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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Speech by the Québec Minister of Culture and Communications for the Informal Meeting of European Union Ministers of Culture

Date of Speech : 27-06-2005

Place : Luxembourg

Speaker : Ms Line Beauchamp

Policy area : Education, Youth and Culture Education, Youth and Culture

Mister Chairman,



Dear colleagues,

I would like to thank the Luxembourg Presidency for inviting me.  I am honoured to be here today to share ideas and ideals with important partners.

This meeting is very important because it occurs at a time when the nations of Europe and North America are at a crossroads, as they must face enormous challenges linked to "shaky and shifting" situations at home and worldwide.

Allow me to briefly remind you of our recent history. Québec is home to 7.5 million inhabitants whose language is French. Our society is, so to speak, immersed in the big North American complex that includes nearly 280 million Anglophones.

However, we have responded to the threat of assimilation and acculturation by taking control of our means of cultural expression and creating work that is both original and globally attuned.

In light of the provincial governments constitutional jurisdictions, the Québec government equipped itself, during the 1960’s, with powerful development tools, such as a department of cultural affairs—the "ancestor" of today’s Department of Culture and Communications which I oversee.

At the time, there were very few departments of culture in the world. Ours was the very first in North America. In establishing it, we created a tool to help our culture grow stronger and develop.

In 1992, this same vision guided us in developing the Québec Cultural Policy, which was implemented thanks to Ms. Liza Frulla’s contribution, Canada’s current Minister of Heritage, when she was Quebec Minister of Culture.

This Cultural Policy, another North American first, includes the following main principles:

  • Culture is as vital to community life as social and economic concerns.
  • Freedom of expression and artistic creation are key values in any society.
  • Like education, culture is the right of all Québec citizens, regardless of their country of origin and region of residence.
  • The Cultural Policy is a key issue that all players must work on, government departments and municipalities alike.

These statements are the foundation from which we adopted or forged new cultural development tools.

These tools include policies, institutions, and department-administered assistance programs managed by the Ministry. Those include many areas, ranging from Québec’s Conservatoire de musique et d’art dramatique to cultural facilities, the integration of the arts into architecture, heritage, the theatre arts, culture at school, training, new artistic talent, and cultural tourism.

In addition, to meet the needs of our fellow citizens, artists, and cultural industries, the Policy specifies the creation of a number of highly autonomous public corporations.

One of these public corporations is Télé-Québec, whose role is to help disseminate culture and knowledge. Télé-Québec is a 25% shareholder of the specialized ARTV network, whose programming is focused on the arts and culture. Télé-Québec is also an active partner of TV5, the television entity of the Francophonie, with which Québec has been associated for slightly over 15 years.

Our public corporations also include two powerful financial players that serve cultural creation, production, and dissemination: Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ) and Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC).

Under its act of incorporation, Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec assumes responsibilities in the visual arts, art trades, literature, theatre arts, multidisciplinary arts, and media arts, as well as architectural research.

The CALQ, whose board of directors is formed of artists and creators, seeks to support artistic creation, experimentation, and production, as well as artist training, in each region of Québec.

Société de développement des entreprises culturelles supports cultural businesses in all regions of Québec. The SODEC brings together culture and economics. It talks business with artists, and artistic creation with business partners.

This is what makes it unique, since SODEC is not limited to a given sector, such as film or television. It embraces all areas linked to the cultural industries — the art trades and variety programs, publishing and multimedia, major festival organizations and recording companies.

For cultural business people, SODEC also acts as a marketing and export consultant as well as a bank, by providing financial tools such as term loans, revolving credit, and loan guarantees.

Its mandate also extends to the administration of tax measures, as well as many government assistance, investment, and subsidy programs for cultural businesses.

With community partners, SODEC has also created Financière des entreprises culturelles du Québec (FIDEC). This limited partnership is aimed at meeting the needs of businesses by providing new financing tools to support the production and marketing of products designed for international markets. It invests through gap financing, the acquisition of rights, or by project.

The development of a network of public corporations such as CALQ and SODEC clearly reflects Québec’s political approach over the past forty years with regard to culture, which may be summarized as follows: Make culture a government mission.

With this approach, it is clear to see why the Government of Québec devotes the largest budget in North America to direct assistance for culture, excluding radio and television. In comparison, per capita spending on culture in Canada as a whole is $38 (25 euros) and $66 (44 euros) in Québec.

We continue to invest where most needed: Significant investments were made in improving our public library system, as well as building the Grande Bibliothèque du Québec. The Grande Bibliothèque, inaugurated during Montréal, World Book Capital 2005, is a large, state-of-the-art institution available to all citizens.

In addition, in 2004, Québec’s provincial library and archives were merged to create Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, which will be devoted to the acquisition, conservation, and circulation of, published, archival, and film documentary heritage. This new government body will be responsible for managing the legal deposit of Québec films.

Québec has broken new ground in Canada and joined other countries—particularly in Europe—that have undertaken to establish legal deposit in order to protect their audiovisual heritage.

We also launched a Film and Audiovisual Production Plan to allocate significant resources to support the media arts, as well as create scholarships for screenwriters and directors. To affirm Québec’s francophone character and promote the development of its common language, this plan also increases assistance for the production of French-language feature films.

We consider co production as an essential tool for funding Québec’s vibrant film industry. In this regard, we aspire to follow the example of many European Union countries that encourage and increase co production opportunities through their cultural policies.

I would like our Québec cultural policy—which generally succeeds in treating co productions fairly—to be better aligned with those of European countries. Our creators and artists will benefit, and will thereby help our cultures flourish while ensuring diversity. Our role as a government is to support them.

To this end, one of the first things I did as minister of culture and communications was to seek to improve the professional living conditions of creators and artists.

The strategy we proposed in the paper Pour mieux vivre de l’art included an update for two acts on the status of artists and an action plan with some twelve measures to enable our creators to carry out their trade in decent conditions. In other words, we established a social safety net for artists.

Another priority that guides my action and thinking is the diversification of funding sources, such as private sector contributions, sponsorship, and individual spending.

We place a great deal of hope in this new type of partnership. I am convinced of the need and legitimacy of public investments in culture, but increased need—combined with demographic decline and the instability of public finance—makes it clear that we must further diversify sources of funding.

This year, we created a new financial player called Placements Culture to give cultural organizations the tools to seek private investments. Placements Culture includes a matching gift fund designed in partnership with cultural community members, and the business community was highly receptive to our idea.

We have also chosen to encourage companies that act as good cultural citizens by enhancing existing tax measures to promote sponsorship or cultural investment.

As you can see, over the past 40 years Québec has developed cultural policies based on public assistance for artistic creation and the establishment of an array of cultural institutions in almost all areas.

Current threats to our cultural policies prompt us to consider the globalization of cultural issues. I know we share this concern, as the European Union is part of the current initiative at UNESCO, just like the governments of Canada and Québec.

What concerns the Government of Québec is that culture may be perceived as nothing but marketable entertainment and treated like any other consumer item.

Supporters of wholesale globalization believe that cultural policies interfere with market mechanisms and competition. According to this legalistic interpretation, any public assistance program for artists and cultural expressions is an unacceptable obstacle to free enterprise.

We believe this view falls flat when it comes to culture. Furthermore, we are deeply convinced that only when states and governments respect and promote the principle of cultural diversity can all cultures survive and prosper.

Our fate as a distinct people in the North American complex naturally puts us at the cutting edge of thinking on this issue. Indeed, Québec was one of the first governments to take a clear position in favour of developing an international instrument recognizing the essential role of government in supporting culture.

In all I do to promote cultural diversity, I work together with my colleagues : first with Quebec’s Prime Minister who unreservedly supports the diversity of cultural expressions, as well as with the minister of international relations and the minister of economic development, innovation, and export trade.

Québec also works together with the Government of Canada, and we also support the Coalition for Cultural Diversity.

Dear colleagues, I cannot overemphasize our importance, as ministers of culture, in what happens next. We will have a crucial role to play before final adoption of the Convention for the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions.  We must not only continue our efforts, but intensify them in order to achieve maximum support from UNESCO member countries and ensure that the text we have had since June 3 is in no way challenged.

From now through October 2005, we must continue unwaveringly to explain, convince, and highlight the importance for countries to refrain from making any commitments to liberalization in trade negotiations, which would limit application of the UN Convention.

With this support, we can hope that the next UNESCO General Conference will lay the political and legal groundwork for an international instrument that will stand as a benchmark for culture.  It will help us maintain and develop cultural policies to support our creators and cultural industries, thereby ensuring the vitality and survival of the diversity of cultural expressions.

From Quebec’s point of view, the European Union is a model of cultural diversity and a key player on this issue.

For Quebec, cultural diversity is a matter of survival.

Thank you for your attention.

This page was last modified on : 27-06-2005

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