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Canadian values are the commonly shared ethical and human values of Canadians. The major political parties generally claim explicitly that they uphold these values, but there are no consensus among them about what they are and follow a value pluralism approach.
Canada ranks among the highest in international measurements of government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic freedom, education and gender equality. Canadian Government policies—such as publicly funded health care; higher and more progressive taxation; outlawing capital punishment; strong efforts to eliminate poverty; an emphasis on cultural diversity; strict gun control; the legalization of same-sex marriage, pregnancy terminations, euthanasia and cannabis — are social indicators of the country's political and cultural values. Canadians identify with the country's institutions of health care, military peacekeeping, the national park system and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Numerous scholars have tried to identify, measure and compare them with other countries. Baer et al. argue that "Questions of national character and regional culture have long been of interest to both Canadian and American social scientists. The Canadian literature has focussed largely on historical and structural reasons for regional distinctiveness and the possible role of regionalism in undermining a truly national Canadian character or ethos."
Further information: International rankings of Canada
When he began his study of Canada in the late 1940s, American sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset assumed Canadian and American values were practically identical. Further work led him to discover and to explore the differences. By 1968 he concluded:
Lipset offered some theories of where the two societies differ, and why. That stimulated a large body of scholarship, with other scholars offering their own explanations and criticizing his. As a result, numerous academic studies compare Canadian values and beliefs with those of the United States, and sometimes they add in other countries as well. Lipset has explained his social science methodology:
Lipset presented numerous political and economic values on which he scored the U.S. as high and Canada as low. These included: individualism and competitiveness, entrepreneurship and high risk-taking, Utopian moralism, inclination to political crusades, populist or anti-establishment and anti-elite tendencies, a God-and-country nationalism, and intolerance for ideological nonconformity.
Lipset argues that:
Canadian historian Arthur R. M. Lower argues:
Jean Chrétien in his 2010 book My Years as Prime Minister stated the country is fundamentally western and liberal, and the values of nation as "moderation, sharing, tolerance and compassion.” Some critics undermine him as a "plain-speaking politician [who] built his career on defending traditional Canadian values and promoting middle-class policies."
Justin Trudeau after taking office as Prime Minister in 2015 tried to define what it means to be Canadian, saying that Canada lacks a core identity but does have shared values:
Some critics observe that Trudeau's list of values are an evolving one as political circumstances arise, and the idea of post-nationalism by stripping Canada's European History is a pavement to tribalism and race based politics to cement stakeholder groups and appeal to them during elections, and others undermine him as a political eunuch.
Religious belief and behaviour are possible candidates in searching for the sources of values. Lipset looked to religion as one of the causes of differing values. He stated:
Hoover and Reimer agree and update Lipset with a plethora of recent survey statistics, while noting that the differences narrowed since 1990, especially in the Prairie provinces. They stress that in the early 21st century 87% of Canadians belonged to cooperative churches, whereas 20% of Americans were Baptists and many more were evangelicals, fundamentalists or members of new religions who tended to behave in a more sectarian fashion; these elements, they argue, made for a higher level of religious and political conservatism and intolerance in the U.S.
Baer, Grabb and Johnston argue that:
A 2013 Statistics Canada survey found that an "overwhelming majority" of Canadians shared the values of human rights (with 92% of respondents agreeing that they are a shared Canadian value), respect for the law (92%) and gender equality (91%). There was considerably less agreement among Canadians over whether ethnic and cultural diversity, linguistic duality, and respect for aboriginal culture were also shared Canadian values.
According to the Canadian Index of Well Being at the University of Waterloo, Canadian values include:
A survey for Citizen's Forum on Canada's Future, 1991 identified the following values:
Lydia Miljan, a political scientist expressed that core canadian values include “self reliance, limited government, and what are often labelled traditional family values.”
Eric Kaufmann, a Vancouver-raised political scientist at the University of London, said politician's should not force their biases as the accepted version of culture or values for their own purposes instead they should highlight “core values around respect for liberty, law and celebrating major historical episodes.”
Main article: Monarchism in Canada
Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leader in 2009–11, in 2004 rooted Canadian values in a historic loyalty to the Crown. Likewise the Conservative Party in 2009 pointed to support for the monarchy of Canada as a core Canadian value.
John Diefenbaker, the Conservative Prime Minister 1957–63, was reluctant to use Canadian values as a criterion for deciding on foreign policies. For example, Jason Zorbas argues that human rights abuses in Argentina and Brazil did not affect relations with those countries.
However his successor, Lester Pearson, the Liberal Prime Minister (1963–68), called in 1967 for a foreign policy "based on Canadian considerations, Canadian values and Canadian interests."
Under Conservative Brian Mulroney, Prime Minister 1984–1993, according to scholar Edward Akuffo:
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister (2006–2015), tried to shift the existing foreign policy concerns to one were Canada's self-reliance and self-responsibility are prioritized. During 147th Canada Day convention, he said Canada's characteristics and values lie in by being a confident partner, a courageous warrior, and a compassionate neighbour.
While Liberal and Conservative politicians claimed to represent Canadian values, so too did socialists and forces on the left. Ian MacKay argues that, thanks to the long-term political impact of "Rebels, Reds, and Radicals", and allied leftist political elements, "egalitarianism, social equality, and peace... are now often simply referred to... as 'Canadian values.'"
See also: Education in Canada
Contrasted to the United States, historical educational ideals in Canada have been more elitist, with an emphasis on training church and political elites along British lines. In 1960, for example, 9.2 percent of Canadians aged 20 to 24 were enrolled in higher education, compared to 30.2 percent in the United States. Even at the secondary level, enrolments were higher in the United States. According to surveys in the late 1950s of citizens and educators by Lawrence Downey:
The United States has long emphasized vocational, technical and professional education, while the Canadian schools resist their inclusion. Ivor F. Goodson and Ian R. Dowbiggin have explored the battle over vocational education in London, Ontario, in the 1900–1930 era, a time when American cities were rapidly expanding their vocational offerings. The London Technical and Commercial High School came under heavy attack from the city's social and business elite, who saw the school as a threat to the budget of the city's only academic high school, London Collegiate Institute.
Most post-secondary institutions in Canada are public universities, which means they are funded by the provincial governments but not owned by the provinces. In contrast, public universities in the United States are owned and controlled by state governments, and there are many private universities, including such schools as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Chicago and Stanford.
Main article: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, heavily promoted by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was adopted in 1982. The Charter guarantees certain political rights to Canadian citizens and civil rights of everyone in Canada from the policies and actions of all areas and levels of the government. It is designed to unify Canadians around a set of principles that embody those rights. Even before he entered politics, Trudeau had developed his concept of the charter primarily as an expression of common Canadian values. Trudeau said that, thanks to the Charter, Canada itself could now be defined:
As Professor Alan Cairns noted about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms , "the initial federal government premise was on developing a pan-Canadian identity"'. Pierre Trudeau himself later wrote in his Memoirs (1993) that "Canada itself" could now be defined as a "society where all people are equal and where they share some fundamental values based upon freedom", and that all Canadians could identify with the values of liberty and equality.
Main article: Multiculturalism in Canada
The enormous ethnic variety of the population of Canada in recent decades has led to an emphasis on "multiculturalism." Sociologist N. M. Sussman says, "The tenets of this concept permitted and subtly encouraged the private maintenance of ethnic values while simultaneously insisting on minimal public adherence to Canadian behaviours and to Canadian values." As result, immigrants to Canada are more likely to maintain the values and attitudes of both the home and of the host culture, compared to similar immigrants to Australia, the United Kingdom, or the United States.
Andrew Griffith argues that "89 percent of Canadians believe that foreign-born Canadians are just as likely to be good citizens as those born in Canada.... But Canadians clearly view multiculturalism in an integrative sense, with an expectation that new arrivals will adopt Canadian values and attitudes." Griffith adds that "There are virtually no differences between Canadian-born and foreign-born with respect to agreement to abide by Canadian values (70 and 68 percent, respectively)."
In 2016, the workforce participation rate for Canadian women was 70.2% (78.4% for males).
Some believe that Elsie MacGill defined Canadian values. She was a pioneer for women in engineering and business, a war hero and a role model.
Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
In contrast, in the United States the Equal Rights Amendment was never ratified. Section 1 of that amendment would have granted "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."
Citing Canadian values, Canadian courts have rejected assertions that violence against women is in some circumstances acceptable because of one's religious and cultural beliefs. In the R v. Humaid decision, Justice Rutherford of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice stated:
Main article: Healthcare in Canada
Universal access to publicly funded health services "is often considered by Canadians as a fundamental value that ensures national health care insurance for everyone wherever they live in the country." Survey research in the 1990s showed that:
The idea of Canadian values has been used for the dedication of memorials, like the Memorial to the Victims of Communism: Canada, a Land of Refuge, in Ottawa. It construction was meant to bring the suffering of "the millions of victims of Communism" into the public's consciousness. Many of these victims fled to Canada "seeking peace, order, democracy, and liberty." The memorial is expected to be completed in 2018.
According to Ms. Mélanie Joly, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, "Commemorative monuments play a key role in reflecting the character, identity, history and values of Canadians". She complained that the previous Harper government had made the project too controversial. Her new Liberal government has moved the site and cut its budget.
The Charter of the French Language (French: La charte de la langue française, also known as loi 101 [Bill 101]) is legislation that makes French the official language of Quebec. Among other things, the Charter requires:
The Charter of Values (French: Charte de la laïcité or Charte des valeurs québécoises, also known as Bill 60) was proposed legislation tabled by the governing Parti Québecois in August 2013 but which the National Assembly of Quebec did not pass by its dissolution in March 2014. It would have banned public sector employees from wearing conspicuous religious symbols. Article 5 in Chapter II stated:
Though Justin Trudeau has been a champion of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (French: La Charte canadienne des droits et libertés), he opposed the proposed Quebec Charter of Values. He stated, "Prohibiting someone from wearing a hijab or a kippah is not compatible with Quebec and Canadian values." Bill 60 was less prominent and of no value during COVID-19.
Proposed changes to the Canadian Constitution included adding the phrase "distinct society" to the Constitution Act, 1867, to recognize the uniqueness of Quebec as compared with the rest of Canada.
Defining Canadian values is problematic if the goal is to identify values that are universally held. According to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporter Neil Macdonald, there are "precious few notions that can accurately be described as universally held Canadian values." According to journalist Lysiane Gagnon, Canadians "don't share common values." She notes that, while many ideas—such as medicare, bilingualism, and multiculturalism—are sometimes characterized as Canadian values, "many Canadians are against all or some of these." Canadian sociologist Vic Satzewich has argued that "coming up with a universal set of our nation's values would be impossible."
The Institute for Canadian Values sponsored advertisements against the teaching of certain sexual education topics in the Ontario school curriculum and discriminated against transsexual, transgender, and intersex persons. The advertisements were controversial and quickly discontinued.
Certain cultural practices were called "Barbaric" and made illegal in 2015, when the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act was enacted by the Canadian federal government. The Act criminalizes certain conduct related to early and forced marriage ceremonies, as well as removing a child from Canada for the purpose of such marriages.
In the 2015 general election Conservatives had pitched their policy "as an issue of Canadian values.... The Conservatives expanded the issue, announcing a proposed RCMP hotline that would allow Canadians to report the existence of 'barbaric cultural practices' in the country." These targeted practices included polygamy, forced marriage and early marriage (i.e. child marriage).
See also: Canadian nationalism
Scholars have asked whether shared values underpin national identity. Denis Stairs links the concept of Canadian values with nationalism. Stairs, the McCulloch Professor in Political Science at Dalhousie University, has argued that there is indeed an intense widespread belief in the existence of Canadian values, but says that belief can itself be harmful. He contends that:
Stairs also argues that, "first billing is usually given in received lists of Canadian values to 'multiculturalism'... as a means of challenging the premises of nationalism in Quebec."
Canadian politicians have proposed rejecting immigrants who have anti-Canadian values such as:
Kellie Leitch, a candidate for leadership candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada's 2017 Convention, was a vocal proponent of such government screening.
In 2016, an Environics public opinion poll found that 54 per cent of Canadians agree that "there are too many immigrants coming into this country who are not adopting Canadian values."
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