Canada's World Survey 2018 Report and Findings

How do Canadians as individuals relate to the broader world? What do Canadians see as the top global issues? How do they view Canada's role in world affairs? And what do they think it should be?

The Canada’s World Survey 2018 report and executive summary were released on April 16, 2018. The survey was conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research in partnership with SFU Public Square, the Canadian International Council and the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History. This research examines how Canadians as individuals relate to the broader world, asks about what they see as the top global issues, how they view Canada’s role in world affairs and what they think it could be.

In 2008, the Canada’s World Poll posed the question, “How do Canadians as individuals relate to the broader world?” It was the first-ever survey to ask Canadians how they saw their place in the world and that of their country, not simply what they believe their governments should be doing. A decade later, we have conducted a second Canada’s World Survey to engage Canadians and determine how public attitudes, priorities and actions have evolved. We undertook this work to contribute to the important body of social science-based evidence on public policy and to help organizations and citizens better understand Canada and our world as it is today, how it is changing and where it is heading.

The report’s key insights include:

  • Canadians increasingly define their country’s place in the world as one that welcomes people from elsewhere. Multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion are increasingly seen by Canadians as their country’s most notable contribution to the world. It is now less about peacekeeping and foreign aid, and more about who we are now becoming as a people and how we get along with each other. Canadians’ views on global issues and Canada’s role in the world have remained notably stable over the past decade.
  • This consistency notwithstanding, Canadians have been sensitive to the ebb and flow of international events and global trends. Canadians today are more concerned than a decade ago about such world issues as terrorism, the spread of nuclear weapons, and global migration/refugees. And the public has adjusted its perceptions of specific countries as having a positive (e.g., Germany) or negative (e.g., North Korea, Russia) impact in the world today.
  • Canadians continue to have the most confidence in activities of their country’s NGOs and Canadian post-secondary institutions working abroad to make a positive diference in the world.
  • Young Canadians’ views and perspectives on many aspects of world affairs have converged with those of older cohorts, but their opinions on Canada’s role on the world stage have become more distinct when it comes to promoting diversity. Youth continue to be the most likely of all age groups to believe Canada’s role in the world has grown over the past 20 years, and are now more likely to single out multiculturalism and accepting immigrants/refugees as their country’s most positive contribution to the world.
  • Foreign-born Canadians have grown more engaged and connected to world affairs than native-born Canadians, and are more likely to see Canada playing an influential role on the global stage.

In 2007, Canada’s World, a non-partisan initiative housed at Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, was created to allow Canadian citizens to articulate a new vision for Canada’s role in the world. Under the leadership of Shauna Sylvester, Canada’s World travelled across the country hosting deliberative citizens’ dialogue sessions and events on the new realities facing Canada in the international arena. Over the course of the three-year partnership with 15 post-secondary institutions and 40 non-profit organizations, Canada’s World engaged more than 10,000 Canadians in person and 200,000 Canadians online, becoming the most comprehensive citizen consultation on foreign policy in Canadian history.

Part of the Canada’s World initiative involved developing the Canada’s World Poll, a groundbreaking national public opinion survey that offered an objective review of how Canadians see their own place in the world. Through nationally representative polling conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, the survey cast new light on Canadian attitudes, expectations, connections and perceptions around national interests. For an executive summary of the findings and to read the full report from 2008, click here.

Over the last 18 months, SFU Public Square has built upon the work of the Canada’s World initiative by developing thematically relevant programming that stirs reflection and encourages participants to evaluate what Canada should, or could, be doing in the world today.

In early 2017, during the 150th anniversary of Canada's Confederation, SFU Public Square hosted its annual Community Summit on the question "Who Needs Canada?" The Community Summit invited participants to think and engage on Canada’s role in the world with eight events focused on topics including globalization, foreign policy and international trade. Later that spring, SFU Public Square collaborated with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship on 6 Degrees YVR: Are You Home?, a day-long dialogue on Canada’s roles, responsibilities and potential with respect to immigration, citizenship, inclusion and belonging. In the fall, SFU Public Square co-presented the West Coast launch of the Diversity Dividend: Canada’s Global Advantage, a report that examines the business case for diversity, equity and inclusion, and emphasizes that a willingness to capitalize on global talent pools remains one of Canada’s best international competitive advantages. Finally, in the early stages of 2018, SFU Public Square hosted Brave New Work, its sixth annual Community Summit. Brave New Work asked, “How can we all thrive in the changing world of work?”, convening international participants to identify opportunities for Canada to provide global leadership in innovation, workers’ rights, and inclusion.