Canadian Social Values: Dominant Themes in Canadian Culture

As Robin Whalen noted in her introduction to this series, it’s true that the more we can understand the deep-seated values that drive us as humans and consumers, the better chance we will ever have of really connecting with them. We, at MacLaren McCann, in managing communications for global brands and global platforms, feel that it is important to understand what specifically and uniquely shapes us - as Canadians. So, to that end, here is Part 1 in the series of Defining Dominant Canadian Social Values.

Defining Value #1 We Canadians value a unique balance between individual autonomy and collective responsibility. It is a very special attitude we uphold as Canadians, in that we believe in having the ability to self-determine the way we want to live, but importantly, we also expect and even defend the right for others to have that same privilege. So while one may choose differently from another, Canadians generally believe in each person’s right to make their unique personal choice. Said simply: Canadians respect difference.

Where does this come from? Canada is a nation founded ultimately through cooperation, with a history of accommodation, and this is reflected in the founding principles of ‘peace, order and good government’ (outlined in more detail by Michael Adams in his book Fire and Ice). Through these historical roots, the wants and needs of various diverse Canadian groups were acknowledged and accommodated to create a workable collective.

Additionally and importantly, the Canadian ‘system’ is built with an emphasis on the provision of social support services. Canada features a public education system, a public health-care system, a public welfare system and with that, a corresponding tax system to fund it. This system functionally places responsibility on the community to be supportive of its residents.

And thus Canada has bred an orientation to life amongst its residents that believes the collective has a responsibility to the individual, and concurrently, the individual has a responsibility to the collective. Points of Evidence Respecting Difference: - More than two thirds of Canadians say they relate to non-conformists, compared to just half of Americans (Michael Adams, Fire and Ice); - 60% of Canadians approve of homosexual relations, where only 38% of Americans feel the same way. “We’re one of the world leaders there.” In fact, in 2005, Canada become the fourth country in the world to legalize gay marriage (Reginald Bibby in 2006 Maclean’s Canada Day Poll and 2009 Maclean’s Canada Day Poll).

And the Collective:

- A third of Canadians want a more active government (Michael Adams, Fire and Ice);

- And more Canadians feel a sense of social responsibility than Americans (Michael Adams, Fire and Ice).

A Marketing Reference Speaking of ‘respecting difference’, recall as far back as 1995, when RuPaul was signed to a modeling contract for Canadian company, MAC cosmetics, making him the first drag queen supermodel?

Watch for the next post, Canadian Defining Social Value #2: Attitudes of Tolerance and Acceptance. We continue to look forward to hearing your comments and reactions.

Heidi McCulloch, V.P., Senior Strategic Planner, MacLaren

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Tags: Research

1 Comment

  • Fazal Siddiqi said

    Thanks for sharing your findings. I find these a nice affirmation to my ideas about Canadian consumers. These will also be useful to new immigrants for getting to know the social fiber of the Canadian society.

    I think that individual autonomy and collective responsibility also stem from Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, which extends into two of the following responsibilities:

    - Taking responsibility for oneself and ones family
    - Helping others in the community

    So we continue to walk the talk as Canadian citizens

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