Thursday, October 28

The preservation of Indigenous culture goes through museums, according to Steven Guilbeault

Museums are part of the solution in discussions surrounding the repatriation of Indigenous cultural assets and their preservation, as this debate has been rekindled by recent finds of human remains near former residential schools across the country, says Minister of Canadian Heritage , Steven Guilbeault.

The latter made a virtual announcement on Wednesday morning to detail the ins and outs of a sum of $ 41 million provided for in the last federal budget to support museums and various heritage organizations in the country in their reopening. This event was mainly intended for representatives of these institutions, but some media, including The duty, were able to attend.

On this occasion, Minister Steven Guilbeault stressed the importance of giving more space to members of indigenous communities in museums and other cultural institutions, too often run by white men, even today, has t he hinted.

“I would tell you that this is the case in all of our institutions, but it is certainly true for museums,” said the Minister, in an interview with the Duty. A transition that is already underway, according to Mr. Guilbeault, who gives as an example the appointment last year of a first Indigenous person as chair of the board of directors of the Canada Council for the Arts, namely the host and speaker Jesse Wente.

At the end of the line, the minister also underlines the importance of having a reflection in order to grant more place to the aboriginal culture in the museums of the country.

“There are some great initiatives that exist in Canada. There are museums that give pride of place to Aboriginal culture and art. This is not necessarily the case [partout au pays] », Underlines Mr. Guilbeault, who notes the importance of« getting out of the colonial model »in the way we deal with indigenous issues.

Repatriation of Indigenous property

At the same time, the Minister of Canadian Heritage also addressed the thorny issue of the repatriation of cultural property and indigenous human remains. This resurfaced in the news again following the discovery in recent weeks of anonymous graves near a former Saskatchewan Indian residential school and nearly two others located in British Columbia.

In mid-May, the British Columbia Museums Association called on publicly funded Canadian organizations to hand over to indigenous communities human remains and funeral objects found in their collections, which would represent “a crucial step towards reconciliation”.

“There is no single answer to this question. In some cases, there are interesting initiatives that exist of partnerships, where indigenous communities, for the sake of preservation, will choose to leave artefacts [dans des musées] », He emphasizes. In any case, with regard to this issue, no decision should be taken in silos by the federal government, said the minister.

“We must engage in a dialogue with communities, museums and institutions to find solutions together,” added the Minister.

Digital shift

Representatives of various museums also questioned Mr. Guilbeault on the impacts of the pandemic on the digital shift of museums. Several institutions have been successful in reaching large numbers of people by offering online content during the pandemic, but these initiatives are often not cost effective.

“How can we succeed in monetizing this shift to digital? These are questions that artists are asking themselves all over the planet. We will certainly work with museums and other institutions to find solutions, ”said the Minister in an interview.

Mr. Guilbeault is also concerned to note that Bill C-10 is slow to be adopted. This one, which aims to reform the Broadcasting Act to subject web giants to Canadian regulation, should normally be studied this fall by Senate committees. However, the specter of a federal election makes this possibility less and less likely.

“Like many others, I deplore the systematic obstruction of the Conservative Party both in the House and in the Senate,” drops Mr. Guilbeault. The opposition party has expressed particular concern that this bill will harm individual freedoms on the Internet. The bill is thus subject to a delay that “will harm all of our artists and our cultural and artistic institutions across the country,” deplores Mr. Guilbeault.

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