...Demographic changes, the globalization of trade, the omnipresence of digital technologies in our individual and social lives – these are all driving our country’s profound and ongoing change. Other drives are the urgent and necessary redefining of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of Canada and the aspirations of youth today. And these are all not just driving change, they are shaping our understanding of our past, present and, above all, our future as a country.
The digital era is changing our consumer habits, even our lifestyles. We have instant access to content on the many screens that accompany us throughout our day. All competing for our attention with huge amounts of cultural content produced, programmed and presented by institutions. To truly grasp all of the dimensions of this new reality, we can’t simply limit ourselves to the old or the new. Instead, we need to think about our fellow citizens in a new light. We need to think of them as cultural players, as decision-makers, as agents of creation, as producers – and, ultimately, as carriers and presenters of culture themselves.
This leads us back to the concept of cultural citizenship. A concept that advocates for the participation, autonomy and engagement of citizens in the arts and culture. In a way that is done either with, without, against, or – and this is what I would hope to see – in dialogue with the institutions.
Understanding and remodelling public funding of the arts in this way is at the heart of the Canada Council’s current vision. Naturally, the Council continues to support artistic excellence. But it does so by changing the vertical relationships, in a way that is true to the principles of cultural democracy. In a way that embraces the humanist and universal philosophy behind the ideal of cultural democratization.
If we want a society that is creative and altruistic, resilient and peaceful, harmonious and prosperous. A society where each person is able to express themselves fully and freely. Then we have to encourage the most authentic and wide-ranging engagement of citizens with the arts, culture and heritage. Public funding of the arts must contribute to building the society we want to live in. The Council has a vision and a plan for help to make this future a reality....
-- Canada Council Director/CEO Simon Brault on Cultural Democracy at the 56th General Meeting of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO