Monday, March 19, 2018

Viola Desmond on the money

Fresh from Halifax, where she witnessed the fulfillment of the long campaign to see an non-royal, non-British woman on some Canadian money, Merna Forster of sends news of a recent poll by Ipsos (commissioned by Historica) about Canadians' lack of knowledge of women's history:
Canadians are largely unfamiliar with the achievements of notable women throughout Canadian history. As a measure of that lack of awareness, only a minority of respondents say they could identify the achievements of such accomplished Canadian women as artist Emily Carr (37%), author Lucy Maud Montgomery (27%), and suffragette Nellie McClung (16%).
I'm delighted to see Viola Desmond on the ten, and full of admiration for the campaign that put her there. And this is one of a long line of polls on historical knowledge, started by Historica's ancestor The Dominion Institute, which have often been fun and provocative.

But on any subject in Canadian history anyone can run a poll to prove that too little is known by too many Canadians. Every November 11 we are all abused for not knowing Canadian military history, and so on. Here's another well-meaning example from the current Literary Review of Canada:
At an event for her book at Montreal’s Grande Bibliothèque late last year, Robyn Maynard asked the audience of about five hundred to raise their hands if they had been taught in school about the two hundred years of Black enslavement in Canada. One man raised his hand. One out of five hundred.
By now everyone is trained; they know the answer they are supposed to give. Do you know the joke about the survey that asked Canadians what month the October Crisis occurred?  Six out of ten responded they did not know -- the schools don't teach enough Canadian history.

 Oh well.  Salute, Viola Desmond.  Merna Forster too.
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