Quebecers are more keenly aware than other Canadians about events honouring war veterans, but they're far less likely to participate in them or take pride in the military's role in past conflicts, a newly released survey suggests.
The public opinion research report — prepared by Phoenix Strategic Perspectives for Veterans Affairs Canada — shows a wide disparity in the attitudes of Quebec residents compared to other Canadians when it comes to remembrance and Veterans' Week.
The survey, conducted after last Remembrance Day but just released by the government, found nearly all Canadians outside Quebec — 96 per cent — think veterans should be recognized for their sacrifices, compared to 85 per cent of Quebecers who hold that opinion. And while 89 per cent of Canadians outside Quebec believe vets have made significant contributions to the nation's development, only 66 per cent of Quebecers share that view.
The survey also found 82 per cent of Canadians outside Quebec say they’re proud of the role Canada's military has played in conflicts like the First and Second World wars, the Korean War and the war in Afghanistan — compared to 66 per cent of Quebecers. The province's residents are also less knowledgeable about Canada’s military role in the conflicts, according to the poll.
Jeremy Diamond, director of the Historica-Dominion Institute, said that while participation and appreciation for veterans lags behind in Quebec, he senses an upward trend.
"When it comes to military history and remembrance, I think that we often feel that in Quebec there is still quite a sensitivity about commemorating and celebrating the military, whether it’s anniversaries or our veterans, partly to do with the conscription crisis, partly because I think Quebec sees itself more focused on honouring the veterans in Quebec, as opposed to a national recognition, or as part of a week that would affect all Canadians," Diamond said.
Differences in awareness and participation
Diamond said the Institute's Memory Project has seen increasing participation and requests in schools and communities across Quebec in recent years — in both large cities and smaller francophone communities.
The survey found that while a high number of Quebecers are aware of remembrance events (77 per cent compared to 62 per cent for all Canadians) the participation rate is significantly lower — 53 per cent compared to 79 per cent. The survey also finds Quebecers are less likely to see Veterans' Week as important, and that they are far less likely to make an effort to show appreciation to veterans (47 per cent compared to 74 per cent of other Canadians).
A subsample survey that asked Quebecers to explain the disparity found that pacifism, a preferred focus on province-specific pride issues like language and identity, and a lack of connection to military through family members were some of the reasons.
Jean-Christophe de le Rue, press secretary to Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney, said the government supports commemorative events that encourage participation from Canadians across the country to ensure sacrifices are never forgotten. Events in Quebec are also designed to "pass the torch" of remembrance.
"Today, Minister Blaney joined nearly 200 students and D-Day Veterans at École secondaire de l'Aubier, in Quebec," he said Friday. "Because of this event, nearly a dozen veterans were given the opportunity to share their past experiences while serving our great country. These veterans from Quebec stood up in the defence of values that matter most to Canadians: peace, freedom, democracy, and rule of law."
The national Phoenix survey polled 1,003 adult Canadians, including 352 from Quebec, between Nov. 15 and Nov. 26, 2011 and is considered accurate within plus or minus 3.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The subsample questionnaire surveyed 350 residents of Quebec.