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On Friday, January 25, 2008, Library and Archives Canada hosted the first meeting in Ottawa of the LAC Forum on Canadian Democracy Advisory Committee. The agenda for the day addressed the context of LAC's new initiative and helped to define the Forum's opportunities and objectives as it seeks to connect Canadians with historical and contemporary information pertaining to Canada's democratic experience.
The day opened with a discussion of the concept of "democracy," with Katherine Fierlbeck's essay "Democracy in Canada" providing a point of departure. A consensus emerged regarding the diversity of Canada's democratic practice and experience. Democracy in Canada is a multifaceted "work in progress" that is shaped by institutions such as the House of Commons, as well as by social and electoral trends, communications technologies, and regional imperatives. Canadian democracy also is informed by other models of governance advanced by Aboriginal communities and by democratic states around the globe.
In order for Canadians to understand and appreciate the diverse character of their democracy, the committee agreed that there must be a national effort to raise the level of civic literacy. The LAC Forum on Canadian Democracy can participate in this effort by promoting dialogue, by providing tools for educators, and by collaborating with other government departments, learning institutions, and non-governmental organizations. By "creating conversations" about the nature of democratic governance in Canada, the LAC Forum will contribute to an understanding of the fundamental elements of our democracy, including its successes, its setbacks, and its opportunities.
The committee discussed the national environment relating to civic literacy, and identified a range of complementary initiatives that could inform the development of the LAC Forum. Discussion touched on subjects such as polls and statistics, provincial and regional programs, immigration and citizenship, public history and other research disciplines, Aboriginal governance, and formal parliamentary bodies such as the Senate, the committee system, and the role of individual members of parliament.
Over the next two years, the Advisory Committee will continue to inform the development of the LAC Forum on Canadian Democracy, and in particular the ways in which the program can improve civic literacy, encourage use of LAC's collections, provide historical context for matters of public interest, and promote democratic diversity across Canada.
The current membership of the LAC Forum on Canadian Democracy Advisory Committee includes: