How Much Do Canadians Actually Know About Canada? You Might Be Surprised

By: Kw Now Local News - Ipsos Survey
| Published 07/11/2020


So You Think You Know Canada, EH?

Ipsos Poll Shows Canadians Are Less Familiar With Who We Are Than They May Think

Toronto, ONT - While Half Of Canadians Know Their Country Contributed To Eradicating Polio, Most Don’t Know The Face On Their $10 Bill according to a new poll.

Canadians Want To See Stories About Indigenous Communities In Heritage Minutes, But Less Than One In Ten Recognize The Names Of Indigenous Activists Alanis Obomsawin (6%) Or Mary Two-Axe Earley (4%)

As we continue to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a sense that Canadians have “come together” during this crisis. News stories have been written about how Canadians are being encouraged to support their communities, neighbours are stepping up to help one another, and for many it feels like now is the time to rally ‘round the flag. But how much do Canadians know about their own country? A poll by Ipsos carried out on behalf of Historica Canada shows that Canadians are less familiar with their own countrymen and women than they may think.

Canadians confident in their knowledge of canola oil, but tripped up by David Suzuki’s background

In a 24-question quiz about Canadian facts and figures, Canadians show they have room to improve. Only 16% of surveyed respondents achieved a passing grade of at least 13 questions correct. Neither age, gender, nor region had any impact on respondents’ pass rates. Canadians were most likely to correctly identify that canola oil is distinctly Canadian (46% correct) and that Canadian contributions were key to developing and producing a polio vaccine in the 1950s (49% correct). Respondents struggled however, to separate fact from fiction: only 9% correctly identified that David Suzuki never hosted a children’s show titled “Dr. Dave’s Junior Science Club,” and another 9% correctly identified that Dr. Wilder Penfield did not create Pablum at Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital.

Canadians also appear to be more familiar with facts about their own generations. Canada’s youngest adults were more likely than their older counterparts to correctly identify that 15-year-old Autumn Peltier was named "chief water commissioner" by the Anishinabek Nation in 2019 (34% Gen Z vs. 20% Gen X, 18% Boomer), while Boomers were more likely to know about Canada’s contributions to the polio vaccine (60% Boomers vs. 47% Gen X, 45% Millennial, 31% Gen Z), and that Chief Dan George was the first Indigenous actor to be nominated for an Academy Award (53% Boomers vs. 25% Gen X, 23% Gen Z).

Canadians least familiar with historical figures of indigenous or minority backgrounds, but recognize homegrown heroes

When provided with a list of historical figures that have made a lasting mark on Canada, Canadians failed to show strong recognition of any- Olympian Clara Hughes garnered the strongest familiarity with 35% indicating they are familiar (13% very/23% somewhat). Hughes’ level of familiarity was followed by that of civil rights activist Viola Desmond at 29% (10% very/19% somewhat), and former Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire at 27% (10% very/17% somewhat).

Canadians registered some of the lowest levels of familiarity with figures of Indigenous or racialized backgrounds. Only 6% (1% very/4% somewhat) indicated their recognition of Indigenous filmmaker and activist Alanis Obomsawin, while 5% (1% very/4% somewhat) were familiar with Baltej Dhillon, the first RCMP officer to wear a turban, and 4% (1% very/3% somewhat) were familiar with indigenous activist Mary Two-Axe Earley.

Recognition of famous Canadians varied by generation. Gen Z was more likely to recognize minority ethnic figures who received some of the lowest recognition scores including businessman and philanthropist Denham Jolly (16% Gen Z vs. 6% Gen X, 4% Boomers), Alanis Obomsawin (14% Gen Z vs. 4% Gen X, 2% Boomers), or Baltej Dhillon (12% Gen Z vs. 4% Gen X, 2% Boomers). Contrastingly, Boomers demonstrated stronger familiarity with political figures like Roméo Dallaire (37% Boomers vs. 27% Gen X, 17% Millennial, 17% Gen Z).

Left to right: Indigenous Activist Alanis Obomsawin, Wilder Penfield, Civil rights activist Viola Desmond is the face on the Canadian $10 bill, Mary Two-Axe Earley indigenous activist, 15-year-old Autumn Peltier, young indigenous activist.

Despite Canadians of different generations showing varying recognition of famous figures one thing remains consistent- Canadians tend to recognize their homegrown heroes. In comparison to other provinces, Atlantic Canada showed stronger familiarity with Halifax born Viola Desmond (59% ATL vs. 34% ON, 29% AB, 27% BC, 27% SK/MB, 16% QC) and New Brunswick sports star Willie O’Ree (36% ATL vs. 21% AB, 15% BC, 14% ON, 13% QC, 11% SK/MB). Similarly, Quebecers were more likely to identify Montreal raised Roméo Dallaire (41% QC vs. 23% ON, 21% AB, 18% BC, 15% SK/MB) and British Columbians were more likely to recognize BC RCMP officer Baltej Dhillon (12% BC vs. 5% ON, 2% QC, 1% ATL, 1% SK/MB).  

About the Study

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between June 12-15, 2020, on behalf of Historica Canada. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18 years and over was interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

The author

Sean Simpson Vice President, Canada, Public Affairs