The organization behind Canada’s Heritage Minutes says provincial education systems need to do a better job of teaching students about the country’s most historically significant women, pointing to a new poll that suggests the majority of Canadians have a lot to learn.
An Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Historica Canada posed a dozen true or false questions about Canadian women’s history.
Some of the questions included statements such as “Canada has never elected a party with a female leader to form the federal government” and “Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, and Lucy Maud Montgomery are among Canada’s best-known authors” – both of which are true.
Historica says 55 per cent of those who took the quiz failed, with only three per cent answering well enough to score an A.
A regional breakdown indicated 62 per cent of Alberta respondents failed the quiz, followed by 57 per cent of British Columbia respondents and 56 per cent of both Ontario and Quebec residents polled. Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Atlantic Canada all tied with the lowest fail rate of 45 per cent.
The organization’s Chief Executive Officer Anthony Wilson-Smith said the poll’s findings, similar to other such surveys, point to persistent gaps in the various provincial education systems.
“It’s very hard to expect people to know things which they have not been taught,” Wilson-Smith said in an interview. “Not only do we feel that there’s an ongoing absence of focus on Canadian history, but certainly it’s even more pronounced when it comes to the teaching of accomplishments by women.”
Wilson-Smith noted that his organization wasn’t “wagging a finger at anyone” with the results of the survey.
“Education is a provincial jurisdiction and that’s what prevents us from having the kind of national narrative that would make people more familiar,” he said. “We do see evidence that once people are made aware of and given the opportunity more easily to learn about them, that they do retain.”
Historica says the fail rate for its survey was highest among women, with 59 per cent of those polled getting at least half the questions wrong. It says 52 per cent of men surveyed did not pass.