Wednesday, 2 December 2015

LAC marginalized in Canadian Heritage Ministerial Briefing Books

With the new government's policy on openness we can read not only the mandate letter sent by the Prime Minister to each Minister, but also the briefing books prepared by the departments for their incoming ministers.

The material provided to the new Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly isn't quite as open as the mandate letter. To read it you have to request a password by emailing That provides access to four zipped files, English and French versions, one for Sport Canada, one for Canadian Heritage. The latter, much larger, is a zipped file of 93,2MB with 44 documents including 20 PowerPoint files.

Here's the table of contents which forms the first Canadian Heritage file

A. Departmental Overview
1. Canadian Heritage Overview
2. Senior Management Biographies

B. Grants and Contributions
1. An Introduction to Grants and Contributions at Canadian Heritage
2. Grants and Contributions Modernization Action Plan

C. Cultural Affairs Sector
1. Overview
2. Key Responsibilities
a. Arts Policy and Programs
b. Cultural Industries
c. Broadcasting and Digital Communications
d. Copyright Policy
e. Cultural and Trade Negotiations
f. Administration of Investment Canada Act
3. Key Files
a. Let’s Talk TV
b. Court Cases Against the Department Involving the Administration of the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit Program
4. Stakeholders

D. Citizenship, Heritage and Regions Sector
1. Overview
2. Key Responsibilities
a. Aboriginal Peoples Program
b. Official Languages
c. Youth and Engagement
d. History and Heritage
3. Stakeholders

E. Sport Major Events and Commemorations Sector
1. Overview
2. Key Responsibilities
a. Major Events, Commemorations and Capital Experience
b. Sport Canada
3. Key Files
a. 2017 Games of La Francophonie
b. 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro
c. North American Indigenous Games in Toronto (2017 or 2018)
d. Appointment of Administrators to Act on Behalf of Lieutenant Governors
e. Celebrate Canada
f. National Memorial to Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan
4. Stakeholders

F. Strategic Policy, Planning and Corporate Affairs Sector
1. Overview
2. Key Responsibilities
a. The Human Rights Program at Canadian Heritage
3. Key Files
a. Memoranda of Understanding on Cultural Cooperation
b. Reporting on United Nations Human Rights Treaties
4. Stakeholders

G. Key Services to Minister
1. Communications
2. Departmental Liaison
3. Cabinet and Parliamentary Affairs
4. Portfolio Affairs Office
5. Ministerial Correspondence Secretariat
6. Access to Information and Privacy Secretariat
7. Administrative Support to the Minister and Minister’s Office

In "What Canadian Heritage Officials Didn’t Tell Minister Mélanie Joly About Copyright" Michael Geist, Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa, has already commented that part of the briefing book presents "a version of Canadian copyright lacking in balance."

The copyright section isn't unique in that respect.

Where is Library and Archives Canada mentioned?
- on page 8 of the overview document where it is listed by name as one of three organizations in the Canadian Heritage Portfolio one-step removed in degree of autonomy from the government, along with the National Battlefields Commission and the National Film Board of Canada.
- on the following page where Library and Archives Canada is listed as an agency with a FTE (staff complement) of 867, a budget of $94.8M, headed by Guy Berthiaume (who does not merit mention in the following file, the largest in the package, on department biographies.)
- while there is no mention of LAC in the 13 page document on copyright there is a single mention of libraries/archives
- in the 18 page document on History and Heritage there is a single mention of LAC by name, with no detail on the role.

Minister Joly's portfolio of responsibilities is large and complex. There are many issues. But why is the Minister being given such a limited initial briefing on Library and Archives Canada, the largest of the four agencies for which she has responsibility?

Is there hope that the Minister might get a different perspective than that provided in this briefing book? Perhaps with her Google background the Minister's new Chief of Staff, Leslie Church, will bring a more balanced perspective, and even appreciate the LAC digital focus. How about an LAC partnership with Google?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Instead of LAC trying to make itself more accessible and open to the public (it has about 8 thousand likes on Facebook in a country of 30 million) it should try and make itself more visible to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. Too often, this work is left to group reports from the Royal Society of Canada and Canadian Council of Academies that repeatedly state LAC's deficiencies, esp. in digital space.