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NAFTA: More than 100 prominent Canadian, Quebecois and Indigenous Artists ask the government to Protect Culture in trade negotiations

Susan Swan

Montreal and Toronto – As the third round of NAFTA negotiations ends in Ottawa, the Council of Canadians and the Réseau québécois sur l'intégration continentale (RQIC) will release the names of more than 100 Canadian, Indigenous and Quebec artists who have signed a letter asking the Canadian government to not trade away culture at the bargaining table on Wednesday. The signatories are inviting all artists to join the campaign by signing the letter here.

Media are invited to participate in the press conferences launching the open letter:

  • Toronto press conference: ACTRA National Office, 625 Church Street, 3rd Floor on Wednesday, September 27, at 10:30 a.m. Featuring: Susan Swan, novelist and a former chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada; David Sparrow, President of ACTRA; and Garry Neil, former Executive Director of the Council of Canadians.
  • Montreal press conference: Centre Saint-Pierre, 1212 Panet, on Wednesday, September 27 at 11:00 a.m. Featuring: Pierre Curzi.

In English Canada, the signatories include Margaret Atwood, Susan Swan, Jane Urquhart, Ronald Wright and Jack Stoddart. In Québec, Denis Bouchard, Michel Castel Bouchard, France Castel, Dominic Champagne, Philippe Falardeau, Pierre Curzi, Micheline Lanctôt, Jean-Claude Lord, Lorraine Pintal, Marie Tifo and Michel Tremblay have signed the letter. It is also supported by unions and cultural organizations such as the Conseil du Théâtre du Québec and theatre companies. There are also Indigenous artists, including Tantoo Cardinal in English Canada and Marco Collin in Quebec.

“Let’s not roll over and go back to the early seventies when Canadian publishing was a cultural wasteland,” says Susan Swan. “If Canadian culture is put back on the table, there will be fewer Canadian books for Canadian readers. Writers like myself have lived through the era when publishers thought nobody was interested in Canadian books. If we don’t stick up for ourselves we may end up back where we started. Countries like France insist on the right to define their culture. So can we.”

Opening up culture, to be traded liberally on the market is unacceptable – as it would be with any other commodity, even if limited within NAFTA. For those who signed, the choice is simple, “Either we continue to be vigilant about our cultural identities, or we surrender to the pressures of international corporations that want to create a homogenized global standard for even greater profits.”

The letter asks the government to ensure the cultural exemption in NAFTA remains. It asks the government to update the definition to include media that didn’t exist when NAFTA was signed: such as Netflix or the digital cultural production. It also seeks to remove the clause allowing the U.S. to retaliate against Canada’s use of the exemption clause. Furthermore, the artists want to protect rules preventing foreign ownership in cultural industries.

Read the letter: English | français | Ojibwe | Plains Cree.

Artists are invited to sign the letter here.


For information:

Council of Canadians: Dylan Penner, 613-795-8685, dpenner@canadians.org

Réseau québécois sur l'intégration continentale: Ronald Cameron, 514-217-0264, rqic@ciso.qc.ca

The Council of Canadians, founded to fight the Canada-U.S. Free Trade agreement, is one of the largest social organizations in Canada with over 100,000 members and supporters.

The RQIC is a coalition of labour unions, community groups and international NGOs. Members include: Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS), Alternatives, Association canadienne des avocats du mouvement syndical, Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI), ATTAC-Québec, Centrale des syndicats démocratiques (CSD), Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), Centre international de solidarité ouvrière (CISO), Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ), Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), Génération nationale and the Syndicat des professionnelles et professionnels du gouvernement du Québec (SPGQ).


Alain Auger
Alain Caron
Alain Deneault
Alain Grégoire
Alexander Kyle Coates
Amy Miller
Anne-Marie Olivier
Annie Roy
Anthony De Sa
Bernadette Wagner
Brian Brett
Brian Fawcett
Bruce Walsh
Carole Poliquin
Catherine Caron
Catherine Gregoire
Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Claude Vaillancourt
Corey Redekop
Corinne Meadows
Dale Kirschenman
David Lavoie
David Lavoie
Deborah Campbell
Denis Bouchard
Denis LeBel
Denys Lefebvre
Dominic Champagne
Dominique Pétin
E. Fuller
Elaine Dewar
Elaine Hughes
Élisabeth Garant
Elise Moser
Elizabeth Greene
Éric Noël
Eric Potvin
Erica Pomeranc
France Castel
France Désaulniers
Frédéric Dubois
Frédéric Julien
Frédérick Gravel
Gail Sidonie Sobat
Garry Neil
Geneviève Antonius-Boileau
Geneviève Therrien
Germain Desbiens’ sculpteur.
Gregory M. Cook
ian murray
Ilona Biro
Ines Talbi
Irene Todd
Isaac isitan
Jack Stoddart
Jacques Poulin-Denis
Jane Urquhart
Jean-Claude Lord
Joanna Swan
Joceline Sanschagrin
Jordan Pettle
Judy Rebick
Juliet Harris Morello
Kate Cornell
Ken McGoogan
Kevin Shortt
Laura Kenins
Laval Leclerc
Linda Leith
Lisa Knowles
Lisa Woolgar
Lise Castonguay
Lise Gagnon
Lorna Crozier
Lorraine Pintal
Louis Pierre Foisy
Louise  Laparé
Louis-Frédéric Gaudet
Lyne paquette
Lynne J. Boccaccio
Marco Collin
Margaret Atwood
Margaret Willis
Marie Desrosiers
Marie Lafrance
Marie Tifo
Marie-Catherine Leroux
Marie-Christine André
Marie-Hélène Bonin
Marie-Josée Forget
Marie-Josée Laviolette
Marilyn Daoust
Mark McConchie
Martine Époque
Mary Alice Downie
Mauricio Gonzalez
Mélissa Dion Des Landes
Mélissa Dion Des Landes
Michael Z Kowalchuk
Michel Marc Bouchard
Michel Tremblay
Michèle Larivière
Micheline Lanctôt
Miriam Katz
Morty Mint
Nathalie Langelier
Nini Bélanger
Nino Ricci
Pascale St-Onge
Patricia Lévesque
Patrick Lane
Paul Ahmarani
Pauline Gagnon
Penney Kome
Philippe Duclos
Philippe Falardeau
Pierre Allard
Pierre Curzi
Pierre Samson
Réjean Beaudet
Rich Riordan
Richard Weiser
Ronald Wright
Ronald Wright
Sandy Crawley
Sarah MacDonald
Sebastien Provencher
Simon Boulerice
Stephen Waddell
Sue Urquhart
Susan Crean
Susan Swan
Sylvain Côté
Sylvie Lavoie
Tantoo Cardinal
Tanya Kontoyanni
Terry Gammon
Tessa Goulet
Tony Tobias
Tracey Anderson
TW Peacocke
Viviane Betrand
Yann Perreau
Yvan Guay