Ontario’s new culture strategy calls for more Canadian authors in schools

Author Margaret Atwood says she's "impressed" with Ontario's new strategy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

TORONTO – Ontario will incorporate the work of more Canadian authors into school curricula as part of a new provincial culture strategy unveiled Wednesday by Tourism and Culture Minister Eleanor McMahon.

“We’re going to get more books by Canadian authors into the hands of our school-age children,” McMahon announced at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

“We will establish a new fund for our publishers to create educational resources that can be used in the classroom so that more educational content is Canadian content.”

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Author Margaret Atwood said she was “impressed” with Ontario’s first culture strategy, and agreed it will strengthen arts and culture in the province.

“I am particularly pleased that the strategy will help publishers to develop curriculum tools that will support teachers and facilitate the use of Canadian books in schools and inspire children to read the diverse and compelling stories of our own talented authors – and perhaps to become writers themselves,” Atwood said in a statement.

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Another new fund will be created to support cultural activities in First Nations communities, including camps for young people that promote awareness of traditional knowledge and help build leadership skills.

The government did not provide dollar amounts for the two funds.

There will also be technical and business skills training for some of the 280,000 workers in Ontario’s cultural sector, which McMahon said adds more than $25 billion a year to the economy.

“We will work to inspire the next generation of Ontarians to pursue careers in the culture sector, while helping to provide today’s students and employees with the skills they need to succeed in the knowledge economy,” she said.

About 3,000 people told the government what they value about arts and culture during three months of public consultations last fall, and their input helped shape the new policy, added McMahon.

“Forty years ago this conversation was less about what Canadian culture was,” she said. “It was more about if there was such a thing at all.”

The minister said engagement in arts and culture is a catalyst for creative thinking and innovation, which she called “essential qualities in the knowledge economy and vital to Ontario’s growth and prosperity.”

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Investing in the arts and culture is an economic investment strategy, insisted McMahon.

“We know that culture is integral to the health of our communities, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that it’s integral to our economy too,” she said.

Part of the culture strategy includes preserving “heritage buildings in a way that is environmentally responsible” by helping owners adopt clean, low-carbon technologies, said McMahon.

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