By Natalie Sit
In the past few weeks, you might have noticed a number of book reviews in the Buzz section of the Gauntlet. Two of the books didn’t fair too well with the writers, and both shared a similar characteristic: both authors are Canadian and received grants to help them out.
It’s frustrating to experience Canadian talent. On one hand, we’re proud they’re Canadian and making it, but on the other, it’s embarrassing they aren’t–for lack of a better word–better. This feeling of national shame can be traced to legislated Canadian content. The Canadian Radio-Television Commission dictates radio stations must play 30 per cent Canadian programming and television stations must broadcast 60 per cent.
But this is a mistake by the Canadian government. People like something because it’s good and not because it’s Canadian. And before anyone thinks this will bring the end of Canadian culture, let’s take a look at Canadian history.
It’s a tale about surviving. When the first Europeans landed on our fair shores, they weren’t ready for the harsh winters and land. But they made it. The natives made it through smallpox, shifty land deals and reservations. Granted, their current situation isn’t ideal, but they’ll make it. If you can survive the European invasion, you can do just about anything. Most immigrants who become Canadian citizens probably survived unimaginable living conditions in their homeland. Let’s face it, any nation that can weather a separatist opposition that’s "loyal to the queen" and constitutional talks deserves a bit more credit. Canada’s been around for 134 years, it’ll probably be around for another 134.
Given that Canadian culture is here to stay, a majority of Canadians still pass it by. Even 31 years of legislated Canadian content hasn’t made a dent in the recording industry. Listeners don’t pick an artist because she’s Canadian. Instead, it’s because they like her sound or music video. And this circumvents the spirit of Canadian content legislation.
We all want to be proud of Canadians. We delight in pointing out Canucks who make it. But forced Canadian content creates a mediocrity on both sides. Artists can fall back onto grants if they need it and Canadians will view any Canadian work as inferior because the artist had government help.
By all means, let’s support Canadian culture–just not at the expense of quality.