Spirit Quest


Spirit Quest

English and French CBC radio embody the Spirit of Canada

You have a chance now to let the CRTC know what you think

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

What is the Spirit of Canada? It is a question that I have often asked myself but particularly on special occasions such as last week’s Canada Day. Inasmuch as I call this weekly essay Spirit Quest I have reason to pursue a quest for our nation’s spirit.

Undoubtedly the Spirit of Canada is embodied in many things for many different people. For some, I suppose, in far off Kandahar, an area of extreme dust and danger, quite unlike this land, the presence of a Tim Horton must give the lonesome soldier a sense of the warm fuzzies. 

I recall in the days when I studied abroad I would go out of my way to pass by a travel office that had an ad for Trans Canada Airlines, now of course Air Canada, in their window. I gave it a friendly nod.

For others all across Canada in the midst of icy blasts from the true north, skating on a pond wielding a hockey stick and keeping warm with a Toronto Maple Leaf sweater, the spirit is precisely that, The Toronto Maple Leafs. Apologies to Roche Carrier author of Hockey Sweater.

The spirit is evident in many things, however for me, the Spirit of Canada is none other than CBC Radio. It is what wakes me in the morning and has the last word at night. 

I first heard the CBC on that abandoned farm in northern Saskatchewan shortly after our arrival in Canada. We didn’t have a radio of our own but our neighbours had a battery-operated receiver, the power lines having not yet reached our area. And so it was that I heard the news that Canada was at war through the CBC’s regional transmitter at Watrous, Saskatchewan, smack dab in the middle of the prairie.

After moving east we soon acquired a radio and although my parents were ardent readers it was radio, specifically CBL Toronto that provided more than background noise.

The CBC is public radio owned by the Canadian people, unlike many other broadcasters that are owned by private corporations. For more than three decades now, we've appreciated that the CBC’s broadcasts have been free of commercial intrusions. The public broadcaster sought to reflect the culture of Canadian people in all its linguistic, ethnic and cultural shadings, or shall I call it tints. 

Unlike its younger sibling CBC TV, CBC radio has become truly public, free from commercials to sandwich its programs in sales for soap and porridge. That advantage is by no means secure as government, which is its sole source of funding, wields its fiscal cutting knife to make governing cheaper and to give more advantage to private enterprise.

The CBC as we have known it has become an endangered species. The prime minister himself has questioned the raison d’etre for government involvement in broadcasting. 

From time to time the Canadian Broadcasting and Television Commission conducts hearings into the licensing of radio and television to determine whether the industry is living up to its approved mandate. Such a hearing, the first in this century, will take place shortly. The publics’ submissions to the commission are invited.

The CBC has changed, not always for the better. Its management is intent on making it more popular to increase its ratings. This pursuit of popularity has pitted the public broadcaster against commercial stations. The CBC is meant to be free of that in order to do what others cannot or will not do. The CBC is not meant to compete with the lowest common denominator. It does not have to, to put it crassly, “dumb down” for the sake of popularity.

CBC Radio particularly Radio 2 has been changed radically. Once upon a time it provided much classical music. It still does - some - but for much of the time it seems no different than what one hears on Radio 1.

Is the CBC, like the Whooping Crane, now on the wane? And do Canadians really care?

On Canada Day we whooped it up especially on Parliament Hill in the presence of our royal guests from Britain. Prince William spoke eloquently about his love for Canada a portion of which by now he will have seen. Harper praised this as a land of unbounded opportunity. Is that opportunity equally shared? But just as a body cannot survive for long without a spirit so Canada as a nation will not survive without a vibrant spirit.

I maintain that CBC Radio, English and French embody that spirit. Its waves through the ether can be felt from St.John’s to Haida Quaii, from Point Pelee to Alert, Its efforts have been to preserve and enhance the mosaic rather than heat the melting pot.

Canadians now have an opportunity to speak out, or write out, to the hearings and tell the commission what you think about the public broadcaster.

Ian Morrison, the president of Friends of Public Broadcasting has encouraged Canadians to write to the CRTC taking into account the following:

•The Broadcasting Act states that the programming provided by the CBC should "reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions". We believe the Commission needs to hear from you why this is so important – in your own words.

•What do you think of CBC's decision to cut back classical music programming on Radio 2?

•CBC Television has proposed a condition of license that it devote 75% of its broadcast day and 80% of prime time (7 to 11 pm) to Canadian programming averaged over a full year. Is this a sufficient minimum commitment to Canadian shows?

•Half the audience CBC Television attracts each year watches professional sports programs, mostly Hockey Night in Canada. Is this an appropriate balance for the national public broadcaster?

•How is CBC doing in airing children's programming?

I urge you to be part of the Spirit through  friend@friends.ca

Keep the Spirit Alive!



I am a Friend of Canadian Broadcasting mainly in spirit and electronic bits through Facebook and the mailing list. 

I enjoy the programming provided on CBC Radio 1 and 2.  I was not too disappointed when they cut back on classical programming because they introduced some new, interesting shows that encourage listeners to open their ears and minds...

Your article has encouraged me to join others to voice our support and ... dig a little deeper into my pocket. 



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