Speaking Notes for the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, regarding the Minister’s Mandate Letter

Ottawa, Ontario
February 26, 2020

Check against delivery.

Mr. Chair,

Members of the Committee,

Good afternoon.

We are gathered today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg. I’d like to take a moment to emphasize that this acknowledgment is not merely symbolic, but demonstrates our government’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

It’s in this spirit that we’re working with our partners to address key priorities, which in my mandate include the implementation of the Indigenous Languages Act and the establishment of a framework for repatriating Indigenous cultural property and ancestral remains.

The Métis Nation is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, a milestone that coincides with Manitoba’s entry into Confederation. Our government recognizes the role that the Métis people played in this important moment in our history.

I am accompanied today by:

I’d like to congratulate you, Scott, on being elected Chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Greetings also to the new and returning members of the Committee.

I’d like to acknowledge the valuable support I receive from my parliamentary secretaries:

Thank you for inviting me to appear before you for the first time.

In November, I had the honour of being entrusted with the responsibilities of Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Those who know me know I’m an activist at heart.

I never commit halfway to the causes I believe in. Over the past few months, I have been able to draw many parallels between the fields of environmentalism on the one hand, and arts, culture and sport on the other.

I’ve met passionate, dedicated people, in organizations big and small, who often have to juggle all kinds of factors to successfully get their work done. But it is, above all, a very close-knit community.

I’ve already met representatives from more than 375 organizations in five provinces from the Atlantic to the Prairies. And I’ll have the privilege of meeting with other fascinating people in the coming weeks in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Yukon.

I know this dynamic well. And I’m already working to support that community with all the energy I’m known for.

My responsibilities go far beyond promoting culture and sport. First I’d like to touch on a number of topics in my speech, and then I’ll be happy to answer your questions about the mandate the Prime Minister has given me.

Climate Change / Museums

As parliamentarians, we all have a mandate to fight climate change. That is clearly stated in the Speech from the Throne and in every minister’s mandate letter; not to mention that last summer the House passed a motion on climate emergency.

From my first meetings with the culture and sport community, I’ve observed a real willingness to take positive action to make our cultural and sport organizations even greener. I personally want to help all Canadians who want to move forward in that direction. We have some inspiring examples.

One of the world’s biggest sport events wants to be part of the solution: the Olympic and Paralympic Games have developed sustainable practices for the Tokyo Games this summer.

The Canada Games Council has signed a framework agreement on sport for climate action, an initiative of the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee.

Closer to home, the Museum of Nature is already raising awareness about climate change by reminding us that nature is one of Canada’s most precious resources. The Prime Minister has asked me to work with this and other national museums to raise even more public awareness of climate change.

My work with museums doesn’t stop there. I’m also going to ensure that our museum policy is aligned with the 21st century. Because our museums are exceptional showcases of Canadian history and culture, and their collections must be accessible to everyone.

Broadcasting / Information Sector

One of my priority files, which you heard Ms. Yale and Ms. Simard speak about on Monday, is the modernization of the Broadcasting Act. Our government understands that a strong, equitable and flexible broadcasting system is crucial to meeting the expectations of Canadians and the challenges of the digital age. To that end, urgent action is needed.

We have reviewed the report of the Legislative Review Panel. And I am hopeful that we can present a broadcasting bill in the House in the next few months.

I can assure you that we will not be regulating the news media, and that we will preserve a strong and independent information sector, as well as a free and open Internet.

The Broadcasting Act has an impact on several organizations in my portfolio, as they include a large audiovisual component that feeds the digital environment.

The National Film Board, Telefilm Canada and CBC/Radio-Canada are all independent organizations that keep us informed, provide us with high-quality content, and contribute to our shared identity. We are proud to support them.

I’d like to emphasize that CBC/Radio-Canada is an essential part of Canada’s media ecosystem and a key contributor of Canadian content. As part of the modernization of the Broadcasting Act, we’re looking at ways to strengthen the regional mandate of our national public broadcaster.

The news media environment is changing, and we are responding to the call of our newspapers with all the rigour necessary to ensure their independence. This is the very foundation of a healthy democracy. We have introduced tax measures and we are injecting $10 million a year to increase news coverage in underserved communities.

We will also invest up to $172 million over five years to stabilize the Canada Media Fund and ensure the success of our creative industries in the digital age.

Finally, I am working closely with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry on a number of issues that are closely related to the information sector.

This includes actions to ensure a safe and secure environment free of hate and bias on social networks—a subject you seem interested in exploring further. We could also mention protecting Canadians’ personal data, or updating the Copyright Act.

Copyright / Creative Export Strategy

Having written three books—the last of which dealt with the positive and negative impacts of digital technologies—I am quite interested in the issue of copyright.

In this regard, I’d like to thank the members of this committee during the 42nd Parliament for taking the time to review the Copyright Act and the remuneration of artists and the creative industries. Your recommendations now allow us to consider how those who shape our culture can fully benefit from their works.

Before moving on to another topic, I’d like to touch on the work that has been done so far under the Creative Export Strategy. This is an important initiative that continues with Global Affairs, as well as with all our partners at the Frankfurt Book Fair and in various past and future international missions.

Canadian cultural content is among the best in the world; we need to promote it internationally and allow our creators to profit from the international market.

Sport

And now, if you will, let’s venture into the world of sport.

I really enjoy immersing myself in this world. I can count on a parliamentary secretary, Adam van Koeverden, who has a long track record in the world of sport. And the Member of Parliament for Brome–Missisquoi, who sits on this committee, can also testify to the benefits of sport, as she is an Olympic cyclist.

For several years now, our Government has been working harder to make sport safe, welcoming and accessible to everyone. A great deal of work has been done, and continues to be done, to raise awareness about concussions, harassment and discrimination.

I’m delighted to pick up the torch.

Sport is a great school of life. It teaches us team spirit, good citizenship and the joy of healthy competition. We also have extraordinary examples of determination and perseverance in top athletes like Bianca Andreescu and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

I will continue to help the Canadian sport community build a healthy society where all young people, especially Indigenous youth, can see themselves reflected and feel that they’re part of something.

In this Olympic year, we can expect great moments that inspire pride. I know that in my house, my family will have their eyes glued to the screen. I’ll even have the privilege of being present for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

We can all be proud of the incredible work of our athletes. They have been training for a long time to get to Tokyo and secure a place on the podium. We’ll all be cheering them on this summer, united and proud to see the maple leaf so well represented.

Mr. Chair, esteemed colleagues, thank you for your attention.

I’ll be pleased to answer your questions.

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