Canadian singer Céline Dion performs onstage during the 2017 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Canada must develop cultural diplomacy strategy, says Senate committee

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Canada’s world-class arts and culture are top foreign policy assets and the federal government must develop a comprehensive strategy to make cultural diplomacy a pillar of Canada’s foreign policy, says a Senate committee report.

Canadian artists are known around the world and have helped project a positive image of Canada internationally, says the report by the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade released on Tuesday.

Using Canadian artists as cultural ambassadors can generate support for Canada’s foreign policy priorities, build trust and people-to-people ties, and advance matters of national interest, says the report, titled Cultural Diplomacy at the Front Stage of Canada’s Foreign Policy.

“Culture and the arts have long played a role in Canada’s international relations,” says the report.

“Examples of initiatives in the early post-War period include the establishment of Radio Canada International in 1945 and the creation in 1966 of a ‘Cultural Affairs’ division within the department of External Affairs.”

Support for Canadian culture in international fora

A member of the Canadian circus troop ‘Le Cirque du Soleil’ performs during the show “Totem” in Paris on October 24, 2018. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)

However, Senator Raynell Andreychuk, chair of the committee, said the full reach and potential of cultural diplomacy, as an essential pillar of Canadian foreign policy, has yet to be maximized.

“We must develop a policy to consistently support Canada’s unique culture and arts in the international fora,” Andreychuk said in a statement.

“This report underscores the richness of the Canadian culture and arts community and the way forward to ensure that the Government of Canada understands its potential for Canada’s future.”

The report recommends designating Global Affairs Canada as the lead federal department tasked with developing, coordinating and delivering Canada’s cultural diplomacy strategy. It recommends providing Canadian diplomats with cultural diplomacy training.

Developing Canada’s brand

(L-R) Musicians Win Butler and Richard Parry of Montreal-based Arcade Fire perform onstage during day 3 of the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 13, 2014 in Indio, California. (Karl Walter/Getty Images for Coachella)

The committee also recommends the government “explore opportunities for greater and more effective collaboration and coordination with provinces, territories and municipalities in its cultural diplomacy activities” and provide a progress report after two years.

Senator Paul J. Massicotte, deputy chair of the committee, said they heard from many witnesses about the power of arts and culture to send messages that mere words or traditional diplomatic endeavours cannot convey.

“In order for our country and our values to be better understood in the world, we need to further rely on our arts and culture as tools of international influence,” Missicotte said.

Senator Dennis Dawson said the federal government must invest in a strategic framework to support arts and culture in Canada.

“Supporting the development of Canada’s brand, and reinforcing that brand through cultural diplomacy, can shape the way this country is thought of on the global stage,” Dawson said. “If our brand is well received, our priorities are more likely to be met.”

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