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Massey Commission Report

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This document is an excerpt from the Massey Commission Report (1951). In the year 1949, a commission was set up to encourage the awareness in arts, social sciences, humanities and letters. The members of the commission were appointed by the federal government by commonly applied to the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, appointed by the federal government with Vincent Massey, the chancellor of the University of Toronto as it head.

The other members of the commission included “Arthur Surveyer, a civil engineer of Montreal; Norman A.M. MacKenzie, president of the University of British Columbia; the Most Rev Georges-Henri Lévesque, dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Laval U; and Hilda Neatby, professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan” (Kallmann 2006 in The Canadian Encyclopedia).

The document does offer some background understanding of the period it was produced in. The document concerns mainly the measure taken to remedy the lack of importance accorded to humanities and social studies in the curriculum, until then in the Canadian educational front. It is known from the previous chapters that the three R’s i.e. Reading Writing and Arithmetic were given the utmost importance in the schools of Canada with sciences in general, being neglected.

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The document explicates that the lack had been recognized even prior to the formation of the commission, in the establishment of National Research Council for scientific studies.  It seemed to have met with some success too, as indicated by the words “that the success of National Research Council in encouragement of scientific studies offered an example that should perhaps be followed”.

The audience of the document was, obviously, the general public of Canada. The commission conducted research in four major cities of Canada, between the months August 1949 and July 1950. Hundreds of petitions were received and heard in these four cities, and on the basis of these briefs, experts were called in to prepare and include special studies that imparted more knowledge of the sciences.

However, the Massy commission has rejected emulation of the National Research Council   in setting up the National Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. The document proceeded to give the reason for rejection too, as that “the implied parallel” between the two was “misleading.” Furthermore, it held the earlier National Research Council partially responsible for the current crisis, since the scientific studies were “isolated” into a “separate body” and also because they were subjected to “too rigid techniques and methods of organization.”

The purpose of the document was to encourage studies in humanities and social sciences, by establishing “flexible schemes of scholarships and grants” which will aid the Canadian people to have scientific education; and “international exchanges” especially under world bodies such as the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) and importantly “closer contacts with France and Great Britain”. It has to be remembered that during this period Quebec was given autonomy in cultural issues and hence was successful to a large extent in preserving the French identities and cultural awareness in its population, causing greater divide between itself and other English dominated areas of Canada.

It must be said that Massey commission was largely successful in its intent and purpose, because most of the commission’s recommendations were executed by the federal government in the subsequent years, despite opposition from the French provinces.

Source: Report Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences

1949-1951. (Ottawa: King’s Printer 1951):376-7 and Kallmann, Helmut - The Canadian Encyclopedia. “Massey Commission” In The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Retrieved on 28 Oct 2006.

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