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A COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS, LETTERS, HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES*
1. In the preceding pages of this second part of our Report in which we have presented our findings and recommendations, we have dealt with many established federal agencies and institutions. We have also made certain proposals concerning the universities of Canada and systems of scholarships which would enable the nation to discharge more effectively its responsibility to train the ablest of our younger citizens. All this is familiar, if not entirely neutral, ground. It is now our duty to make certain proposals concerning the creation of a new body, partly advisory, partly administrative in character, which, it is our conviction, would be able to resolve many of the problems which led some two years ago to the establishment of this Royal Commission. To this proposed new body, in discussing voluntary organizations, scholarships, the creative arts, UNESCO, and Canada's cultural relations abroad, we have already referred, either openly or by implication; and to the reader of the first part of this Report it must have been apparent that a new agency or new agencies of government were in our minds.
2. To this conclusion we were inevitably drawn early in our work when various voluntary organizations appeared before us. Whether their interest lay in drama, in music, in the arts and letters or in the humanities and social sciences, with but two or three exceptions they stated or implied that their work would be much aided if there existed some central bureau to serve as a clearing-house of information and to act as an intermediary between them and the government; if such a bureau could give positive help to their activities, so much the better. Early in our deliberations we decided that the principal questions to be determined were whether more than one such bureau would be necessary and how should such an agency be composed; of the need there appeared to be no doubt.
3. It will be recalled that the final clause in our Terms of Reference instructs us to examine and make recommendations upon the "relations
of the Government of Canada and any of its agencies with various national voluntary bodies operating in the field with which this inquiry will be concerned". On the need for closer relations between the Federal Government and Canadian voluntary organizations we have read or heard comments from one hundred and six societies and citizens, and in five of the special studies which we commissioned the question is discussed in greater or less detail. Moreover, several departments and agencies of government have given us helpful information on this important matter. The recommendations of the voluntary societies vary greatly; on the one extreme was advocated the establishment of a new Ministry of Fine Arts and Cultural Affairs; and, on the other, the complete abstention of the Federal Government from all matters relating to the arts and letters; and with mingled feelings of pleasure and dismay we heard one proposal that this Commission remain in being as a permanent National Arts Board.
4. The problem for which we have been invited to find a solution may perhaps be expressed, though at the risk of over-simplification, in terms of the following factors which, it will be observed, differ considerably in complexity and importance:
5. These are the principal though by no means all the difficulties which have been brought to our attention by so many public-spirited organizations and citizens. Many of these problems stem, of course, from the stern realities of our geography and economics and for them there may be no full solution, although it is our belief that they may be mitigated by wise and determined action. We are faced, it seems to us, by a three-fold problem: cultural activity within Canada, cultural relations abroad, Canada's relationship with UNESCO; and we have been at great pains to determine whether this problem must necessarily be resolved by a three-fold recommendation, or whether a single answer could be discovered.
6. As an essential part of our inquiry we secured from many countries abroad precise and detailed information on the manner in which these general problems had been met. In this part of our study, however, we did not fail to bear in mind a point which was very clearly expressed to us in the submission of the Canada Foundation:
On the second and third aspects of the problem noted above (cultural relations abroad and relationship with UNESCO) we found the experience of other countries of considerable interest and value to us, and reference has been made to this in earlier chapters. On the principal question, however, of the manner in which our Federal Government can properly and realistically contribute to the enrichment of Canadian cultural life, we have, with one important exception, not unnaturally received little help from abroad. Quite apart from the fact that the problems confronting
us have little in common with those in other countries, we find that in general they are dealt with abroad by a centralized Ministry of National Education or by a Ministry of Cultural Affairs, arrangements which, of course, in Canada are constitutionally impossible or undesirable; for we may say at this point that we are unable to agree with the submissions made to us recommending a new Ministry of Fine Arts and Cultural Affairs.
7. The one exception referred to above is the Arts Council of Great Britain; and we think it worthwhile to give a brief account of its origin and growth. On the outbreak of war in 1939, with black-out conditions and shiftings of the population, the prospects of the arts and of artists were seriously affected. Theatres and art galleries were closed, concerts could not be held, but at the same time there arose a great demand for the stimulus and relaxation which only the arts can give. Those who had known such things felt their loss keenly; others who had never heard fine music or visited a theatre or looked at original paintings became aware of what they had missed. To meet a widespread demand, a private organization, (The Pilgrim Trust), made available £25,000 to encourage the arts in wartime, and a Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (C.E.M.A.) was formed early in 1940. Public response to the early activities of the Council was so encouraging that at the end of three months the Treasury agreed to make a grant of £50,000 conditional on the finding of a like sum from non-governmental sources; and for two years this project was financed by the Treasury and the Pilgrim Trust.
8. In 1942 the Treasury assumed entire financial responsibility for this essential wartime measure and rapidly increased its grants until in 1945-46 they amounted to £235,000. By the end of the war in Europe the main activities of this organization were so closely linked with the general cultural well-being of the nation that its continuance in peace time was highly desirable. The Chancellor of the Exchequer accordingly announced in the House of Commons in June of 1945 that this body was to be established on a permanent basis and was to be named the Arts Council of Great Britain with the object of encouraging knowledge, understanding and practice of the arts2a.
9. In studying the work and the activities of the Arts Council of Great Britain we have noticed with particular interest the Council's awareness of the dangers inherent in any system of subvention by the central government to the arts and letters and to the culture of the country generally. At the time when the Arts Council was founded in 1945 the late Lord Keynes, then Chairman of the Arts Council, in a broadcast address spoke in part as follows:
10. Sir Ernest Pooley, Chairman of the Arts Council, spoke thus to representatives of the Local Authorities of Great Britain who met on June 9, 1949, in London to discuss the 1951 Festival of Britain:
11. The Arts Council of Great Britain is, of course, concerned with the promotion of music and the arts, notably painting and the drama, only within Great Britain. To stimulate the knowledge abroad of the English language, of English literature and of British culture generally, and to foster close cultural relations with other countries, a separate body exists known as the British Council which was founded by the Government of Great Britain in 1935; its purpose and activities are discussed in an earlier chapter. We do not believe that the creation in Canada of a similar body with parallel responsibilities is either necessary or desirable. The encouragement of the arts and letters in this country, we believe, cannot be dissociated from our cultural relationships with countries abroad, and the creation of a separate body for this latter purpose would be otiose and could lead only to wasteful overlapping of functions.
12. We have considered with great care the very numerous representa-
tions from voluntary organizations on the importance of setting up in Canada a National Commission for UNESCO, as contemplated in the UNESCO Constitution, in order to make the work of this international body as effective as possible within our country, and that we may duly fulfil our own obligations abroad. We considered a number of detailed plans presented to us to determine whether in practice they would properly fulfil the main purposes of UNESCO--to facilitate in every possible way educational and cultural exchanges on an international scale as a means to better understanding. We have also considered the great variety of National Commissions which have been set up in various countries abroad.
13. Without implying criticism of the practices of other nations, we believe that Canada's purposes can best be served, not by setting up an additional body to promote the aims of UNESCO, but rather by recognizing that those aims would best be attained by strengthening and furthering the work of organizations already in the field. We have also recalled an observation made to us in another connection, that since our problems differ from those of other countries, we must not hesitate when it seems necessary to find new and different solutions. A council to stimulate the arts and letters in this country, particularly if it were also charged with the encouragement of Canada's relations abroad, would be doing exactly the kind of work which must be undertaken by a National Commission for UNESCO: it must maintain close relations with voluntary organizations in Canada; it must take an active interest in projects of general education; it must interest itself in all cultural affairs, and in these matters it must be prepared to exchange information with UNESCO and related international organizations. It might not, it is true, be designed to carry on the scientific exchanges which are an important part of the work of UNESCO. It could no doubt for this purpose secure the co-operation of the National research Council which has numerous international affiliations. We believe therefore that if one agency were created to concern itself with voluntary effort in the arts, letters, and social sciences, to encourage cultural exchanges, and at the same time to act as a National Commission for UNESCO, wasteful duplication would be avoided and the influence and the prestige of the organization would be strengthened.5
14. In writing this Report we have been forced to turn again and again to the dangerous neglect of the humanities and social sciences, studies essential to the maintenance of civilized life. It was suggested to us that the success of the National research Council in the encouragement of scientific studies offered an example that should perhaps be followed in the establishment of a National Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. We believe, however, that the implied parallel is misleading; that the essential nature and value of these studies makes
it undesirable to isolate them in a separate body; that their present "plight" may be partly explained, as we have previously suggested, by an effort to subject them too rigidly to scientific techniques and methods of organization. Moreover, we are convinced that, in our country particularly, encouragement of these studies must be carried on to a considerable extent through international exchanges, and through closer contacts with France, Great Britain and with other European countries where traditionally they are held in great respect. We think that the very important responsibility of encouraging these studies through a flexible scheme of scholarships and grants can best be carried out by an organization which will be obliged by its other responsibilities to keep in the closest touch with cultural affairs at home and abroad, and with universities, particularly with Canadian universities which, as we have seen, are the focal point for so many of our cultural activities.
We therefore recommend:
15. We have given great care, in our deliberations, to the many submissions made to us concerning the appropriate composition of such a Council, notably from Canadian artists and writers who have urged that a Council be established which would be representative of their professional organizations. With this view we are unable to agree. We judge that the members of a policy-making body to be concerned with many complex aspects of Canadian life should be free to consider all problems before them without the restraints which normally would bind them too closely to the organization or to the group which they would represent. We were confirmed in this view by our decision to recommend one body only for the various functions which we have described, functions which cannot properly be carried on by a rigidly representative body. This is not to say, however, that a Canadian artist, a Canadian musician, a Canadian writer, or a Canadian scholar should not serve on the Council; if he does, however, he should sit in his capacity as a distinguished and public-spirited Canadian citizen rather than as the representative of a particular organization or institution, or of a specialized art. We should also consider it a misfortune if this Canada Council became in any sense a department of government, but we realize that since this
body will be spending public money it must be in an effective manner responsible to the Government and hence to Parliament.
16. It is apparent that the members of this Council should have those qualities, both individually and collectively, which would permit them to discharge suitably their grave responsibilities of encouraging the arts and letters, the humanities and social sciences, and of making most effective Canada's cultural relationships with other countries. For its complex and disparate duties we should imagine that the Canada Council would find it advisable to establish permanent committees on which the members would sit in accordance with their special experience and interests; it is, however, our view that in considering UNESCO matters the Council would find it essential to meet as a body.
We therefore recommend:
17. We do not think it advisable that officers of the Federal Government sit as members of the proposed Council; but in its deliberations it would undoubtedly need the expert advice of many departments of government. Similarly, in dealing with such special subjects as music, letters and creative arts, the Council would, we are confident, wish to draw upon the specialized knowledge and experience of many voluntary organizations and of individuals. For this purpose the Council might find it advisable to appoint advisory committees. We think it particularly important that in dealing, for example, with UNESCO matters the Council should work in closest association both with those voluntary organizations through which the work of UNESCO may be made effective in Canada and with certain departments of government, including those of Finance and External Affairs.
We therefore recommend:
18. We do not think it practicable or desirable that this Commission attempt to define in detail all the duties of the proposed Council. It will be clear, however, from our previous explanation of its functions that some of these are definite and precise, and that others can be described only in a general directive leaving particular policies to be developed by the Council through practical experience.
19. Of the functions which can be defined with some precision, the first are those of a National Commission for UNESCO. The Constitution of UNESCO and the practice of various member states suggest that a National Commission to perform its functions properly must, as we have said, keep in close touch with all interested voluntary organizations and must keep them in touch with each other, with the government of the country, and with UNESCO.
We therefore recommend:
20. A second definite function of the Council we have already dealt with in our recommendations on scholarships, and this is also discussed in the present chapter. We have recommended that those responsible
for drawing up a plan for scholarships in the humanities and social sciences bear in mind the valuable experience of the National research Council in this field. This does not mean that there should be a mechanical reproduction of an existing scheme, but rather that the Canada Council, as did the National research Council, proceed gradually, working in close co-operation with university authorities and with voluntary bodies interested in the field. It is of the greatest importance that money made available for these scholarships be wisely spent not only to avoid waste, but to gain for the plan the prestige and the public support which we believe it to deserve.
21. To a third useful and even essential function of the proposed Canada Council we have referred at least by implication earlier in this chapter in commenting upon the fact that there does not exist in Canada a centre of information to which inquiries on the arts, letters, humanities and social sciences, both from abroad and from within Canada, could be directed. We have already recommended that the Canada Council perform the functions of a National Commission for UNESCO; for this purpose alone it seems to us apparent that a well-organized information centre will be an immediate necessity since much of the work of a national commission for UNESCO involves the assembling of information on various aspects of national life to make possible effective co-operation in the general programme of UNESCO. In addition, such an information centre could assume most of the burden of replying to inquiries, on matters within the scope of the Canada Council, from abroad and from within Canada, a task which in the past has been left largely to voluntary organizations.
We therefore recommend:
22. Of the other duties of the Canada Council we shall not speak precisely. Throughout the earlier part of our Report we have pointed out certain deficiencies in our national equipment as a civilized country, many of them of long standing; and we have now stated our conviction that many of these deficiencies might be most readily dealt with by a central body supported by federal funds but exercising wide powers of independent action. We are in full agreement that "the support and encouragement of the civilizing arts of life", in Lord Keynes' phrase, is a state duty; we believe that such a Council as we have proposed would be an effective means of providing this encouragement and support. The methods which should be adopted to this end will depend on many factors including
the extent to which the council can by wise and practicable decisions commend itself to the confidence of the Canadian people; it may however be found useful if we suggest some of the other responsibilities which in our view the proposed Council might assume.
We therefore recommend:
23. We are under no illusion that the results which we trust may be achieved from the creation of the Canada Council can be attained cheaply; indeed, we observed in the introduction to this part of our Report that if we in Canada want a more generous and better cultural fare we must pay for it. It is obvious that the system of scholarships and awards mentioned above and the furtherance of the work of UNESCO in Canada would cost considerable sums of money. We have already remarked that the Council must count heavily upon the support of voluntary organizations in Canada and hence no doubt would find it economical to subsidize certain of them with modest amounts of money in order to make its own work practicable and effective. The Canada Council would need a competent staff and its secretary or senior officer would have duties at least as exacting as those of most deputy ministers. There would thus be inevitably certain immediate fixed expenses if the work of the
Council is to be worth-while. The development of the Council's work would naturally depend upon the extent to which it would be able to satisfy with wisdom and moderation a real public need, and, if successful in this, we do not doubt that there would be public support of parliamentary action in making adequate funds available to it. We do not find it possible to propose specific sums; we should, however, imagine that the Council would find it possible to perform its varied duties effectively with an annual budget which would constitute a very slight charge upon all members of the Canadian population. We venture to believe that our fellow-citizens would find this investment modest in relation to the returns which, we are confident, they could reasonably expect.
* From: Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Report. Ottawa : King's Printer, 1951. By permission of the Privy Council Office.