September 3, 2020

CMA submission for September 3, 2020 roundtable organized by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Below is the CMA submission for the September 3, 2020 roundtable organized by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault Minister of Canadian Heritage
15 Eddy Street, 12th Floor
Gatineau, QC
K1A 0M5

August 27, 2020

Dear Minister Guilbeault:

The Canadian Museums Association (CMA) is pleased to submit the following proposal in advance of the September 3, 2020 Roundtable.

We greatly appreciate being asked to participate, and we thank you and the Department of Canadian Heritage for the opportunity to provide input.

The CMA views museums as being at the heart of a just and knowledgeable society. They educate and inspire. They house our culture and history. They create a sense of community and belonging. They allow us to better understand our past, our present, and shape our future.

We commend the work done by you and the federal cabinet during the difficult COVID-19 pandemic. And we understand the many considerations and fiscal pressures facing the federal government during this extremely difficult period.

To this end, as you and your cabinet colleagues seek to restart the economy in order to recover from the pandemic, the CMA believes that the economic and societal benefits of museums must be recognized as part of the recovery solution.

Meanwhile, museums across Canada are reaching out to us for support in this crisis. There is an unprecedented level of collegiality among our members and provincial associations offering us opportunities to strengthen the sector. We view these partnerships as being vital to the COVID-19 recovery process, providing an opportunity to innovate and sustain our museums.

As part of the CMA’s submission, along with areas of alignment to the Government’s Recovery Framework, we have included additional information in accordance with the information requested by Heritage Canada in advance of this meeting. This includes additional details regarding fostering innovation, resilience, and sustainability in the museums sector, as well as the CMA’s commitments to diversity per our July 2020 Strategic Plan.

Thank you to you and your Departmental executives for convening the September 3, 2020 Roundtable. We look forward to the conversation.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Vanda Vitali, Ph.D.
Executive Director and CEO
Canadian Museums Association

Cc: Hélène Laurendeau, Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage

September 3, 2020 Roundtable

The Hon. Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage & Julie Dabrusin, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Submission by:

Vanda Vitali, Ph.D., Executive Director & CEO
c/o Canadian Museums Association (CMA)
280 Metcalfe Street, Suite 400
Ottawa, ON K2P 1R7

Our submission builds on our organization’s proposal to the FINA on August 7, 2020, in which we outlined our recommendations on requested Government of Canada support to the museums sector.

Furthermore, our feedback is intended to align with key elements of the Government of Canada’s Recovery Framework. In this context, the CMA submits the following core recommendations for your consideration:

That the Government of Canada prioritize an investment of resources toward the review of the National Museum Policy.

Canada’s museums, large and small, have been tremendously hard hit by the pandemic. It is highly possible that some are likely to close their doors permanently as a result.

Heritage Canada’s guidance document for this roundtable meeting has an explicit request around how to “Foster the sustainability of the arts and culture ecosystem by ensuring more stable sources of revenues for organizations and better remuneration for artists, creators, and cultural workers.”

As we outline in detail in this submission, we submit that a new National Museums Policy is critical to achieve this objective. Canada’s over 30-year old Policy is significantly out of date. Its review is imperative - and should be prioritized because of the pandemic as it will help museums create greater resilience.

As we reference in this document, the CMA would be pleased to lead this initiative in collaboration with Canadian Heritage and provincial/territorial museum associations.

We also continue to encourage urgent and concrete action on recommendations in Moving Forward — Towards a Stronger Canadian Museum Sector, a report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

These include:

  • A review and modernization of the policy;
  • A review of funding streams for museums with the goal of establishing a more sustainable funding system;
  • And an expansion of the Museums Assistance Program to enable an investment beyond collections-based activities

That the Government of Canada increases funding to Canada’s museums to at least $60M annually.

Greater financial support of Canada’s museums is urgently and desperately needed. The CMA views such an investment as smart and prudent - and a direct benefit of Canadian society and our economy.

The Museums Assistance Program (MAP), a main funding source for Canada’s museums, has seen a consistent decline in funding since being introduced in 1972.

Meanwhile, with an estimated 30-million visitors to museums in Canada every year, the country gains nearly $2.9 billion a year in economic benefits, in addition to a myriad of social advantages. For every dollar invested in these non-profit institutions, society gets nearly four dollars in benefits, a return that is on par with government investments in transportation infrastructure projects.

We must fully recognize that the sector feeds the economy and innovation, and that it forms an integral part of the fabric of our nation, benefiting Canadians of all ages, backgrounds and regions.

The CMA therefore urges the Government to increase its investment in museums to at least $60 million annually. More sustainable funding would result in less reliance on emergency support. This request aligns directly with the requested feedback regarding the sustainability and stability of resources of the Canadian museum sector moving forward.

That the Government of Canada extend and increase emergency support to museums.

We submit that a new National Museums Policy is critical to creating resilience. Given that we do not have a modern policy in place nor sustainable funding at appropriate levels, we maintain that there is a need for additional emergency support. However, with a modern policy in place, museums would be much better positioned to weather and survive challenges of this nature.

At the outset of the pandemic, many museums closed with no guarantee of support to offset lost revenues from suspending their activities. Even as museums reopen, many are experiencing decreased visitor numbers and increased operating costs as they follow public health guidelines.

Approximately $53M of the Government’s $500M emergency fund was dedicated to museums. While museums appreciate this support, it is not enough to address the problems and risks to museums as a result of the pandemic.

The funding is one time and the application period ends on September 1st, 2020. These funds will not be able to address longer-term impacts of the pandemic.

Alignment with the Government of Canada’s Recovery Framework

Fostering innovation, resilience, and sustainability

Per the aforementioned reference, the CMA sees significant value in the development of a new, modernized National Museums Policy. The CMA has previously offered to lead on the development of such an initiative (refer to June 12, 2020 letter to Minister Guilbeault).

We remain committed to this offer. This would be done in collaboration – and direct partnership with – provincial and territorial museums associations, including, for example, the Société des musées du Québec.

Further, we submit that the added value of such an approach is maximizing the impact of available resources to which the museums sector has access. It also serves as an innovative approach to a more financially sustainable future for the sector, given that it can attract new resources through interested stakeholders and supporters of Canadian museums. A similar approach has recently been used in Scotland, on which we can provide the Government more details.

A new national approach could also drive innovation across the museums sector through the digitalization of collections. Cultural products are exhibitions in museums that foster cultural understanding and support cultural agendas.

The CMA submit that well-preserved collections and well-digitized collections are cultural products for a wider audience – both domestically and abroad - including Canadian children and educators.

Both streams are therefore critical to address for museums across the country, particularly in an on-going and evolving COVID-19 situation.

The Minister’s mandate letter also highlights working with the museums sector to improve Canadians’ awareness of climate change. Moving forward, the CMA intends to work with Canada’s museums sector, along with environmental experts and partners, with the objective of increasing awareness of climate change and the direct impact on (and connection with) other critical issues such Indigenous Affairs and food security.

Furthermore, a move towards further digitization – and therefore additional opportunities to reach Canadians – would unquestionably be part of a new National Museums Policy.

The CMA is also of the strong view that a refreshed would undoubtedly help to ensure that valuable, middle-class employment opportunities remain available across Canada.


The CMA completed its new Strategic Plan in July 2020. Of note is the CMA’s commitment to “attract, mentor and retain staff in an effort to enhance diversity, ensure alignment with CMA plans and plan for succession, and create a more inclusive, representative and effective governance model.” This is a critical area for the CMA moving forward, and one in which we will be highly focused. The CMA has also committed to increasing the diversity among our Board, which is another key priority in our new Plan.


Museums across Canada are reaching out to the CMA for support in this crisis. There is, by any objective measure, an unprecedented level of collegiality between us and provincial and territorial associations. This offers an opportunity to strengthen the sector and take on agendas that are beyond the reach of single institutions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also been a period of significant collaboration with other cultural and heritage organizations across Canada, including science centres, natural history museums, zoos and aquariums, and gardens.

We view these partnerships as vital to improving innovation in the sector, building new audiences with which they will want to endure relationships and wishing to support recovery.

The CMA is also committed to further collaboration and partnerships with a more expansive network of interconnected organizations. This would include:

  • Undertaking joint efforts with culture and heritage-focused organizations to deepen and communicate the impacts of the museum field.
  • In collaboration with the CMA’s Reconciliation Council and other stakeholders across the country, deliver the CMA’s Reconciliation Program and further disseminate results and best practices.
  • Work with the federal government and partners on museum-related climate change efforts and encourage climate change action through various communications channels; and
  • Exploring opportunities with other organizations, for example via research, to advance cross-sector partnerships, to ensure diverse perspectives are heard and incorporated and to reach mutually beneficial outcomes.


CMA and partners to advance National Museum Policy renewal at an estimated cost of $274,000.

Increase the Government of Canada’s funding to Canada’s museums sector to $60M annually (details included herein).

Return on Investment:

The CMA recommends that any new funding – including the recommended areas of spending outlined above and though a new National Museums Policy – be provided in accordance with performance measures.

We strongly believe that the development of related metrics will be invaluable to both the Government of Canada and all Canadian museums moving forward.

Such an approach will also ensure a more accurate return on investment for the federal government, and ideally help to optimize financial support from different levels of government.

End of document.