Canada is carpet-bombed daily by American culture and
entertainment. Occasionally, Canadians bridle under the onslaught.
This periodic expression of defiance known as "cultural
nationalism" is stirring again:
- A new Canadian country music channel persuaded regulators
earlier this year to remove from cable television an American-owned
competitor with 10 years of operation in Canada. Last month the
jilted Americans asked the Canadian Federal Appeals Court to
reverse the decision.
- Canadian magazine publishers, alarmed by a special
Canadian-focus edition of Sports Illustrated, are pressing for a
high tax on such U.S. encroachments, which they call "dumping" of
underpriced American cultural products.
- The government provoked a months-long uproar in the House of
Commons last spring when it allowed the sale of a Canadian textbook
publisher to American media giant Viacom. In the aftermath, the
government is scrambling to protect other domestic book publishers
from the same fate.
- A new parliamentary report charting Canada's foreign policy
urges a much bigger diplomatic emphasis on promoting and
disseminating Canadian culture abroad. The aim is to sharpen an
image obscured by that of the United States.
These developments are taking place in the first year of a new
Liberal Party government. Canadian liberals have long been
associated with the defense of Canada's cultural sovereignty.
"Let us get one thing clear," said Michel Dupuy, the heritage
minister, in the House of Commons last month. "After a very long
period under the former government during which culture suffered
from marginalization . . . we must bring back culture to the
forefront of society's concerns, for it is essential to our
identity, to our pride, to our unity and to our independence in
Canada has one-tenth the population of the United States. More
than 95 percent of Canadian movie time is devoted to foreign -
overwhelmingly American -movies. Only 17 percent of books and
magazines sold in Canada are Canadian. Drama and entertainment on
English-language television is almost entirely American-made.
To cultural nationalists, such figures represent a threat to
Canada's already tenuous identity and "a structural deformation" in
need of immediate correction.
That is the term used by John Ralston Saul, a prominent
Canadian writer who argued before the parliamentary committee
studying foreign policy that it would be "naive to imagine that we
can truly export our culture to the natural level of its quality
unless we change the structure of the internal market. …