Canadian Identity, 2013
By Maire Sinha
- Section 1: National symbols
- Section 2: Shared values
- Section 3: Pride in being Canadian and in Canadian achievements
As Canada approaches its 150th anniversary, questions on what defines the Canadian identity are important points of reflection. Over the years, Canada’s national identity has continuously changed, being shaped by shifts in the socio-demographic landscape of Canada, historical events and social relationships. It cannot be considered a stagnant construct, but rather one that evolves over time. And while identity, in itself, can be an interesting declaration of who Canadians are and what they stand for, the notion of how Canadians view themselves and others in Canadian society can have implications on their social integration, civic engagement and participation, and connections with others (Canadian Heritage 2013).
For the first time, the General Social Survey (GSS) collected information on a range of national identity measures, including Canadians’ appreciation of national symbols and perceptions of whether Canadians share specific values. Also collected were personal feelings of pride in being Canadian and in national achievements. Combined, these identity-related indicators paint a broad picture of the Canadian collective identity. Certainly, variations in these perceptions exist across regions and socio-demographic characteristics, as not all people define being Canadian in the same way.
This report provides a snapshot of the Canadian identity, looking at variations by region and socio-demographic and economic characteristics. Three elements of national identity are discussed: national symbols, shared values and pride.
Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the national flag: Top national symbols
National symbols are largely conceptual representations of a country’s identity, and have been argued, in some contexts, to have a positive effect on bonding and emotional attachment to one’s country (Butz 2009; Cerulo 1989). The 2013 GSS asked Canadians about the importance of specific national symbols to the Canadian identity. Among the five symbols measured, the Charter of Rights and FreedomsNote 1 and the national flag ranked the highest, with more than nine in ten Canadians stating that these symbols were either very or somewhat important to the national identity (Chart 1). Next highest were the national anthem at 88% and the RCMP at 87%. Ranking the lowest, but still garnering majority support, was hockey, with 77% of Canadians believing that it was an important national symbol.Note 2
For most national symbols, more than half of Canadians aged 15 years and older believed they were very important to the national identity, particularly in reference to the Charter (70%) and the flag (69%). However, less than half (46%) considered hockey - Canada’s official winter sport,Note 3 as a very important symbol, with about one in five (22%) believing that it was not very important or not at all important. This contrasts feelings about the Charter and flag, where less than one in ten carried the same beliefs (4% and 9%, respectively).
When asked if there were any other symbols of national importance, Canadians offered a range of responses. Among the most commonly cited were the beaver as the national animal (16%), the maple leaf (14%) and the values and qualities of Canadian people (11%).
Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador most likely to believe national symbols are very important
At the provincial level, there were considerable differences in Canadians’ perceived importance of national symbols. Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador were among the most likely to feel that national symbols were very important to the Canadian identity, with more than three-quarters of residents strongly associating the Charter, flag, national anthem and the RCMP with the national identity (Table 1). Not only were these proportions above the national average, there was little difference in their relative importance to the Canadian identity.
On the other hand, Quebec residents were the least likely to believe in the importance of national symbols. Around one-third of Quebec residents regarded national symbols as very important representations of the Canadian identity. Only the Charter had a higher level of support. In 2013, 53% of Quebecers felt it was very important to the national identity, though still well below the national average of 70%.
Both Anglophone and Francophone QuebecersNote 4 recognized the Charter as the most important national symbol, though as with all national symbols, a much higher proportion of Anglophone Quebecers felt that the Charter was very important to the Canadian identity (69% versus 48% of Francophone Quebecers).
Other regional differences in the importance of the national symbols also existed, though the differences outside Quebec were more modest. A minimum of seven in ten people living outside Quebec felt that the Charter and the flag were very important to the national identity. The largest difference outside Quebec related to the perception of the RCMP as a very important national symbol, ranging from a low of 54% in British Columbia to a high of 78% in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The relative importance of symbols also varied somewhat. The national flag stood out as the most important symbol in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, while the flag and the Charter received similar support as very important symbols in Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Hockey ranks as a distant last across all provinces, except Quebec where its importance is similar to the other symbols, apart from the Charter.
Seniors rank the national flag and anthem as most important
Results from the 2013 GSS demonstrate that, in some ways, older Canadians differ from their younger counterparts in the perceived importance of national symbols. In particular, a strong belief in the importance of the national anthem and flag steadily grows with age, meaning that among seniors, the highest ranking symbols were the national flag and anthem, the two most internationally-recognized symbols of national identityNote 5. In comparison, for Canadians under 45, the Charter ranked the highest, while between the ages of 45 and 64, the Charter and the national flag tied for first.
The other two national symbols measured by the GSS – the RCMP and hockey – were ranked among the lowest at every age. However, Canadians under 35 were the least likely to say the RCMP was very important to the national identity.
Appreciation of national symbols higher among women
Women were generally more likely than men to perceive national symbols as very important to the Canadian identity. This was seen across almost all national symbols, with the exception of hockey. In this case, men were more likely than women to strongly believe in its importance to the collective Canadian identity (50% versus 42%) (Chart 2).
Besides hockey, the greatest gender difference in the recognition of national symbols was seen for the RCMP and the national anthem. In 2013, 58% of women thought the RCMP was a very important national symbol, compared to 52% of men. Similarly, two-thirds of women (66%) believed the national anthem was strongly linked to the Canadian identity, while the same was said by 61% of men. The gender difference was more muted for the Charter and flag. Even still, the small gender difference meant that the Charter ranked highest as a national symbol for women, while the Charter and the flag were considered equally important symbols for men.Note 6
Charter: Most important national symbol among university-educated Canadians
Symbols, as manifestations of national identity, do not carry the same weight for Canadians of all education levels. The Charter was regarded as the most important national symbol among university-educated Canadians, with 72% of those with a university degree viewing it as very important to the national identity (Table 2). This was the case across all age groups, with the exception of university educated seniors, who were as likely to view the Charter and the national flag as very important national symbols (67% each).
Overall, Canadians with lower levels of education attainment believed the Charter was just as important as other symbolic representations of Canada. More specifically, those with a high school or post-secondary diploma were as likely to believe the Charter and the flag were very important to the national identity (71% and 70%). Among Canadians with less than high school, three national symbols were equally important: the Charter (65%), flag (68%), and the national anthem (66%).
With the exception of the Charter, university educated Canadians were among the least likely to perceive national symbols as very important. This was most pronounced in relation to the RCMP. In 2013, 46% of university educated Canadians felt that the RCMP was a very important national symbol, compared to over half of post-secondary graduates (57%), high school graduates (58%) and those with less than high school (60%).
Household income has small impact on perceived importance of national symbols
In contrast to education’s influence on the perception of national symbols, the role of household income was more negligible. Across all household income levels, the Charter and national flag ranked the highest, though the proportions strongly viewing the Charter’s importance to the national identity were somewhat higher among people with a household income between $80,000 and $99,999 (73%), and for those with incomes of $150,000 and more (73%) (Table 2).
The only other notable difference was the appreciation of hockey as a national symbol. Canadians with higher levels of household income were more likely to view hockey as a very important national symbol. About half (49%) of Canadians with a household income of $150,000 or more said that hockey’s influence on the national identity was very important, compared to 42% of those with incomes under $20,000.
Immigrants and visible minorities more likely to believe national symbols are very important
For every national symbol, immigrants were more likely than non-immigrants to believe that they were very important to the national identity. The difference in the appreciation of national symbols was greatest for the national anthem, where 75% of immigrants viewed it as very important, compared to 61% of non-immigrants. Despite the difference, the Charter and flag were considered the leading national symbols by both immigrants and non-immigrants.
Because of the significant overlap between immigrants and visible minorities,Note 7 similar patterns in the appreciation of national symbols were evident among the visible minority population. All national symbols were viewed as more important by visible minorities than all other Canadians. The largest differences were recorded for the significance of the Charter (82% versus 68%), while the smallest differences were evident for the RCMP (59% versus 54%) and hockey (52% and 45%).
Aboriginal people’s views of national symbols more positive than other Canadian-born people
Aboriginal people tended to have similar views on the leading Canadian national symbols, with no significant differences in the proportion of Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people who thought the Charter, flag and national anthem were very important to the Canadian identity. They were, however, more likely to believe that the RCMP and hockey were very important to the national identity. For example, 62% of Aboriginal people said that the RCMP was a very important symbol, compared to 54% of non-Aboriginal people.
When looking only at people born in Canada, Aboriginal people’s perceptions were more positive. That is, a strong appreciation of national symbols was more common among Aboriginal people than non-Aboriginal people born in Canada. This was true for all symbols.
As with national symbols, shared values are basic components of identity that help understand a nation’s character (Therian and Mace 2013; Andreouli and Howarth 2012; Ashmore et. al 2001). To describe the normative content of Canada’s identity, the GSS asked Canadians about the extent to which they believed Canadians share specific values. These included the values of human rights, respect for the law, gender equality, linguistic duality, ethnic and cultural diversity and respect for Aboriginal culture. The questions focused on the perception of collective Canadian values, as opposed to individuals’ own personal adherence to these values.Note 8
In 2013, the overwhelming majority of people believed that Canadians collectively share the values of human rights (92%), respect for the law (92%), and gender equality (91%). While most also felt that Canadians collectively shared the other three values measured, the proportions were somewhat lower (Chart 3). This was particularly the case for respect of Aboriginal culture, where the figure stood at 68%.
Furthermore, differences existed in whether Canadians agreed to a great extent or moderate extent on the sharing of these values. In 2013, 54% felt to a great extent that Canadians valued human rights, making it the only value where more than half of the population strongly believed it was a Canadian ideal. In comparison, people were fairly even split between feeling to a great or moderate extent in Canadians’ respect for the law (47% and 45%), gender equality (47% and 44%) and ethnic and cultural diversity (41% and 44%).
People were much less likely to believe to a great extent that Canadians respected Aboriginal culture and valued English and French as official languages. In 2013, 26% of people felt Canadians respected Aboriginal culture to a great extent, and 31% thought the same about linguistic duality.
Ontarians most likely to strongly believe that Canadians share specific values
Across Canada, the values of human rights, respect for the law and gender equality topped the list of commonly shared values. However, the extent to which people believed that these values and those related to linguistic duality and multiculturalism were shared differed regionally.
A strong belief in Canadian shared values was most prevalent in Ontario, where the population was generally more likely to feel to a great extent that Canadians shared the values measured by the GSS (Table 3). For instance, 47% of Ontarians strongly believed that Canadians valued ethnic and cultural diversity. This compares to the overall average of 41%, and to the low of 34% recorded in Saskatchewan and 29% in Quebec.
Saskatchewan and Quebec were also among the least likely to believe to a great extent in other shared values, with proportions below average for most shared values. In Saskatchewan, the largest gap was seen in the value of respect for the law, where residents were much less likely than average to strongly feel that Canadians shared this value (39% versus 47%). The proportion was equivalent to the figure for Manitoba (39%), making residents in these two provinces the least likely to believe to a great extent that Canadians respected the law.
For Quebec, the biggest difference with the national average related to the value of ethnic and cultural diversity: 29% versus 41%. Gender equality was the only value where Quebecers were just as likely to strongly feel that Canadians collectively share in these beliefs (46% and 47%).
However, what perhaps is more telling are the provincial variations in those who had little or no belief in specific shared values. Residents of the Prairie provinces - Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, along with Quebec, were the most likely to feel that Canadians had little respect for Aboriginal culture. At least around three people out of ten expressed this feeling. This compares to 19% in Newfoundland and Labrador, and 22% in Prince Edward Island.
The feeling that Canadians placed little to no value on linguistic duality was most often expressed by Quebecers and residents of Canada’s three westernmost provinces – Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. However, differences were evident along linguistic lines. Quebec FrancophonesNote 9 were much more likely than Anglophones to have little to no confidence that Canadians believed in English and French as official languages (36% versus 24%). Outside Quebec, this feeling was most often expressed by Anglophones rather than Francophones (26% versus 18%).
Strong belief in shared values generally decreases with age
Older Canadians were less likely to greatly believe that Canadians share the values of human rights, gender equality, ethnic and cultural diversity, and respect for Aboriginal culture. The largest age divide was seen in relation to ethnic and cultural diversity or an ideal of multiculturalism, where the decline was sharp. Before the age of 25, 52% of people strongly believed that Canadians valued ethnic and cultural diversity, decreasing to 44% among those aged 35 to 44, and 26% among seniors aged 75 and older (Table 4).
For the other values showing a drop with age, the declines started at later ages and were less pronounced. For instance, it was not until age 45 when people became less likely to believe to a great extent that Canadians value human rights. By age 75, 44% greatly felt that Canadians shared this value. This compares to 57% among those under 25.
Contrasting young people’s generally higher propensity to believe in a common set of values, individuals aged 35 to 64 were the most likely to believe to a great extent that Canadians had respect for the law.
Women less likely than men to believe that Canadians share specific values
While women tended to have a higher regard for national symbols, they were generally less likely than men to greatly feel that Canadians share specific values, though there was very little difference when looking at the combined responses of believing to a great or moderate extent in these values.
The largest gender difference was related to the extent to which Canadians share the value of gender equality. In 2013, 41% of women believed to a great extent that Canadians valued equality between men and women, compared to 53% of men (Chart 4). This difference existed across all age groups, though was most pronounced among people under 25 (46% of women versus 63% of men) and those over 75 (31% versus 46%). As with all perceptions, previous personal experiences can shape women’s views on Canadians’ belief in gender equality. Based on the 2013 GSS, women were three times more likely than men to experience discrimination or been treated unfairly because of their sex.
Of all the shared values measured, linguistic duality was the only value where women and men were as likely to feel to a great extent that Canadians shared this value (30% and 31%).
Higher levels of education and income related to greater belief that Canadians share values of human rights and gender equality
Along with age and sex, the belief that Canadians share a common set of values varied depending on socio-economic status, namely household income and educational attainment. While the shared values receiving the greatest support were essentially the same regardless of socio-economic status (i.e., human rights, respect for the law and gender equality), individuals with higher levels of educational attainment and income were more likely to strongly believe that these values were collectively shared by Canadians.
For example, nearly two-thirds (64%) of the university-educated population strongly felt that Canadians valued human rights (Table 4). This was 12 percentage points higher than the proportion recorded for the population with a post-secondary diploma (52%) and 18 percentage points above the figure for those with less than a high school education (46%).
On the other hand, people with a higher socio-economic status were less likely to strongly believe that Canadians value linguistic duality and the Aboriginal culture. In both cases, the decrease was fairly steady with increasing income and education. One-third (33%) of people with a household income of less than $20,000 believed to a great extent that Canadians respected Aboriginal culture. The proportion dropped to 27% for those with household incomes between $60,000 and $79,999, and to a low of 20% among individuals residing in household with an income of $150,000 or more.
The differences by income and education levels, however, all but disappear when also considering those who believed to a moderate extent in linguistic duality and Aboriginal culture as shared values. Further, there was little difference by education level and household income in those who either believed to a small extent or not at all in these shared values.
Immigrants and visible minorities much more likely to believe Canadians share common values
Whether people immigrated to Canada or were born in Canada played a role in how individuals perceived the sharing of values. According to the 2013 GSS, immigrants were far more likely to greatly believe that Canadians shared specific values. This was true for all values measured, with around six in ten immigrants greatly believing that nearly every value was shared by Canadians (Table 4).
Only the values of linguistic duality and respect for Aboriginal culture received less than 50% support as shared Canadian values, though still higher than the proportion of non-immigrants. An estimated 42% of immigrants said they greatly believed Canadians valued English and French as official languages, compared to 27% of non-immigrants. As for respect for Aboriginal culture, four in ten immigrants (40%) believed to a great extent that Canadians shared this value, again much higher than the proportion (22%) recorded for non-immigrants.
In the same way that immigrants were more likely to believe in shared values, visible minorities more often felt to a great extent that specific values were shared by Canadians. The size of difference between visible minorities and their non-visible minority counterparts mirrored the difference by immigrant status. That said, the difference was even large for the value of ethnic and cultural diversity, where 62% of visible minorities strongly believed that Canadians valued multiculturalism, nearly twice the figure recorded for non-visible minorities (37%).
Aboriginal people less likely to strongly believe Canadians have respect for the law
There was some variation in Aboriginal people’s views on the extent to which Canadians share specific values. For instance, Aboriginal people were less likely than non-Aboriginal people to greatly believe that Canadians had respect for the law (36% versus 47%). Not all values received lower levels of support as Canadian values. Aboriginal people were as likely to greatly believe in the values of gender equality and ethnic and cultural diversity. Also, they were more likely to feel to a great extent that Canadians respected Aboriginal culture (32% versus 26%) and linguistic duality (36% versus 30%), though these differences disappear when considering both those who believed to a great or moderate extent in these values.
Closely related to national identity is pride. It has been argued that national pride is the emotional or sentimental dimension of a country’s identity or in other words, the function of identifying with one’s own country (Ashmore et. al 2001). To be sure, identification with one’s country represents one component of individual’s sense of self that can co-exist with other identities, such as identification with one’s gender, religion, or ethnic or cultural group (Smith 1991). In general, feelings of national pride have been linked to allegiance and dedication towards one’s own country (Smith and Jarkko 1998; Smith and Kim 2006). Two categories of pride were measured by the 2013 GSS: sense of pride in being Canadian and pride in 12 Canadian achievements.
Overall, Canadians reported a high sense of pride. Nearly nine in ten (87%) were proud to call themselves Canadian, with more than half (61%) saying they were very proud.Note 10 Another 8% described being somewhat proud and 3% professed not being very proud or not at all proud. An estimated 2% of Canadians did not provide a response or had no opinion.
The factors contributing to national pride were varied, though levels of pride were greatest for Canadian history (70%), Canada’s armed forces (64%), the health care system (64%) and the Canadian Constitution (63%).Note 11 In general, feelings of pride towards Canadian achievements were less profuse than pride in being Canadian. That is, people more often said they were proud, rather than very proud, when asked about their pride in specific Canadian achievements. For example, 27% said they were very proud of Canada’s history, while 43% simply said they were proud (Chart 5).
For most dimensions, such as scientific and sports achievements, the majority of Canadians described their pride in positive terms, as either proud or very proud. However, this was not the case for Canada’s political influence on the world, where less than half (46%) of Canadians were proud or very proud. An estimated 29% said they were somewhat proud, and around one in six (16%) said that they were not very proud or not at all proud of Canada’s influence on the international stage.
Also receiving lower esteem from Canadians was Canada’s economic successes, where just over half (54%) of people felt proud or very proud of national economic achievements, and 11% were not very proud or not at all proud.
It is noteworthy that some areas, more than others, were more likely to generate a response of ‘no opinion’ or ‘don’t know’. This was most often seen for Canada’s achievement in the arts and literature (18%), the Canadian Constitution (13%) and scientific and technological achievements (13%).
Feelings of national pride lowest in Quebec
Outside Quebec, provincial differences in feelings of pride in being Canadian were quite similar, ranging from 91% in British Columbia to 94% in Prince Edward Island. In Quebec, however, 70% described being proud or very proud in being Canadian (Table 5).
Within Quebec, feelings of pride differed along linguistic lines, with Francophones being less likely to report pride in being Canadian (66%) than Anglophones (90%). For those living outside Quebec, feelings of pride did not differ much between Francophones and Anglophones.
Reflecting the lower levels of pride in Quebec, all CMAs in the province of Quebec had the lowest levels of pride. Residents of Saguenay had the lowest levels in the province, with just over half (52%) saying they were either proud or very proud to be Canadian, while residents of Gatineau had the highest levels of pride in Quebec at 76% (Table 6).
Outside Quebec, the proportion of Canadians who reported feeling proud ranged from a low of 85% in Guelph to a high of 98% in Brantford. Ontario CMAs generally dominated the top 10, with a total of eight CMAs in this province recording the highest levels of pride.
Pride in historical achievements highest area of pride across Canada
Besides being less likely to feel pride in being Canadian, Quebec residents were also consistently less likely to report pride in specific Canadian achievements. This was the case for all 12 elements of pride. Nevertheless, as with elsewhere in Canada, they were most likely to have pride in historical achievements. Around six in ten (58%) of Quebecers felt proud or very proud of Canadian history (Table 5). The other leading sources of pride differed from the rest of Canada, with Canada’s achievement in sports (54%) and scientific and technological achievements (51%) topping the list in Quebec. The lowest ranking sources of pride were the same in Quebec as elsewhere, notably Canada’s political influence on the world, where just over one-third (36%) were proud or very proud.
Outside Quebec, the leading sources of pride did not vary widely. Historical achievements ranked number one across Canada, while the next most common sources of pride alternated between the armed forces, the health care system, and the Constitution. Despite this commonality, some elements of pride saw large divergences across the provinces. Pride in economic achievements was one example of the provincial divide outside Quebec. Around two-thirds (67%) of Albertans were proud of Canada’s economic achievements, whereas less than half of residents in Prince Edward Island (45%), New Brunswick (47%) and Nova Scotia (48%) felt a sense of pride.
Overall, pride in the 12 elements was greatest in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and Alberta.
Seniors most often have very strong sense of pride in being Canadian
The majority of Canadians in all age groups felt proud or very proud in being Canadian. However, very strong feelings of pride were more prevalent among seniors. In 2013, seven in ten seniors aged 65 years and older reported being very proud to be Canadian. This compares to just over half (55%) of those aged 15 to 34, and 61% of those between 35 and 54 years of age. This age difference in pride mirrors patterns in overall sense of belonging to Canada, where older Canadians are much more likely to express a strong sense of belonging to their country than their younger counterparts (Statistics Canada 2015).
Age patterns in pride may suggest that younger and middle-aged Canadians have always been less likely than seniors to express national pride and a sense of belonging to Canada. Conversely, it may mean that these same people will continue to have less pride and a sense of belonging as they age and enter into their senior years.
Seniors’ higher levels of pride did not necessarily extend to their perceptions of Canadian achievements. Of the 12 dimensions of pride, only their pride in Canadian history, the armed forces and social security system was above average. In fact, people under the age of 25 more often had higher levels of pride. More specifically, their pride was greater than average for 7 of the 12 dimensions of pride, but was particularly pronounced for the health care system. Some 78% of young people were either proud or very proud in the health care system, compared to the average of 64%.
The leading sources of Canadian pride were relatively constant across the ages, with a few notable variations. In the senior years, pride in Canada’s social security system was among the top sources of pride, with 63% of senior Canadians saying that they were proud or very proud of Canada’s social security system. This compares to the average of 57%. In addition, pride in Canadian achievements in science and technology was among the top three for Canadians between the ages of 55 and 64.
Women more often proud to be Canadian, but less proud of achievements
Very strong feelings of pride were more common among women than men. According to the 2013 GSS, 63% of women were very proud to be Canadian, compared to 59% of men. Despite this elevated sense of overall pride, women were not more likely to report pride in specific Canadian achievements. Rather, they were generally less likely than men to feel proud or very proud in all areas of Canadian life.
Three dimensions of pride had the greatest gender difference: economic achievements, science and technological achievements and the health care system (Table 7). In all these areas, the proportion of women feeling pride was seven percentage points lower than the figure for men.
The exceptions to this gender difference related to Canadian achievements in the arts and literature, where pride was higher for women (54% versus 49%),Note 12 as well as to the armed forces, where pride levels were equal to those of men (64% and 65%).
Higher levels of education and income generally related to greater pride in Canadian achievements
When looking at the influence of education on pride, an inverse relationship appears between pride in being Canadian and pride in specific Canadian achievements, similar to patterns seen by age and sex. In particular, Canadians with less than a high school education had the highest levels of pride in being Canadian (91% versus 87% overall), though they were less likely to be proud of many dimensions of pride.
Around half (49%) of Canadians with less than a high school education expressed pride in Canadian economic achievements, compared to 59% with a university degree. Similar differences were seen in pride towards Canada’s social security system, its democracy, Constitution, and the health care system. Only pride in the armed forces, Canadian history and sports was greater among those with less than high school compared to the university-educated population.
For income, higher levels of household income were related to both a higher sense of pride in being Canadian and to pride in half of the specific achievements measured. Household income had no impact on pride towards the remaining dimensions, such as in the armed forces and Canadian history. The greatest impact of household income on pride related to the way democracy works. Five in ten Canadians (51%) with an income less than $20,000 had pride in Canadian democracy, compared to seven in ten Canadians (70%) with a household income of $150,000 or more. A similar difference was evident for pride in economic achievements (48% versus 63%).
Pride greatest among immigrants, particularly those who immigrated after 2000
Similar to immigrants’ perception of national symbols and shared values, feelings of pride were heightened among immigrants. Not only were immigrants more likely to say they were very proud to be Canadian (64% versus 60%),Note 13 they were more likely to express pride in most Canadian achievements. The greatest differences in specific achievements related to pride in Canadian economic achievements, treatment of all groups in society, the social security system and the way democracy works. In all these areas, the proportion of immigrants feeling proud or very proud was at least 16 percentage points higher than the proportion of non-immigrants.
These feelings of pride were even greater among those who immigrated since 2000 (Table 8). For instance, 72% of recent immigrants were proud of Canada’s economic achievements, compared to 51% of non-immigrants, and 64% of immigrants who immigrated before 2000. Citizenship status further elevated recent immigrants’ feelings of pride in two areas. Pride in Canadian democracy rose from 71% among non-citizens to 79% among citizens, and pride in the Canadian Constitution increased from 68% to 75%.
Citizenship had no impact on other elements of pride for recent immigrants, with the exception of the health care system. In this instance, recent immigrants with Canadian citizenship were less likely than non-citizens to positively view Canada’s health care system (66% versus 71%). The health care system was also the only dimension of pride lower among recent immigrants than established immigrants (68% versus 72%).
The influence of citizenship on pride was more pronounced among established immigrants, where levels of pride were higher among Canadian citizens in half the areas measured, notably pride in the Canadian Constitution, which was 13 percentage points higher among citizens (73%) than non-citizens (60%). Established immigrants with Canadian citizenship status did not report any lower levels of pride than non-citizens.
Overall, only Canada’s achievements in sports were viewed less positively by immigrants, with 57% being proud or very proud in sporting achievements, as compared to 60% among non-immigrants. In addition, immigrants’ feelings of pride toward Canada's armed forces and Canadian history were on par with those of non-immigrants.
Children of immigrants have more pride than others born in Canada
Along with the higher levels of pride among immigrants, children of immigrantsNote 14 were more likely to express pride in being Canadian and in Canadian achievements. More specifically, 66% of second generation immigrants (i.e., children of immigrants) were very proud to be Canadian. This was significantly higher than pride among other non-immigrant Canadians (third generation or more) (59%), and slightly higher than the proportion of first generation immigrants (63%).
With the exception of Canada’s achievements in sports, second generation immigrants were also more likely than other non-immigrants to feel pride in all areas of Canadian life (Table 9). On the economic side, 58% of second generation immigrants were either proud or very proud of Canada’s accomplishments. In comparison, 49% of other non-immigrants had the same feelings of pride. A similar difference existed in feelings of pride toward the health care system (70% versus 60%) and Canada’s Constitution (67% versus 58%).
Second generation Canadians’ feelings of pride in Canadian achievements were often lower than that of first generation immigrants, though they were more likely than their parents to express being proud or very proud of Canada’s armed forces and history.
Visible minorities more often proud of treatment of all groups in society
Pride among visible minorities mirrored patterns observed for immigrants. While visible minorities were equally as likely as other Canadians to be very proud to be Canadian (62% and 61%), overall feelings of pride in being Canadian were higher (91% versus 86%).
A sense of pride in Canadian achievements was also more common among visible minorities. In particular, two areas stood out as having much higher levels of pride. First, pride in the treatment of all groups in society was reported by 71% of visible minorities but just over half (53%) of the non-visible minority population (Table 7). Second, the social security system was viewed in much more positive terms (proud or very proud) by visible minorities (73%) than by non-visible minorities (54%).
As with variations by immigrant status, feelings of pride toward the armed forces and Canadian history were the same between visible minorities and non-visible minorities.
Aboriginal people less likely to feel pride in Canadian accomplishments
Overall, Aboriginal people were as likely as non-Aboriginal people to feel proud to be Canadian (87%), with no statistically significant difference in those feeling very proud. However, Aboriginal people displayed lower levels of pride in Canada’s democracy (49% versus 59%). While they were also less likely than non-Aboriginal people to be proud of Canada’s treatment of all groups in society (49% versus 57%) and Canada’s economic achievements (47% versus 55%), they had similar views compared to non-Aboriginal people born in Canada.
Only Canada’s achievements in the arts and literature were the subject of more pride among Aboriginal people (57%) than non-Aboriginal people (51%). Other areas had equal levels of pride among Aboriginal people and their non-Aboriginal counterparts, such as the Canada’s history and the health care system.
This report provided an overview of the collective Canadian identity, looking at three components of identity: national symbols, shared values and pride. The results reflect the diversity of Canada, with differences in perceptions across socio-demographic and economic characteristics. Immigrants were more likely to have strong beliefs in the importance of national symbols, such as the Charter, national anthem and flag. They were also more likely to believe that Canadians share a common set of beliefs, and to report a greater feeling of pride in being Canadian and in Canadian achievements.
In a similar vein, Aboriginal people often felt more strongly that symbols were important to the national identity, particularly compared to non-Aboriginal people born in Canada. They also had similar levels of pride in being Canadian.
Consistent with previous findings on sense of belonging to Canada,Note 15 Quebec residents were less inclined to identify symbols as very important to the national identity, and also had lower levels of pride compared to the national picture.
Some patterns were relatively similar across the different groups. The Charter and the flag stood out as the preeminent symbols of importance to Canadians. Also, the majority of people believed that Canadians shared specific values, though this was most often the case when thinking about the value of human rights, and less often the case in relation to Aboriginal culture and linguistic duality.
National pride, as an affective dimension of national identity, was generally high. Nearly nine in ten were proud to call themselves Canadian, though pride in specific Canadian achievements was lower. Pride in Canadian history was highest at 70%, and consistently topped the list of the 12 Canadian achievements measured across all the provinces.
Future research could explore the intersection of individual and economic characteristics to help further illuminate these initial findings. This may include examining specific subpopulations, looking at particular aspects of Canadian identity, such as pride in the health care system among older Canadians, or the value of linguistic duality among Anglophone and Francophone Canadians within and outside of Quebec.
This report is based on data from the 2013 General Social Survey on Social Identity. The target population consisted of persons aged 15 and older living in Canada’s 10 provinces, excluding people living full-time in institutions.
For more information on the data source, please consult the following document:
Andreouli, E. and C. Howarth. 2012. “National Identity, Citizenship and Immigration: Putting Identity in Context” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 43.3: 361-382.
Ashmore, R.D., L. Jussim, and D. Wilder (eds.). 2001. Social Identity, Intergroup Conflict and Conflict Resolution. Oxford University Press.
Butz, D.A. 2009. “National Symbols as Agents of Psychological and Social Change” Political Psychology. 30.5: 779-804.
Canadian Heritage. n.d. “Official Symbols” Official symbols of Canada. http://www.pch.gc.ca/eng/1363193195814#a9 (Accessed July 2, 2015).
Canadian Heritage. 2013. “Policy, Program and Analytical Uses of the GSS Cycle 27 at Canadian Heritage” Presentation delivered at the 15th National Metropolis Conference, Ottawa, ON.
Cerulo, K.A. 1989. “Sociopolitical Control and the Structure of National Symbols: An Empirical Analysis of National Anthems” Social Forces. 68.1: 76-99.
Cerulo, K. A. 1993. “Symbols and the World System: National Anthems and Flags” Sociological Forum. 8.2: 243-271.
Smith, A.D. 1991. National Identity. New York: Penguin Books.
Smith, T.W. and L. Jarkko. 1998. “National Pride: A cross-national analysis” National Opinion Research Centre, University of Chicago.
Smith, T.W. and S. Kim. 2006. “National Pride in Cross-national and Temporal Perspective” International Journal of Public Opinion Research. 18: 127-136.
Statistics Canada. 2015. “Sense of belonging to Canada, the province of residence and the local community” Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey. Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 89-652-X (Accessed July 21, 2015).
Thérien, J-P. and G. Mace. 2013. “Identity and Foreign Policy: Canada as a Nation of the Americas” Latin American Politics and Society 55.2:150-168.
- Date modified: