January 18, 1957



The house resumed consideration in committee of the following resolution-Mr. St. Laurent (Quebec East)-Mr. Robinson (Sim-coe East) in the chair: That it is expedient to introduce a measure to provide for the establishment of a Canada Council for the encouragement of the arts, humanities and social sciences and further to provide inter alia that (a) the Minister of Finance may, out of the consolidated revenue fund, pay to the Council the sum of fifty million dollars to constitute an endowment fund for the purposes of the act, and (b) the council shall establish a fund to be called the university capital grants fund, to which shall be credited the sum of fifty million dollars, to be paid to the council by the Minister of Finance out of the consolidated revenue fund.


Walter Gilbert Dinsdale

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dinsdale:

Mr. Chairman, at five o'clock I was about to make a small contribution to this discussion. I realize there . is not too much we can do in a concrete way with respect to this subject at the resolution stage. However, while there seemed to be general agreement during the course of the discussion this afternoon on the desirability of establishing a Canada Council, there was some doubt whether this was the suitable time for the establishment of such a council. As I recall, several hon. members raised that particular point.

During recent years I have been quite interested in the activities of several voluntary groups that have been operating in the field of the promotion of research and interest in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Only the other day the annual reports of the humanities research council and the social science research council came into my hands.

Canada Council

I was very interested to find in these reports that the secretary treasurer, who in each case is Dr. John Robbins, emphasized the fact that during the past two years it had become increasingly difficult to provide sufficient funds to meet the research scholarship program that has been carried on for a considerable number of years now by both these bodies.

In 1951 the Massey report was brought down in the house, and it made no bones about recommending the desirability and necessity of the establishment of a Canada Council to encourage interest in the arts, humanities and sciences. That same report also emphasized the fact that one of the purposes of such a council-this was not the only recommendation in this respect-would be to-encourage the development of a national culture.

Up until that time the funds for the activities carried on by the two organizations to which I have referred had largely been obtained from United States sources, in one case the Rockefeller grants and in the other case the Carnegie fellowships. During 16 years of operation the social science research council, for example, had received some $600,000 in grants from the Rockefeller foundation. By contrast, contributions from private Canadian foundations during that period of 16 years only totalled $30,000.

Two years ago the two bodies reached a crisis because the authorities managing the Rockefeller foundation indicated that they were no longer willing to support this activity in Canada.

That introduced a real crisis into the activities of voluntary groups. It was only after considerable extra trouble that they were able to persuade these United States sources of funds to carry on with their work, and then only on the guarantee that an equivalent amount would be subscribed from Canadian sources.

In reference to the humanities council, I believe it was Mr. Walter Gordon, who was active at the time and still is in compiling economic data concerning the future prospects of Canada, who was prevailed upon to undertake the solicitation of such funds from private sources. I merely mention these details. I am sorry that I have not the reports before me at the moment; I could have quoted directly from them. But what I have said gives a general summary of the situation. I mention these details to point out that there is a real urgency at the present time, at least with regard with these two important fields of activity, that some additional financial sustenance be obtained with which to carry on this important work.

Canada Council

This is not the first time the Canadian government has encouraged research or has participated in the promotion of what we call culture in this country. Admittedly the participation in that respect has been much less than has been the participation in the promotion of the activities of the national research council. Recognizing the need for stimulation of scientific research during world war I, the government of Canada established the national research council. That was a body which was largely devoted to research in the arts of war. In this day and age after two tragic world wars, when we are much more concerned about promoting the pursuits and the arts of peace, I think it is high time that we did something in this tangible form represented by the establishment of the Canada Council.

Having said that, Mr. Chairman, I want to raise one or two questions. I think the committee stage is the time to raise them. Whenever government assumes responsibility in activities of this kind there is always reason to be somewhat suspicious and to have certain reservations. Of course the only guarantee that public corruption will be avoided is some assurance that parliament will be able to maintain eternal vigilance over the activity of this body. When we have the bill before us, Mr. Chairman, I trust we shall find that it indicates that parliament is going to have some continuing control over the functions of the Canada Council.

In presenting this legislation to the committee today the Prime Minister made vague references to the personnel who will be making up the council, and he stressed the point that political partisanship would be avoided in the selection of the people who make up the council. With that point I heartily agree. I am just wondering how the appointments are going to be made. Will they be made by the governor in council, by order in council, or will they be made in consultation with the voluntary groups which are already operating in this important field of Canadian activity?

This afternoon the suggestion was put forward that this is going to mark a new era in the development of the arts, humanities, letters and social sciences. I think that is going a bit too far. Actually we have already come a long way in what we might call the cultural field. There are any number of voluntary groups which are operating in this area. They have established strong committees of their own. I imagine that the money that is provided through the grant that will come from parliament or from this house will be administered largely through the voluntary committees already operating in the field.

It also seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that these groups should be in an excellent position to make recommendations concerning the people best qualified to serve Canada as members of the Canada Council. I have in mind one excellent representative from this area of activity. I have already mentioned his name. I refer to Dr. John Robbins, who for the past few years has been engaged in the important work of compiling or revising the Encyclopaedia Canadiana.

Here is a man who has been intimately associated with the whole field of the arts, letters, humanities and sciences in Canada. I understand that his work is coming to a conclusion very shortly. I feel that he would make an ideal chairman for this particular body. He is from the keystone province of Canada. Being a Manitoban, he is representative of all influences in the Canadian body politic, and I am sure is eminently qualified in all respects.

Mr. Chairman, may I call it six o'clock.

Progress reported.




Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Finance and Receiver General; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)


Mr. Harris:

Mr. Speaker, on Monday we shall continue with the debate on the address in reply to the speech from the throne.


At six o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order.

January 18, 1957