Poll reveals Canadians' widespread ignorance of Canada

OTTAWA - Shockingly ignorant, eh?

OTTAWA - Shockingly ignorant, eh?

There's not much national pride to be drawn from a new poll published just in time for Canada Day. The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests the country knows little about its own history - even its most recent history.

Only 42 per cent of respondents knew Canada had three territories - which, when compared with some of the other results from the 13-question survey, could be ranked as a towering success.

When asked how old Canada was turning this year, just 21 per cent answered correctly that the country - founded in 1867 - was turning 142 years old.

The wild range of incorrect replies spanned from 30 years to 287 years, placing Canada's founding at sometime between the War of Spanish Succession and the dying days of disco.

"You've got a big range of perception about how old Canada is," said Harris-Decima vice-president Jeff Walker.

"We've got four per cent of Canadians who think Canada is under 100 years old."

When asked who was the previous prime minister, only 31 per cent named Paul Martin.

Twenty-two per cent said Stephen Harper, 18 per cent said Jean Chretien, a handful of respondents said Kim Campbell, and 22 per cent couldn't name anyone at all.

When asked what year Newfoundland joined Confederation, 20 per cent correctly answered 1949.

The range of responses offered included the years 1817, 1820, 1832, and 2002.

That means some people believe Newfoundland joined Confederation 50 years before Confederation actually occurred, with at least one respondent declaring it happened shortly after 9-11.

Who was Canada's only female prime minister? Forty-two per cent replied, correctly, "Kim Campbell."

Answers were also weak when it came to popular culture, sports, or geography.

Just eight per cent could name Mary Pickford when asked which Canadian first won an Academy Award. And 11 per cent could name one of the Canadian Idol winners.

Only 29 per cent replied the "Montreal Canadiens," when asked which Canadian hockey team last won the Stanley Cup. Eleven per cent said the Calgary Flames and nine per cent said the Edmonton Oilers.

And when a nation of hockey fans taunts the Toronto Maple Leafs, it appears not everyone would get the punchline: four per cent said the Leafs had won the Cup most recently.

The Leafs haven't carried home Lord Stanley's trophy since 1967, while the Oilers, Flames and Canadiens have each won at least once in the 1980s and '90s.

Only 16 per cent of respondents could name the Mackenzie as Canada's longest river.

Respondents performed best when asked what purpose Ottawa's Rideau Canal served during the winter months. Seventy-six per said they knew it was a skating rink.

The pollster says that while Canadians might express pride in their country, that pride doesn't appear to translate into knowing much about its achievements.

"I was quite shocked," Walker said.

"These are questions my five-and seven-year-old know like the back of their hand."

The poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted June 25 to 29, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

 
 
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