Canadians have reputation for not knowing their country’s history. This reputation has led to three reactions: indifference; a need to redress the situation through education initiatives; and a critique of the whole idea of “historical ignorance.” As we approach the 150th anniversary of Canada, how can Canadians cope with the diagnosis of their so-called collective amnesia? In this presentation, I will: 1) demonstrate how various survey results have consistently damaged the reputation of Canadians which, in return, led to particular educational initiatives; and 2) offer my own approach to surveys as an instrument to (re)vitalizing pre-service teachers’ knowledge of history. Raphaël Gani is a doctoral student in education at the University of Ottawa. He holds a M.A. in History (Laval) and a B.A. in Social Psychology (Montréal). His visit to the University of Alberta is supported by The History Education Network (THEN/HiER) visiting doctoral program.
Our survey illuminates a number of important themes that have been prominent in media commentary in recent years. Have people lost contact with the past as a result of today’s extraordinary changes in communication? We say, emphatically, no.
This week, on THEN/HiER blog, Heather McGregor expresses her concerns about Canadians & Pasts survey, who’s “Ignoring the Territorial North, Again” :
Nowhere is there a mention of the territorial North broadly speaking, or the Yukon, NWT or Nunavut specifically. And what about Nunavik and Nunatsiavut? Nor (that I could find) is there an explanation for the decision to leave them out. The survey was conducted by phone across the country; that the territories could not be included in this effort puzzled me.
Jocelyn Létourneau was the principal investigator in Community-University Research Alliance Canadians and their Pasts. Here’s a short and recent article written by Del Muise, co-investigator in the project.
Poll Says Canadians Love Their History
Canadians and their Pasts, a Community-University Research Alliance project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, surveyed 3,419 Canadians on their engagement with and attitudes toward the past. Conducted as a telephone survey during 2007-08, its more than 70 questions per interview provide the most nuanced understanding of Canadians’ engagement with the past to date.
Among other things, the survey puts paid to commonly held notions that Canadians are uninformed about or uninterested in the past. In fact, considerable interest and activity regarding the broad field of history was reported; Canadians visit museums and historic sites and watch history related movies and television as well as reading history related books and magazines. So much more of Canada’s history is available in so many media that access to the past has flourished in the past few decades.
What can we conclude? Our survey illuminates a number of important themes that have been prominent in media commentary in recent years. Have people lost contact with the past as a result of today’s extraordinary changes in communication? We say, emphatically, no. Do they express any interest in Canada’s history? Yes, quite clearly they do. Are ethnic and religious loyalties evident in the pattern of their responses? Yes, without question, but regional and linguistic differences were not as significant as we had anticipated. Do immigrants differ in some way from the Canadian-born in their relationship to the past? Not nearly as much as has been suggested in public debates in other countries. Do interprovincial migrants have a distinctive view of Canada’s past? Yes, like immigrants, they express greater interest in Canada’s past than many of their fellow citizens. Do Canadians differ from Americans and Australians? In some matters, yes, but the bigger story is the presence of an internationally shared perspective.