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Second reading of Bill S-234, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Artist Laureate)

Second reading of Bill S-234, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Artist Laureate)
Arts and Culture

Second reading of Bill S-234, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Artist Laureate)


Published on 15 December 2016
Hansard and Statements by Senator Wilfred Moore (retired)

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore:

Honourable senators, this will be my last time doing this. I rise today to speak to Bill S-234, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, to create the position of parliamentary artist laureate.

First of all, this bill does not affect the office of the Parliamentary Poet Laureate; rather, it is to augment the Poet Laureate’s office and to expand the types of artistic expression that depict Canada at home and abroad.

Government promotion of the arts dates back to the formation of the Massey commission in 1949, which, after studying the state of arts in Canada, recommended that federal funding be made available for a wide range of cultural activities. Also, that commission recommended the founding of the National Library, the National Gallery and the Canada Council for the Arts and the preservation of historic properties, amongst many other recommendations.

The report stated:

. . . it is in the national interest to give encouragement to institutions which express national feeling, promote common understanding and add to the variety and richness of Canadian life, rural as well as urban.

Since 1949, through the good work of these institutions, such as the Canada Council for the Arts, government funding has afforded many Canadian artists the opportunity to focus and develop their particular talents. The resulting work produced cannot help but be an expression of Canada and Canadian culture.

Furthermore, with this focus on the arts in Canada, we see many more types of artistic expressions of Canada through Canadian artists. I believe this expansion of artistic creativity deserves recognition in Parliament, much as poetry has been valued through the Poet Laureate of Canada.

For those who are students of numbers, Statistics Canada tells us that culture accounted for 3.1 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product in 2010. That would equal $47.8 billion and 647,000 jobs or 3.7 per cent of total employment in the country. I thus suggest that it is deserved and appropriate that an artist laureate office be established to reflect the importance of these artists.

I acknowledge that the Governor General recognizes artists through the Governor General’s Awards. Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson was a tremendous supporter of the arts in Canada. Her Excellency added three awards to those already established, one of which is the Governor General’s Award for the Visual and Media Arts.

The creation of the artist laureate as a parliamentary officer would add a more appropriate and influential outlet for the promotion of the arts in Canada. An officer working to promote the arts on a full-time basis from Parliament would be a tremendous boost to the arts community.

Recently, colleagues, the State of New York passed a bill to establish an artist laureate award, entitled the Edward Hopper Citation of Merit, which seeks not only to honour the artist but also to promote and support contemporary visual art. The winner of that award receives a monetary prize and two state-sponsored public exhibitions.

The bill before us provides that the artist laureate would be an officer of the Library of Parliament. The Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons would select the artist laureate from a list of three names put forward by an independent committee. The committee would be composed of the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada, the Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, and the President of the Board of Directors of the Society of Canadian Artists. The committee would be chaired by the Parliamentary Librarian.

The artist laureate would hold the position for two years, at the pleasure of the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons.

The mandate of the artist laureate would be to promote the arts of Canada through Parliament, including through fostering knowledge, enjoyment, awareness and development of the arts.

As part of this mandate, the artist laureate may: (a) produce or cause to be produced artistic creations at the request of either Speaker for use in Parliament or on occasions of state; (b), sponsor artistic events, including art exhibitions; (c), give advice to the Parliamentary Librarian regarding the collection of the library and acquisitions to enrich its cultural holdings; (d), perform such other related duties as are requested by either Speaker or the Parliamentary Librarian.

In the context of this bill, “arts” is defined as meaning drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, photography, videography and filmmaking. These are the visual arts areas which I suggest should be represented through this office, and it may be senators feel other areas would also contribute to this definition.

The last part of this bill corrects a mistake which is present in the Poet Laureate legislation, which our drafters came across in the drafting of this bill.

Honourable senators, we have so many talented artists working in such areas as painting. For example, even this chamber is defined by not just those of us who work herein but by the artwork hanging on the walls that reminds us daily of the sacrifice of those who built this nation. It is time we celebrate these visual artists and their contributions to our culture and the expression of who we are by providing the position of an artist laureate to recognize and represent these exciting artists and their artistic creations.

I humbly ask for your support of this bill. Thank you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

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