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Canada/ 5.2 Legislation on culture  

Culture is not specifically referred to in Canada's Constitution; it is neither in the British North America Act (1867) nor the Constitution Act (1982). In the early years, the provinces were originally to have jurisdiction over cultural issues, which were thought to be of a local nature. However, the federal government began to intervene more extensively in culture through the exercise of its spending power in the mid-20th century. Elements of the federal role in culture and communications have been upheld on the basis of national interest ("peace, order and good government") and the spill-over properties of dissemination involved in the inter-provincial and international delivery of telecommunications and broadcasting signals. In the late 1970s, the Supreme Court of Canada extended exclusive federal jurisdiction to the regulation of cable television (by the CRTC) and in 1989, held that national telecommunication networks were also integral networks under federal authority.

The federal government has assumed exclusive authority over broadcasting, allowing for federally licensed provincial educational programming. It shares concurrent authority with the provinces on the balance of the cultural portfolio including the arts, heritage and the cultural industries. Quebec stands out among provinces in Canada in maintaining a strong cultural policy and programme presence at the provincial level motivated by its close connection to French-language culture.

In 1993, the Department of Canadian Heritage was created by the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and in 1995, the Act was given Royal assent. It sets out the mandate of the new amalgamated department, over which the Minister of Canadian Heritage presides, and explicitly includes the Minister's powers, duties and functions that relate to Canadian identity and values, cultural development and heritage. Section 4 (1) states: "The powers, duties and functions of the Minister extend to and include all matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction, not by law assigned to any other department, board or agency of the government of Canada, relating to Canadian identity and values, cultural development, heritage and areas of natural or historical significance to the nation." The Act specifies 12 responsibilities:

  • the promotion of a greater understanding of human rights;
  • fundamental freedoms and related values;
  • multiculturalism;
  • the arts including cultural aspects of the status of the artist;
  • cultural heritage and industries including performing arts, visual and audio-visual arts, publishing, sound recording, film, video and literature;
  • the encouragement, promotion and development of amateur sport;
  • the advancement of the equality of status and use of English and French and the advancement and development of the English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada;
  • state ceremonial and Canadian symbols;
  • broadcasting (except in respect of spectrum management and the technical aspects of broadcasting);
  • the formulation of cultural policy (including the formulation of cultural policy as it relates to foreign investment and copyright);
  • the conservation, exportation and importation of cultural property; and
  • national museums, archives and libraries.

The composite list of statutes in force is administered, in whole or in part, by the Canadian Heritage Portfolio and most of these statutes have either a direct or indirect effect on cultural policy. Many of the pieces of legislation below indicate 1985 as year of enactment since they were included in consolidated legislation in that year although all Acts are now updated in laws (see every year).

  • An Act to acknowledge that persons of Ukrainian origin were interned in Canada during the First World War and to provide for recognition of this event (2005);
  • An Act to amend the Criminal Code of Canada (unauthorised recordings of a movie) (2007);
  • An Act to incorporate the Jules and Paul-Emile Léger Foundation (1980-83);
  • An Act to Amend the Museums Act (2008);
  • Broadcasting Act (1991);
  • Canada Council for the Arts Act (1985);
  • Canada Travelling Exhibitions Indemnification Act (1999);
  • Constitution Act including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982);
  • Canadian Heritage Languages Institute - not in force (1991);
  • Canadian Multiculturalism Act (1985);
  • Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act (1985);
  • Copyright Act R.S.C. 1985, c. C-42, hereinafter as amended - formulation of cultural policy;
  • Cultural Property Export and Import Act (1977);
  • Department of Canadian Heritage Act (1995);
  • Foreign Publishers Advertising Services Act (1999);
  • Holidays Act (1985);
  • Income Tax Act - tax credits, national arts service organisations and cultural property (1985);
  • Investment Canada Act - cultural foreign investment (1985);
  • Library and Archives of Canada Act (2004);
  • Lieutenant-Governors Superannuation Act - in part (1985);
  • Museums Act (1990);
  • National Acadian Day Act (2003);
  • National Anthem Act (1985);
  • National Arts Centre Act (1985);
  • National Battlefields at Quebec Act (1907-08);
  • National Capital Act (1985);
  • National Film Act (1985);
  • National Horse of Canada Act (2002);
  • National Sports of Canada Act (1995);
  • National Symbol of Canada Act (1985);
  • Official Languages Act - Part VII (1985);
  • Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act (1985);
  • Physical Activity and Sport Act - in respect of sport (1985);
  • Public Service Employment Act - reporting to Parliament (1985);
  • Salaries Act - lieutenant-governors (1985);
  • Sir John A. MacDonald and Sir Wilfred Laurier Day Act (2002);
  • Status of the Artist Act - Part I (1992);
  • Telefilm Canada Act (1985); and
  • Trademarks Act - use of national symbols (1985).

Chapter published: 24-11-2008

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