Civic Literacy

What is Civic Literacy?

Civic literacy means having the knowledge and skills you need to participate in making change in your community.

In Canada, this includes voting, knowing how the government works, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens and elected members of government.

When you have strong civic literacy skills, you know how to make your voice heard by all levels of government—before, during and after an election. 

Civic Literacy in Canada

  • More civically literate citizens are more likely to:
    • Vote 
    • Be able to identify the political issues that are most important to them 
    • Be aware of how to make positive political change happen
  • More civically literate citizens are less likely to be influenced by negative and divisive campaigning. More civically literate citizens are also more tolerant of others and their political views. Greater openness and acceptance of different political views can lead to politics where more voices and opinions are heard. (Investing in Canadians’ civic literacy: An answer to fake news and disinformation, The Samara Centre for Democracy)
  • The Canadian Election Study found that in 2015, only 60% of Canadians could identify their premier, compared to 90% in 1984 (Investing in Canadians’ civic literacy: An answer to fake news and disinformation, The Samara Centre for Democracy)
  • A 2008 poll by the Dominion Institute and Ipsos Reid found that half of survey respondents thought the prime minister was directly elected (Investing in Canadians’ civic literacy: An answer to fake news and disinformation, The Samara Centre for Democracy)
  • A 2010 study found that nearly 20% of Canadian adults don’t pay attention to the news (Investing in Canadians’ civic literacy: An answer to fake news and disinformation, The Samara Centre for Democracy)
  • Researchers have found gender gaps in civic literacy:
    • Men are more likely to hold “conventional political knowledge,” like being able to identify current politicians
    • Women are more likely to hold practical knowledge about politics, such as what government benefits and health services are available (What Do Women Really Know? A Gendered Analysis of Varieties of Political Knowledge, Stolle and Gidengil, 2010)

Programs

  • Created in partnership with Elections Canada, A Guide to Voting helps literacy practitioners engage adult learners in civic literacy ahead of federal elections.

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