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

Chapter 12 | Robin Higham


5. conclusion: Une mission canadienne?

Could the persistent absence of a credible federal government response to its own long-recognized need for a vibrant cultural diplomacy program, be the result of an inability to come up with a theme, une mission canadienne? The DFAIT mission statement quoted in the introduction to this paper, while implicitly embracing the logic for cultural diplomacy, fails to suggest what is meant by “Canadian culture and values” or how the promotion of that abroad, might contribute to global stability, Canadian prosperity or the well-being of Canadians. If we have difficulty with beavers, mounties, hockey, forests, furs, fish, maple syrup, mining and cold winters as worthy of a sustained and marketable national image abroad, what is left? “Eh”? What have we got to talk about which is relatively unique to Canada and yet supportive of both our international and domestic objectives? What kind of Canadian public image abroad is going to reinforce and sustain our soft power, our ability to persuade others to share Canadian perspectives and values in the multilateral fora and in bilateral relationships as well? What images of Canada and Canadians can make us more attractive to tourists, investors, qualified immigrants, foreign students, academics and researchers? And finally, what characteristics and experiences could we showcase abroad, which would provoke positive public policy and citizen responses at home?

Is the answer to those questions the national mobilization of cultural diplomacy as a prime vehicle to articulate and improve upon the handing down of the Canadian Model for governing and building on its diversities? A new program of cultural diplomacy should both assert and demonstrate that our version of democracy-for-diversity, is worthy of examination for its potential as a route to peaceful coexistence and stability across national and international differences. This re-jigging of the founding French notion of the mission civilisatrice for cultural diplomacy would become in Canadian hands une mission de civisme... of civility. It would highlight the dividends potential of making space for otherness in the many communities everywhere which are experiencing inescapable or no-choice diversity. It would demonstrate the ennui of the kinds of homogeneity proposed by proponents of racism and religious fundamentalism. Through cultural and arts and academic initiatives, a strengthened cultural diplomacy would showcase the creativity and innovative advantages of our diversity governance model and its relevance to knowledge-based economies and societies of the twenty-first century.

And a cultural diplomacy mission built around such a model would surely generate profound national embarrassment whenever we were caught sinning against it through image-inconsistent practices and policies at home. Wonderful!

But no matter how that model or mission might be defined, just embracing it in the objectives and mission statements of federal departments and agencies is not enough. Like toothpaste, it only works if you use it. The wisdom of those good intentions will make little difference to our success either abroad or at home until we act on them. Over to you DFAIT, Canadian Heritage, Treasury Board, PMO and the provinces.

Chapter 13 | Michel de la Durantaye >


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