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Book publishers shut out of Canadian Heritage’s cultural-policy expert advisory committee

Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly

Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly

Publishing representatives are disappointed by the lack of industry presence on the Department of Canadian Heritage’s new cultural-policy expert advisory committee, announced June 28. The 12-member group – which includes DHX executive chair Michael Donovan, CPAC president and general manager Catherine Cano, and TVO CEO Lisa de Wilde – will meet with Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly five times over the next six months to advise on the topic of “Canadian content creation, discovery and export in a digital world.”

Kate Edwards, executive director of the Association of Canadian Publishers, says, “It’s telling that eight of 12 advisers come from the world of film and television. Minister Joly’s public comments to date about the consultation have been heavily focused on those sectors, along with broadcasting, and the composition of the panel suggests that this may be where Heritage will focus its efforts.”

Linda Leith, president of the Association of English-Language Publishers of Quebec, echoes Edwards’s disappointment. “We’ve heard that everything’s ‘on the table’ when it comes to cultural policy, and we’ve been asked to respond to departmental surveys, but when it comes time to sit down around the table, it turns out we’re not even invited. Serious omission, given the importance of the Canadian publishing industry and its writers.”

Canadian Heritage responded to Q&Q’s questions about the makeup of the advisory committee with the following statement:

The group was chosen to represent creativity and innovation from across Canada’s cultural and technological sectors, and includes a wide variety of perspectives and experiences. Given the broad nature of the consultation on the topic of “Canadian Content Creation, Discovery and Export in a Digital World,” it would be impossible to create a group of expert advisors who represent every discipline and industry affected by changes in the digital world. However, there will be many other opportunities to interact with the Minister during the consultations in the Fall. In addition, the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA), Canada’s national arts funding agency, is leading an initiative to learn about how the arts sector in particular is using and adapting to digital tools and technology. The CCA initiative focuses on visual arts, performing arts and literary arts and will inform the Council’s digital strategy.

In April, Canadian Heritage released a questionnaire to the general public about Canadian content in the digital world. Close to 10,000 responses were received, which will be analyzed and provide a framework for the advisory group.

Despite the lack of publishing-industry involvement at this stage of the process, Edwards is hopeful there will be future chances to give input. “We won’t know until more details about the consultations are released, and if everything is truly on the table, as the minister suggested at the beginning of this process, I expect that book publishers will have an opportunity to participate in a meaningful way.”