As an ongoing feature, we will be hearing from some of the CMA Fellows and exploring the important work they are undertaking from their experienced vantage points. In this issue, we are fortunate to hear from two Fellows, the Honourable Patricia Bovey, Senator, and Catherine C. Cole, on the topic of Cultural Diplomacy.
enator Bovey gives us insight into a report on cultural diplomacy produced by the Senate entitled Cultural Diplomacy at the Front Stage of Canada’s Foreign Policy. Catherine C. Cole, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Association of Museums, discusses the current state of cultural diplomacy as it affects museums, and what improvements can be made.
At the Front Stage of Canada’s Foreign Policy
Honourable Patricia Bovey, Senator
“Canada’s profile abroad IS largely its culture — the role culture has to play in Canada’s foreign policy should not, at any point, be sacrificed.”
So said Canadian philosopher and author John Ralston Saul several decades ago. That role and need has not changed.
The Senate of Canada’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee undertook a year long study and tabled its report, Cultural Diplomacy at the Front Stage of Canada’s Foreign Policy, on June 11, 2019. This report is what I hope will be an important contribution and a turning point for the role of culture abroad, These were red-letter days for Canada. I appreciate my committee colleagues agreeing to my request for this study and for their dedication to it. The candour, insights, passion and vision of the witnesses were likewise critical.
The study’s goal was to define cultural diplomacy, its impact on Canada’s profile and economy, and its importance to the country’s arts and culture sector.
Cultural diplomacy, widely understood globally, is used effectively by many countries. Yet Canada’s international cultural policies and practices have been turned on and off over the decades without proper evaluation of its benefits.
The Committee heard from artists, indigenous and non-indigenous; GLAM leaders; arts organizations of all disciplines, regions and sizes; diplomats; businesses; those who have travelled with trade missions, and the experiences of other nations.
We also questioned how cultural diplomacy affects artists, the arts and the economy and the appropriate measurements. What role should our missions abroad play and what are pertinent cultural functions and responsibilities of mission staff?
We concluded that cultural diplomacy matters and should assume a core role in Canada’s foreign policy. We also concluded that arts and culture are an undervalued asset in today’s Foreign Policy.
Having spent my museological career in art galleries, I can attest to the significant impacts of international cultural activity. Over my time as director of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Buhler Gallery, we sent exhibitions and artists to China, Japan, Ukraine, Britain and the US, to name but a few. As an official guest of Japan, France and Britain, and representing Canada in Norway, Iceland, Finland, England, Scotland and the US, I experienced cultural diplomacy that was alive at the outset of my career, witnessed its growth, and later its virtual demise.
The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy defines cultural diplomacy as “a course of actions which are based on and utilize the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity, whether to strengthen relationships, enhance socio-cultural cooperation or promote national interests.” Culture connects the human in our world, bringing people together for human rights and peace. It is a bridge during international political controversies and when regular diplomatic negotiations are stalled. As Simon Brault opined: “Sometimes artists can convey messages and content that politicians or diplomats cannot convey.”
Throughout our hearings artist and staff exchanges, artists’ residencies, performances and exhibitions were deemed essential. We heard of the excellent and substantial international work of Canada’s artistic creators in all fields, and their pride in profiling Canada’s creativity.
However, we also heard concern and embarrassment by the lack of federal and embassy support. The assistance of embassies and foreign missions is critical to cultural diplomacy. Their introductions to local contacts, knowledge of local situations and rules, level playing fields for earning opportunities, taxation and copyright realities are some of the areas of assistance needed by Canadian artists and arts organizations abroad.
We therefore recommended that Global Affairs enhance the capacity of Canadian missions ensuring they have the skills, knowledge and tools necessary to support the federal government’s cultural diplomacy initiative and provide cultural training to employees, with particular attention on rotational employees posted abroad. I am pleased Global Affairs Canada instigated initial cultural diplomacy training after the report’s release.
In recognizing culture’s essential role in Canada’s international profile, the committee underlined that Canada should be proactive, not reactive, in supporting international arts and culture endeavours. Much international work has been undertaken without federal assistance. Some has had provincial support. We recommended that the Federal Government explore opportunities for greater and more effective collaboration and coordination with provinces, territories and municipalities in its cultural diplomacy activities.
The committee’s research also proved that current federal roles and responsibilities for cultural diplomacy are fragmented. To achieve greater commitment and consistency we recommended that the Government of Canada develop and implement a comprehensive cultural diplomacy strategy and that Global Affairs, which has global real-estate and staff, be designated the lead department in coordinating, delivering, measuring and reporting on Canada’s cultural diplomacy strategy and activities. Further, Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts be active in the strategy.
The importance of former Canadian Studies programs was also highlighted. We recommended that they be re-instated with support for the creation of a modernized Canadian Studies program. Museums’ collections, research and public programs could play an important role in this work. So too could associations supporting the museum community in Canada.
The new Creative Export Canada Program launched this past year, replacing the former Trade Routes Program, was also encouraging. We learned the uptake has been huge, far exceeding the monies available.
In conclusion, the Senate’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade committee unanimously agreed that cultural diplomacy IS a core aspect of foreign policy and should again be a pillar of Global Affairs’ work. Stuart Savage of Global Affairs stated: “From the Global Affairs perspective, the promotion of Canadian arts and culture serves three main objectives: interaction, advocacy and prosperity.”1
I think we must realize the significance of the comments in the 2007 UK Cultural Diplomacy Report that:
In the future, alliances are just as likely to be forged along lines of cultural understanding as they are on economic or geographic ones.… The value of cultural activity comes precisely from its independence, its freedom and the fact that it represents and connects people.
Canada is also part of UNESCO’s strategy to “promote the potential of dialogue based on music and the arts as a vector for the strengthening of mutual understanding and interaction as well as for building a culture of peace and respect for cultural diversity.”
Jeremy Kinsman, former diplomat and international trade negotiator, said: “I can’t think of a more important topic for your committee…. This topic and how we project ourselves in the world is about us … Culture and diplomacy are inseparable. It’s a search for influence on behalf of our interest and nothing could be more important…. Soft power is not a substitute for hard power; it’s a complement…. Our realities, our values, our creativity, our sense of capacity for innovation are all bound up together.”
“We need to act.”
— Senator Patricia Bovey
How do these Senate recommendations affect Canada’s museum and gallery sector? I believe significantly. Research, exhibitions, publications and public accessibility programs of galleries and museums definitely enhance our national values, meaning and profile. It is important for the arts and culture sector, including galleries and museums, to follow Government and Global Affairs decisions in implementing the Report’s eight recommendations.
The Senate’s role is to legislate, investigate and represent. The Senate cannot implement money bills, but Senate reports require government response. I believe Cultural Diplomacy on the Front Stage of Canada’s Foreign Policy, is a solid investigation of need, and represents arts and culture across the country. It articulates issues augmenting current legislation and policies, and sets a framework for future action.
From my museological perspective the Canadian Museums Association — the publisher of this magazine — can and should also be an important player in this effort, through its advocacy work, its professional development activities and in representing Canada’s museums on the world stage. The CMA can be a resource to expand the capacity of diplomatic missions to ensure they are more inclusive of museum needs abroad.
I will continue to work to ensure Government and Global Affairs use the cultural aspect of our diplomatic efforts to further Canada’s goals internationally and that artists and arts organizations, including museums, receive the necessary financial and program support to undertake their important related responsibilities.
1. All quotes unless otherwise noted were made during the Senate’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee hearings 2018-2019.
The Honourable Patricia Bovey, FRSA, FCMA. Independent Senator for Manitoba, Member of the Senate Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee
The Senate report Cultural Diplomacy at the Front Stage of Canada’s Foreign Policy opened the door for discussion about the role of museums in cultural diplomacy and the need for renewed and increased investment in Canadian international heritage initiatives. Falling less than a year after the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage’s Towards a Stronger Canadian Museum Sector (September 2018), with its recognition of the need for a new National Museums Policy, it’s time to reposition museums.
Museums and Cultural Diplomacy
Catherine C. Cole
The report makes eight key recommendations and, while it focuses on the arts, the heritage community needs to ensure that, when implemented, museums are recognized as engaging in cultural diplomacy. Though undervalued, heritage initiatives generate support for Canada’s foreign policy, improve mutual understanding and people-to-people ties, build trust for subsequent interactions, and advance matters of national interest.
The federal government should renew investment in its own international heritage programs. Canada’s reputation in the international heritage community has declined in recent years due to the previous government’s lack of commitment to international engagement and cutbacks to federal programs such as the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI, e.g., publications, workshops and internships), and the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN). Canada is less visible internationally than we were 15 years ago.
The report provides an opportunity to showcase Canadian participation in international heritage activities. Canadian curators work in other countries to gain insight into their collections and enhance exhibitions. Other countries learn about Canada in part through museums, whether through objects on loan or international exhibitions produced by Canadian museums. International visitors to exhibitions in Canada take their perceptions back to their homelands or, without leaving home, access Canadian museums through rich websites that offer collections access and virtual exhibitions. Yet it has become increasingly difficult (expensive) for Canadian museums to develop international travelling exhibitions.
Most of the report’s recommendations are directed toward the federal government but have implications for museums. For example, the report recommends greater and more effective collaboration between the federal government and other levels of government. Like diplomacy, Canadian museums are also a shared responsibility of all levels of government and should be a part of that collaborative effort. While the report recommends that federal departments and Crown corporations involved in cultural diplomacy develop performance measurements, other levels of government should be included in that discussion and/or develop their own performance measurements. Global Affairs will take the lead in this initiative; there’s also a role for provincial departments of culture, international development and trade, and for Indigenous governments, because they too are involved in diplomacy and in investing in museums.
Recommendation 6 underscores an inequality between arts and heritage practitioners, that “Global Affairs enhance the capacity of Canadian missions abroad in support of cultural diplomacy initiatives.” The federal government should increase its investment in programs such as the Mission Cultural Fund — and change existing practice to allow heritage practitioners to apply for grants to participate in international activities. There is an expectation that only artists are engaged in international exhibitions and programs, and that they apply to the Canada Council for the Arts. Heritage practitioners are at a disadvantage as they are not eligible for these grants and there is no similar investment stream within the Museums Assistance Program (MAP). It is clear to me that the federal government needs to level the playing field between arts and heritage.
In addition to increasing investment in its own international heritage programs, like CCI and CHIN, and the international initiatives of Canadian museums, the federal government should invest in Canadian international heritage organizations, such as the Commonwealth Association of Museums (CAM), that are engaged in cultural diplomacy. As Secretary General, I can offer it as an excellent example of Cultural Diplomacy in action. CAM is a network of postcolonial museums that reflects on colonial legacies and develops international relationships and working practices.
CAM offers an international internship program with investment from the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Young Canada Works at Building Careers in Heritage Program administered by the CMA. Interns benefit from international work experience while spreading Canadian museum practice. CAM is developing a Caribbean-Canadian exchange program. Like the Commonwealth of Learning, an intergovernmental Commonwealth organization based in Vancouver, CAM provides distance education but in CAM’s case without any federal investment. The Certificate in Basic Museum Studies is administered in Canada and incorporates Canadian perspectives. CAM also organizes international conferences and regional workshops featuring Canadian museologists as speakers and facilitators.
As an Accredited Commonwealth Organization, CAM is invited to participate in major international meetings such as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and the Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (CCEM) by contributing to the papers presented to Ministers, circulating declarations and reports, participating on panels in various forums, and by observing the Ministers’ meetings. CAM organizes activities immediately before the meetings to raise the profile of museums with the Ministers as well as to promote understanding of various subjects in each location.
As an ICOM Affiliated Organization, CAM is uniquely positioned to promote awareness of contemporary Canadian museology globally. For example, Canadian journalist Doug Saunders’ book Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History is Reshaping the World inspired the project Migration:Cities | (im)migration and arrival cities; CAM invited him to speak and encouraged Canadian museums working with migrant communities to contribute to the project. Similarly, the CAM-led project Human Remains Management in Southern Africa has been informed by the changing relationship between Canadian museums and Indigenous peoples and repatriation policies, protocols and precedents. CAM’s focus on decolonization and Canadian museum reconciliation efforts resonate in other nations.
Despite all these important initiatives, CAM does not receive operational investment from Global Affairs or the Department of Canadian Heritage. CAM is not eligible for MAP because the organization does not have the resources to cover a full-time staff position. Yet this very lack of support prevents CAM from hiring the full-time staff necessary to ensure long-term sustainability.
It is long past time to develop a new National Museum Policy — the existing policy was written nearly 50 years ago in 1972! A new policy could expand upon the role of Canada’s museums and related organizations in cultural diplomacy identified in the Senate report, as well as recognize the growth in the number and variety of Canadian museums, address the need for more — and more flexible — investment in Canadian museums and museum workers, and redress the imbalance in federal investment in arts and heritage. The newly re-elected Liberal Party has promised to review the National Museums Policy. The CMA and the larger museums’ community will work with the government to introduce changes that will benefit Canadian museums, including greater investment in the cultural diplomacy work of museums.
The world is a very different place now than it was in 1972 — with changes in the relationships between museums and Indigenous peoples, and museums and immigrants in the forefront, along with the adoption of digital technology that has revolutionized museums and museum work. The new National Museums Policy should reflect these changes.
Catherine C. Cole, FCMA is Principal Consultant of Catherine C. Cole & Associates, Secretary-General of the CAM and Vice-Chair of ICOM CAMOC (the International Committee for Collections and Activities of Museums of Cities).
In just six months from October 2018 to March 2019, CAM intern Kanchan Lal developed the temporary exhibition Women & Weaving, wrote and designed an accompanying publication and edu-kit at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre. She also developed a proposal for CAM to initiate a focus on a gender-related project to mark the UN’s 16 Days of Activism for the Elimination of Violence against Women. For Kanchan it was a great opportunity to learn about another culture and experience working internationally, an experience that will continue to have an impact on the way she works in culturally diverse communities in Canada throughout her career. For her colleagues at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, it further solidified working relationships between Vanuatu and Canada. Sustained connections between nations over time are very important. CAM had previously sent interns to Vanuatu in 2008-09 and 2011-12. I’ve had a long history in the region: I worked in the Solomon Islands from 1991-93 and my staff at the time participated in the Vanuatu Fieldworkers Program. Dr. Carol E. Mayer, Head of the Curatorial, Interpretation and Design department at UBC’s MOA (and active CAM member) has worked in Vanuatu and throughout Melanesia for many years. These more than personal relationships; they are relationships between nations.