Monday, December 15, 2008

"D'oh Canada!"

In the wake of the parliamentary shenanigans of the past weeks, and the constitutional issues that were brought to the fore, the Dominion Institute, via Ipsos Reid, conducted a survey of Canadians to gauge their knowledge of basic Canadian civics.

"Canadians certainly were interested by what was going on in Ottawa, but lacked in many cases the basic knowledge to form informed opinions," [Executive Director of the Dominion Institute, Marc Chalifoux said.

"We found a lot of ignorance."

The institute drew up four basic questions:

-Who is the head of state?

-How can Canada's system of government best be described?

-Do Canadians elect the prime minister directly?

-Can the governor general can nix a prime minister's request for a new election?

"These questions we're asking aren't just trivia," Chalifoux said.

"These are part of the basic tool kit of knowledge that citizens need to function in a democracy."

So, how did Canadians do? Not well, I'm afraid.

  • only 24% could correctly answer that the queen is the head of state, not the prime minister nor the governor general;
  • just 59% correctly identifies Canada's system of government as a constitutional monarchy, as opposed to the rest who chose a cooperative assembly (25%) or a representative republic (17%);
  • fully 51% believed mistakenly that Canadians elect their prime minister directly;
  • but, as much a 90% correctly answered that the governor general has the power to refuse the prime minister's request to call an election if the government loses the support of the House.

Chalifoux blames it on the educational system: "Our school system needs to be doing a better job of training young people to be citizens."

Overall, the survey found the lowest levels of knowledge in Quebec - 70 per cent of Quebecers, for example, wrongly believe Canadians directly elect the prime minister. Only 35 per cent of Atlantic Canadians made that mistake.

Certainly disheartening, but (lamentably) not surprising. The annual Canadian history survey that the Dominion Institute became well-known for conducting (to coincide with Dominion Day each year) has always revealed an abysmal knowledge deficit among Canadians with respect to their own nation's history. But that questionnaire generally has more than just four questions.

No comments: