New Canada Day survey writes the book on Canlit, which 76% Canadians think among world’s best

June 29, 2011

New Canada Day survey writes the book on Canlit, which 76% Canadians think among world’s best

TORONTO—June 29, 2011—With Canada Day around the corner, The Historica-Dominion Institute asked Canadians to write their own great Canadian novel through a playful open-ended survey, and to answer questions on the importance and role of CanLit in education. The results tell a multitude of stories about this great country, and demonstrate an overwhelming impulse for historical education through Cancon-focused literature.


In the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, in a fictionally affordable Muskoka cottage, in the Arctic, in downtown Montreal. These are some of the places where Canadians see their stories unfolding. A roughly even split chose either themselves (17%) or historic figures (18%) like Jacques Cartier or Wayne Gretzky as protagonists of their story. Interestingly, almost one quarter or 23% would write a history book, and nearly one third (31%) wanted to educate their reader, most often about Canada (rather than entertain 22%, cheer 22% or distract 5%).


“We’re excited to be tapping into the Canadian imagination while probing attitudes about how we see our own stories,” said Jeremy Diamond, Director of The Historica-Dominion Institute. “Canada Day reminds us of how important it is to celebrate those stories, and the authors who have helped to inscribe them in our collective memory.”


Notably, the survey showed immense support for Canadian stories: 95% of respondents agreed (55% strongly, 40% somewhat) that ‘it is important that students read Canadian literature in school’ while 89% agreed (48% strongly, 41% somewhat) that ‘Canadian literature should be mandatory in all high school curricula across Canada’. In fact, three quarters (76%) agree (23% strongly, 54% somewhat) that ‘Canadian literature is among the best in the world’. Nevertheless, almost half (48%) disagreed (13% strongly, 34% somewhat) that they ‘read Canadian literature on a regular basis’. Breakdown by age reveals a troubling reality: 18-34 year olds were least likely, and one third less likely than 55+ year olds, to agree that they read Canadian literature regularly.


When asked which Canadian author they would like to invite to their Canada Day BBQ, 10% chose Pierre Berton and Farley Mowat respectively and 9% chose Margaret Atwood. One in three (34%) would not name a Canadian author.


Other findings include:

  • More than 1 in 3 (38%) Canadians would set their story in a Canadian city like Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver or Quebec City
  • 18% of Canadians would write an adventure; 5% would write a comedy
  • 55% of 18-34 year-olds disagreed (35% somewhat, 20% strongly) that they ‘read Canadian literature on a regular basis’
  • 51% of 35-45 year-old respondents disagreed (38% somewhat, 13% strongly) that they ‘read Canadian literature on a regular basis’
  • Only 38% of 55+ respondents disagreed (30% somewhat, 8% strongly) that they ‘read Canadian literature on a regular basis

The Historica-Dominion Institute is the largest independent organization dedicated to history and citizenship in Canada. Its mandate is to build active and informed citizens through a greater knowledge and appreciation of the history, heritage and stories of Canada.


Full survey results are available here.


This poll is published in partnership with CBC Books. Visit the Books Portal to answer interactive survey questions on CanLit.   




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