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December 12, 2000

Protecting National Culture in the Era of Globalization:
Ukrainians Study the Canadian Experience

Ukraine is a country that has a long history and rich cultural traditions. Canada, on the other hand, is a young country, whose national culture is still not sharply defined. A visit of a high-profile Ukrainian parliamentary delegation to study Canadian culture may thus come as a surprise. However, when one looks at the geopolitical situation of both nations, parallels become more obvious: Ukraine and Canada face similar challenges to their national, especially popular, cultures from their powerful next-door neighbours, Russia and the United States. Mechanisms to promote and protect national culture in the age of globalization became the focus of the first module of Canada Ukraine Legislative and Intergovernmental Project (CULIP) titled "Creating Policy and Legislative Mechanisms to Develop National Culture and Mass Media."

The delegation composed of three members of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (Parliament), two members of the Cabinet of Ministers as well as members of the Rada Secretariat, regional representatives and experts visited several Canadian centres from November 4 to November 19. The working visit was designed by the project’s partners: the governments of Canada, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta. The CULIP office of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) coordinated the visit and the Canadian Ukrainian Congress provided community liaison representatives at each location.

The working visit was divided and organized into two parts. The federal program was designed by Bill Balan, Regional Executive Director, Prairie and NWT Region of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Mr. Balan, the Canadian Sector Specialist, or advisor, for the module, began his work by participating in a series of seminars at the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv before the group departed for Canada.

The group first arrived in Montreal and then went on to Ottawa. In these tow cities delegation familiarized itself with the work of the Department of Canadian Heritage and a number of its agencies. As traditional government support for culture in Ukraine has dried up because of the economic crisis, members of the group expressed particular interest in ways of funding for the cultural sector in a market economy and the role of federal agencies such as Telefilm Canada, National Film Board, CBC and Canada Council in promoting national culture. Ukrainian lawmakers led by Les Taniuk, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Culture, Oleksander Zinchenko, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information, and Ivan Drach, Chairman of the State Committee for Information Policy, Television and Radio were especially interested in the regulatory work of Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC).

While in Ottawa, in addition to their meetings with Canadian Heritage officials, the delegation also visited the Parliament of Canada, where Senator Gerald Beaudoin greeted them and spoke on Canadian parliamentary procedure. Yuri Shcherbak, Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada, hosted a reception for the group, which was also attended by Canadian government officials and representatives of Ukrainian community.

After Ottawa, the group went to Toronto, where the focus of the program was on the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation and its agencies, the Ontario Arts Council and Ontario Film Development Corporation as well as the public broadcaster TV Ontario. The delegation also visited the private broadcasters CFMT and CityTV. At the Ontario Provincial Legislature the delegation was met by Honourable Gary Carr, Speaker of the Legislature.

During the federal portion of the program the delegation had the oportunity to meet with the Canadian Heritage Minister, the Honourable Sheila Copps, and the Minister of International Development, the Honourable Maria Minna. The latter is responsible for Canadian International Development Agency, which funds CULIP.

The delegation was then divided into three groups for the provincial programs in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Each group was briefed on the participation of the respective governments in developing provincial policies on culture as well as on funding for the arts at provincial and municipal levels. Visits to flagship cultural institutions as well as meetings with non-profit organizations and privately owned cultural venues completed and balanced the picture of Canadian culture for the guests.

The Manitoba group led by Les Taniuk was hosted by the Deputy Premier of Manitoba and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Honourable Jean Friesen. The Saskatchewan delegation led by Hanna Chmil, Deputy Minister of Culture of Ukraine, which met with Speaker of Legislature, the Honourable Ron Osika, and was also hosted at a reception and banquet by the Honourable Jack Hillson, Minister of Municipal Affairs, Culture and Housing. The Alberta delegation was hosted by Dave Broda M.L.A., Chair of the Advisory Committee on Alberta Ukraine Relations. Ivan Drach, head of the Alberta delegation, was a keynote speaker at the Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Alberta Provincial Council's 25th Anniversary Banquet.

The Ukrainian delegation was also very interested in the issues of multiculturalism and the life of Ukrainians in Canada. In each city they met with representatives of the Ukrainian community and attended official functions. After two weeks of engaging meetings the delegations returned to Kyiv.

The recently completed working visit was the first major activity of the CULIP, the startup of which was recently announced in Kyiv on September 27 by the Honourable Maria Minna. The project builds on the success of the Canada Ukraine Legislative Cooperation Project which was also managed by the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies. During its term of 3.5 years the project will oversee six programs involving study tours, consultation with experts, and seminars organized for Ukrainian legislators, government officials and experts.


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