Speaking notes for Hubert T. Lacroix before the Standing Committee on Official Languages

January 31, 2013, Ottawa

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Chairman, members of the committee, it’s a pleasure to be here this afternoon and to participate in your study on the 150th anniversary of confederation and linguistic duality. I know that the committee postponed this meeting last fall when we were in the midst of our CRTC license renewal hearings and I appreciate your understanding.

CBC/Radio-Canada is already planning a number of activities we hope will help Canadians celebrate 2017 in English and French. I’d like to start by sharing with you a little bit about some of the ideas we’re looking at in terms of programming. Then I’d like to talk about what we believe is our role as a public broadcaster and how we hope to use the 150th anniversary to facilitate discussions among Canadians about their country, this important anniversary and what it means.

CBC/Radio-Canada has the mandate to connect Canadians to their country, their community, and to each other in English, French, and eight Aboriginal languages. We do that every day on our airwaves and increasingly on our digital platforms. Sometimes, we combine the talents of our English and French services to present signature events to Canadians – events which we believe have important national appeal. It was a year ago that CBC/Radio-Canada presented 8th Fire/8ieme feu. You may remember we sent you each a DVD sample. This provocative series explored Canada’s 500 year-old relationship with its indigenous peoples with content on television, radio and on an interactive bilingual website featuring 20 Aboriginal filmmakers from across Canada.

We are also proud that our efforts to support linguistic duality have been recognized by the commissioner of official languages. This past year, the commissioner granted the award of excellence for the promotion of linguistic duality to Bernard St-Laurent, CBC/Radio-Canada journalist and host of the popular C’est la vie which showcases francophone culture from across the country for English listeners on CBC radio.

For CBC/Radio-Canada, the 150th anniversary will be the culmination of several years of important Canadian anniversaries. We intend to play a significant role in sharing these events with Canadians and in building the momentum towards 2017.

Our road to confederation includes the anniversaries of the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences, as well as the 200th anniversary of the birth of John A. Macdonald in 2015.

2014 marks 100 years of Nellie McClung and the women’s rights movement in Canada. In 2016, we’ll celebrate the centenary of the National Hockey League.

Between now and 2017, there are many important anniversaries like the 100th anniversary of the battles of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele of the great war; the 75th anniversary of the world war two battle for Dieppe and the 70th anniversaries of D-day and Ortona.

In 2017, we’ll also celebrate the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal and the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 – a defining moment for the country and for the French fact in Canada.

There are other anniversaries as well. As monsieur Godin has rightly pointed out to this committee, 2014 marks the 260th anniversary of the deportation of Acadians.

I would also like to point out our ongoing preparations to bring Canadians the Olympics in Sochi in 2014 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and the Pan Am and ParaPan Am games in Toronto in 2015. We’re delighted to be bringing Canadians the Olympics in English and French and, while they aren’t technically part of the 150th celebrations, our experience has been that these international sporting events are a fantastic way to bring Canadians together.

Over the coming months, we’ll be making decisions about how our program schedules will mark these important anniversaries leading up to 2017.

A few of you may remember that in 1967, CBC/Radio-Canada used its presence across the country to engage Canadians in celebrating the centennial of confederation. We want to do the same thing for the 150th. Last August; we announced Canada 150/ 2017 Starts Now, a plan for a series of conferences across the country to help generate excitement about the 150th. We want to ensure that there is a public space where communities can gather to share their stories about Canada, and begin planning activities to celebrate this important milestone. It will also help CBC/Radio-Canada gather ideas and content to share on all of our platforms.

The conferences will be supported through an interactive website where Canadians can join in the conversation regardless of where they live. It will be launched soon and we’ll be asking Canadians to contribute their own content to this site in the months ahead.

Canada 150/ 2017 Starts Now is a partnership between CBC/Radio-Canada, Via Rail, and Community Foundations of Canada. Earlier this week, we announced dates and locations for the conferences in every region of the country. The final, national conference will be held in Ottawa on June 27th, just before Canada Day – which of course will be another important broadcast day for us. These conferences and related activities are also being produced in collaboration with Canadian organizations already at work on planning 2017 celebrations including YMCA Canada, National Association of Friendship Centres, imagiNation 150 and Charlottetown 2014.

Strategic partnerships with corporations, communities, and government organizations will help all of us leverage our resources in support of 2017. I am aware that members of this committee have expressed concerns about CBC/Radio-Canada’s ability to manage its budget cuts and still provide programming appropriate to highlight the upcoming anniversaries. There’s no question it’s a challenge. There is no limit to the programming ideas we would like to pursue, but like all organizations, we need to manage what we have in a time of shrinking resources.

Let me give you an idea of the challenge. Last year the CRTC’s local program improvement fund allowed us to be present at the Canadian francophone games in Sudbury, national Acadian day in Tracadie-Sheila, the 2012 Annee des Fransaskois in Saskatchewan and the 150th anniversary of the village of St. Albert in Alberta. The phasing out of the LPIF, makes finding the resources for these kinds of events a challenge. It is likely that we will no longer be able to cover these kinds of events in the manner that we have in the past.

How much we can do will ultimately depend on the partnerships we can establish but CBC/Radio-Canada intends to continue to play a leadership role in bringing Canadians together to share in these important national events. We’re very excited about the lead up to the 150th and we look forward to offering exciting Canadian programming to our audiences.

I would be pleased to take your questions.

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