The Canadian Conference of the Arts

Canada’s National Forum for the Arts and Cultural Community

A Conversation with Alain Pineau

Alain Pineau, National Director of the Canadian Conference of the Arts, will talk to the Arts, Culture, and Heritage Forum of the Downtown Vancouver Association about the role of the Canadian Conference and the future of arts, culture, and heritage in Canada.

Alain Pineau Alain Pineau spent 34 years of his life with the CBC as radio journalist, Managing Editor of French Radio Network News, Regional Director, and Vice-President of Planning and Regulatory Affairs. He launched and managed Galaxie, CBC’s highly successful for-profit pay audio service for nine years. He has an MA from Oxford University and completed studies in public administration at the University of Public Administration in Montreal. Alain has been on the Board of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Foundation since 1992 and served for many years on the Board of Opera Lyra Ottawa.

With the arrival of a new federal government, it is an opportune time for leaders in the arts, cultural, and business community to gather and consult on short and long term strategies to ensure the interests of arts and cultural communities become and remain part of the public discourse and political agenda.

The Canadian Conference of the Arts is meeting with artists and cultural leaders across Canada to obtain their perspectives and ideas. We invite you to meet the National Director of Canada’s Forum for the Arts and Cultural Community and express your ideas and opinions.

Invitation to A Conversation with Alain Pineau

Making a Single Case for the Arts: An International Perspective
The Effects of Administrative Reforms on Advocacy Groups – PDF

From the Conversation

Thank you for your invitation as I look forward to touring the country. We had a dress rehearsal in Ottawa last week but the first real regional forum we’re holding is here in Vancouver.

I’m here essentially to unveil a well kept secret in the public sector. The Canadian Conference of the Arts is almost as old as I am. It was founded in 1945 by a group of people who wanted to make representations at a federal level concerning arts and culture.

It has a very impressive track record. It led to the creation of the Canada Council in 1957. That’s when the conference became a Conference. Before it was called the Canada Council for the Arts.

It also lead to a number of legislation and issues regarding arts and culture at the federal level, the latest creations or offspring of the Canadian Council for The Arts is the program Arts Smarts where education and arts meet together. It also lead to the creation of the Cultural Human Resources Council and membership in the International Network of Cultural Advocacy.

The Canadian Conference of the Arts is a unique organization not only in Canada but as far as I know in the world because of the nature of its membership. It covers all arts disciplines. We are an umbrella organization. We have umbrella organizations who are part of our membership, whether for opera, for orchestras, for theatres. We have unions, we have dance, we have music, we have every discipline possible.

It’s open to all in the sense that anybody who has a stake in arts and culture is invited to join and support the work that we do, and that’s most important and that’s part of my objective, to raise the profile of the Canadian Conference of the Arts and to convince as many people as possible to add their names to the list of people who support the work that we do.

We describe ourselves as a National Forum for Arts and Culture. Our task is to inform the debate about all policy issues that have an impact on arts and culture at the federal level.

We work mainly at the federal level, but obviously we have to reach out because the cultural advocacy we are part of starts at the root, it starts here, it starts at the city, it starts in communities and then it has to percolate all the way up and that’s something we will have to address over time if we want to become more efficient.

We publish about thirty-five to fifty bulletins a year on various issues. We monitor what is going on in Ottawa, in parliament, in heritage, in finance, in justice, but in other departments also. We are also building our capacity to do research on basic issues that effect the whole sector. Our perspective is always to stay broad. It’s the whole ecology of arts and culture.

We are in the process of developing relationships with universities. We have a good solid relationship here with Simon Fraser University and Professor Catherine Murray. For example we published last spring the result of a research project called, ‘From the Creative Economy to the Creative Ecology’. We did that study with Simon Fraser University in parallel with the International Forum that Heritage had commissioned from the Conference Board.

We have other projects under way in preparation for the forums that we are holding in the next couple of months. One is looking at how in other countries the arts and culture sector organizes itself to put its items on the public agenda. The other piece of research, essentially on the same topic, is  looking at how changes in the model of governments in our societies over the past twenty years have affected all the not for profit organizations, and the impact it has had.

Everything we do is made public immediately. We consider ourselves a public service and everything we publish is made available immediately on our website. We do this research in order to support the work we do in organizing debates and participating in debates. All the research we do targets either a debate we organize or a debate in which we participate. Our advocacy role is based on five values.

The Canadian Conference of the Arts recognizes the important contribution that arts and culture makes to our individual and collective identity, to the education of our children, to our economy, to the integration of our communities and to our quality of life.

The Canadian Conference of the Arts believes access to arts and culture should not be limited to the privileged but should be for all Canadians.

The Canadian Conference of the Arts favours an open national dialogue based on the Canadian linguistic plurality and on the cultural diversity which categorizes Canada as a nation.

The Canadian Conference of the Arts favours an open and informed debate on all policy issues which affect the cultural life of Canadian Citizens.

And finally, the Canadian Conference of the Arts maintains, in cooperation with other levels of government and the private sector, that the federal government has an important role to play in regard to Canadian artists and to the cultural sector. That particular value is very important.

What the Canadian Conference of the Arts is not is a lobby. I recognize there’s no legal distinction in this country in lobbying and advocacy, but we think there should be one and we advocate for there being one. The difference we see here is we are a public interest group, we are not a specialized interest group. what we call the conference of inference. We are a public interest group. We are not a special interest group. When the Canadian Conference of the Arts speaks its arguments are always based on the common good. Everything we do is public.

The theme of the Regional Forums we are holding and the theme of the National Policy Forum we will be holding in March is how can we best work together to keep the issue of arts and culture in public debate. How do we maintain and improve the way arts and culture figure in the public debate. That is our challenge.

Our cultural sector is extremely rich. There are hundreds of organizations at all levels. The problem is most of those organizations are striving to survive and they are always in the reactive mode, and most of the time reacting from their own perspective which is normal. They look at it from visual arts or from writers or from film makers and the overall picture is lost. The common interest, the identification of what is common to all of us, the common good perspective is lost. So how can we get our act together and that is why we’ve looked at other models.

One of the things that came out of the first session of the Regional Forum was the sense that the arts and culture sector is a bit of its own enemy. We have an image problem. There is this perception that a good chunk of the population of artists, creators, and cultural institutions are, in general, always there to ask for something.

The message of what we give to society is something we do not emphasize enough. Artists and creators and cultural workers make contributions in many areas of our society whether its in education, in health, in social integration, even in finding community, and there is an important component we have to show very clearly and that is the contribution the cultural sector makes to the economy.

It is much more difficult to advocate on the basis of the intrinsic value of the arts because this is a personal experience. This is something that someone has experienced or not. And we have to try and expose as many people as possible to this experience as we can.

Transcribed by Shaheeda Shariff

Canadian Conference of the Arts

The Canadian Conference of the Arts represented the interests of over 400,000 artists, cultural workers and supporters from all disciplines of the nation’s arts, culture and heritage community.

The Conference served the arts and cultural community in Canada by providing research, analysis and consultations on public policies affecting the arts and Canadian cultural institutions and industries.

The Canadian Conference of the Arts:

  • organized conferences and spoken out on all major Canadian policy proposals pertaining to arts, culture and heritage since its formation.
  • created the Cultural Sector Training Committee to improve work and training opportunities for members of the cultural labour force
  • was the incubator and administrator of the national ArtsSmarts program from its creation in 1998 to 2005, when it became part of the Canadian Education Association
  • was a founding member of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Foundation, along with the National Arts Centre, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
  • actively participated in the development and adoption of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions
  • convened 98 cultural organizations from coast to coast to support a common message to the government regarding copyright reform. This led to a presentation to Parliament of a series of amendments that reflected a large consensus in the cultural sector
  • was one of numerous organizations opposing the decision of the federal government to make the long-form version of the 2011 Canadian census optional.

On October 30, 2012, the Canadian Conference of the Arts released a press release announcing that it would be discontinuing operations. The release identified this decision was due to the loss of federal government support, which the organization had received regularly since the 1960s, and which during its final years accounted for approximately 60-70 per cent of its total operating budget.

The Canadian Conference of the Arts left its research, archives and ongoing projects in the hands of a volunteer trustee board, with the intention that another cultural or academic organization will be able to continue its work in future

Canadian Conference of the Arts – Wikipedia
Members of the Canadian Conference of the Arts

Canada’s Performing Arts Alliance

For Canadians, the highest rated benefits of the performing arts in communities are energy and vitality. Exposure to different cultures leads to better intercultural understanding. Pride in one’s community and a sense of belonging are fostered through these shared experiences. The performing arts enhance the quality of life of Canadians in communities from coast to coast, and contribute to greater health and well-being, social cohesion, and creativity.

The Ripple Effect of the Performing Arts – Film
The Canadian Association for the Performing Arts

Canada’s Performing Arts Alliance


Cultural Human Resources Council