Good morning, everyone.
I would like to let everyone know who is presenting and those who are asking questions of our interviewees today. The situation is that we're going to take one person at a time, there are four people, and the first person will have five minutes to present. There will be a 25-minute round of questions. That makes it 30 minutes. There are four people. Thirty times four gives us two hours, because we don't want to bring anyone back. We want to get this done today.
Thank you very much.
We will begin with Mr. Mark O'Neill, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Museum of History.
Good morning, Mr. O'Neill. Please begin, and I will give you a two-minute indication when you have two more minutes left, so you can wrap up.
I'm sorry you thought you had a longer time to present, but it wouldn't have worked time-wise.
I understand, Madam Chair. Thank you very much, and I'll try to be brief this morning.
Thank you very much for inviting me here today.
I wanted to begin my comments by mentioned that this December I will proudly mark my thirtieth anniversary as a federal public servant. I've always been deeply honoured to serve in a career that continues to be so richly rewarding.
I've had the privilege to work in the departments of the Secretary of State of Canada, Multiculturalism and Citizenship, and Canadian Heritage, and for the past 15 years, the Canadian Museum of History. In 2011, I was appointed president and CEO of the museum following a competition. I am immensely proud to have had the opportunity to lead these two national museums during a very exciting time, especially because of the approaching sesquicentennial celebrations.
Our museum's community members continue to grow and identify new ways to engage the public and disseminate research into Canada's history. Our most important project right now is the development of the new Canadian history hall. When it opens on July 1, 2017, the Canadian history hall will present Canada's story to Canadians and the world, beginning with the dawn of human habitation on this land and extending to the present day. Spanning three galleries on two levels of the museum under the careful architectural supervision of Douglas Cardinal, the original architect, the hall will share Canada's proud history like never before. For example, it will highlight the history of indigenous people from time immemorial, the struggle by individuals and communities for social justice and equality, and Canada's role in the world.
Based on the latest research, the hall will bring together archaeology, history, and ethology to present a more dynamic exhibition about Canada's past. Moreover, the hall will be authentic and rich in artifacts, allowing visitors to connect with real objects from our past instead of reproductions.
Commitment to authenticity was a frequent comment we received during a pan-Canadian public engagement project the museum conducted in 2012. More than 24,000 Canadians shared their thoughts about what they wanted to see in the new museum. I should tell you that feedback has greatly influenced the exhibition content, which is being developed by the museum's team of museologists, historians, and archaeologists. Canadians told us also they wanted to see the complete story of Canada's history, so the hall will challenge visitors and not shy away from difficult subjects.
The museum's team is also working with external independent advisory committees composed of researchers, scholars, and cultural leaders from across the country.
I am proud to say that the level of engagement that has been undertaken for this new hall is unprecedented for our museum. When it opens on July 1, 2017, it will be the centrepiece of the museum's contribution to the commemorations for the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
The museum also presents special exhibitions on Canadian history, such as Terry Fox, which is now touring across Canada. It presents special exhibitions on world history, like The Greeks, Agamemnon to Alexander the Great, which was organized by an international consortium of museums led by our museum. Later this year, we will be opening Napoleon and Paris, developed in collaboration with the Musée Carnavalet, in Paris. A respected centre of research excellence, the museum also conducts research projects, as guided by our first-ever research strategy.
It is an exciting time at the Canadian War Museum as well. Last May, the War Museum celebrated its 10th anniversary on LeBreton Flats. It is recognized as a critical and popular success, welcoming nearly 500,000 visitors each year.
We presented some very outstanding exhibitions related to the centenary of the First World War, including the special exhibition “Fighting in Flanders”, which highlights the famous poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae and reflects on the significant challenges Canadians faced while fighting in Belgium.
Our recent special exhibition on world war women has been a major critical and popular success. Very recently, the museum announced the creation of “Women and Conflict”, a multi-research initiative dedicated to the roles and impact of women during conflict, both at home and on the world stage.
We also work with international organizations to enhance the knowledge of Canada's contributions to conflict situations around the world. As a brief example for committee members, the War Museum is in fact currently working with the City of Arras, France, to present the museum's special exhibition on Canadian art of the First World War at the Musée des beaux-arts d'Arras. The museum is also collaborating with French partners for the upcoming commemoration of the 100th anniversaries of the Battle of the Somme in 2016 and the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 2017.
Madam Chair, thank you once again for this opportunity to update you. I look forward to answering committee members' questions.
Thank you for your question.
If you don't mind, I am going to answer in English for the other members of the committee.
The member of the committee is correct, in that it's extremely important that we continue to be able to attract visitors to both of our museums in the national capital. We have a very active marketing division and a communications and planning branch that is working with all of the tourism organizations on both sides of the river. We also do an enormous amount of outreach across the country so that we can develop audiences to bring to the national capital region.
There are of course enormous competitive issues in a city such as Ottawa, where there are so many other great national museums and other pastimes for visitors to the national capital to indulge in while they're here. Our marketing campaigns, communications campaigns, and working with the National Capital Commission and the cities of Gatineau and Ottawa are where we strive to make sure that our buildings are accessible and top of mind for visitors who come to the national capital.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'd like to begin by thanking all of you, even those who aren't here in person.
Mr. O'Neill, thank you for your presentation.
I know you have a tremendous amount of experience on Parliament Hill. I'm struck by how curious my Conservative colleagues seem to be when it comes to the specific nature of your exhibits. That's why I have some important questions for you this morning regarding the appropriateness of your being the museum head, of your remaining in that position, and of your being appointed to it.
Mr. O'Neill, you will appreciate that your leadership of the Canadian Museum of History may have been called into question by certain individuals in the past most certainly because you were perceived to have been very close to the former Conservative government.
In January, the website BuzzFeed posted a tape recording of a staff meeting that took place in 2012. And at that meeting, Jean-Marc Blais, your director general and vice-president at the time, described your relationship with the government of the day as follows: “What he's good at is to work the machine…[t]he arm's length is way shorter, if it still exists.” Speaking about you, he went on to tell staff to read between the lines, adding that the president and CEO “doesn't work alone…[w]e have our minister. Our minister is here often. Very often. Very, very often. And so that's a big change.”
Mr. O'Neill, what do you make of those comments by your former director general?
Thank you for your answer.
I fully appreciate that the party isn't your focus, but what does worry me is that the government is.
On June 18, 2015, the day before the last Parliament ended, you were appointed for a new term that would not begin until a year later, on June 23, 2016. In December, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Dominic LeBlanc, asked you in writing to step down in order to eventually participate in a non-partisan merit-based appointment process, through which, you could have been appointed on the basis of skill and merit.
Why did you refuse to participate in such a process, especially since it would have put the emphasis on your skills and dispelled any lingering doubts as to the political nature of your appointment?
I must say it's rather difficult for me to comment on the exact circumstances under which the board of trustees of our corporation, or the government, saw fit to reappoint me. I would like to think that it was based on the fact that I had performed well during what was essentially the first four years of my term.
In 2009, I believe it was, the Auditor General of Canada made a recommendation to the government that, with respect to the CEOs in the federal system, a minimum of six months' notice should be provided to chief executive officers. Notice was extremely sporadic. Some people, as I understand it, were given under a month's notice.
I can say only that my performance evaluations by the board of trustees for those four years were quite positive, and I assume that the government saw fit to offer me an additional Governor in Council appointment, which I was extremely honoured to accept.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Mr. O'Neill, for your presentation this morning.
I come from New Brunswick, a place that is rich in Canadian heritage, with strong anglophone, Acadian heritage, first nations communities, and with the support of this government a lot of newcomers coming to our area, which adds to our cultural diversity and celebration of what it truly is to be Canadian.
I wonder how your museums, your institutions, reach out to regions of the country that aren't so close at hand and the museums aren't quite as accessible, and how you represent some of these regions of the country through your exhibits as well.
This is a very welcome question, Madam Chair, and I'm delighted to answer it.
First of all I would say to the member that one of the most important museums we work with is the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John. Jane Fullerton is a very good colleague of mine. The New Brunswick museum is the oldest continuously operating museum in Canada, by the way.
Several years ago, we created a national history museums network. The New Brunswick Museum was one of the first museums to join the network. We now have many other museums from Atlantic Canada. We work with those museums to share artifacts, develop exhibition projects, even public programming, and we hope down the road—the network is just a year and a half old—research projects as well.
Madam Chair, a second issue I'd like to mention to the member is that in addition to the Canadian history hall that we will be opening, we have reserved a very large hall, a separate hall, 7,000 square feet, with the working title of the Canadian pavilion, but at any one time there will be an exhibition from a museum in another part of Canada in that hall.
I'll give you an example. Perhaps the disaster in Halifax during the First World War doesn't make it completely into the national narrative of the history hall, but we would work with the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic to do an exhibition on the Halifax explosion. So at any one time, there will be an exhibition there.
The history museums network just met last week in Halifax, at the Canadian Museums Association conference. I presided over it.
Another example of a great project is that the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, and our museum in Ottawa, have worked on an exhibition on the gold rush, which is now being presented here. It opened in Victoria, and it will travel to China, because of the important history for Chinese Canadians and Canadians about the whole El Dorado experience.
This is a major part of the work that we're doing, Madam Chair.
Madam Chair, both of our museums have very robust websites. We're very active on many social media platforms. We have many virtual exhibitions, and we are also now responsible for the Virtual Museum of Canada. That was a project that was started by the Department of Canadian Heritage and transferred some two years ago to the Canadian Museum of History. We're working with a wide variety of institutional partners to ensure that we have projects that are online and accessible to Canadians across the country.
With respect to new Canadians, we're also very active. We are working with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship on museum passes for new Canadians when they come to Canada and when they are sworn in as new citizens. We will be beginning with that institute, as well, a new project, in fact I believe next month, with respect to the Syrian refugees who are coming. We find ways to work with educators across our country to disseminate our products and exhibitions to new Canadian groups.
I would like to provide one example if I may, Madam Chair. It's a quick one.
I recently brought down Brock's tunic—his actual tunic—from the Canadian War Museum to Roberta Bondar school in Ajax, Ontario. This is one of the most diverse communities in the GTA. Those kids were born online, essentially, and are saturated with the virtual experience. I can tell you that at the heritage fair in that school, they could not believe that they could see the actual tunic that Brock died in at Queenston Heights in 1812.
We're doing things that we can to provide access, not only to the virtual, but to the material culture in our museums across the country, which I believe remains critically important as part of the visitor experience.
Good morning, Madam Chair and members of the committee.
Thank you very much for the invitation to appear before the committee today to talk about Telefilm Canada. I'd like to focus my comments on the following three areas: first, a brief overview on Telefilm Canada's role and support to the Canadian audiovisual industry; second, our successes and our challenges; and third, our priorities for the next three years.
In 2014-15, we supported the production and marketing of 87 feature films and the development of more than 300 projects, while also helping to promote our Canadian talent in Canada and international festivals.
Building on our near 50 years of investment, Telefilm Canada, together with its partners, has helped shape a landscape conducive to creativity. We have now reached a maturity that enables us to produce and export works of excellent quality. Canadian and foreign film and television production volume in 2014-15 reached $7 billion and accounted for over 148,000 full-time jobs. Film production, for its part, amounted to $349 million and accounted for 7,300 full-time jobs.
What a year this has been for Canada, starting with 21 Canadians behind various Oscar nominations and two Canadian co-productions—in fact, Canada–Ireland co-productions—Room and Brooklyn, receiving best picture nominations—a first. Hosted by Minister , the next movie night on the Hill, on May 3, features the movie Room, and of course you are all invited.
It continues with Cannes. Xavier Dolan's Juste la fin du monde is in the running for the top prize, the Palme d'Or. Just to remind everyone, Cannes receives close to 2,000 films, so having one Canadian in the lineup is amazing. It's the fifth time that Xavier Dolan has been selected for Cannes. In the directors' fortnight section, there are Kim Nguyen's Two Lovers and a Bear, and Nathan Morlando's Mean Dreams. Finally, François Jaro's short film, Oh What a Wonderful Feeling, is part of the critics' week.
The New York Times noted our industry's success in an article, saying that “Canada is on a hot streak, its movies regularly winning prizes....”
Despite these successes, we all face challenges, but our challenges are also opportunities.
First, we need to promote the excellence of Canadian content by conducting effective promotion of the industry and its successes directly to consumers. Second, we need to foster more groundbreaking marketing practices by connecting with a large number of viewers. Third, we need to make decisions supported by meaningful metrics; it's vital that we make informed decisions based on value-added research. Fourth, we need to help the industry diversify its sources of funding by attracting new funding partners, which is the main objective of our talent fund, developed to empower corporations and individuals to support Canadian films through charitable donations and partnerships.
As the committee is aware, Canada virtually invented official treaty co-production, and we're happy to report that Canada has been invited to join Eurimages, the 25-million-euro cultural support fund of the Council of Europe. Canada would be the first non-European member. This opportunity will provide the industry with another excellent instrument to access international funding and to better export our cinema.
Finally, we continually strive to achieve organizational excellence, and Telefilm will continue to maintain its low administrative expenses, not exceeding 6%.
Telefilm's vision for the future is clear: we want Canadian creative content to be accessible and to be viewed everywhere. For nearly 26 years at Telefilm Canada, I have believed in Telefilm's mission more and more each day. I am sentimental and I totally acknowledge that. I am moved by the talent behind the productions we support and truly amazed at the creativity, imagination and performance of our nation's directors, writers, actors and film crews. Each time the magic is created on screen, I experience the same emotion I had as a child when watching The Count of Monte Cristo with my grandmother. I am proud of the work we have accomplished.
In 2017, Telefilm will celebrate its 50th anniversary at the same time as Canada turns 150. The industry we have been asked to develop and promote not only makes a contribution to Canada's economic well-being, but also shines the spotlight on our country throughout the world. Thank you to Michael Spencer—the first executive director of what used to be called the Canadian Film Development Corporation—Gratien Gélinas, and to all the employees who have worked at Telefilm Canada over the past 50 years.
As a final word, I have a dream to share because I am not just sentimental but a perpetual dreamer, as well. I dream of the day when all Canadians will be just as proud of the success of David Gross and Emma Donoghue—respective producer and writer of Room—as they are of the accomplishments of P.K. Subban and the Dufour-Lapointe sisters.
I thank you and I welcome your questions.
We want to leverage this participation with Eurimages. We think being a member of Eurimages would benefit the Canadian producers as well as our Canadian productions. We think it would be beneficial to get more promotion of our Canadian films here in Canada but also abroad.
We already have a Telefilm Canada branding around the promotion of our films, like Perspective Canada that we do in Berlin and Cannes. We would like to expand that brand. This brand is intended for buyers in those big markets. We would like to expand it in more specific markets like Annecy, which is dedicated to animation. We know that Canada right now is really in a boost with animation, and we would like to do it. Also, virtual reality is very big for Canada.
We would also like to expand Perspective Canada in another market, a very specific market. Last year we started a new initiative in the States, See the North, and it's in partnership with TIFF. We're showcasing 10 films across the U.S. We would like to expand that brand as well.
So, it's mostly promotion.
There was one Canadian film that was very successful in the late 2000s, Blindness
. It was very successful internationally to the point that the investment was completely reimbursed. It did approximately $700,000 in the box office in Canada, so when we were talking about successes, strictly based on box office, this film was under the radar.
The other one is The Captive from Atom Egoyan—and there are multiple other examples—that did extremely well also on the international scene. We found that our success needed to be told differently by taking into account and measuring the information about international sales.
Also, as I was saying, 60% of the films we're financing are emerging talent. The way they build their career—Denis Villeneuve is an example—is by being selected in festivals, winning prizes in festivals, and moving onto the index. The index is about telling the story of the successes of our filmmakers in festivals such as Cannes, Karlovy Vary, Locarno, and Berlin. We want to continue improving on that index to get a good matrix.
I'm sorry, we're well over time here.
I would like to ask members, when you wish to ask questions and you want to change and you want to split, to be mindful that when you only have five minutes, you go over time and that affects everyone else, and it affects the ability of our presenters to present. Please let us know if you are changing or if you're splitting well before you do. Thank you very much.
Before we move to the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ms. Brabant, we have one minute, and I want to ask you a question.
First, I want to thank you, Ms. Brabant, for mentioning producers and writers. I think we only focus on actors, and we don't see that we have some of the best and the greatest writers and producers in the world. I want to congratulate you on your focus on animation because, as you well know, not only on animation but on special effects, etc., Canada has become number one in the world. I hope that you recognize, as Mr. DeCourcey said, the ability to move across the country, because British Columbia is number one in the world in terms of special effects in animation.
Second, I just want to ask one thing and that is: how do you see CBC playing a role in helping with distribution? BBC has done that very well for British film, and I wonder if you see CBC with a role to be able to help you with distribution.
Good morning, Madam Chair and honourable members.
I have the honour and privilege of serving as the president and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature.
I am very pleased to be here with you this morning to update you on the activities of the Canadian Museum of Nature.
We're one of Canada's six national museums that together cover art, history, science, innovation, immigration, human rights, and nature. As national museums, we believe that we reflect what Canadians value and that we tell our country's story. Over 150 years ago, the Geological Survey of Canada sent researchers out to map and record Canada's natural wealth. This work became the foundation of the Canadian Museum of Nature. We opened Canada's first national purpose-built museum in 1912 at the Victoria Memorial Museum Building on McLeod Street. We are still there today, with galleries inspired by, and specimens from, the survey's early efforts. Who knew that eventually we would convert that building into a nightclub?
Our reach extends nationally. We maintain nine active full-size travelling exhibitions, nine suitcase exhibits, which have smaller interactive items in displays, and four digital exhibits. These temporary exhibits reach one million visitors each year. In addition to engaging Canadians, our museum has a strong scientific mission. Our team of 24 scientists, paleontologists, botanists, mineralogists, and zoologists go into the field every year to collect and catalogue our environment. Their discoveries form the national natural history collection, a scientific collection of more than 10.5 million specimens. The most important pieces are made accessible to Canadians through our public engagement programs and travelling exhibits.
Through our memberships in key international bodies, for example, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, Canadian data collected by our museum can be used by researchers around the world to understand and benchmark the state of biodiversity, to look at our Arctic, and to enable an understanding of how climate change is affecting our world. In fact, in 2015-16 our digitized data was downloaded 100 million times from the global biodiversity database. From a scientific point of view, this work is more critical than ever, given the global imperative to address climate change and biodiversity loss.
To support our work in 2012, we launched a new approach to operations focused on business sustainability. At that time, almost 90% of our revenue came from the federal government. We needed to increase revenues from museum admissions, pursue innovative sponsorships and partnerships, sustain our scientific knowledge and leadership, and enable more cost-effective operations.
In 2014-15, our combined revenues stood at $42.5 million. Earned revenue accounted for 21% and 79% came from government appropriations. Contributions, sponsorships, and annual giving stood at $2.8 million, a significant increase over the previous years, and we welcomed over 400,000 visitors. This past year we had over 480,000 visitors on site, and we reached an additional million visitors through our travelling exhibits across Canada and around the world.
I want to give you a sneak peek of this past year. Over $6.1 million in value was committed to the life and future of the museum through cash collections and in-kind contributions. I must point out that about $3 million of that was media sponsorship from The Globe and Mail.
Some 230 volunteers give their time and talent to help support the mission and mandate of the institution. Our researchers spent 170 days in the field across Canada and around the globe, advancing our role as a creator of knowledge about the natural world and furthering our research. Our scientists place a high value on their days in the field. They share what they find through over 90 publications, ensuring that our knowledge of plants, animals, fossils, and minerals inspires understanding and respect for nature.
On the programming side, we brought many innovative exhibits and programs—from Creatures of Light, about the nature of bioluminescence, to Animal Inside Out. More recently, it was all about bugs, live and otherwise—the ones we wanted in the building, not the ones we didn't want.
I have to tell you about Nature Nocturne. Now in its third year, it continues to sell out almost every time. I say “almost” because for the last one we had 20 tickets available at the last minute. This is a novel concept to engage young professionals—we call them “adult visitors”. Nature Nocturne opens at the museum at night and it marries our science and exhibits in a very informal atmosphere—two dance floors, nine bars. The first two hours they're in the galleries, the last two hours they're engaged with one another.
Where has all of this innovation taken us? Today, we're a museum of international first rank, a trusted source of understanding, providing evidence-based insights, and inspiring experiences and real engagement with nature's past, present, and future.
Ms. Beckel, thank you very much for your presentation.
I want to take a moment, too, to acknowledge, in Ms. Brabant's testimony, the reference to Corner Gas, and I'd like to make mention of the fact that I appeared on Corner Gas for exactly one minute.
Voices: Oh, oh!
After 10 years of appearing for three hours every morning on national news, I'm known on the street as “that guy on Corner Gas”, which I think is a testament to the power of excellent Canadian drama and as a Corner Gas friend, I say it is a drama; it is not a comedy. It has to be taken very seriously—very seriously.
Also, in reference to my colleague next to me who's from New Brunswick, I have to make mention of Mr. O'Neill's talking about The Rooms. As a former board member of The Rooms for 10 years and co-chair of the campaign that he referenced concerning Beaumont-Hamel, I can just say that the people at The Rooms are delighted with the work we're doing together on Beaumont-Hamel. I thank you for it.
Ms. Beckel, I want to come back to you. I want to ask you about your mission, which I know is to inspire respect and understanding for the natural world. In that mission, you reference the fact that your purpose has not changed, but the world around us has. Can you tell us how the world has changed and how that's reflected in your mandate?
When we refer to the world around us having changed, we are also saying that the way we connect with our visitors has changed dramatically. That's how we as an institution have had to change the way we operate, the way we create, design, and deliver visitor experiences that enable people to engage with the natural world. Whether through school visit programming or otherwise, we recognize that we need to find ways to reach more school visitors, because not everybody can afford to come to the nation's capital to have an experience. We've developed an “eye chat” program whereby we enable kids from other places to connect with our scientists and with our educators.
We're also recognizing that from a research point of view, we need not and cannot do it on our own. We need to collaborate with other natural history museums, with universities, and with natural history museums from around the world, because as most of you know, research is highly collaborative, and it usually engages scientists from all over the world. That is something we're embracing more and more, and we need to fund it.
That's a great question, and thank you, because I didn't get to this in my remarks.
The Canadian Museum of Nature was basically founded for and was an early participant in the original Canadian Arctic Expedition, so we've been exploring the Arctic for over 100 years. We've been incorporating the collection and the knowledge derived from that collection into our public programming since that time.
More currently, over the last five years we've been engaged in a specific five-year program to tell the Arctic story to our visitors through public programming, through travelling exhibits, and through higher engagement in our research programs with other Arctic museums, the other national museums of the Arctic Council.
We're also working with partners, especially people from the north. We have established an Arctic gallery advisory panel to guide us in creating our Canada 150 celebratory gift to Canada, which will be an Arctic gallery dedicated to telling the story of the Arctic past, present, and future through diverse lenses: a lens on ecosystems, a lens on the geography of the Arctic, a lens on sustainability, but also a lens on climate change, helping visitors understand how the climate has changed and how that has affected the ecosystems that the natural world is so dependent on, but also that the human world is so dependent on in the north.
It's in two ways. It's in the gallery, which is still in preliminary design—we're still sorting out exactly the most compelling and clear way of doing that. We're talking about changes in the amount of biodiversity in the north.
Regarding the ecosystems, we will talk about the diversity of life in the north and how it has changed, and how it has also adapted to the changes to the climate. Think of the story of the polar bear; there are some areas where the polar bears are really struggling, and others where they're thriving. That's part of the story we will tell.
From a sustainability point of view, we're really learning from our partners from the north about how people are adapting to the changes in the environment so that they can sustain their livelihoods, whether that's from living off the land, from developing new art forms, taking advantage of what is available in the north, but also through—
I have lots of questions that came from other questions, and it's of interest to me very much.
The first one is about schools. I'm an educator by trade, in my first life, and you bring that with you as you move forward.
How are we connecting with schools? Yes, we are connecting. We're going to get kids showing up here. Most of them are going to be from the surrounding areas, but not the people from Edmonton, Alberta, or from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, etc.
We might be sending materials out. You talked about the iChat, which I really like, but if I were to do a survey—I was superintendent of all the French schools in Nova Scotia for the last 11 years—I'm not sure any of them would know anything about iChat.
Try to help me better understand, in one minute of course.
Our strategic focus right now is to continue to transform Canadians' understanding of the Arctic and its importance to Canada as a country. I think we'll touch on not only the natural environment but also its effect on people.
We'll also be engaging in and continuing the conversation around species discovery and change and around how climate change particularly is affecting species diversity and species change. We'll do that with partners, and there are different lenses on doing that.
Over the next five years we're going to be reaching out and looking at different lenses on nature.
For example, an economic lens on nature and the notion of natural capital is something that we're now engaged in conversations on with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Ecofiscal Commission, and some of the major banks that are very seized with the reality that as the environment changes, the way they evaluate their own business is going to have to change.
We want to be part of that story, because we are the benchmark; we're the yardstick of nature over time. We have the evidence of how the world is changing.
Good morning, Madam Chair and members of the committee.
My name is Albert Lo. I am the chairperson of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. I am accompanied by Rubin Friedman.
Mr. Friedman is a member of the foundation's board of directors and chair of our governance committee.
Incidentally, he once held senior positions in multiculturalism and acted as the director of the Japanese-Canadian Redress Secretariat with the Government of Canada.
Madam Chair, it is an honour for me to serve in this capacity as chair. It is my 30th year in the area of human rights, employment equity, and multiculturalism. I was first exposed to this arena when I was with the federal public service through Canada Mortgage and Housing, where for I worked for almost 20 years.
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation was created as a non-agent crown corporation as part of the Japanese-Canadian Redress Agreement of 1988, operating on income generated from a $24-million endowment, half of which was contributed by the Japanese Canadian community. The foundation has a very large mandate to help eliminate racism and racial discrimination across Canada. We have also received limited amounts of funding from governments for specific projects. We are mindful of the past injustices and negative instances, while building on our precious heritage of accommodating differences. Our vision is to be the leading voice and agent of change in pursuit of our mandate and the promotion of inclusion, belonging, and a mutuality of citizenship rights and responsibilities.
We focus on advancing understanding and development of approaches to improving race relations and eliminating racial discrimination; strengthening Canadian identity as it refers to the democratic principles of inherent human dignity, equality, fairness, and justice; expanding our clearinghouse and initiatives to inform national policies and public conversations; and facilitating and stimulating the discussions and further research on race relations.
We target our work to creating and nurturing an inclusive society based on equality, mutual respect, and human dignity across religious, ethnic, linguistic, and racial lines.
A key antidote to racism and racial discrimination is the holistic approach to promoting these shared values based on our Constitution and democracy, along with an awareness of the negative consequences of prejudice and discrimination for the economic and social well-being of all Canadians.
Madam Chair, these elements inform and shape our overall strategy. The foundation's initiatives are all designed accordingly.
Now I would like to mention a number of initiatives that the foundation has undertaken.
The Capturing the Pulse of the Nation initiative is an annual survey, in co-operation with the Association for Canadian Studies. For instance, we commissioned a research on attitudes toward aboriginal peoples in Canada, which sounded a warning in 2013.
The Directions digital publication is an electronic journal.
Our clearinghouse function is a valuable and growing collection of well over 4,000 searchable digital records of resources relating to race relations.
We also have the eRACE virtual book club.
The digital initiative 150 Stories, which is part of the Our Canada project, publishes one personal story per week for 150 weeks, in celebration of Canada's upcoming sesquicentennial, paying tribute to Canada's diversity, democratic principles, and multiculturalism through the experiences of individuals, organizations, and historic events.
We also conducted The Urban Agenda round tables in partnership with many other organizations.
We have held nine Living Together symposia so far across Canada on research and best practices in shared values. The symposia were built upon community consultations between November 2014 and June 2015: first nations, Métis, and Inuit consultation in Sudbury; francophone consultation in Montreal; and faith leaders consultation in Ottawa.
We are conducting 24 workshops in 19 cities across Canada in the last fiscal year, 2015-16, and 23 have been completed so far.
We also host a biennial national conference and awards of excellence.
The Canada Lecture is an annual lecture that invites accomplished Canadians to raise awareness and understanding of critical issues. This year we have done it by linking up four universities across Canada.
We continue to involve ourselves in the Metropolis conference.
In terms of engaging youth, Voices into Action is one particular initiative. We also launched a youth video challenge. Youth Café Canada is being planned for youth and community leaders to explore ideas to foster positive race relations.
Several years ago, around 2009, a consultant was hired by the Department of Multiculturalism to look into what we did. Part of the report said that at the time of the report, the foundation was really part of the chorus of protest groups. However, when they looked further, they said that based on the strategic direction that we adopted and the indicators that they had looked at, including the media reports and the surveys that were done across the country with various stakeholders and interested parties, they were beginning to see some hopeful signs.
Of course, then it evolved to the time that we actually had to prove ourselves in order to qualify for some funding in the form of grants and contributions from the department. We were looked at by a host of auditors, not counting the annual audit by the Auditor General and all the surveys. In fact, Postmedia group were so pleased with the work that we did that they decided to partner with us along with the Laurier Institution in Vancouver, for example, and various universities. Our reach is definitely expanding and growing.
People were saying they were excited, particularly young people. A number of them have come knocking on our door wanting to volunteer, because they feel that they can have a place to work and can be part of a solution.
Well, in relation to, for example, the refugees and immigrants, we actually met as a board and committees just in the last few weeks. One of the things that was decided upon was that going forward we'll continue to work with the universities and municipalities, and by the way, the foundation is a founding member of the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities against Racism and Discrimination. We have discovered that a lot of work needs to be done in order to help the immigrants and refugees who arrive in this country. As they settle in, we have to work on communicating with them and helping them with settlement and particularly with the youth. If we don't do anything in terms of helping them to understand the systems and practices in Canada and how they can contribute to the best of their ability, there are other forces at work. There's a danger of radicalization. This is an area that we have spent quite a bit of time focusing on as well.
We want to address those issues. Young people need to be engaged. Their creative juices need to be flowing somewhere, and so we are bringing them together and creating, for example, as I mentioned, the Youth Café Canada, which is an example of engaging particularly the young people among the immigrants and the refugee groups.
As far as the universities are concerned, they are very pleased. On March 21, we had Canada Lecture 2016. We hooked up with UBC, University of Ottawa, Université de Montréal, and the Edmunston campus of Moncton University, and it was well attended by students across the country. They were also able to access it and participate through the Internet.
Thank you, Mr. Lo. I'm very sorry, but we went a little over the five minutes there. I wanted you to answer the question.
Thank you very much. We've come to the end of our question session.
I wanted to take the opportunity to ask you a question. I have a deep sense of interest in the Race Relations Foundation, since I was the minister who launched the Race Relations Foundation longer ago than I would care to remember. This is what I wanted to know. You're called the Race Relations Foundation, but I've heard Mr. Friedman say there is more. There's now religion that is becoming an issue we need to look at. How do you see yourself evolving? I'm very interested in the progress and evolution of your group.
First, how do you see yourself evolving to include things such as religious discrimination? How do you see yourself broadening to look at LGBTQ discrimination? These are strong areas of discrimination, some of which include violence, so I'd like to know where you see your role in moving forward in that evolutionary process.
My second question is about public awareness. I think there used to be a high profile for the Race Relations Foundation at one time in terms of your public awareness. How are you using digital media and how are you working with television, etc., to make sure that more than just youth know what you're doing, so that schools know what you're doing and that the public by and large is informed by your work and is able to see your awareness programs going further?
Thank you very much, Mr. Lo. I want to thank you and Mr. Friedman for coming to visit with us today.
We have a couple of minutes. I just wanted to let the public and of course our members know that we were supposed to have met as well with the chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, Mr. Lassonde, but Mr. Lassonde has become ill. I want us to wish him well and a return to good health in the future, but we may need to decide as a committee how we meet with Mr. Lassonde when he gets better and returns to good health. The Canada Council for the Arts is going to be receiving a great deal of money, and we want to make sure that we know how they intend to spend it in terms of accountability issues.
Finally, I don't know how everyone feels, but I thought this was an extremely good exercise. I was wondering if as a committee we might believe that every year we should be able to bring forward in one meeting these particular groups, just to see what and how they're doing and assess their progress and evolution.
Does everyone think that's a good idea?
Some hon. members: Yes.
The Chair: Thank you. Good. I got a good sense of yesses around the room, and I heard no noes. Thank you very much.
Mr. Van Loan, may we have a motion to adjourn?