Zainub Verjee – Massey Report at 70: Current Impasses and Prospects of Canadian Cultural Policy

Published April 8, 2021


Join Executive Director, Zainub Verjee for her lecture on April 13th, 2021 from 12:30 – 1:30pm via Zoom

To register click here

The final report of Canada’s Massey Commission, the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts,
Letters and Sciences, was released in 1951. Often referred to as the Massey Report, this document provided the
armature of what would become a state-defined national culture in Canada and gave birth to the idea of
Canadian content. This year marks its 70th anniversary. Despite its ubiquitous presence, art and culture is often
in the backwaters of public policy discourse. Also, over the decades, the coherence of the domain of arts and
culture from a policy perspective has seen a fractured narrative. Only invoked and periodically foregrounded
when the idea of Canadian content becomes contentious, or a national narrative is under duress or if a
technological challenge is posed, as in the current tussle with Google and Facebook over news content. We have
seen a widening rupture between ‘art’ and ‘culture’. The policy trends for the sector have been affected by
broader operational definitions of arts and culture. Given art, culture and power are re-aligning in the pandemic
context, this lecture will review the history, consequences and prospects of policy making in this domain.

Zainub Verjee has over four decades built a formidable reputation as an artist, writer, critic, cultural administrator
and public intellectual. A firm believer in Art as public good, she has contributed to international instruments of culture such as Status of the Artist and Cultural Diversity. She has dedicated her life to developing Canada’s contemporary culture through legislation, policy and institutions. Zainub has held positions at the Canada Council for the Arts, Department of Canadian Heritage, City of Mississauga, and Western Front. Among many appointments to boards, she is proud of her work at the B.C. Arts Board, which led to the formation of the British Columbia Arts Council. Her public service also includes her role as a Vancouver Moderator of the Spicer Commission – The Citizen’s Forum on Canada’s Future. An internationalist, in 1989, she co-founded the critically acclaimed In Visible Colours, a foundational film festival of Third World women and women of colour filmmakers in Canada. In 1992, she was awarded National Film Board Fellowship as part of New Initiatives in Film for women of colour and aboriginal women. Her work has been shown internationally, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Venice Biennale. As an annotator, she is engaged with different stakeholders to observe, critique and analyze the quotidian practices of the art and culture sector to actively work towards engaged public debate and conversations. Her work as a cultural bureaucrat, cultural diplomat, artist, activist and writer is consistent and contiguous with what might be termed a critical transversal aesthetic. Recipient of many honours and awards, Zainub Verjee is the laureate of 2020 Governor General’s Visual and Media Arts for Outstanding Contribution. Currently, she is the executive director of Galeries Ontario / Ontario Galleries, Toronto.