Southerners don't know the North: poll

Southern Canadians are clueless when it comes to knowledge of the North, a new poll suggests.

Southern Canadians are clueless when it comes to knowledge of the North, a new poll suggests.

Up Here magazine, based in Yellowknife, set out to survey southern Canadians' knowledge of the north, and found it wanting.

Up Here editor Katharine Sandiford was shocked by the reponse of 303 southerners to 28 multiple-choice questions asked in a demographically balanced poll in February.

"The fact that a whopping 74 per cent of Canadians think that penguins might live in the Arctic" had magazine staffers rolling on the floor.

Other gaps in knowledge include:

  • A third of Canadians didn't know Nunavut was the newest territory. 
  • About the same number also didn't know the word Inuit replaced Eskimo.
  • Half believed that Canada has several military bases protecting the Northwest Passage.   

"I guess what we're hoping to do with this North Poll is sort of give Canadians a bit of a slap on the back of the head and say, 'Wake up,'" said Sandiford.

But Brent Reaney, who grew up in Southern Ontario has lived in Nunavut and  now lives in Yellowknife, isn't surprised.

"To understand this place, I think you do have to experience it, and only so many people have experienced it," he said. 

And the poll held some good news for northerners, Sandiford said. Asked what word they would use to describe northerners,  "friendly was the word that was chosen the most often," she said. "At least they don't think we're jerks, but maybe after reading this article they will."  

The magazine set out to have fun with the poll, inspired by Rick Mercer's questions to Americans about Canada.

 "We thought we would play up the same kind of line of humour and look at how silly it is that Canadians don't know anything about their North,"   Sandiford said.

The magazine notes that even its editors struggled with some questions. "Is it really a crime to be ignorant about life in the North? Perhaps it's willful — maybe the Canadian psyche needs the North to be a vast unknown," the editors wrote, but then answered their own question.

"Nah. Smarten up."

The results are published in the May issue of Up Here magazine. The questions can be tried on the Up Here  website.

The poll is accurate to plus or minus 5.6 per cent 19 times out of 20.