Launch of Creative Canada - The Honourable Mélanie Joly,  Minister of Canadian Heritage


September 28, 2017 - Ottawa, Ontario


Ladies and gentlemen

Mesdames et messieurs

Thank you for being here in person or joining us live.

I want to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Peoples.

History of our system

Let me start with a question. Two questions, actually.

Why has culture always mattered to Canadians?

Why should it matter now?

The answers to these questions are, fundamentally, about who we are and who we want to be.

We are a small, diverse population spread over a large land mass.

We are all bound by reconciliation. Indigenous Peoples lived on this land for thousands of years before the arrival of settlers and the founding of Canada.

We are a country rooted in our linguistic duality. English and French are at the heart of who we are. We celebrate the fact that eight million Francophones have a vibrant culture all the while surrounded by millions of English-language speakers.

We are a democracy. We believe in and promote gender and racial equality, and human rights. We promote these values to the world.

We are a culturally diverse country that welcomes immigrants. We are a country that looks like the world.

All of these strengths make our culture—and our identity—dynamic.

They make us unique.

And we’ve spent the last 80 years developing cultural policies that preserve these strengths.

A good part of this work has been done in the shadow of the largest English-language content producer in the world—the United States.

Canada has long understood the need to promote Canadian culture. To build identity, pride and a shared sense of values.

From the very first national cultural institutions founded in our country, the government’s goal was to create a space for Canadian voices.

This goal was top-of-mind when Parliament adopted Canada’s first Radio Broadcasting Act in 1932—and launched CBC/Radio-Canada four years later.

We knew then, as we do now, that Canadians need access to a system of broadcasting from Canadian sources.

Other federal institutions and laws followed. The National Film Board. Telefilm. The Canada Council for the Arts. The CRTC. The Official Languages Act. The Multiculturalism Act. The Museums Act.

Our policies have evolved in step with our Canadian identities and values. This includes our official languages, which are enshrined in legislation. It includes pluralism and our commitment to responding to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The digital shift

Today, we find ourselves in another shift.

We listen to radio, watch TV, go to the movies. We visit museums, read books and magazines.

More and more, we have the opportunity to do these online.

When it comes to content, Canadians want choice.

But we know that access and affordability of Internet and wireless are real issues for many.

Broadband coverage is uneven across the country.

We pay some of the highest rates in the world.

Our government won’t increase the cost of these services to Canadians by imposing a new tax.

We’ve lowered taxes for the middle class, and we will continue to do that.

However, we will make sure our creative industries succeed and make the content that we love—by using all of the tools we have. 

Ask anyone to name a Canadian creation that has special meaning to them. They will talk about a book, a show or a song they loved as kids.

Passe-Partout. Mr. Dressup. Takuginai. The Log Driver’s Waltz. Anne of Green Gables, or, as I enjoyed it as a child, Anne…la maison aux pignons verts.

This speaks to how important it is for our children to see and hear stories that reflect who we are as they are growing up.

It’s as true now as it was in 1932, when the House of Commons adopted the first Radio Broadcasting Act

Strength and disruption in our creative industries

The arts and culture sector provides jobs for more than 630,000 Canadians.
It’s a $54.6-billion-dollar industry.

And there are thousands more working in new fields. Like the 20,000 Canadians designing and composing for video games. 

These are the jobs of tomorrow.

And not just in big cities: Northern Ontario hosted 28 full-length productions in 2016. Shows such as CTV’s Cardinal, Hallmark’s Flower Shop Mysteries and CraveTV’s Letterkenny employed 1,530 people.

Our industries are doing well—not just well, great.

Two Sundays ago, Montréal writer Louise Penny took over the #1 spot on the New York Times best seller list for her book Glass Houses;

At the same time, young Canadian poet Rupi Kaur was #13 – remarkably, it was her 34th consecutive week on the best seller list;

The same night, Margaret Atwood, Lorne Michaels and director Jean-Marc Vallée were each feted at the Emmy Awards. A few days earlier it was announced that Donald Sutherland would be receiving an honorary Oscar.

These are incredible, internationally recognized accomplishments.

Still, I know there is anxiety here at home.

For creative industries that were born digital or have made the shift, the change. This has brought new jobs and new markets. We are proud of them as they are leading in the fields of animation, video games and post-production.

In others—like broadcasting and media—the transition is more difficult.

Today, Facebook, Netflix, Spotify and YouTube reach Canadians directly—outside of our traditional regulated system.

That content is predominantly English, mostly developed outside of Canada. So it plays out differently in our French- and English-language markets.

This disruption is also experienced differently in urban and rural areas of the country, where Internet quality varies.

We must take these realities into account.

And we must act.

If we’re complacent, this new wave of information can drown out our own content—our French-language TV and films; our Indigenous music; our multicultural programming.

This worries me. It worries our creators. And it worries Canadians.

Because we care about Canadian content. We are fiercely proud of our stories and our talent.

We will continue to champion the Internet as a progressive force and an open space without barriers.

As a government, we stand by the principle of net neutrality.

At the same time, we are fierce advocates of the importance of cultural diversity. We are champions for our creative industries.

We must find a new way—a Canadian way—to support our content creators, to ensure they can compete, and to create a space for them in markets and platforms at home and around the world.

Our vision for a Creative Canada

Today, I am announcing our Government’s vision for a Creative Canada.

Creative Canada sets the policy direction for our programs, legislation and Portfolio agencies for the coming years.

And it includes new initiatives and new funding to get us there. 

In our vision, Canada is a world leader in the quality of its creative industries, with creators empowered to make great content that stands out at home and around the world; and,

That Canada is a pioneer in ensuring there is a space online for a diversity of voices at home and abroad, including Canadian content in French and English, multicultural and Indigenous expression.

This is our vision.

It is ambitious. It should be.

Creative Canada rests on three pillars:

Investing in our creators and their stories.

Promoting the discoverability and distribution of Canadian content at home and abroad.

Strengthening public broadcasting and supporting local news.

I’ll talk about each one of these.


Pillar 1: Invest in Canadian creators, cultural entrepreneurs and their stories

The talent and imagination of our creators is at the heart of our approach. 

From the first days of our government, we made a historic investment of $1.9 billion in new funds in the arts and culture.

But there is more to do.

Our new approach will help creators develop new ideas, take risks and make content that stands out.

Increase funding to the Canada Media Fund (CMF)

I know that there is much anxiety about the financial sustainability of independent productions.

Writers, producers and directors have serious concerns. They also worry about declining private-sector cable subscription revenues, which contribute to the Canada Media Fund.

We are determined to show our support for this sector.

Today, I’m announcing that, starting in 2018, the Government will increase the federal contribution to maintain the level of funding in the Canada Media Fund and to counter these declines.

Last year, the Canada Media Fund supported more than 28,000 industry jobs in shows like 19-2, Kim’s Convenience, Orphan Black, Unité 9 and Mohawk Girls.

With this new funding, we’re directly supporting jobs for our writers, our producers, our directors, our actors and our technical crews.

So whether your job depends on building a set, catering for the crew or standing in front of the camera, we want to make sure you know we believe in the strength of our production sector and its importance to our communities.

This increase in funding will allow us to see what the next few years bring in the industry, and to work together to develop a model that will be viable for the CMF over the long term.

Support skills, development, innovation and collaboration

Great productions rely on great stories, and the talent and time needed to develop them.

Creators and producers across the country told me we need to do more to support great stories at their roots.

I heard repeatedly how hard it is to get seed money to get a script or a pitch off the ground. 

That's why we will also work with the CMF and explore what more might be done to enhance early-stage development such as scriptwriting.

In music, we’ll help artists and entrepreneurs develop the skills they need to promote their music at home and connect with fans in new markets.

Through the Canada Book Fund, we’ll continue to support print and digital production and will experiment with innovative approaches to marketing and promoting Canadian books.

And we’ll eliminate lengthy delays and paperwork. We will address the administration of tax credits by CAVCO and we will work with Telefilm to explore ways to establish a one-stop shop.

In all of our programs, we will continue to make sure that they support work that reflects Canada in all its diversity, including Indigenous-led production, work in both of our official languages, and work that represents our multicultural fabric.

And we will work with our Portfolio organizations and other partners to achieve greater gender parity in our creative industries.

Support for the next generation of cultural spaces: Creative Hubs

In the tech sector, entrepreneurs benefit from a start-up culture to nurture new ideas.

They have incubators where they can grow their businesses.

We need these same networks to grow our creative industries: collaborative spaces where creative entrepreneurs can access tools, training, equipment and mentorship.

This year, we announced $300 million in new funding to the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund.

Today, we’re setting aside part of this investment for new creative hubs to incubate the next generation of creative start-ups.

Places like 312 Main in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, la SAT in Montréal, or cSPACE King Edward in Calgary.

Our strongest start-ups also need capital to innovate and scale up.

That’s why creative industries can now access our government’s $1.26-billion Strategic Innovation Fund.

We want more Canadian creative entrepreneurs to be inspired by the international success of Cirque du Soleil, DHX or Robert Lepage—and to have the support to get there.

Copyright Act – Focus on creators

Investing in our creators also means ensuring they are fairly compensated, and can protect and make the most of their intellectual property.

We will soon launch a parliamentary review of the Copyright Act and I will work hard to ensure that review defends the interests of creators.

Similarly, we will reform the Copyright Board to ensure that we support cultural content, pay our artists faster and reduce costs for all parties.

Together, all of these initiatives will support creators as they turn great ideas into great content.

Our message to them will be clear: take risks, put forward bold and unique material, and we will help you succeed.

Pillar 2: Promote discovery and distribution at home and globally

Once we’ve got great content, our next challenge is to make sure it finds its audience in Canada and around the world.

There are three main parts to the challenge of distribution:

How do we structure our own domestic market?

How do we deal with foreign services that come into our domestic market?

How do we make sure our domestic content reaches the international market?

Domestic market: Broadcasting

Let’s start with the question of the domestic market.

The way we access content today is increasingly open, mobile and individual.

Let me be clear: a strong domestic market is vital. It’s a launch pad for homegrown talent and a precondition for global success.

It remains a core responsibility of all the players in the system to support our domestic market. That will not change.

But our laws and regulations need to work in an online environment.

That’s why, after nearly 30 years, it’s time to review the Broadcasting Act.

We will announce more details of the review of the Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act later this fall.

Together, these two Acts will continue to form the backbone of our communications system.

There is no question that the CRTC has a critical role to play in this transition.

That’s why, today, Minister Bains and I have sent a letter to Ian Scott, the new Chair of the CRTC, to set out the issues we see as important for the regulator in fulfilling its mandate.

That’s also why, today, we are invoking our power to request the CRTC to report back to the government on how they see the system evolving in order to support Canadian content.

We are asking them to look at how new models will support the creation and distribution of Canadian entertainment and information programming, in both official languages.

We look forward to receiving the CRTC’s report in the coming months, to inform our important legislative review.

New Players, New Partners

On the second question of foreign platforms in our market: What is their role? What obligations do they have to Canadians?

Our goal is clear: as a government, we have a responsibility to continue to protect and promote our stories and our culture.

We want to make sure these platforms work for Canadians and that they understand the importance of being a partner to support Canadian content.

As many of these platforms become content producers themselves, it becomes even more important to ensure that there is a diversity of voices—Canadian voices—on their platforms.

I’ve already started meeting with these companies to establish ties and bring them to the table.        

We want them to help us reach our goals: to support the creation and discoverability of Canadian content.

I’m pushing for commitments that benefit our industries.

Today, I am announcing the first of these agreements on behalf of the Government of Canada and Netflix.

Under this agreement, Netflix will create Netflix Canada – a permanent film and television production presence here in Canada, the first time that the company has done so outside the United States.

And building on the strong track record of investing in Canadian producers and content with shows like Anne and Alias Grace with the CBC, Travellers with Showcase, and Frontier with Discovery, they have agreed to invest a minimum of $500 million in original productions in Canada, in both official languages, over the next five years.

The Francophone market has great potential for growth, and Quebec has a unique and talented creative community. That is why Netflix is committed to investing $25 million in a market development strategy for French-language content and production—both within Quebec and in Francophone communities across Canada.

Netflix will also work to promote Canadian films and programs on its platform so that they are discovered by Canadian audiences and millions of viewers around the world.

These partnerships will allow our creators and producers to make top-shelf, high-quality content that competes with the best in the world.

This is what is possible, this is what we expect, and this is the type of commitment we will work to achieve with other platforms, as well.

So that our creators and industries remain strong, valued and, ultimately, Canadian.

Export Strategy

Now to the third question: how can we make sure our content gets to other markets?

More than ever, creative entrepreneurs must look to global markets to be competitive, generate revenue and create jobs.

We have been working on this from the moment our government came to power.

In our first budget, we invested $35 million over two years to establish our cultural presence internationally.

One of the first things we did was put boots on the ground.

We now have new diplomats who will help our creative industries gain recognition abroad. These local experts will help our creators grow and penetrate into key markets.

We have also invested in Canada’s presence in major trade fairs and other important events. Because this is where relationships are built. And this is where deals are made.

This summer, Canada was the official partner country at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany.

In 2020, we will be the country of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair. It will have a major impact for our book industry and other creative sectors.

This work must continue and grow.

How will we do this?

We will launch the first federal cultural trade mission in Canada’s history. We’ll support taking our best creators and companies to major foreign markets to make deals and build business-to-business relationships.  

We will expand and modernize our international co-production treaties to grow production budgets and attract new financing partners.

And we will establish a Creative Industries Council, co-chaired with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

To grow the sector, the different industries need to talk to one another. This group of experts drawn from across the creative industries will work on concrete strategies to open up new markets and coordinate Canada’s international presence and brand.

Today, as part of our Creative Canada vision, we are announcing a new investment of $125 million over five years to support Canada’s first Creative Export Strategy. 

And we will work to enrich this investment as we continue to open up new markets and opportunities for Canada’s creative entrepreneurs.

Cultural Diversity: Leadership on the World Stage

We’ve been leading an international conversation on how we can ensure that a free and open Internet supports a diversity of voices and national content.

I’ve said we believe the Internet is a progressive force, but all players—governments, Internet companies, civil society—have a role to play to give this meaning.

It means that in a world of algorithms, there is a value—a public interest—in bursting the filter bubbles that exist.

It’s why we want to see diverse Canadian content easily discoverable on all platforms available in Canada.

We’ve been working at UNESCO, the G7, the World Economic Forum, and even in Silicon Valley itself to raise the importance of this issue.

And we will work with our Canadian experts, including Waterloo’s Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), and with the Digital Global Policy Incubator at Stanford University, to organize an international forum to engage governments, civil society and global Internet companies in discussion of these issues.

We must also safeguard the right of states to protect and promote their domestic industries, as well as preserve the diversity of cultural expressions on the global scene.

Let me be very clear on one point: culture is a priority in our NAFTA negotiations. 

And it’s why we are committed as a government to maintaining the cultural exemption for our creative industries in NAFTA.

Pillar 3: Strengthen public broadcasting and local news

Supporting Local News

There is no place to be more concerned about filter bubbles and the vital need for local information than in the news sector.

During our consultations—and through the hard work of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage—I heard first-hand the importance of local news and information.

In some communities, public broadcasting—on radio or over-the-air TV—is an essential source of local coverage.

For others, it’s their local newspaper, which could be online like AllNovaScotia, an online source for local and business news in the Atlantic region.

There are no easy solutions to the challenges facing this sector.

This is a shared responsibility between government at all levels, the private sector and civil society.

Our approach will be guided by two principles:

That reliable journalistic content is critical to a healthy democracy.

And that any government measure must respect the independence of the media. 

Our approach will not be to bail out industry models that are no longer viable.

Rather, we will focus our efforts on supporting innovation, experimentation and transition to digital.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

We have to foster experimentation and continue to take into account regional and linguistic differences.

A few minutes ago, I talked about our expectations of platforms that create and share cultural content. We expect them to contribute to our goals.

We expect Internet companies that aggregate and share news to do the same.

We’ve asked Facebook to do more. Today, I’m pleased to announce that they will partner with Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone and the Ryerson School of Journalism to create a digital news incubator—the first of its kind in Canada.

Participants will receive start-up funding and mentorship to accelerate innovative ideas that contribute to the digital development of journalism.

This is a welcome first step; our intention is to foster many more.

In our own program, the origins of the Canada Periodical Fund began before Confederation, as a postal subsidy to ensure Canadians across our vast country could have access to periodicals at an affordable price.

Today, the Fund aims to ensure Canadians have access to diverse Canadian magazines and community newspapers. But eligibility is still built upon dwindling numbers of print subscribers.

As more publications add mobile versions or move fully online, what’s important to Canadians is that they continue to publish original Canadian content.

And that our programs provide the support they need to innovate, adapt and transition onto the platforms Canadians choose.

A Vital Public Broadcaster

In this environment, the need for a strong, national public broadcaster has never been more clear.

CBC/Radio-Canada broadcast its first newscast—a bilingual radio report—in 1936. For nearly 81 years, it has been a source of news stretching to the furthest communities of our country.

In many parts of the country, it is an essential source of information, sometimes the only source.

Never before has a public broadcaster been so needed, so vital, to so many.

To tell the stories that must be heard—on television and radio, and through documentaries, films and programming for young audiences.

To report on news that must be covered.

To convene the conversations that must happen in a space built on the public’s trust and in public’s interest.

Our public broadcaster carries a huge responsibility. Canadians’ expectations for it are fiercely high. They ought to be.

We’ve put $675 million of new funds into CBC/Radio-Canada, which it is using to support local content, the transition to digital, and to help bring on board the next generation of creative talent.

We’ve also launched an open and independent process to select the next CBC leadership; one that reflects Canada’s diversity and talents.

This is an important moment for the CBC to look ahead and consider its critical mission: providing a unique experience and unique content, on a fully Canadian platform.

As we review the Broadcasting Act, we will strengthen the mandate of our public broadcaster.

We want the CBC to be a leading partner among Canada’s cultural and news organizations.

We want the CBC to play a leading role in showcasing Canadian cultural content—in both French and English, and in reflecting our country’s diversity and Indigenous Peoples—at home and around the world.

Where do we go from here?

During the past 12 months, I’ve heard from thousands of Canadians, including many of you here in this room today.

We all know that this is a very complex subject.

No one is able to say with certainty what the new business model for creation, production and distribution of Canadian content will be in a digital world.

This is a challenge and an opportunity. It generates anxiety and optimism.

It is with humility and a deep sense of responsibility that I present to you today our government’s vision for a Creative Canada.

While we deal with the transition, we will build our new system.

This vision, and the strength of our creative industries, is our foundation and a roadmap for our sector.

We are investing in our creative industries and creators, tackling the issues of distribution, and strengthening our media sector and public broadcaster.

This morning, we published our policy framework for a Creative Canada.

I invite you to read through it to digest more of the details.

But our work isn’t done. Far from it.

In the year ahead, we will work with you, our partners, and across government to build on the direction I’ve outlined here.

We will work with our Portfolio partners. Each of them will contribute to this vision.

If we get this right, we will be a leader in the world.

And, this will be our legacy.

Generations from now, we want Canadians to have touchpoints that bring them together, that are markers of shared experience, of who we are.

That is what culture does. And that’s why, now and in the future, culture matters more than ever.

Let’s build this future together.

Let’s build our Creative Canada.

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