Strengthening Canadian Democracy

What Shapes Our Democratic Culture?

The Strengthening Canadian Democracy Initiative researches the intersections of policy, procedures and citizens' experiences to identify how we can create a more resilient democratic culture across all communities in Canada.

Through collaborations with institutions, practitioners, and citizens we also design programs, conduct evaluations and explore options for legislative reform. We identify what works when, and how to improve democracy.

Initiative Purpose

Democracy is becoming increasingly volatile within our global village. In Canada, a majority of residents believe that our democracy is not working to meet the needs of ordinary Canadians, with low levels of trust in elected officials and key democratic institutions. This dissatisfaction increases Canada's vulnerability to the use of populist messaging and online misinformation for anti-democratic purposes.

We develop collaborations with institutions, practitioners, and citizens. We know that large numbers of Canadians desire more opportunities to learn about their democracy and engage in democratic activities. We also know that democratic behaviour is closely associated with Canadians' feeling of belonging and their sense of agency.

The Strengthening Canadian Democracy initiative seeks to increase the number of Canadians who identify as democratic champions. By exchanging best practices with democratic engagement practitioners and sparking conversations about why our democracy matters among all Canadians, we are working to increase the resiliency of our democratic system.

The Four Foundations

Two and a half years of research has identified four foundations that need to be strong for our  democratic culture in Canada to remain resilient.

  1. Social connections
  2. Citizens and institutions
  3. Public discourse
  4. Civic education

The Five Principles

The five principles for democratic engagement provide a guide for designing and evaluating a range of democratic processes, from public participation in government decision-making, to civic education, local community action, and the ways we share and discuss information.

  1. Build capacity to participate: We nurture the capacity of governments and citizens to engage and participate in the democratic process.
  2. Be inclusive and accessible: We create inclusive and accessible spaces that give voice to all citizens, including equity-seeking, underserved, and marginalized communities.
  3. Deepen relationships and social connection:  We seek to engage in ways that deepen relationships, increase social connection, and create a sense of shared belonging.
  4. Foster commitment to democratic values: We seek to deepen citizens' commitment to democratic values and sense of ownership over their democratic system.
  5. Establish accountability: We design engagement processes that earn citizen trust and establish accountability through responsiveness, evaluation, reporting, and action.


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Effort is needed to improve our democratic culture by improving the peoples' experiences with our decision-making systems. We focus our efforts on improving citizens' everyday experiences of democratic culture, growing awareness of why these experiences matter, and what can be done to fix them.

Dialogue Dispatch


Dialogue Dispatch is our community of practice newsletter where we share updates on our team's knowledge exchange activities alongside inspiring case studies, suggested readings and practical tools for people and organizations working to transform the field of democratic participation.

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