Newly-minted Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Minister Pablo Rodriguez kicked off his inaugural tour of Western Canada on Monday.
The Montreal MP is hosting a series of stakeholder meetings with multicultural organizations and representatives from the creative industries in British Columbia this week, marking his first official visit to Western Canada since he took over the culture portfolio from Melanie Joly on July 18.
“This is exactly the type of meeting that I want to have…smaller rooms with the possibility to engage directly with people,” Rodriguez told Broadcast Dialogue, following a casual meet and greet at Vancouver’s South Hill Neighbourhood Centre. “It’s important for me as Minister to get to know people, to understand their challenges, hopes, fears and what they want to build in their different communities.”
The fact that multiculturalism has been attached to the heritage portfolio isn’t lost on Rodriguez. An Argentinian immigrant, who came to Canada at age eight, he says the move sends a message of how important multiculturalism is to the Canadian identity.
Effortlessly transitioning between English, French and Spanish with those in attendance, Rodriguez was clearly winning over the multicultural community.
“I’m really, really impressed that he talks about his own experiences of coming to Canada,” said Ninu Kang of the MOSAIC immigrant social services agency. “I think that was great that the minister made that connection with us. I’m optimistic. We’re at a very interesting time in the history of the world. While a lot of other countries across the globe are struggling with migrants coming in and immigration backlash, Canada…even though we have lots of work still to do, we want to build on what’s positive,” said Kang.
It remains to be seen whether Rodriguez, who previously served as Opposition critic of the culture portfolio, can make as equally good an impression on representatives from the Vancouver screen industries later this week.
“Our creators want to be able to create. That’s what they want. And me as minister, that’s what I want them to do,” said Rodriguez. “Our job as a team is to help them to be better. To make sure they have conditions to keep creating, to export, to maybe help them look at markets that aren’t traditional. We could maybe do better in South America, maybe in Asia. So, we’re looking at options there too.”
Taking over the ministry amidst upcoming reviews of the federal Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Radiocommunications Acts, Rodriguez said he anticipates issues raised will include, as he put it “everything that’s going on with the internet.”
“We’re working with laws that predate the internet. We’re going to make sure that anybody that benefits from the system will have to contribute to the system,” Rodriguez asserted, when pressed on the ongoing industry debate over taxation of foreign-based streaming services like Netflix.
“Every industry has its issues…the concerns of the music industry are different from the film industry. It’s important to sit down with them and understand how we can do better as a government,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez heads to Vancouver Island on Tuesday where he’ll participate in a two-day retreat with fellow members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s newly-shuffled cabinet Wednesday and Thursday in Nanaimo.
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