Canadian Studies

The use of the phrase "Canadian studies" to designate a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to research and teaching about Canada owes much to the evolution of Canadian NATIONALISM in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1968, inspired by the Centennial celebrations, A.B.

Canadian Studies

The use of the phrase "Canadian studies" to designate a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to research and teaching about Canada owes much to the evolution of Canadian NATIONALISM in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1968, inspired by the Centennial celebrations, A.B. Hodgetts published What Culture? What Heritage? Hodgetts examined the teaching of Canada in hundreds of schools and concluded, "We are teaching a bland, unrealistic consensus version of our past; a dry-as-dust chronological story of uninterrupted political and economic progress told without the controversy that is an inherent part of history."

This analysis was followed in 1969 by a report - The Struggle for Canadian Universities, by R. Mathews and J. Steele - on the large numbers of non-Canadians teaching in the country's universities, and in 1972 by a decision of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) to commission T.H.B. SYMONS to "study, report, and make recommendations upon the state of teaching and research in various fields of study relating to Canada." The Symons Report, To Know Ourselves, released in 1976, advocated a wide variety of activities in universities and within government agencies, professional associations and private and public organizations.

Symons's initial study was followed by changes at all educational levels, by new government programs, and by numerous further studies, commissions and reports. Hodgetts, Symons and others raised issues concerning not only education, but also the BOOK PUBLISHING industry, science and technology, archives, international relations, etc.

The public debate over the concept of a "Canadian identity" had its most dramatic impact on education, however, and contributed to the creation of several new agencies and organizations devoted to the promotion of "Canadian studies." In 1970 the CANADA STUDIES FOUNDATION, an independent, nonprofit organization, was created with the support of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education to suggest ways of improving the quality of Canadian studies in the country's elementary and secondary schools.

Among its many achievements was the publication in 1978 of a design for curriculum entitled Teaching Canada for the 80's. The CSF, faced with declining public funding and little outside support, closed down in 1986. At the college level, similar initiatives were undertaken in the early 1970s by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges through a Canadian Studies Project.

Funded at first by the Kellogg Foundation and later by the federal government, this project was established to increase the level of Canadian content in COMMUNITY COLLEGE courses and to increase the number of interdisciplinary programs. Through CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT grants, travel awards for students, faculty and administrators, and through publications and other initiatives, this project achieved considerable success.

At the university level, faculty interested in Canadian studies created, in the 1970s, the ASSOCIATION FOR CANADIAN STUDIES, an interdisciplinary organization devoted to encouraging teaching, publication and research about Canada at the post-secondary level through various national and regional programs (by 1987, more than 35 Canadian universities offered various Canadian studies programs). It also directed some of its programs and publications to the general public, including a newsletter, published quarterly. By 1993, ACS, headquartered in Montréal, had over 750 members (more than 600 individual members and 155 institutional members.)

In 1981 the INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL FOR CANADIAN STUDIES (ICCS) was formed, partly to provide a means of exchanging information among a growing number of national or multinational associations for Canadian studies abroad. By 1994, there were some 20 member countries in the ICCS, several associate members, plus another 18 Canadian studies associations affiliated to, but not members of, the ICCS. Canadian studies associations in the US, China, Japan, India and Israel are members, as are the associations of a number of other countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Financial support for Canadian studies in Canada and abroad comes from a variety of sources, including membership fees, foundations (private and public), granting agencies and, most notably, from the federal Department of FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE (formerly External Affairs) and the Department of Canadian Heritage. During the 1980s, however, formal interest in Canadian studies by government funding agencies was beginning to wane. At its inception in 1984 the budget of the Canadian Studies unit in the Secretary of State (now Canadian Heritage) department was $3.1 million, of which $2.8 million was committed to grants and contributions.

The annual level of funding has varied considerably over the years, largely as a result of allocations for special projects (eg, $2.5 million for The Canadian Encyclopedia and $5.2 million for Horizon Canada during a three-year period in the mid-eighties). In 1987-88, the budget was reduced to $2 million, a third less than the program's original allocation, and several activities were discontinued at that time. By 1992-93, the grants and contributions budget of $1.45 million was 60% less than that of 1983-84, without taking inflation into account.

Formal Canadian studies has made great strides during the past 2 and a half decades. When Professor Symons (in collaboration with J.E. Page) published the third and final volume of his report on Canadian studies in 1984, it could be reported that much had happened in the preceding decade, both in the creation or expansion of teaching programs and in the research, publication, collection and preservation of Canadian materials. The challenge for formal Canadian studies in the future will be to discover new and innovative approaches to financing Canadian studies programs. Accordingly many university and academic organizations have begun to approach the private sector for support. A comprehensive review of the state of Canadian studies in Canada was completed by David Cameron of the University of Toronto in 1994. The report, Taking Stock: Canadian Studies in the Nineties, was published in 1996 by the Association for Canadian Studies. A summary of this report can be found on the Internet at also CULTURAL POLICY.

Further Reading

  • Directory to Canadian/Québec Regional Studies in Canada (1984).

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