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Multiple Voices Make Canada Great

by AJB Johnston, about 3 years ago

I love the diversity that is reflected in the writers this land produces. West to East, South to North, Canada has writers working in every genre and from every point of view. It is up to all Canadians to keep nourishing those creators with their traditional books and in the new digital world.

More often than not, it is difficult to discover writers living in regions beyond one's own. That is because ours has become a world increasingly dominated by Top 10 lists — and newspapers and magazines that review books are now rare. Creators living outside Toronto are rarely given much notice unless they move to that city. And if they do that, they risk losing contact with the very region and distinctive culture that gave birth to them.

Surely, there is a role for the federal government to help creators in today's changed cultural context. One would be to restore copyright protection the way it was before the universities were allowed to copy whatever they want. Payments to writers via Access Copyright have plunged, and they're heading lower each year. Canada should adopt the model found in European countries where only a paragraph or two can be copied. After that, the historian, novelist, short story writer, essayist or poet must be paid.

As for the larger issues, Canada's publishers and writers need something like the Canadian content rules developed for radio back in Pierre Juneau's day. Those rules accelerated the growth in the Canadian music industry. It's time for something similar for the writers, illustrators, editors and publishers of this land.

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