Since Confederation, the federal government has played an active role in cultural heritage, beginning with the creation of national heritage institutions to preserve heritage objects, records, buildings and sites of significance to Canada. As with Canada’s approach to cultural policy, there is no single, comprehensive, overarching statement of federal objectives in the area of heritage. The existing heritage framework reflects the evolution of a wide array of instruments, mostly targeted to specific areas of heritage such as museums, archives, historic sites, and cultural property.
By virtue of the name, heritage has a particular focus in the federal Canadian Heritage portfolio. Canada’s evolved organisational structure has facilitated the horizontal links between heritage policy and other aspects of Canada’s cultural policy, ensuring that provisions for long-term preservation of and access to cultural works are incorporated into new strategies for feature films, sound recordings and digital content. The Department of Canadian Heritage partners with Library and Archives Canada (LAC) through the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust Programme (A-V Trust) to preserve and make accessible Canadian recorded music, heritage and feature films no longer in commercial distribution. According to this initiative, LAC receives funding for collecting, preserving and conserving such films and A-V Trust for raising awareness of same.
Total heritage industry revenues grew by 1.1% in 2005, reaching CAD 1.04 billion. In the not-for-profit sector, which account for almost 90% of total sector revenues, total revenues were CAD 924 million. The not-for-profit heritage sector registered essentially a balanced budget with a small collective deficit of CAD 1.3 million. However, three types of not-for-profit heritage organisations registered a collective deficit in 2005, including museums (2.1% of revenues), art galleries (1.5% of revenues) and historic and heritage sites (1.2% of revenues). Only zoos and botanical gardens posted a surplus (8.2% of revenues). For-profit heritage organisations generated revenues of CAD 117 million in 2005. In 2004, Federal and provincial support to not-for-profit heritage institutions accounted for almost 85% of the total. More than one-quarter of total grants and subsidies went to art museums and non-commercial galleries in 2004. While historic sites received 9% of total heritage support, this amount accounted for almost 45% of their total revenues in 2004.
Current federal heritage priorities include developing a renewed federal vision for museums in the 21st century (see chapter 2.1). The government of Canada’s support for museums is governed by a policy that is now more than fifteen years old. Since that time, while some challenges faced by museums, such as preservation of collections, have remained constant, museums have been faced with new challenges. Canadian society has changed, new technologies have emerged, cultural consumption patterns have altered, new partnerships with civil society have been established, new trends in volunteerism are evident, and attitudes toward public institutions have evolved. Furthermore, the government of Canada has committed to strengthening the involvement of Aboriginal peoples in policy development. The Department of Canadian Heritage has undertaken widespread consultations for over two years toward development of a new policy to assist museums to position themselves to meet their challenges and to mobilise support from all stakeholders.
In December 2006, the government of Canada announced CAD 100 million in funding for urgent capital and infrastructure investment for the following five Canadian Heritage Portfolio organisations: the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canadian Museum of Civilisation, the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology and the National Arts Centre. The Federal government is also contributing to the financing of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, the first new national museum created outside the National Capital Region in Ottawa and Gatineau. In November 2008, the newly appointed Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages announced the termination of the selection process for the Portrait Gallery of Canada which was to be based on a collection by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) of more than 20 000 paintings, drawings and prints, 4 million photographs, several thousand caricatures, and ten thousand medals and philatelic items some of which will be made available through travelling exhibitions and arrangements that might possibly be entered into between LAC and museums and galleries throughout the country. This decision was based on financial reasons brought to the fore during the current global economic downturn.
A principal goal of federal heritage policy in Canada includes strengthening the country’s preservation and conservation capacity in order to preserve more of its heritage and enable Canadians to share and experience their heritage. The Auditor General of Canada Report in 2004 stated that Canada’s heritage is at risk of being lost and encouraged the government to adopt a more strategic and global approach to the protection of cultural heritage. Building capacity in the heritage community is a key part of the heritage framework. Enhancing domestic access to heritage institutions, holdings and services is also an important element of the current Canadian heritage policy. The Federal heritage review extends to the following programmes and institutions:
- Museums Assistance Programme (MAP): MAP provides assistance to Canadian museums for projects that tell the Canadian story and promote inter-provincial perspectives, fosters Aboriginal museum development, and supports exchanges and dialogue;
- Movable Cultural Property Programme (MCPP): the government of Canada protects movable cultural heritage through the Cultural Property Export and Import Act (1977) to ensure that nationally significant heritage material is preserved in Canadian public collections and made accessible to the public. Canada also collaborates with other countries in the fight against illicit traffic in cultural property;
- Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board (CCPERB): the CCPERB is an independent tribunal established under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act in 1977 to certify cultural property for income tax purposes and to implement the UNESCO Convention on illicit traffic in cultural property. The Cultural Property Export and Import Act and the Income Tax Act provide special tax incentives to encourage philanthropy through donations or sales of important cultural property to designated Canadian institutions and public authorities;
- Canada Travelling Exhibitions Indemnification Programme (TREX): Recognising the cultural importance and economic benefits provided by travelling exhibitions, the Canada Travelling Exhibitions Indemnification Act (1999) establishes a process whereby the government assumes financial risk for loss or damage to objects in major travelling exhibitions in Canada;
- Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN): CHIN operates on-line museum and gallery information service, access to information on objects in museums, history specimens and archaeological sites, and Virtual Exhibitions;
- Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI): CCI promotes care and preservation of Canada’s movable cultural heritage and advances conservation in museums, art galleries, academic institutions and other heritage organisations;
- National heritage institutions: include the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Civilisation, the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, and Library and Archives Canada; and
- Other programmes: include, Young Canada Works in Heritage Institutions, the Virtual Museum of Canada which held its fifth anniversary in March 2006, official-language programmes that support heritage activities within official-language minority groups, the Canadian Memory Fund, and various activities and programmes of the Portfolio agencies.
In the Report on Plans and Priorities (2006-2007), the government of Canada notes that Canadians trust museums more than any other source of information about Canada’s history. The Department of Canadian Heritage works with the four national museums (see chapter 1.2.2) and Library and Archives Canada to ensure they are equipped to extend the reach of national collections to all Canadians. Non-federal museums also play a key role in preserving Canada’s heritage. In consultations with the museum community, work has continued to measure the cultural, social and economic impact of museums, including a software application used to measure economic impact. The Department of Canadian Heritage is also continuing to work with the museum sector to develop a renewed vision for the government’s museum policy.
Other efforts in 2006-2007 include modernisation of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act (1985) including a Discussion Paper and consultations with the stakeholders to help identify options for legislative reform; a required review of the Travelling Exhibitions Indemnification Programme (in accordance with Section 5.1 of the Act (1985); and various Canadian Conservation Institute initiatives such as renovations and consultations with Aboriginal communities and planning for the 2007 Preserving Aboriginal Heritage Symposium: Traditional and Technical Approaches; and the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) through which further enhancements to the Virtual Museum of Canada are being initiated in 2006-2007 through a pilot project to establish new online museum space facilitating educational outreach through online interaction, to help teachers and museum educators develop and share lesson plans and scenarios, and to facilitate access by students and lifelong learners to these learning resources. Other strategies to reinforce the role of museums are being evaluated.
In regard to school libraries (under provincial jurisdiction), the Association of Canadian Publishers cited estimates of Canadian content in school libraries ranging from under 10% to 30%. It notes that despite a continuing emphasis on literacy, school libraries have not become a priority in Canada. (Association of Canadian Publishers 2004) Statistics Canada found that total spending on collections development in Canada’s 15 500 elementary and secondary schools was only CAD 56 million in 2003-04 and on a per- school basis, median expenditures were as low as CAD 2 000.
In 2007, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) launched a new programme, Forum on Canadian Democracy. With this online Programme, LAC plans to target academic researchers, politicians and the public policy community who may have occasion to access departmental records from the time of Confederation 140 years ago to current information such as public opinion polls and the government of Canada web-sites. This massive undertaking of digitising government records, ranging from “cleared” Cabinet documents to Orders-in-Council (Cabinet Decisions) and Canada Gazette releases listing legislation enacted, will facilitate the operation of the Forum on Canadian Democracy and the cause of access to public information (see Access to Information Act (1985) in chapter 4.1.7).