Thoughts about Canada Day

There have been suggestions that the powers that be change Canada Day to the first weekend in July rather than have it always falling on July 1. Tomorrow is July 4 which will fall on a Friday. We don’t think the Americans would ever think of celebrating Independence Day on another day, do you? Not that what they would do should influence us, but, like July 4rth, Canada Day (or Dominion Day as it used to be called) celebrates the anniversary of a specific date, in Canada’s case, the date of the formation of the Dominion of Canada. It isn’t just a holiday which represents an idea, like Father’s Day or Labour day which are general. Those we would have no objection to being moved around some. We think Canada Day should be left where it is, to be celebrated on the day, July First. We feel the same way about Remembrance Day.

Someone, who shall remain nameless out of kindness, recently mistakenly said Canada was 121 years old. Was it just a miscount or did he mistakenly think Confederation was in 1887?

The Dominion Institute has come out with its annual Canada Day survey which we always find interesting, but discouraging. This year is no exception. The title of the survey says it all – O Canada: Our Home and Naïve Land

It appears that Canadians know more about the history and politics of their neighbours to the south than they do about their own country. According to a new poll conducted in the format of a twenty-question quiz by Ipsos Reid on behalf of the Dominion Institute, Canadians have a higher average percentage of correct scores on questions about America (47%) than they do on questions about Canada (42%). [link to source – Dominion Institute]

Sad huh? The questions they asked were not impossibly difficult like the ones in the Chronicle Herald the other day. There were only ten fairly easy questions – such as, who is the nation’s head of state, and what is the country’s form of government and which of these authors is Canadian. They were paired with similar questions about the US.

The largest discrepancy in knowledge had to do with heads of state. While three in four Canadians (75%) know that George W. Bush, the president, is the American head of state, only two in ten (21%) know that the Canadian head of state is Queen Elizabeth II. … The best-answered Canadian questions dealt with John A. Macdonald being the first prime minister of Canada (61% correct answers) and the year of confederation being 1867 (61%).

The best result only 61 % . Tsk, tsk. It is pretty pathetic when 34% of Canadians think Jane Austen was a Canadian author. Americans do better.

In 2001, a similar quiz was conducted on American citizens, regarding their own history. At that time, the poll was carried out over telephone, while the new poll was conducted online. Nine in ten (90%) Americans knew that their first president was George Washington, compared to half (50%) of Canadians who know that, and six in ten (61%) Canadians who know who their first prime minister was.
One in three (32%) Americans knew their rights and freedoms are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, compared to one in ten (13%) Canadians who know that, and four in ten (44%) Canadians who know their own rights and freedoms are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Nine in ten (87%) Americans knew the slogan associated with their constitution was, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, compared to two in three (66%) Canadians who know that, and half (49%) of Canadians who know the slogan associated with their own constitution is, “Peace, order, and good government”.

Six in ten (61%) Americans knew the Declaration of Independence was issued in America in 1776, compared to four in ten (39%) Canadians who know that, and six in ten (61%) Canadians who know their own confederation took place in 1867. Four in ten (36%) Americans knew that American women were first given the right to vote in elections in the 1920’s, compared to one in four (26%) Canadians who know that, and two in ten (16%) Canadians who know their own female population was given the right to vote in elections in the 1910’s.

We Canadians tend to be insufferably self congratulatory. We should be more humble. Sorry for pricking that Canada Day balloon but that’s us.

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