Quebecers have made to the work of UNESCO. My personal challenge is to spread the word to our fellow Quebecers about the close ties between Québec and UNESCO, namely our world heritage sites—the Historic District of Old Québec and Miguasha National Park—as well as our four world biosphere reserves, our twelve UNESCO research chairs, Québec’s UNESCO Associated Schools, and Montréal, which has been named a UNESCO City of Design. These are all things Quebecers can be very proud of.

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