Canadian culture is more or less a variation of a greater North American whole. Roughly put, Canada's English speaking population comes up to 24.7 million people, less than a tenth of the USA's population. Canadians know exactly how it feels to be concerned with the perpetuation of a culture confronted with the overwhelming domination of another. Rightly so, they generally welcome initiatives intended to bolster opportunities to appreciate the country's cultural production. They're not alone.
On October 20, 2005, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopt the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. The convention seeks to strengthen the five inseparable links of the same chain: creation, production, distribution/dissemination, access and enjoyment of cultural expressions, as conveyed by cultural activities, goods and services. The Convention was adopted with 148 yeas and 2 nays. The USA and Israel are the only countries that voted against the convention. It entered into force on March 18, 2007.
Why and how did UNESCO come to this?... well... as early as 1984, while the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was being drafted, Québec deemed it a good idea to exclude cultural industries from the agreement.
On June 16, 1999, the Péquiste government officially declares that an international agreement allowing states to support their artists and creators would be a good idea. Louise Beaudoin, then Minister of International Affairs, did particularly good a job in convincing Lucien Bouchard, Premier of the province, and Lionel Jospin, Prime Minister of France. As a result, the Québécois government convinces Sheila Copps, then Minister of Heritage, and the federal government to join this important battle. Mrs. Copps rallies Ministers of Culture from many countries. Elected in 2003, Jean Charest carries on the work initiated by the Péquiste government.
In October 2003, the Director General of UNESCO is appointed to draft a project that would address the issue, a project to be debated at the 2005 General Assembly. At first, countries such as Chile and Argentina join with the USA against it, but they soon drop their reserves and work in favor of the project.
The final convention proclaims the right to set out and implement cultural policies, and to create the proper environment for their circulation. It also proclaims that such policies can't be superseded by other international agreements, namely free-trade agreements.
Upon its adoption, the convention is celebrated by many countries, including Canada. It legally allows them to control any cultural invasions, for example, by establishing quotas and by subsidizing local artists and producers.
Of course, Québec didn't do it alone, but it played a major role in promoting an important agreement that serves countries like Canada particularly well with its Canadian Content Regulations (see Canadian content, Part 2 and Part 3).