While there is no explicit policy linking participation in cultural life to the broader issues of civic participation, citizenship, civil society developments and social cohesion, many recent changes and elaboration of cultural and civic responsibilities in the Department of Canadian Heritage architecture speak to the logical correlation and synergy between the Department’s respective policies promoting both higher levels of cultural and citizenship / identity participation. What is needed now is more measurement of the presumed correlation.
Another example of Federal government initiatives to boost cultural and civic participation in Canada include the work to enhance literacy by the National Literacy Secretariat in Human Resources Skills Development Canada (HRSD). The Secretariat works in partnership with provincial and territorial governments, business, labour and the volunteer community. While the government invested over CAD 330 million on adult literacy from 1988 to 2002, adult illiteracy remains high in prose, document and quantitative functions: 42% of Canadians aged 16 to 65 do not have the literacy skills required for full participation in the knowledge economy. The federal objective is to reduce by 25% the number of adult Canadians with low literacy skills by 2010.
According to the Canada National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth: Early Reading Ability and Later Literacy Skills (2006), which tracked literacy skills of 1 329 children aged 8 or 9 in 1994 / 05 and the same children ten years later in 2004 / 05, the results demonstrate that: early reading skills have an impact on literacy skills of children regardless of the child’s background; children who do well in reading at school at age 8 or 9 have high literacy skills at age 19 or 19 even when factors related to socio-demographics, child behaviour, school issues and parental literacy practices are taken into account; and the child’s gender and mother tongue had no significant impact on later literacy scores. However, parental reading of their own books (asked when the children were 12 or 13) has a significant positive impact on the child’s literacy scores at 18 or 19. Moreover, children who improved their reading skills between 8 or 9 and 12 or 13 years of age still improved their later literacy scores showing that not “all is not lost” by the time children are 8 or 9 (Statistics Canada 2006).
According to the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey of 23 000 adults found that 42% of Canadians scored below Level 3 prose literacy, the desired threshold for coping with the increasing skill requirements of the knowledge society (others include document, numeracy and problem-solving skills). The Survey also showed a clear link between high proficiency in prose literacy and earnings especially for women. In addition, higher levels of prose literacy are associated with higher levels of involvement in various community groups and organisations and in volunteer activities. Literacy performance was lower among Aboriginal people and immigrant Canadians although the survey examined literacy in English and French only, not Aboriginal or other languages. (Statistics Canada 2005)
Volunteerism is another important form of cultural and civic participation that is encouraged by both government and the private sector, including many not-for-profit groups and some for-profit industries such as drive-in theatres. Almost 351 000 Canadians or 1.4% of the population ages 15 and older volunteered to help arts and cultural organisations in 2000 and the dollar value of their work was estimated at CAD 690 million for 51.9 million volunteer hours of work. 65% of the staff of heritage institutions were recorded as volunteers in 1997. In a survey of heritage institutions in 2004, surveyed art museums and art galleries indicated that over 85% of their total work forces consisted of volunteers. Reliance on volunteers constituted almost 74% of their work force. In a separate survey of the performing arts, volunteers comprised approximately 41% of the total staff of not-for-profit performing arts organisations in 2004. Rural and small town Canadians gave proportionately more of their time (and money in donations) to the cultural sector than did urban Canadians while those aged 55 and over contributed the highest average number of hours of time and females more than males. Volunteerism is also correlated positively with education and income.
Statistics Canada’s Satellite Account of Non-profit Institutions and Volunteering, 1997-2001 (2005) contains statistics on the economic contribution of the non-profit sector in Canada. The satellite account is part of the Canadian system of National Accounts and consists of a set of economic accounts, including the value of productive activity (Gross Domestic Product) and sources of income and expenditures of the Canadian non-profit sector for the period from 1997 to 2001. A non-market extension assigning an economic value to volunteer work for the years 1997 and 2000 has also been included. In 2000, “culture and recreation” led the way with an estimated CAD 3.6 billion worth of volunteer effort.