Jean-Paul Baillargeon, editor - The Handing Down of Culture, Smaller Societies and Globalization

Chapter 11 | Diane Saint-Pierre


Even if the White Paper had not formally been made public, provincial elections having led to a change of government, it must be emphasized that the 1960s were characterized by the creation of a number of institutions, with nationalist connotations, and bold for that time: L’Office de la langue française in 1961, Délégation générale du Québec in Paris in 1962, Service du Canada français d’outre-frontières in 1963, Direction générale de l’Immigration in 1966, Radio-Québec in 1968, among others. At the same time, the Ministry of Education was an important contributor to the changes taking place in Québec society. Other ministries, which also had cultural dimensions, were created: Immigration in 1968, and Communications in 1969.

A decade after the White Paper of Pierre Laporte, the “Green Paper” Pour l’évolution de la politique culturelle du Québec (1976) of Liberal minister Jean-Paul L’Allier was brought before the National Assembly. In it, since priority was given to active support of cultural activities, to their dissemination and to accessibility, the policy suggested among other things “a transfer from different sectors of the public service to para-public bodies,” like the Régie du Patrimoine, the Société de gestion du patrimoine immobilier, the Commission de la bibliothèque et des archives nationales, the Commission des musées, etc. But, as with the White Paper of 1965, L’Allier’s proposal coincided with a new political reality: the election of a new government in November 1976.

In fact, in response to a “federal cultural offensive,” the PQ government decided to create a superministry which included Cultural Affairs, Education, Communications, and Leisure and Immigration, all the ministries having to do with culture. Implemented with a view to competing with the resources of the federal government, the actions of that superministry seemed to bog down, until it was phased out in 1982. Certain decisions the Ministry of Cultural Affairs could have taken were lost in the shuffle (Fortier and Schafer, 1989: 45). One thing is obvious. In his White Paper, Laurin argues that the anthropological notion of culture — and the underlying question of the handing down of culture — becomes totally meaningful when it becomes the “core of life” where “the whole of existence is about the production of culture” (Québec, White Paper, 1978: 9).

Let us summarize the Québec government’s initiatives since the beginning of the 1990s, a period which corresponds to the publication of the Politique culturelle du Québec, brought before the Québec National Assembly in June 1992 (Saint-Pierre, 2001a). If we include the statements mentioned earlier (White Papers and Green Paper), eleven successive documents have been brought down or debated between 1964 and 1992 (see table); as for the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, it has seen more than fifteen titulars, each trying to leave their mark. In trying to offer a broad perspective on the main initiatives of the Québec Government during the past 40 years, one could say that the 1960s were characterized by the creation of important national institutions, the 1970s by measures for protecting the French language, the 1980s by an increase in the number of cultural bodies and, in the 1990s, by the change of scale mentioned earlier: municipalities take charge of the cultural development of local and regional communities, and the Conseil des arts et des lettres takes charge of other cultural institutions and areas.

In fact, if the sometimes sweeping central statements of the cultural policies of Laporte, L’Allier and Laurin were like the ideas found in documents dealing with “projects of societies,” it must be said that during the 1980s, the content, if not the tone of the papers, changed dramatically.1 Caught up in the problem of funding artists, producers and cultural industries, the minister of Cultural Affairs of Québec, Liza Frulla-Hébert released, in June 1992, a document entitled La politique culturelle du Québec. This new statement was an important change compared to the “traditional” role of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. Its mandate was widened and gave it a new “horizontal” role — prompting other ministries (about twenty of them plus government corporations), municipalities and other partners to include culture in their own responsibilities — while putting forward new concerns, including ensuring a “wider opening to cultures of the world,” and putting more emphasis on the regional and international dimensions of culture (Québec, La politique culturelle du Québec. Notre culture, notre avenir, 1992: 15). The new Ministry of Culture was also given the mandate of harmonizing and coordinating regional ministerial activities, through global agreements with municipalities and the MRC, while maintaining exclusive control in specific fields: heritage, cultural technology, museums, libraries, historic sites, professional training and cultural industries.

Not only did this policy place emphasis on the horizontal dimensions for coordinating government activity, it has also led to two important pieces of legislation, the first modifying the Loi sur le ministère des Affaires culturelles (new functions and orientations), the second creating the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, which had been called for by artists since the 1960s.

Chapter 11 , continued >


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