Montreal

Anglophones get a nod in Quebec's new cultural policy, but funding remains unclear

The Quebec government's new $600-million cultural policy acknowledges the 'undeniable' contribution of the anglophone community to culture in the province, but it offers few concrete details on how anglophone cultural institutions might benefit.

$600M plan acknowledges 'undeniable' contribution of anglos, but offers few details on financial support

Premier Philippe Couillard announced a sweeping, $600-million cultural policy Tuesday in Montreal, saying anglophones have made undeniable contributions to Quebec culture. (Radio-Canada)

The Quebec government's new $600-million cultural policy acknowledges the "undeniable" contribution of the anglophone community to Quebec's culture, but it offers few concrete details on how anglophone cultural institutions might benefit.

Premier Philippe Couillard and Culture Minister Marie Montpetit presented the sweeping cultural action plan before an audience of 200 industry insiders in downtown Montreal Tuesday morning.

The five-year plan includes financial commitments for almost every aspect of culture, including film and TV production, digital entrepreneurship, more school field trips to cultural events, and even $5 million to allow museums to offer free admission one Sunday every month.

English language not mentioned in financial document

While the new policy clearly underlines the important role of anglophone culture in Quebec, the accompanying document that spells out specific financial commitments makes no mention of anglophones or anglophone cultural institutions.

While there's no mention of English, the document does mention other languages.

It sets aside $11.5 million to protect the French language, including "intensifying the promotion of the usage of the French language in the public space."

It also makes specific mention of recognizing the value of Aboriginal languages, as part of a $17-million investment in First Nations culture.

At the news conference, Couillard insisted that the anglophone community was an important part of the plan, mentioning Leonard Cohen as an obvious example of the richness of anglophone culture in Quebec.

Couillard said Leonard Cohen was an obvious example of the influence anglophone culture has had in Quebec.

"English-speaking Quebecers are part of our community, and their culture also must be seen and be heard as part of the Quebec culture," Couillard said.

'At least they have made the commitment'

Guy Rodgers, executive director of the English Language Arts Network, said even without specific financial commitments, mentioning anglophones like this is significant. 

"There's an inherent complication in supporting and promoting French, and finding a place for English, and we've been hearing  that they were having a very difficult time within the ministry juggling those two propositions," Rodgers told CBC News.

"In the briefing documents, there was nothing about English-speaking artists. There was only one reference to the 'problem' of artists performing in English," Rodgers said.

Rodgers said the final policy document is therefore a big improvement.

"Given that we came into the process very pessimistic, we're OK with where we are at the end of this. Exactly what they're going to do is not clear, but at least they have made the commitment," he said.

While the plan makes spending commitments over five years, it my never see the light of day if the Liberals are unseated in the fall election, set for Oct. 1.

PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisée said releasing the plan in the months before an election makes it more like a campaign promise, rather than a genuine policy document.

About the Author

Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal.