Read the North Episode 2: The Creation of “CanLit”

16 May 2022 / by Quinton Bradshaw
An old-fashioned illustration of hands holding a book underneath the title "Read the North"

If we want to understand where CanLit, or Canadian Literature, came to be what it is today, we need to go back in time to when it was first imagined into being. In this episode we cover the Massey Report, the founding of the Writers’ Union and arts councils, and how we’re investing in the stories we tell about ourselves today.

Hosted by Rebecca Diem

Produced by Quinton Bradshaw

Music by James Ellercamp

Special thanks to Nick Mount, John Degen, Jesse Wente, and Alana Wilcox

You can learn more about the The Writer’s Union of Canada at, and the Canada Council for the Arts at

Reading List:

  • Arrival – Nick Mount
  • Unreconciled – Jesse Wente
  • The Case for Basic Income – Jaime Swift & Elaine Power
  • The Uninvited Guest – John Degen
  • Dear Life – Alice Munro

Presented by The Word On The Street & CJRU 1280AM, with support from the Community Radio Fund of Canada. 

Episode Transcript:

[theme music – ambient indie/electronic by composer James Ellercamp]

Rebecca Diem: I’m Rebecca Diem, the Digital Strategy and Communications Manager for the Word on the Street, and this is Read the North – a podcast about CanLit, brought to you by your favourite neighbourhood book festival.    

[inquisitive scoring begins]

CanLit, of course, is Canadian Literature. But CanLit wasn’t always a thing. Like, we haven’t always had an ecosystem that supported the publication, promotion, and sales of homegrown talent. It used to be a lot harder to seek out books by authors living in or writing about Canada. And to be an author? Except in the very odd case, you could pretty much forget about making it your livelihood. 

And you would have found it difficult to run a literary festival like The Word On The Street, focused on celebrating the work of Canadian and Indigenous authors, because… well, there was less to celebrate back in the day. 

[inquisitive scoring fades out]

Today, the literary landscape in Canada is very different. So how did we get here? What changed?

Last episode, we looked back at the first-ever Word On The Street festival in 1990 and the context surrounding its creation. And in this episode, we’re travelling even further into the past–all the way to the early 1950s–and then journeying back to the present to try and answer the question of how CanLit came to be.

For the first stage of this journey, we couldn’t have asked for a better guide:

Rebecca Diem: Alright, can you tell me a bit more about yourself and your work?

Nick Mount: My name is Nick Mount, and I’m the professor of English at the University of Toronto, downtown St. George campus, and I teach primarily Canadian literature.

Rebecca Diem: Nick is also the author of a book called Arrival: The Story of CanLit, which came out in 2017. In it, he chronicles the country’s literary awakening in the mid-20th century, and the impact of the 1951 Massey Report. 

Nick Mount: The Massey Report was the largest cultural self-examination this country has ever launched. It’s early 1950s. Essentially, what happened was the Prime Minister of the country got persuaded that, after the Second World War, with increasing affluence, and increasing concern about American cultural imperialism, though not yet a phrase they would have used, um, that the time had come to launch a cultural investigation into the nation. Like, what is the status of our culture? How are we doing in terms of, you know, both producing culture and consuming it? 

And so they created a commission. And they sent, I think it was four commissioners, across the country on a two-year road trip, into Canadian cities and asked them, people who–well, anybody who wanted to–send us something in writing or show up and talk to us. It was huge! Thousands of people in every major Canadian city. And then it was published as a report and made a number of recommendations. 

And the general consensus–that we’re doing pretty good with the visual arts, actually. Looks like we have a number of painters that people recognize here and internationally. And we’re doing not-so-bad with music. We’re a little concerned about television, you know, because that appears to be something that’s coming on the horizon. And there’s rumours that there’s “communists” working for the National Film Board. That’s a worry. But the biggest worry was literature, that it had fallen behind, that it had just fallen behind the rest of the arts. 

And so what follows from that is the Canada Council for the Arts, what follows from that is provincial Arts Councils, what follows from that is writers-in-residence programs, you know, everything from community libraries to universities. So yeah, that, that’s the Massey Report. 

Rebecca Diem: So, in the story of CanLit, let’s say the Massey Report is the inciting incident. Next, we need some rising action. And for that–to actually see CanLit really starting to emerge–we have to look at the classrooms of Canadian universities.  

[ambient scoring fades in]

Nick Mount: In contemporary literature, Canadian contemporary, or what I know most about, it changes constantly. And it always has, you know, because you’re, the syllabus is always having to adjust itself to make room for new voices. And that’s the way it should be, you know. So starting in– the big change in the 1960s and 70s, was simply the introduction of Canadian writers to the classroom. Just because prior to that, you know, there are no dedicated classes in Canadian literature. And if you took a class in English at a Canadian University, the odds were very good that you would never read a single writer from your country. You read British writers, you read American writers. So that’s, that’s the biggest change in the history of the syllabi in this country is simply the introduction of writers from here.

[ambient scoring fades out]

Rebecca Diem: When you think of the CanLit industry, you probably think of publishers, bookstores, authors, maybe libraries. Your mind might not go straight to universities. But according to Nick, they can play a really huge role in establishing the long-term cultural legacy for an author or book.

Nick Mount: In terms of immediate sales of a book, I think in most cases university syllabi would not be a factor at all, you know, or negligible. There are rare exceptions to that rule. I would say, the Marrow–something like the Marrow Thieves, you know, just the very rapid adoption of that book, in both high school and university curricula, and 10 years before, much the same thing happened with Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach. 50 years before that, much the same thing happened with Mordecai Richler’s Duddy Kravitz. There are a few books that get an instant buy-in by teachers. But by and large, I don’t think that you know there’s much of an economic impact from syllabi on writers–on publishers and certainly not on writers. Where the real impact comes,l is that long-term survival at this point happens in a university, or doesn’t happen at all. 

Rebecca Diem: The books that make it into classrooms are the ones we still talk about, decades after their release. So, when the syllabi began to change, it was a big deal. And the Massey Report was actually just one of several things driving that. 

Nick Mount: The arrival of, you know, Canadian books, and Canadian writers, in Canadian university classrooms and high school classrooms, briefly, in the late 60s, and 1970s, was the product of its–kind of a perfect storm of a bunch of complex factors, most of them having to do with numbers. 

And for starters, just demographics, the size of the population, how much larger the population got in the 60s and 70s, in Canada as around the world: the baby boom. You know, and the one consequence of that was a massive expansion of Canadian universities, like just unprecedented expansion of Canadian universities and colleges, see, all these new universities, all these new colleges, all these new students. And so there’s room now for syllabi, for classes to teach– for new books to be brought in, that’s one factor. 

The other number is– the other number is dollars. You know, it’s just, this is a period of unprecedented affluence in the history of the country. It’s the first moment after the Second World War, when you know, Canadians had enough money– it’s not like they’re rich, not by any stretch of imagination, especially those working in the cultural sector. They’ve never been rich and never will be rich. But it does become a time in which it’s possible suddenly, to think about– 

Here’s the simplest way to put it: a number of the writers that I interviewed for that book, when they went to universities in the 60s, they contemplated like not having a job, you know, they would just join a band, man, you know, or, you know, or write poems and print them in a pamphlet and give them away. That thought would have been inconceivable to their parents, like simply inconceivable. You went to university to get a job, if you went at all, you know, full stop. And that’s what I mean, by affluence. I don’t mean, you know, people are rich, I mean, that they, they have to– they’ve reached the point where they can do a few things with their time rather than, you know, cut trees down and swat mosquitoes, right? [laughs]

Rebecca Diem: Mosquitos aside, while the path they were pursuing may have been unconventional, the up-and-coming authors of the 60s and 70s still took their chosen profession seriously. Many are now household names, like Nobel laureate Alice Munro. And isn’t there a big TV adaptation of a bestselling CanLit book right now? What’s that author’s name? If you know, you know. But with Canadian writing gaining respect and popularity, it was time for writers to get organised. It was time… for a union. 

[instrumental – chorus of ‘Solidarity Forever’ on banjo and brass]

Rebecca Diem: Tell me about the work of The Writers Union of Canada.

John Degen: So the writers union is going to be 50 years old next year in 2023. So it started back in 1973, there was a bunch of pre-meetings on people’s porches, and I think at Ryerson, there was a meeting. And then the first official meeting of the writers union was 43 working authors in Canada–which was probably just about as many as there were–getting together at the Lord Elgin hotel, in Ottawa, and banging out like a constitution for the union. But really, the driving force behind the union was networking and sharing information. So we had, we had this really small population of professional authors in Canada, they’d all signed contracts with different publishers, but nobody knew what anybody else was making or what the terms of the contract were. And so everybody kind of felt there was a screen between themselves and everyone else. And the writers union was was put together to sort of break down that screen and let writers help writers through the industry. So yeah, I mean, the union has sort of grown up as the industry has grown up in Canada. And I would say that in a large part, we were a driving force for that sort of maturation.

Rebecca Diem: This is John Degen: author, chair of the International Authors Forum in the UK, and most importantly for this story, executive director of The Writers Union of Canada. 

As the union has matured, he’s seen more and more people finding professional success.

[jazzy lounge music scoring begins]

John Degen: I talked about how the union started out, as, you know, essentially, people sitting around in a bar comparing contracts with each other. Literally, in the bar. There’s a story of Alice Munro singing Danny Boy at the Lord Elgin bar during the first, the first writer’s union meetings. 

Rebecca Diem: Oh, my God. 

John Degen: Yes, I know. I love to imagine it. I was not there. So what was I saying? 

[jazzy lounge music scoring fades out]

Yeah, so it started out as like comparing contracts. But the union has grown to do so much more. So there’s, you know, we do a lot of professional development, and those events–you came to one of those events, back when they were in person.

Rebecca Diem: I did! I did, that’s where I met you the first time. 

John Degen: Yeah, exactly. And so those events, not only are we sort of expanding the knowledge base for writing and publishing in Canada, but you’re getting to meet people who are doing the job and, and that in itself is an incredible encouragement.

Rebecca Diem: Can you tell me a bit more from your perspective, about the growth of, of Canadian writing?

John Degen: Yeah, well, I mean, there’s this sort of legend note there, that there was this magical growth starting in the in the late 60s with the, you know, House of Anansi, and Coach House and, and a really vibrant scene out on the west coast as well, of new publishers, and that it just sort of sprung out of the ground, you know, like, like, wonderful mushrooms kind of thing, but really, it was, it was the combined work of every part of the sector. 

So you had people opening bookstores all across the country, and, and focusing on Canadian literature, there even used to be, long lost, a bookstore on Bloor Street in Toronto, that was only Canadian books inside. And it was, it was a beautiful thing. We don’t have it anymore, unfortunately. But the union was, was part of all of that. And, and so were the funding agencies. 

You know, it’s, it’s almost like, it’s almost like it’s a jigsaw puzzle, you know? If we didn’t have all of the pieces, then you wouldn’t get the full picture. And so everyone was involved in this, what I guess we call this amazing flowering of Canadian literature. And it’s gotten to a point now, where it’s so much easier for us to not just sell to our own market, which is relatively small, but to cross our border and to sell into the larger markets like the United States and England. And, and once you do that, I think, as a national literature, you become a global literature and you become a bit of a force. And I think Canada is, if not already over that line, we are standing looking over that line. 

Rebecca Diem: This feels like the right time to draw your attention to one specific puzzle piece that John mentioned: the funding agencies. 

John Degen: Yeah, definitely one of the very important jigsaw puzzle pieces–crucial actually, let’s call it a corner piece. 

Rebecca Diem: Yeah, you need to get those corner pieces first. [laughs]

John Degen: If you enjoy jigsaw puzzles. Yes, absolutely.

Rebecca Diem: I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that public funding makes the CanLit industry possible. Especially given the raw materials we’re working with. 

John Degen: I mean, you have to, you have to look at Canada in– sort of from a business perspective, you know? It’s a huge country, giant geography, relatively small population. So a relatively small book-buying market. Books are heavy, the highways are long, there’s a great distance between bookstores, and the publishing centres. So it’s an, it’s an expensive venture. And I would say, without public funding, it would be an impossibly expensive venture for the size of the market that we have. 

Rebecca Diem: So, how did we end up with such a robust public funding infrastructure? Well…  

Nick Mount: It all stems from the Massey Report in the 1950s.

Rebecca Diem: As you might recall, the Massey Report recommended the creation of both federal and provincial arts councils, which act as funding bodies for artists across the country. 

Nick Mount: And the basic philosophy behind all of it is very different from capitalism. Instead of giving a large amount of money to one, to the, you know, one or two publishers, or five or six writers, let’s give small amounts of money to a large number of writers and publishers. And you know, that– what that means is that sometimes a lot of that goes to waste. But sometimes a lot of it pays in pretty massive fruit, you know? Margaret Atwood got two Canada Council grants in her entire career. It would be under $5,000 or $6,000. But with that $5,000 or $6,000, she wrote four books, you know, among them Surfacing, Survival, Power Politics, like those, those are pretty big books still. And so in terms of investment, oh, my god.

Rebecca Diem: I talked about this with Jesse Wente, the current chair of the Canada Council– this idea of the dollar value of the grant, versus what it’s worth in output, versus what it’s worth in less tangible terms. It’s something we’d both thought about a lot. Him, because he’s the chair of a body that gives out these grants, and me because, well:

Rebecca Diem: I just want to talk about that for a second. Because like the scale of–like, um, I don’t know if you know this, but but I’m a Canada Council grant recipient, and–

Jesse Wente: Congratulations. Well done.

Rebecca Diem: Thank you! And I was just floored by it. Honestly. Um, I applied for a grant, like right before the pandemic began. And then September of 2020, like the worst year of my life, I get this email saying that my– the grant was awarded. And I was not expecting it. And, you know, it was $25,000. But it was– which doesn’t seem– like it’s, it’s huge, it’s absolutely huge! But in terms of, like, the broader arts funding, $25,000 is not a lot, you know? Like that is like, you know, half a year’s salary for someone doing, like, the most basic job on a movie production set, right? Like, that’s, it’s very– it’s a very small amount. And yet, it was life-changing, because it meant that I could afford to invest in an apartment of my own, it meant that I could invest in therapy to get through the worst year of my life, and invest in taking the time to, like, write the best book that I am capable of, and kind of ride through that, like, really tumultuous period in which it was very difficult to create. So like, you know, it might be a small individual investment, but the– the outsized impact that saying, ‘I have faith in you, and I believe in your ability to contribute to this broader conversation’. It’s immeasurable for individual artists and, and authors.

Jesse Wente: Well, thank you so much for sharing that. That, I mean, that is, I think, a wonderful story. And I’m so thrilled for you. And I would also say, I think that’s, you know, that’s what we–  that’s why anyone who works at an arts funding body does it. Because no one’s getting rich on either side of this equation, typically. But we do it because it does, it can make a difference. And, just to say, from the other side, that little–and I don’t disagree, that’s not a huge investment,  it is small, and I wish, we always wish that there could be more, and we fight for that. But I would also say the other thing is that small investment, you could very well write a book that changes the world.

Rebecca Diem: I mean, I think the book is gonna change the world. 

Jesse Wente: There you go. Plus, it’s not–I would also view it not just about this book. Because it’s about investing in you as an artist in the, in the long-term of things, right? It’s about, the hope is, for me anyway, that you are able to create whatever it is you want to create, and change the world in whatever way that is going to change the world. And for you to be fulfilled doing that. And I see it on really the most human terms, like it’s just about– because it’s– we invested in that one project, but it’s, it is an investment in you. You. That’s it. And, I wish, I wish we lived in a society, in a culture who wouldn’t require everyone to do a grant application for that investment. 

Rebecca Diem: Yeah. 

Jesse Wente: Because the reality is, whether you’re engaging in arts or not, because let’s take it almost even further back for a second. Humans are so valuable, you know, as just as, as beings that exist on this world, whether you’re an artist, or whatever it is you do. And even, let’s step even further back, I don’t even care what you do, I just care that you be. And so, and I wish we had societies that invested in us being. And not necessarily in us doing. And didn’t react necessarily to when, when we did things, that would react instead to us just being. We don’t, and, you know, even as Chair of Canada Council of the Arts, I can advocate for those things. And I, and we do. But it’s not like I’m in a position to bring that necessarily about by myself, but it’s about– I do see arts funding as a way to build that capacity. Because stories is how, is so fundamental to the human species. It’s– we don’t exist outside of story. We are the storytelling animal, it’s– it is our gift. And it’s through that storytelling that maybe we can achieve those sorts of ideals that, that others can find themselves in your work and other people’s work, and maybe allow themselves to BE a little bit, to feel it in that way, to be connected–

Rebecca Diem: To feel connected.

Jesse Wente: –in that way. Yeah. To feel connected.

Rebecca Diem:  Yeah, yeah. 

[dreamy streetscape scoring begins]

Rebecca Diem: Speaking with Jesse about this and hearing his insights was, well, inspiring. Inspiring is actually a huge understatement; I was in a daze after that interview, filled with aspirations and hopes and dreams. For myself, of course, but mainly for the future of our industry. When you speak with Jesse, you believe in that hopeful future. And public funding in the literary industry, and everything it makes possible, goes beyond just writers. The government also funds festivals like The Word On The Street. And, although they were a little slow on the uptake, they eventually made funding available to publishers, too. Nick again:

[dreamy streetscape scoring fades out]

Nick Mount: In fact, Coach House Press here in Toronto, which was one of the, the very first recipients of a grant for a publisher, they only got it because they basically lied to the government and said, you know, it was– they disguised it as a grant for writers. And that’s how Stan Bevington managed to get Coach House the first grant for an English Canadian publisher.

So they were kind of slow. But once they got into the game, they did have these things called block grants, that’s money that went to publishers, and the consequence of that is publishers that– having to– realising that they don’t have to make their final decision entirely about the bottom line.

Rebecca Diem: And the need for that public support has only grown. Here’s Alana Wilcox, the current editorial director of Coach House:

Alana Wilcox: Coach House couldn’t exist without public funding. Our competition are large conglomerates not owned by Canadian companies. And they have endless capital behind them, as well as the capacity to, say, publish Jordan Peterson books that make a lot of money. So without the support that the government provides to us, we simply couldn’t compete with that. But with it, with it we’re able to. And you know, I think, increasingly, indie publishers are recognized as finding incredible talent and sustaining it and keeping– keeping it alive out there in the world. The funding also enables us to keep our book prices a little more manageable. You know, most countries in the world pay a lot more for books than we do here in Canada. And that’s partly motivated by being across the border from America, where book prices are very low, because they have such a huge population, and the economies of scale really work in their favour. For us here, you know, our book prices should really be higher for the industry to be sustainable. But we can’t really do that, because American prices are so low. So the public support helps to keep book prices affordable for more readers.

Rebecca Diem: Both for publishers, like Coach House Books, and individual writers, the support provided by government funding bodies can make or break their participation in the industry. Arts councils are shaping Canadian culture through their funding decisions, and who they do or do not offer financial support to. They have a lot of power. This dynamic is something that Jesse Wente, as the chair of the Canada Council, has had to navigate: 

Jesse Wente: I’ve devoted my entire career to the arts and cultural sector of Canada, whether as someone who administers it, or participates or covers it. So, you know, I think from, you know, arts and culture is clearly a significant part of my interest in life. And I think in Canada, of course, arts and cultural funding is pretty intrinsic to how culture is created and formed and expressed, and… and so for me, you know, I think in general, I’m always interested in the larger systems of why things are. And arts funding bodies are part of the systems for why things are. 

You know, Canada Council was founded in 1957, right, and, you know, there was a major sort of report that helped found around the– the Massey Report, you know, around the need for a bolstering of Canadian culture, quite frankly, a need for defining or creation of Canadian culture, we have to remember Canadian, Canada’s a very young country. And so it’s still, its culture is still very much happening, and sort of in process, even as we sit today, let alone in 1957, when the country wasn’t even 100 years old. 

And again, I’m somewhat privileged, as an Anishinaabe person, our people have been here for 13,000 years. So we can say, you know, it’s new! And so it’s still growing and developing. And the Canada Council was clearly meant to foster that. It did so–I think everyone there would admit–imperfectly, in terms of, it didn’t always… Well, let’s be blunt, like, it was a colonial– it was a tool of colonialism in terms of expanding Canadian culture. It generally kept out Indigenous artists. It pretty much also kept out other racialized communities for many, many years. In more recent times, it’s taken, you know, fairly significant steps to correct those things. And, you know, including the creation of the CKS, or the Creating, Knowing and Sharing program, which is an Indigenous-created program at the council, Indigenous-run program for Indigenous peoples. 

And I do think that there is not– there is a correlation, I wouldn’t necessarily be the one with the statistics or the data to show this. But it certainly seems to me, since funding bodies have started to create more dedicated Indigenous funding streams, which, again, let’s be honest, is maximum maybe 10 years old? Like it’s, this is not a new phenomenon. I don’t think it’s coincidence that you have seen an explosion in output and awards and all of that. I think that coincides with a historical need for these stories, and a need for stories from all marginalised communities, that I think the larger population has felt more recently. Meaning they feel the need for them. We’ve– I think we’ve always felt the need, our communities. But I think the broader community is suddenly– not suddenly, but I think over time–it’s certainly not suddenly–but over time has realised it’s missing part of its own story. And so you’ve seen, I think, audiences of all kinds for all sorts of art forms make that leap. 

Rebecca Diem: We started this episode with an inciting incident: the Massey Report. And then we’ve had the rising action of the writers unions, and funding for writers and publishers, and we’ve even had a few flashbacks, so… what’s next? Are we at ‘peak CanLit?’ Have we passed it? 

[reflective scoring begins]

Real life is rarely as tidy as its fictional counterpart, but I think it’s clear that the story of this place began long, long ago. And it is far from over. There’s been tons of progress since the 1950s, but like Jesse said, there’s still a lot to correct and change for the better. New voices are joining the conversation every day, expanding our literary and cultural universe and also giving new context to previously-written chapters. This is a never-ending story… and isn’t that just the best?

[reflective scoring fades out]

Still, if you’re looking for a feel-good ending–because, who isn’t?–I can offer you one last really hopeful thing Jesse shared:  

Jesse Wente: There was a meeting recently that the Canada Council had of new– well, they said new arts leaders. I mean, I’ve known many of them for 20 years, but it was ‘leaders new to their position’ at their various organisations. And here’s what I would say, Rebecca, is I looked at these folks. And they did not look like the arts leaders of even five years ago. This was a very different– it was a Zoom Room, granted, but it was a very different room than, than– I remember attending the Banff Arts Summit in, I guess, 2017 or ‘16. And thinking of that room versus the one I was in on Zoom. Radically, and many of the same institutions, but radically different. And I think those folks, given– because often, when I think of what the Canada Council sort of does is invest in space as much as people. It invests in you to have the space to go write your book. And we invest in organisations to sometimes literally have a space, or those things. And I was just thinking, like, look at these people, who’ve come to take these jobs during a pandemic, when, when no one knows, like anything about much of anything. And we’re all trying to figure out how we’re going to do– share these stories again, dream together again. But when I saw that circle, I knew that the dreams were going to be different in the coming years, and that the possibilities, the tangible reality that those dreams would then give birth to, would be the midwife to, means that, like, the Canadian culture of the future isn’t the Canadian culture of our past. And that is something to be thrilled about. 

Rebecca Diem: “The Canadian culture of the future isn’t the Canadian culture of our past.” I love the way Jesse frames this as a dreamscape that we all share in creating. 

In our next episodes, we’re going to take a closer look at more of the corner pieces that make up this CanLit puzzle. First, the publishers, and how a book is made. Then, libraries and bookstores, and how we access books. And finally, authors and readers, and how we connect with each other. And when all these pieces come together, I think we’re well-positioned to create a CanLit that is worth dreaming about. 

[ambient credits theme music begins]

Rebecca Diem: That’s it for this episode of Read the North. It was hosted by me, Rebecca Diem, and produced by Quinton Bradshaw, who also mixed and edited the show. Scoring was by James Ellercamp. 

If you want to learn more about the history of CanLit, Nick’s book, Arrival: The Story of CanLit, is a wealth of information. And if you’d like to read more of Jesse Wente’s thoughts on storytelling, representation, and Indigenous narrative sovereignty, he also had a book out last year. The bestselling Unreconciled: Family, Truth, and Indigenous Resistance.

To find out more about the work the Writer’s Union does, you can look them up at, and for more information about grants available through the Canada Council, check out their website,

Also, a quick plug: as of this episode’s release, we are just under a month out from the 2022 Word On The Street Festival! This year’s festival will be hitting the streets of Queen’s Park North on June 11th and 12th, and we are SO excited. For full lineup details, head over to Or follow us @torontoWOTS on Instagram and Twitter. 

Read The North is a co-production of The Word On The Street Toronto and CJRU 1280 AM. For more excellent audio programming, check out This series was made possible by funding from the Community Radio Fund of Canada. 

Thanks for listening, and we’ll be back with another episode next week!

[ambient indie/electronic theme music plays]


Nick Mount: The weird bits and anecdotes that I remember about it is that the time when the Massey Report– when the travelling roadshow went out, the big concern that they had in terms of optics was that people would read the Massey Report as an attempt to impose Toronto culture on the rest of Canada. ‘Cul-cha,’ you know? So like, the worry was that, you know, in the farmlands that, ‘oh my god, they’re gonna make us listen to jazz and classical music.’ They actually strategised about this, like, how are we going to deal with this? And so one of the things they did in response, Hilda Neatby, she was one of the commissioners, she would give press conferences and she would talk about her ability to milk a cow. I kid you not. And this is a woman with like three PhDs, you know? She’s a university president. And she’s like, but I can milk a cow! Just to offset concerns that, you know, it was going to be the imposition of highbrow culture on the rest of the country.