Week 2; Chap 11
Chapter 11 - The Canadian Political Culture
Pol culture can be defined as the sum total of the politically relevant values, beliefs, attitudes,
identities and orientations in society.
A 2 nd aspect of pol culture involves beliefs regarding the role of the state-how large a part do
Canadian want govt to play in their lives & what kinds of policies should it adopt?
Pol culture consists of the ideas, assumptions, values, and beliefs that shape our understanding and
behaviour as citizens in the world of politics.
Jane Jenson adds that pol culture sets boundaries to pol action and limits the range of actors that are
accorded the status of legitimate participants.
Bell points out that pol scientists use 2 principal methods of identifying the ingredients of pol culture.
1 is to survey individual Canadians and ask them about their attitudes and values. If and when such
values and attitudes are widely shared, they can be said to constitute the collective pol culture. A 2
approach is to develop an understanding of the pol culture from observing the operation of the pol
system and society more generally.
Hartz enunciated the “fragment theory” according to which the dominant values established in
different parts of North America were those held by the Europeans who 1 arrived on the continent
and reflected the pol culture of the country from which they came.
In Lisper’s analysis, sometimes called the “formative events” theory, the dominant values of any
society have their foundation in great historical events. That would be American revolution, as far as
the U.S pol culture goes, and the “counter – revolution”, the reaction against that revolution, that was
a formative event in Canadian history.
The preamble to the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms acknowledges democracy to be a
foremost value in the country when it speaks of Canada as a “free and democratic society”, but the
Charter is not particularly enlightening about what this means.
Democracy in the modern western world usually includes the elements of popular sovereignty, pol
equality, pol freedom and majority rule.
Popular sovereignty means that the people have the final say, which in large, modern pol systems
usually takes the form of elections at certain specified intervals. Although their incidence is slightly
higher at the provincial and municipal levels, only 3 national plebiscites or referendums have
occurred since 1867: in 1898, on the prohibition of liquor sales; in 1942, on conscription; and in
1992, on the Charlottetown Accord.
Every person has 1 vote and no more than 1 vote, as provided by the Canada Elections Act and the
Charter of Rs & Fs. The principle of 1 person 1 vote is a minimal expression of pol equality.
A major deviation from the ideal occurs if members of Parliament are not distributed among
provinces on the basis of “representation by population”.
Those who have the resources to help finance elections are likely to have more influence than those
who merely vote. POL214
Week 2; Chap 11
Just as the 1982 Charter of Rs & Fs enhanced protection of aspects of popular sovereignty and pol
equality, it also provided an explicit constitutional statement of pol freedom in Canada.
3 of the most striking cases where pol freedoms were seriously infringed upon occurred at the federal
level. The 1 interference w/ freedom of speech or assembly had to do with section 98 of the Criminal
Code prohibiting “unlawful associations”.
The 2 nd major case involved the incarceration or deportation of Canadians of Japanese extraction
during WWII, depriving this group of personal liberty, property, and livelihood.
The 3 ex, the invocation of the War Measures Act in 1970, outlawed support for the FLQ but was
used to imprison more than 400 nonviolent Quebec separatists who had no connection to that
Although Canadians normally believe in pol freedom, they seem prepared to let the authorities
restrain such individual or group liberty at the least suggestion of violence.
Majority Rule and Minority Rights
The Canadian conception of democracy also incorporates the notion of majority rule-, it is felt
necessary to protect certain minorities from the actions of the majority, so that specific minority rights
are given constitutional protection.
The Charter also guaranteed equality rights for women (who are not actually a minority), and
prohibited federal, provincial, and territorial discrimination against various types of minorities.
Distinguishing between Canadian and American Values
Beyond the consensus on democracy, it is difficult to find widespread agreement on other values that
constitute the Canadian pol culture. 1 approach that bears promise, however, is to contrast widely
held Canadian values with those of the United States.
While the American Declaration of Independence list the objectives of “life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness,” Canada’s 1867 Constitution Act talks about “peace, order and good government”.
This approach leads us to identify 5 basic Canadian values that can be distinguished from those in the
They are a balance between individualism and collectivism; particularism, diversity, and tolerance;
deference to authority, egalitarianism and caution, diffidence, dependence idealism and nonviolence.
Balance between Individualism and Collectivism
If there is a value other than democracy to which most Canadians adhere, it is probably that of
individualism, liberalism, or capitalism, often expressed as the sanctity of private enterprise or
individual eco freedom.
The general principle is widely shared that everyone should be free to go about their business as they
choose and that those with the greatest talent or who work the hardest should reap the benefits of their
abilities and labour.
Canada however, has been hostile toward public intervention and more inclined to rely on govt. It
also stems from the basic Canadian value of collectivism or community. The accumulation of public
demands has been given Canada an economy almost equally divided between private and public POL214
Week 2; Chap 11
sectors. In just about every policy field, in fact, the extent of govt intervention is greater in Canada
than in the U.S.
Particularism, Diversity and Tolerance