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BriefsReportTable of ContentReport IndexRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences

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1. As we stated in Part I of this Report, our interest in the projection of Canada abroad relates to those fruitful exchanges in the arts and in intellectual matters which stimulate all cultural activity and which help to lay a foundation for mutual knowledge and understanding. That Canada has lagged behind other countries in assisting such exchanges we have already shown. We have no bureau of educational and cultural information, we have no machinery for educational exchanges, we have no system of international scholarships, we have no funds and few facilities for aiding in exchanges among learned societies, for sending abroad the best of our artists and musicians, of our pictures and books or for encouraging others to send their best to us.

2. All these matters were discussed by societies and individuals appearing before us. It seemed apparent to us that these questions could not well be considered apart from the main problem of aiding our national development in the arts, letters and sciences. Moreover, in supplement to our original Terms of Reference, we received a letter from the Prime Minister requesting us to take under review the whole question of the manner in which knowledge of Canada abroad might be extended. We are therefore presenting as our final group of recommendations a suggestion that one Council assume the primary responsibility for such official aid and countenance as can properly be given both to all voluntary cultural activities at home and to cultural exchanges with other countries. This Council, it is proposed, should take on among other matters some of the functions corresponding to those both of the British Council and of the Arts Council of Great Britain. Details of the proposed constitution and activities of the Council appear later with our formal recommendations in Chapter XXV. This Council is referred to here since we believe that, if instituted, it must play an important and valuable part in the projection


of Canada abroad, especially through the co-ordination of those voluntary activities which are essential in normal international exchanges.

3. But one special matter which has a bearing on voluntary cultural exchanges should be mentioned at this time. We understand that the Canadian Government holds very considerable sums of money in blocked funds in many of the countries of Western Europe. The particular circumstances under which these funds were obtained seem to us to call for special precautions in their expenditure. Proper use of them could do much to promote good understanding and cordial relationships; careless or casual expenditure might have an opposite effect. Various schemes, (a scholarship plan similar to the American Fulbright Scheme, travelling fellowships, educational and cultural exchanges), have been suggested. Certain purchases of pictures for the National Gallery have already been made from the funds. We are not prepared to make specific recommendations on this matter. We would, however, urge that there be a broad and consistent scheme, clearly explained in Canada and in the countries concerned, designed specifically to increase mutual knowledge and understanding and to foster friendly relations.


4. We have already discussed the important work of the International Service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in presenting "an honest, objective, colourful picture of Canada and Canadian life".1 We have noticed the encouragement and publicity given to Canadian cultural activities by this means. We would suggest here, as we have suggested in connection with national programmes, the importance of securing the best and most representative talent from the different parts of the country. In the International Service linguistic ability must be of very great importance. We realize, too, the need of advice and help from nationals of the countries to which broadcasts are addressed. At the same time we must emphasize the value of representing Canada abroad as frequently as possible through eminent Canadians.

We therefore recommend:
a.That the International Service of the C.B.C. be continued and expanded with a view to increasing the knowledge and understanding of Canada abroad.
b.That every effort be made to use for this purpose as often as possible the service of Canadians eminent in various fields.



5. We have spoken in Part I of the important part played by the National Film Board in projecting Canada abroad through its documentary films. These have been commended in Canada and elsewhere for their vividness, their integrity and their originality. We have recommended earlier a general extension of the work of the Board. We would suggest here that its valuable work of carrying Canada to other peoples be pursued with increased vigour. To show a thing is much more convincing than to talk about it; and in an age particularly sensitive to pictorial effects, many people can be interested in no other way.

6. We would, however, urge that the National Film Board continue to send abroad films which show Canada as it is rather than films which are specially prepared to convince others of the virtues of our society. This Commission is fully persuaded of the value of the free and democratic tradition as it is generally understood in this country; we are also convinced that the most effective as well as the most honest way of letting other people know how we live is to invite them to read our newspapers and books, to see our paintings, hear our music, and enjoy with us the films which we make for our own information and enjoyment. Such a policy would help to ensure that films sent abroad are made by artists rather than by whatever is the film equivalent of a pamphleteer; such films may still win us the friendship and understanding of discriminating people who are proof against propaganda but are still able to appreciate evidence. It is perfectly possible to prepare films about Canada and about Canadians which are accurate and attractive. The best test of a film for foreign consumption is whether Canadians have found it sound and acceptable.

7. This does not mean that in times of emergency it may not be necessary to produce films for very definite and specific purposes, films designed to persuade and convince by an appeal to emotions rather than by the development of interest and understanding. There can, however, be no doubt that the National Film Board should work closely with the Department of External Affairs in preparing such films. It seems to us self-evident that if such a film is not calculated to influence opinion abroad, money spent on it is wasted; if it is to have influence, it must reflect closely the views of the Department entrusted with the conduct of our foreign relations. It should be understood that we speak here not of films on Canada produced for consumption both at home and abroad, but of films produced with the sole purpose of influencing opinion abroad.

8. We notice that a department of government has recently initiated the policy of encouraging companies from the United States to produce commercial feature films in Canada on Canadian themes. This policy


seems to us highly desirable so long as every care is taken that the films, though fictional in character, do not grossly falsify Canadian life or Canadian history. We do not, of course, suggest any control of films produced by commercial companies in the ordinary way. If, however, films made in Canada for circulation in the United States are to carry with them any suggestion of even informal sponsorship or approval by officials of the Canadian Government, proper precautions should be taken to see that they are entirely free from melodramatic distortions, especially when these are prejudicial to Canadian institutions.

We therefore recommend:
c.That the National Film Board be provided with funds to increase its distribution abroad through commercial and other channels of films intended to interpret Canada to Canadians and to others.
d.That where special films are required for the instruction or enlightenment of countries abroad, these films be prepared in close co-operation with the Department of Government concerned, normally the Department of External Affairs.
e.That where official assistance or sponsorship is given to a commercial film intended mainly for circulation abroad, proper measures be taken to prevent injurious distortion of Canadian institutions or of Canadian history.


9. We have mentioned that the Information Service of the Department of External Affairs needs to be expanded even in countries such as Great Britain and the United States. The gravest lack is that of competent information or press officers. Compared with her neighbours, Canada is very inadequately represented. No amount of printed material or of special cables can take the place of able and experienced information officers. They know the newspapers and the newspapermen of the country to which they are posted; they understand what is wanted and how it should be presented. By gaining confidence and friendship they can do much to ensure a fair and accurate presentation of Canadian life, of Canadian policy and of the Canadian point of view.

10. We have noted also the need for more printed and mimeographed material in more languages; and for a more generous provision for the libraries of diplomatic posts abroad.


We therefore recommend:
f.That the Department of External Affairs increase materially the number of press and information officers employed in posts abroad.
g.That the Department make additional provision of mimeographed and printed material for distribution abroad, and of books for use in diplomatic posts.

* From: Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Report. Ottawa : King's Printer, 1951. By permission of the Privy Council Office.

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