The media recently reported that the federal government will be eliminating two programs that promote Canadian arts and artists abroad: the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s PromArt and the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Trade Routes. For an overview of these programs and the recently announced cuts, take a look at the following articles:
- Cutting arts-abroad grants called ‘unconscionable,’ Globe & Mail, August 9, 2008
- Ottawa axes second arts subsidy in two weeks, Globe & Mail, August 11, 2008
- Tories cut funding for artists touring abroad, CBC, August 11, 2008
What makes this an intellectual freedom issue is that the Tories have singled out some individuals, groups and content funded by these programs to make the case that PromArt and Trade Routes do not represent “Canadian values.” The Globe & Mail quotes Kory Teneycke, Stephen Harper’s press secretary, as saying: “In the case of PromArt, we think the [funding] choices made were inappropriate … inappropriate because they were ideological in some cases, with highly ideological individuals exposing their agendas or [money going to] wealthy celebrities or fringe arts groups that in many cases would be at best, unrepresentative, and at worst, offensive” (Aug. 11).
When the Bill C-10 controversy erupted in February, the Conservatives used the film Young People Fucking to garner public support for Bill C-10, which included a provision to allow the Minister of Canadian Heritage to deny tax credits to productions considered “contrary to public policy.” The Georgia Straight reported on August 8th that NDP Culture and Heritage Critic Bill Siksay believes there is a clear connection between Bill C-10 and the government’s elimination of PromArt.
This time around, the finger is being pointed at author Gwynne Dyer, former CBC host Avi Lewis, and the Toronto band Holy Fuck. The National Post published an opinion piece on Saturday that cherry-picked other “controversial” PromArt grant recipients. The following responses are worth reading:
- Gwynne Dyer in the Globe & Mail, August 12, 2008
- Alexander Mair, who works in the music recording industry as the President of MHL Communications, in the National Post, August 12, 2008
- The Canadian Independent Record Production Association’s media release of August 9, 2008
- Simon Houpt’s column in the Globe & Mail, August 11, 2008
If you want to make your voice heard on this issue, you can write to:
- The Honorable David Emerson, Minister of Foreign Affairs, about the elimination of PromArt;
- The Honorable Josée Verner, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women, about the axeing of Trade Routes; and
- Your Member of Parliament, who you can locate here.
If you need some inspiration for your letter writing, check out this music video by 2008 Polaris Music Prize nominee, Holy Fuck: