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.
Council of Canadians: Dylan Penner, 613-795-8685, firstname.lastname@example.org
Réseau québécois sur l'intégration continentale: Ronald Cameron, 514-217-0264, email@example.com
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).
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