Canada Council for the Arts/Conseil des arts du Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Canada Council for the Arts/Conseil des arts du Canada

The Canada Council for the Arts/Conseil des arts du Canada. Corporation constituted 28 March 1957 by an Act of Parliament, its principal objectives being 'to foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts'.
The 1869 Jean Baptiste Vuillaume violin with Vuillaume model bow. This violin of Del Ges\u00f9 model was made in Paris, France by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume at the zenith of his career. The violin bears the master's signature on the inside upper back, as well as his number and brand stamp. A 2009 loan from Greg Cook of Stouffville, Ontario, it is in near mint condition with an estimated value of 0 000. It is accompanied by a Vuillaume model bow, also in near mint condition, valued at 000 (courtesy Canada Council).

Canada Council for the Arts/Conseil des arts du Canada

The Canada Council for the Arts/Conseil des arts du Canada. Corporation constituted 28 March 1957 by an Act of Parliament, its principal objectives being 'to foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts'. To fulfil this mandate, the Canada Council, located in Ottawa, offers a broad range of grants and services to professional artists and to professional arts organizations. The Council also maintains the secretariat for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, administers the Killam Program of scholarly awards and prizes, and offers a number of other prestigious awards, including the Virginia Parker Prize.

The origin of the Council may be traced back to the period following the end of World War II, when a volunteer organization, the Canadian Arts Council, consisting of personalities from the artistic world, patrons of the arts, and cultural groups, came into being. This council sought the creation of a royal commission into the development of arts, literature, and science, and such a commission in fact was established by the Canadian government in 1949 under the chairmanship of Vincent Massey. It was called the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences (Massey Commission). Its report, submitted in 1951, recommended that a publicly supported arts council be formed. The aforementioned Canadian Arts Council, which took the name Canadian Conference of the Arts in 1958, is not to be confused with the Canada Council which was created in 1957 in response to the Massey Commission's report and which is the subject of this article.

The Canada Council is governed by an 11-member board appointed by the Governor in Council. Its decisions on policies, programs, grants, and other matters are implemented by a staff headed by a director and CEO, appointed by the Governor in Council. The Canada Council and its staff rely heavily on the advice and cooperation of advisory committees and of artists and arts professionals from all parts of Canada, who are consulted both individually and collectively. Grant applications and award and prize nominations are assessed by a jury of peers (artists/experts). Peer committees are balanced, taking into account professional experience and expertise, diversity of philosophy and practice, region, gender, age and cultural identity. Members of peer committees change frequently and no two peer committees are the same, with members subject to a comprehensive conflict of interest policy. The Council also works in close cooperation with federal and provincial cultural agencies and departments.

Created by Parliament to operate as an arm's-length agency, the Council sets its own policies and makes its own decisions within the terms of the Canada Council Act. It manages its own investments and controls its own expenditures and grants. The Canada Council reports to Parliament through the Minister of Canadian Heritage and is called from time to time to appear before parliamentary committees, particularly the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Its accounts are audited by the Auditor General of Canada and included in the Council's Annual Report to Parliament.

Parliamentary Appropriation

A parliamentary appropriation is the Canada Council's main source of funds. This appropriation was approximately $180 million in 2009-10. The Council can receive and has over the years received a number of private donations and bequests, the income from which is devoted to the purposes established by the deeds of gift.

The Council has developed over 100 programs of support which are modified regularly to meet the changing needs of the arts community. Six sections are responsible for the overall development of specific art forms. They are: Dance, Music, Theatre, Writing and Publishing, Visual Arts, and Media Arts. Four other sections complement their work: the Inter-Arts Office develops strategies and polices and manages grant programs that support research, creation, production, dissemination, touring, and service and development activities by Canadian integrated and contemporary circus arts professionals and arts organizations; the Equity Office advances the guiding principle of equity throughout the Canada Council to positively impact the Canadian arts sector and through it, the general public; the Audience and Market Development office provides grants and services to help professional Canadian artists reach Canadian and international audiences and maintains on-line directories of presenters and other material useful to artists who want to develop new audiences and markets for their work; and the Aboriginal Arts Office collaborates with the Aboriginal Arts Advisory Committee and with all sections of the Canada Council to support Aboriginal Peoples artistic practices in all arts disciplines. The Canada Council Art Bank purchases works by visual artists and rents them for display in government departments, non-profit organizations and businesses across Canada. In 1997, the Council integrated the functions of the Touring Office with those of the disciplinary offices (Music is a disciplinary office) so that each would operate their own touring grant programs. In the fiscal year 2009-10, from a total amount of some $145,104,000 allotted as grants in arts programs, the Music Section provided $29,443,093 in grants to individuals and organizations; of this amount, the Music Section allocated $1,320,000 in touring grants -, and the Endowments and Prizes section awarded $231,700 in prizes.

Arts Disciplines Division

The Arts Disciplines Division is responsible for managing the development and operation of the Canada Council's grant programs which provide support to Canadian artists and arts organizations.

Music Section

Through the Music Section, the Canada Council for the Arts provides support for the development of individuals, groups, small ensembles, orchestras and other professionals working in the Canadian music community. In addition to tours, concert production and recording support, the Music Section funds a variety of related activities such as residencies and the commissioning of Canadian compositions and recognizes over 100 genres of music in Canada. The mission of the Music Section is to support the on-going development of outstanding Canadian music created, performed, produced and disseminated by professional Canadian artists and arts organizations expressing Canadian cultural, creative and intellectual diversity for Canadian and international publics. All Canada Council for the Arts programs are accessible to Aboriginal artists and Canadian artists from diverse cultural and regional communities in Canada.

Musical Instrument Bank

The Council's Musical Instrument Bank was established in 1985 to acquire quality instruments and to lend them to outstanding Canadian musicians. Its first instrument, a Tecchler cello bought in 1987, was entrusted to Denis Brott. In 1988 the violinist Scott St John won the first national competition for the loan of the Windsor-Weinstein Stradivarius. Since then, through a series of generous donations and loans, it has grown to include 15 instruments. These violins, cellos and bows are among the most valued in the world, made by celebrated luthiers including Stradivari, Gagliano, and Pressenda. Every 3 years, talented musicians from across the country compete during 4 days of intense competition before a jury of professional musicians for use of the instruments.


Chars of the Canada Council have been Brooke Claxton 1957-60, Claude Bissell 1960-2, Douglas B. Weldon 1962-4, Jean Martineau 1964-9, John G. Prentice 1969-74, Brian Flemming (interim) 1974-5, Gertrude M. Laing 1975-8, Mavor Moore 1979-83, Maureen Forrester 1983-8, Allan Gotlieb 1989-94, Donna Scott 1994-98, Jean-Louis Rioux 1998-2003, and Karen Kain 2004-9, succeeded in 2010 by Joseph L. Rotman. Directors have been Albert W. Trueman 1957-65, Jean Boucher 1965-9, Peter M. Dwyer 1969-71, Robert Élie (interim) 1971-2, André Fortier 1972-5, Charles A. Lussier 1976-81, Timothy Porteous 1982-5, Peter Roberts 1985-8, Joyce Zemans 1989-92, Paule Leduc 1992-4, Roch Carrier 1994-7, Shirley Thomson 1998-2002, and John Hobday 2003-6, succeeded in 2006 by Robert Sirman. The post of head of the Music Section, created in 1966, was held by Gilles Potvin in 1966, Guy Huot 1966-73, Hugh Davidson 1973-8, Franz Kraemer 1979-85, and Louise Laplante 1986-8, Joanne Morrow 1989-1995, Micheline Lesage 1995-2001, succeeded by Russell Kelley in 2001.


Over the years, the policies of the Canada Council often have been subject to criticism and discussion in the public forum and in the media. Considering the relatively limited funds at its disposal, pressure groups have questioned and have continued to question the criteria governing the allocation of grants to individuals or subsidies to organizations. Some have reproached the council, claiming that it has encouraged the arts only at the highest professional level, that it has practised a certain elitism, and that it has not been sufficiently interested in artistic activity at the regional level and among the masses. Others have defended the council on its record, pointing to the extraordinary stimulus it has provided, manifest in the vast increase in the products and activities of all the arts since its creation in 1957.

Many EMC articles contain references to grants, subsidies, and commissions by the Canada Council.

See also Awards; Canada Council Medal.

Selected Publications

Statements and Speeches
Fortier, André. Is There a Future for the Symphony Orchestra in Canada? / L'Orchestre symphonique a-t-il un avenir au Canada? (1974)

- The Canada Council and the Francophone Community in the North American Context / Le Conseil des arts et la francophonie canadienne dans le contexte nord-americain (1975)

- Careers and Markets in the Arts / Carrières et débouchés dans le monde des arts (1975)

Lussier, Charles A. Music Development in a Restrained Economy / Développement musical et restrictions financières (1976)

- Public-Private Partnership in the Arts / Mécénat privé et mécénat public (1976)

Porteous, Timothy. The Arts in Canada: A Better Way? / Les Arts au Canada sont-ils plus favorisés qu'aux États-Unis? (1976)

- The Canada Council and the Arts in Saskatchewan / Le Conseil des arts et la vie artistique en Saskatchewan (1976)

Lussier, Charles A. The Canada Council: The Principle of Excellence and Its Implications in a Democratic Society / Le Conseil des arts du Canada, en quête d'excellence dans une société démocratique (1977)

Porteous, Timothy. The Arts in the Canadian Community / Les Arts dans la communauté canadienne (1977)

- Culture and Confederation / Culture et confédération (1978)

Moore, J. Mavor. The Canada Council in the 1980s: The Applebaum-Hébert Report and Beyond / Le Conseil des arts du Canada dans les années quatre-vingts: après le Rapport Applebaum-Hébert (1983).

Studies, Briefs, Other Texts

Canada Council Information Service. Readings on the Governing Boards of Arts Organizations / Glanures sur les conseils d'administration des entreprises artistiques (Mar 1971)

Pasquill, Frank T. Subsidy Patterns for the Performing Arts in Canada / Modes d'assistance financière aux arts du spectacle au Canada (Feb 1973)

Sullivan, Mary C. The Group of Twenty-Nine / Le Groupe des vingt-neuf (Oct 1973)

Dept of Manpower and Immigration. An Analysis of Selected Performing Arts Occupations / Analyse de certains emplois dans le domaine des arts du spectacle (Jul 1974)

Urwick, Currie and Partners Ltd. An Assessment of the Impact of Selected Large Performing Companies upon the Canadian Economy / Incidence de certaines grandes compagnies de spectacle sur l'économie canadienne (Sep 1974)

Cameron, Duncan. The Arts in Canada 1975: Viewpoint / Les Arts au Canada en 1975 (May 1975)

Twenty plus Five / Vingt et cinq (Nov 1977)

Blume, Helmut. A National Music School for Canada / Une École nationale de musique pour le Canada (Mar 1978)


CMJ, vol 1, Spring 1957, issue devoted to music and the Canada Council

Canada Council. Annual Reports (1958- )

Briggs, John. "Wilfrid Pelletier talks on the Canada Council," International Musician, May 1962

Leopold, Douglas. "The Canada Council views the arts: an interview with Charles Lussier," OpCan, Sep 1976

Gwyn, Sandra. "The Canada Council had the right people in the right places at the right time," SatN, Jun 1977

Fraser, John. "A cheerless celebration for the arts," Toronto Globe and Mail, 24 Sep 1977

Ostry, Bernard. The Cultural Connection (Toronto 1978)

Fulford, Robert. "The Canada Council at twenty-five," SatN, Mar 1982

Moore, Mavor. "The chairman's case," SatN, May 1982

- "Guardian of the arts: The Canada Council celebrates its 25th birthday, OpCan, vol 23, Spring 1982

Hayes, Florence. "Canada Council's role ready for redefining after 25 years," MSc, 326, Jul-Aug 1982

Mailhot, Laurent, and Melançon, Benoît. Le Conseil des arts du Canada, 1957-1982 (Montreal 1982)

Fulford, Robert. "Federal offence," SatN, Sep 1984

Flohil, Richard. "This 'bank' works," CanComp, 224, Oct 1987

Pearson, Peter. "Helping us see ourselves," Montreal Gazette, 6 Oct 1990

Granatstein, Jack Lawrence. "Culture and scholarship: The first ten years of the Canada Council," Canadian Music: Issues of Hegemony and Identity, ed Beverley Diamond and Robert Witmer (Toronto 1994)

Aspects of Music in Canada

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