Canada will censor use of indigenous music

Canada will censor use of indigenous music


norman lebrecht

September 20, 2022

The Canadian Music Centre (CMC) has authorised an indigenous panel to permit or ban use of indigenous material in new compositions.

Composers hav econtacted us in alarm.

Read the new censorship rule:

The Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC) serves at arm’s length from the CMC on matters related to cultural appropriation and misuse of Indigenous songs, story, and culture. The IAC is a group of Indigenous folks from across Canada with a broad range of expertise in music, curation, museology, performance, and repatriation. Its mandate is to provide recommendations to CMC for appropriately redressing instances of misuse in compositions on an ongoing, case-by-case basis.

This work is made possible with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and Canadian Heritage to support thinking about these issues in a large-scale policy basis. It is a major priority for the CMC to work with Indigenous leaders “to examine and search for resolutions to the use of Indigenous Song and Story in the works of Canadian Composition past, present and future; [to establish] protocols for composers and performers when composing and performing works influenced or based on Indigenous materials” (Goal #1, current 2019-2024 Strategic Plan). Having been part of the cause of injury, CMC has to be part of the healing and the solution and take leadership in the healing.T




  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Why would anyone be alarmed? Sounds very fair to me. Just imagine your reaction if people wrote “knocking copy” about Jewish people and culture.

  • Alan says:

    Another country completely losing its mind. You’d wonder where humanity is headed.

  • cultural purity? says:

    So will they in return not use any European music?

  • cultural purity? says:

    Excellent! Where do we apply to get a proper certificate of racial and cultural authenticity?

  • Frédéric Chiasson says:

    When checking the website of this new comity, you read that they won’t stop at the CMC members’ works: «At the discretion of the committee, committee members may also suggest works by composers *not represented by the CMC* for the IAC to address.»

    As a member of the CMC, I never have been informed of this new counsil. I contacted immediately the Quebec branch of the CMC and even they were not informed of this counsil. This is a pure top-bottom decision from the CMC from Toronto. This is going way too far.

    • SVM says:

      Is their authority backed by any legal powers, or is it predicated on cancel culture of one kind or another (i.e.: on undertakings of Canadian concert promoters to cancel or boycott composers and performers who do not co-operate)? The statement is very vague, and does not appear to make any reference to potential infringement of copyright and/or moral rights (such as the right of attribution), nor to infringement of any other existing laws and conventions governing engagement with traditional cultural expressions. The “ongoing, case-by-case” basis may signal a sensitive and intelligent approach that focuses on acknowledging and promoting traditional cultural expressions (i.e.: a positive, constructive approach), or it could signal an invitation to double standards whereby disfavoured composers and performers are ostracised on spurious grounds (i.e.: a negative, destructive approach). If it results in some kind of centralisation or control over creative practice (whether directly through sanctions on individual musicians, or indirectly through the imposition of unreasonable constraints on funding for commissions &c.), it could be poisonous to artistic endeavour.

      As others have said, classical music, like most forms of art, is predicated on a degree of cultural appropriation, and the notion of a cultural purity controlled by certain gatekeepers is potentially very problematic (although I do have sympathy for the idea that a good tradition should be insulated somewhat against over-commodification and distortion, such insulation should not extend to censorship). Will the CMC be taking action against works by Haydn, Dvořák, Bartók, Vaughan Williams, and Gershwin, to name a few of the most obvious cases of composers indebted to various folk musics?

    • Frédéric Chiasson says:

      I talked with Quebec branch of CMC and I have been informed that they actually were informed of this council, but they were not part of the decision to create it.

  • Serge says:

    I’m sorry to be stuck in the early 2000s, but there are only two things to be said here:


  • Freewheeler says:

    The only thing that activist committees like that do is contribute to the death of the culture they claim to be protecting.

  • Herbie G says:

    Stark raving bonkers. Will they ban the New World Symphony and Porgy and Bess too? What about MacDowell’s Indian Suite – or all Arthur Farwell’s works based on native American melodies? If these works are banned, will I be able to sell my recordings on Ebay for exorbitant sums?

    What will be the penalty for performing music by white composers that is based on indigenous themes – a fine or imprisonment? What is the nature of the ‘injury’ suffered by the indigenous community?

    Imitation is supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery – but not in Canada, it seems. This is surely no different from the kind of censorship that was imposed by the Third Reich or the Soviet Union.

  • J Barcelo says:

    The “misuse of Indigenous songs” ? I would like to think most cultures would be grateful and proud to have their heritage used by composers. Think of the great work that Ralph Vaughan Williams, Percy Grainger, Zoltan Kodaly, and other have done is preserving folk songs and bringing them to a wider audience. This is Liberal Wokeness at its most destructive. No one owns folk music.

  • Oliver says:

    What is the provenance of this information? I don’t see a hyperlink anywhere.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    The Rondo alla turca has to be cancelled, too.

  • Franz1975 says:

    Don’t worry, if you want to use Canadian indigenous music just publish your music or book, or film your movie in another country and this nonsense will not apply.

  • Maxim says:

    Trudeau’s Canada has become a festering hotbeds for this sort of engineered ideological egalitarianism.
    One only has to remember the words of Milton Friedman to understand the dangers –
    “You can only aim at equality by giving some people the right to take things from others.”

    • zeno north says:

      One could argue that part of the problem is that some people took things from others without even bothering to consider whether they had “the right” to do so.

      • JJ says:

        And where were those people of the past supposed to have applied for the ‘right’ of using ‘things’? To a institution of self-declared experts in cultural appropriation, who didn’t even exist back then? Does this institution actually have any legal authority, even now, or are they just riding the fashionable wave and hope nobody will inquire too close into their statements?

  • AffreuxJojo says:

    Just watch how in a few years the frustrated artists turned bureaucrats of the CMC will lower themselves into condemning composers they showered with praise while alive just because their works would have been deemed appropriating by the all powerful purity commission…
    3,2,1… start!

  • Nurhan Arman says:

    If such bureaucracy and censorship existed, I can think of some major composers’ works would either not be composed or would not be published. A short-sighted decision, political correctness pushed too far.

  • Brent Straughan says:

    An inquisition is an inquisition – indigenous or not. Betrayed by my own publisher. I cannot believe it, and with taxpayer dollars, implying some form of public consent too! I will accept no form of “thought police” in my music or music theatre. While they are at it Emily Carr has a lot of totem poles in her paintings – all used without permission. Get that mocassin off my neck, and send the idea back to Putin’s Russia where it belongs!

  • Andy says:

    Note to composers: Avoid censorship, bypass the CMC, and self-publish.

  • Andy says:

    I listened to an orchestral work by an indigenous Canadian composer. It was odd because the composer appropriated all sorts of European instruments in writing the piece. Now I see that what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander.

  • Rena Redding says:

    The Advisory Council website ( reads like an ideological tract, e.g. “The Canadian Music Centre was founded in 1959. It was established in the context of violent state policies targeting Indigenous communities including the Potlatch ban, the 60s scoop, and residential schools….” “Violent” state policies? This is demonstrably wrong. The 60s “scoop” involved social workers removing/ adopting out native kids on reserve for a reason, certainly not for no reason. The Department of Canadian Heritage – using taxpayer (“settler”!) dollars – seems to want lead the way in sullying Canada’s reputation past and present, including with its provision of 40% of the funding for the Canadian Music Centre, and the nonsensical initiative described in this article.

  • Jim C says:

    What’s the difference between “appropriation” and “borrow”? Do the composers not give the material back?

  • deN Roarem says:

    There is very little there to use in the first place. Rhythmic chanting has little interest. But giving them this degree of censorship is simply appalling. Canada is being violated by them.