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2017 Annual Public Meeting: Pierre Lassonde, Chair

17 January 2017

Chair – Pierre Lassonde
Jan 17

Thank you to everyone here, and to those tuning in from online.

I’d like to welcome our guests representing the Government of Canada, and extend our thanks for the confidence it continues to place on the Canada Council to bring the arts to the lives of Canadians.

As many of you know, last spring the Federal Government announced an historic increase in our Parliamentary allocation – a doubling of our budget over 5 years. We at the Council are committed to invest this money in ways that has a real and lasting impact for all Canadians. And that investment is starting now.

This year, citizens across the country will mark Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. Artists and arts organizations will highlight the occasion through exceptional projects, including those funded through the Canada Council’s New Chapter program. Together these projects will create a tremendous cultural legacy that will spark the imagination of Canadians for years to come.

2017 also marks the 60th anniversary of the Canada Council. In 1957 when the Council was created, the cultural landscape of this country was somewhat bleak. There were only a handful of arts organizations, concentrated in a few major urban centres. Fast forward to last year when, with the help of Council funding, some 2,200 organizations and 2,000 artists brought the arts to Canadians in over 1,900 communities large and small. And now, with our increased budget we can make more, strategic investments to grow the arts ecosystem even more. Simon Brault will speak to you in more detail about this in his remarks.

But for the Canada Council, celebrating an anniversary is more than just an exercise in nostalgia. It’s an opportunity to look ahead and to continually strive to have more impact.

In the past year, the organization redesigned its funding model. It created 6 national non-disciplinary programs. It restructured itself accordingly and it modernized its systems with a new granting portal and website.

Such times of transition call for a strong Board. I would like to thank my five fellow Board members for generously contributing their expertise, specifically in terms of strategy and risk oversight.

With their departure we have a number of empty seats which are being filled through the Government of Canada’s new self-nomination process. We welcome this more transparent process, and we’re confident that our Board will continue to be as strong and diverse as ever.

In 2016 we were a finalist for an Excellence in Governance Award from the Governance Professionals of Canada (formerly known as the Society of Corporate Secretaries, specifically, in the category of “Best Engagement from a Governance Team.”

This is one of the many ways that the Council is “walking the talk” in scaling up our impact, and the impact of the arts, on society. I’d like to highlight a few other concrete examples of how we are working with others beyond the arts to maximize our funding, and to bring the arts to the forefront of issues that make a difference in the lives of Canadians.

First, an anecdote close to my heart… Last November, the UNESCO Chair on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was launched. You may be aware that the Canadian Commission for UNESCO – a network of networks dedicated to equity, sustainability and peace – is part of the Canada Council. The launch took place at the new pavilion of the Musée des beaux-arts du Québec – a construction that I was proud to sponsor through my philanthropic work. The occasion – a celebration of diversity and cultural rights, surrounded by Inuit art work in a public space – was the perfect expression of the role of art in public life.

One of the big milestones of 2016 was of course the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee on the enduring tragedy of residential schools. Even before this, the Council had launched its {Re}conciliation initiative which aims to create, through the arts, dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. Following this meeting, we will have the honour of receiving a very powerful and evocative artwork by Sam Thomas created through this initiative – one of his spectacular beaded doors.

We’ve recently announced a set of new projects funded through this initiative – made possible with the collaboration of foundation partners: J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

About this time last year, communities across the country were welcoming the first wave refugees from Syria, as part of the Federal Government’s commitment to bring more than 25,000 refugees to Canada.

In response, the Council created with SunLife Financial our Welcome to the Arts initiative. Through this, we funded over 40 organizations across the country to give Syrian Refugees access to the best in Canadian arts.

Before the meeting started you may have seen some of the photos from these activities. I commend the arts community for its enthusiasm in embracing this initiative. And I thank my fellow Board member Isabelle Hudon for her leadership in spearheading it.

I’ll close in mentioning the Jeux de la Francophonie. The Council worked with the Department of Canadian Heritage once again to assemble Team Canada in the cultural component of these Olympic-style games. Les Jeux will take place this year in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. For the first time ever, the International selection committee chose young Canadian artists to compete in all the artistic disciplines. It speaks to the quality of their work and I know they will make us all proud.

2017 will be an incredible year for the arts – and the connections, engagement and inspiration generated from these exciting projects will be felt by citizens in communities across the country. We are committed to continuing to strengthen the impact of the arts – and we look forward to working with you all to make it happen.

And now, I have the pleasure of introducing a performance that I know will excite and inspire us all. Welcome cellist Cris Derkson, drummer Jesse Baird and dancer Nimkii Osawamick – also known as the Cris Derksen Trio!

Pierre Lassonde
Pierre Lassonde

Chair, Canada Council for the Arts

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