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Several factors have been instrumental in creating Québec’s cultural and artistic distinctiveness. A land of immigrants, richly endowed by its aboriginal history and then by influences from France, the British Isles and elsewhere, Québec still benefits from the strong ties it has maintained with the European and American civilizations that helped shape it. At the same time, as the only majority French-speaking society in North America, Québec has a deeply felt attachment to its own culture, the symbol of its identity.
The French fact is one of the most significant aspects of Québec’s cultural heritage. To preserve it, the Québec government adopted in 1977 the Charter of the French Language, from which the Québec language policy stems.
Four organizations intervene in matters relating to the promotion of French in Québec.
The Office québécois de la langue française (Québec Office of the French Language) is in particular responsible for
- defining Québec’s policy in terms of language and terminology formalization;
- francization of the civil administration and businesses;
- compliance with the Charter of the French Language; and
- monitoring the linguistic situation in Québec.
The Commission de toponymie (Geographical Names Board) has jurisdiction over place names in Québec. It is responsible for
- their inventory
- their formalization
- their dissemination
The Conseil supérieur de la langue française (Superior Council of the French Language) : advises the minister responsible for the implementation of the Charter on issues relating to the French language in Québec. In particular it informs the minister responsible for the Charter of any file relating to the French language in Québec which requires government action or attention.
The Secrétariat à la politique linguistique (Language Policy Secretariat)
- supports the minister responsible for the Charter of the French Language; and
- assumes, within the public administration, a coordination, consultation and promotion mission as regards the linguistic policy of Québec.
The Cultural Heritage Act
The Cultural Heritage Act came into effect on October 19, 2012. It replaced the Cultural Property Act, dating back to 1972.
The new Act expands the concept of “cultural heritage” in order to protect the historical and heritage materials of Québec belonging to the following nine categories:
- documentary heritage
- heritage objects
- heritage buildings
- heritage sites
- intangible heritage
- cultural heritage landscapes
- historical figures
- historical events
- historical sites
Cultural assets are judged according to the following values:
The Act also gives the government, the Minister of Culture and Communications, municipalities, and aboriginal communities distinct powers enabling them to assign different statuses to elements of the cultural heritage. The powers are as follows:
Fonds du patrimoine culturel québécois
The Fonds du patrimoine culturel québécois (Québec Cultural Heritage Fund), dedicated to preserving and disseminating historical materials, consists of five distinct segments:
- assets protected by the Québec government
- buildings and sites with significant heritage value
- works of art integrated into architecture and the environment
- permanent museum exhibits
- studies and activities designed to disseminate, raise awareness of, record and showcase cultural heritage
Centre de conservation
The Centre de conservation restores and upgrades Québec’s movable heritage. Its goal is to make the remnants of Québec’s cultural history available to present and future generations.
Residents’ access to culture
A key concern of the Québec government is to make cultural institutions accessible. To this end, it gives residents the opportunity to visit various institutions, such as public libraries or museums, for free or at low cost. Partnerships with educational institutions also help expose students to culture. Québec’s population can thus take part in many cultural events throughout the province at any time of the year.
Québec’s expertise and talent in various cultural fields are also evidenced by the major festivals that welcome the best artists of Québec and the world. Every artistic discipline is represented in the numerous festivals that take place all over Québec, particularly during the summer.
Government action in the area of culture
The commitment of the Quebec government in the area of culture is manifested through the decisive action of three organizations:
The Ministère de la Culture et des Communications
Created in 1961 under the name of the Ministère des Affaires culturelles (Ministry of Cultural Affairs), the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications is responsible for Québec’s cultural policies as a whole. Its role is to help affirm cultural identity, foster the development of artistic creation, and promote access to and participation of citizens in cultural life. To fulfill its mission, the ministry is supported by a network of government agencies and public corporations.
The Ministère is involved in all sectors of the arts, culture and communications in Québec:
- performing arts
- visual arts, architecture and arts and crafts professions
- cinema and audiovisual fields
- reading and books
- media and multimedia
- telecommunications and wireless broadcasting
- socio-economic condition of artists
- education and training
- cultural recreation
- cultural development on the local and regional levels
- dissemination and marketing on the international stage
The Conseil des arts et des lettres
The province-wide mission of the Conseil des arts et des lettres is to support research, artistic and literary creation, experimentation, and production and dissemination in all areas of Québec culture. The Conseil awards grants to artists and cultural organizations and helps artists, writers and their works to shine on the international stage.
The Société de développement des entreprises culturelles
The Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (Cultural Industries Development Corporation) works to develop the commercial and even the industrial potential of Québec’s artistic life. Its scope extends to media and companies in the fields of cinema and television, crafts, recording, variety shows, books, specialized publishing, and multimedia.
Awards and contests
Québec administers and supports awards and contests in a number of cultural fields.
The Ministère de la Culture et des Communications manages, among other things, competitions held pursuant to the Politique d’intégration des arts à l’architecture et à l’environnement des bâtiments et des sites gouvernementaux et publics (Policy of integrating art into the architecture and environment of government and public buildings and sites), according to which about one percent of the construction or development budget of a public site must be devoted to the production of public art.
Grants are also awarded to professional artists and artists in training through the Conseil des arts et des lettres (Quebec Council of Arts and Literature) or the Conservatoire de musique et d’art dramatique (Conservatory of Music and Dramatic Art).
Prix du Québec
The highest distinctions in Québec’s cultural field, the Prix du Québec are awarded each year to recognize the work and career of figures who distinguished themselves in the fields of visual arts and arts and crafts, performing arts, literature, cinema, heritage, architecture and design, radio and television, and the promotion of the French language.
The Prix du Québec are also the subject of a competition for the creation of the medal awarded to successful nominees.
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