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Good journalists and writers reveal the larger picture


An Open Letter to the Rt. Hon. Sheila Copps, Heritage Minister;

As the highest authority mandated to nurture and protect the culture of our country, please allow me to draw your attention to the plight of Canada's major cultural intitution: CBC's Radio Canada International.

Even though Mr. Martin, the Finance Minister, assured us that the Canadian economy is doing very well, CBC management is implementing brutal budget cuts.

While it would be foolish to ignore economics, it would also be unrealistic to believe that all Canadian life in motivated or defined by purely financial considerations. Yet that seems to be the rationale that is being offered to the Canadian people and the stricken talent pool at Radio Canada International.

It is easy to understand some of this rationale, because decisions made on the basis of quantifiables are relatively easy to justify, even though quantitative data is open to interpretation.

Certainly, economics do make our Canadian way of life possible, but economics do not determine who we are. It is culture that does.

Now, it is fashionable to consider culture as nothing but a by-product of a healthy economy. Symphony orchestras, theatres, libraries, ballet, opera, art galleries, museums, public broadcasters - these are the accepted symbols of culture.

But is it that simple?

If we were to remove from the English language all countable nouns, the list of uncountable nouns would include words such as: courage, faith, justice, love, respect, trust, truth and work. Yet these are the values that are entrenched in our history, our thinking, our social structures.

True enough, that list of uncountables would also include words like: experience, finance, labour, policy and power. These concepts, however, cannot be considered as separate entities because they have been developed on the basis of courage, faith, justice, loyalty and trust, not to mention the Canadian work ethic.

In other words, culture is a commitment to these values within all of our social and economic structures, as well as our commitment to creativity in all spheres of public life, education, science, technology and the arts.

Writers and broadcasters identify, clarify and describe various aspects of culture. Good journalists and writers are honoured everywhere, because they have the ability and the opportunity to reveal the larger picture, the deeper meaning behind current events, public figures or popular movements.

It is in this ability to measure reality against what it once was, against what it could be or what it ought to be, that writers and journalists serve their society and its culture best. If we confine or stop this process of evaluation, we will undoubtedly be a poorer society.

Neither is our venture a write-off in quantifiable terms.

RCI broadcasts have generated interest in investing foreign capital and talent in Canada, a country, the world sees as the protector of those unquantifiable values, which some Canadians say, we can no longer afford.

If Canadians do not speak about things Canadian, who will?

Alexandra Hawryluk, RCI feature writer, Lachine, Quebec, Canada