The following is an open letter, dated August 26, addressed to Premier Gordon Campbell:
Dear Premier Campbell,
I am writing you on behalf of the Canadian Dance Assembly in response to the recent and devastating decisions made in British Columbia in the field of arts and culture, affecting our daily mission as a national dance organization advocating for a healthy dance milieu.
We are writing on behalf of 33% of our members, based in your province, striving to survive in an environment that, with all due respect, could easily be called a "scorched earth policy".
As everybody knows, arts and culture stimulate the economy. Close to 80,000 people work in culture in British Colombia, contributing over $5 billion to the provincial economy. The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts website informs us that the province makes its cultural investment back in direct taxes at the rate of 138%.
BC has the highest rate of its labour force in culture and arts and the past few years the Government of BC has made many wise investments in the arts sector, including a $150 Million endowment fund, so we find it inappropriate for the BC policy makers to cut funding for the arts by 40%-50%, and eliminate the support from gaming grants. It appears to be a short-term view and contrary to the interest of British Colombians and furthermore all Canadians.
We are equally concerned that the autonomy of culture at-arms-length, through the close association between grant decision makers and politicians, currently fosters a lack of independence. The way Ms Jane Danzo resigned suggests certain failures at the British Columbia Arts Council, and is for us a significant example. "I wanted to bring to the government’s attention that these are serious concerns that I had and the only way that I could really make a statement was by stepping down (..) It has recently been made clear that the Board does not have a voice independent of government" Danzo said.
The Canadian Dance Assembly would like to urge you to promote a philosophy based on independence in the arts funding process, reminding you that the BC Arts council, like all the nationwide Arts Councils, should remain at- arms-length.
The Canadian Dance Assembly is actively engaged in important issues affecting the dance sector and BC’s trends are today seriously affecting the dance milieu in Canada in its large diversity. Most of our major members, including eminent board members, already advised us that they could not attend our national conference in September for economic reasons. The impact of their absence is huge and will have significant consequences: they won’t connect with their peers from across the country through national initiatives and think-tank groups; they won’t innovate in common projects with their peers; neither will they access the opportunity to organize tours in order to promote their creations. We would hope that culture not become hostage of a political debate but remain a source of joy, recreation and public health, as well as a way to create resources and empower the Canadian and the British Colombian economy.
Moreover, when arts organizations are forced to scale back their programming, the losses are not only financial, but also in areas such as social cohesion. In a province where the proportion of new immigrants is huge, we do believe that dance is a proven vector to integrate youth and new comers. It helps them connect with a national identity through professional networking, promoting tolerance and diversity.
"Culture is deeply ingrained within us, it shapes our identity and perceptions. At the same time, every culture is composite, alive and enriched by others. The result is a formidable and unprecedented diversity (...) This leads to (...) the power of cultural diversity and dialogue. We have not sufficiently recognized this power in politics, in international relations, in peace building. This is our challenge and our responsibility: ensuring that societies harness the power of diversity as they become more urbanized, more mixed. It takes time and does not happen naturally, without a political environment that promotes equal rights and understanding. There is a fine line between pride in one’s culture and intolerance towards what is different." (Irina BOKOVA, Executive Director of UNESCO, about the United’s Nations announcement of 2010: International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures)
The Canadian Dance Assembly therefore urges you and all British-Columbia policy makers to think of the future of British-Columbia.
We hope that you will adopt new policies regarding arts and especially dance, in order to contribute to the well-being of our society. We encourage you to re-instate funds that were recently cut and urge you to consider adopting increased investment strategies moving forward, in the spirit of growth and investment.
President, Canadian Dance Assembly
Executive Director, Canadian Dance Assembly