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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Scarcely yet a people": State policy in citizenship education, 1947-1982 Sears, Alan Murray


The constitutional division of powers in Canada assigns no authority to the federal state in the area of education. In spite of this, the Canadian state has used its constitutional authority to act in the national interest to justify substantial activity in public education at all levels. One area of particular interest to the state is the education of Canadian citizens. This thesis examines state policy in citizenship education between 1947 and 1982. It focuses on the Department of the Secretary of State, particularly the Canadian Citizenship Branch, and addresses three questions: 1) What conception of citizenship formed the basis for state policy in citizenship education? 2) How did the state formulate citizenship education policy? and 3) What means did the federal state use to implement citizenship education policy given that education is an area of provincial jurisdiction? Throughout this period the state was preoccupied with questions of national unity and therefore the focus of its policy in citizenship education was the construction and propagation of a national ideal in which all Canadians could find their identity as citizens. The policy was consistent with an elitist conception of citizenship in that it excluded most Canadians from the process of constructing the national identity and relegated citizen participation to largely apolitical voluntary activities. Although the Department of the Secretary of State was rhetorically committed to scientific policy making, the process was driven not by social science research but by attempts to secure and extend bureaucratic territory in relation to both other government departments and voluntary organizations working in the citizenship sector. In the complex interplay among the interested parties the Department was sometimes a leader and sometimes a follower in the policy making process. State citizenship education policy was implemented through official agreements with the provinces as well as more direct means which bypassed provincial authorities. Bilingualism in Education programs are the best example of the former, while training programs for teachers, the production and dissemination of materials, and attempts to use voluntary organizations as surrogates for the state are examples of the latter.

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