About the Initiative

What matters most to Canadians?

How much do we differ in what we want for Canada across gender, generations, regions, ethnicities? In a rapidly shifting global context what values do we want to be reflected in the future of Canada? As Canadians, we pride ourselves on being “unique.” But what does that really mean?

When we talk about what matters most—our core values—we are most likely to choose and act in ways that lead to realizing them in our day-to-day lives. Also, when we speak about our values we are likely to discover that they are shared among others who we might have regarded as very different from us. The “Why” of the Canadian Values Conversations initiative is to create a national awareness and an understanding about values to foster a sense of shared purpose that spur change in neighbourhoods, communities, cities and regions across Canada toward a future that we want for us and for our children and grandchildren. This year is the first of what we hope will be a national Canadian habit every couple of years to revisit our hopes and to track our progress! We want to foster citizen engagement toward a future by design!

What are Values?

Values represent what is most important to us. Values are the core of who we are. They are the passion in our hearts and the reason why we choose what we do, the motivators in our actions.

Our objective is to stimulate an ongoing dialogue and conversation about:

* What matters most to us as Canadians today
* What we want most for Canada in the future
* How what matters most is expressed similarly and differently by Canadians across regions, cultural communities, gender, generations, professions and vocations
* Key themes that are helpful to create a stronger, more connected Canada

Values Assessment Methodology for Canadian Values Conversations

The Canadian Values Conversations methodology for assessing the values of Canadians rests primarily on the established, cross-national survey presented by the U.S.-and U.K.based, Barrett Values Centre.  The Barrett Centre’s National Values Assessment (NVA) survey in based on established theories of human values authored by the Centre’s founder, Richard Barrett, and has been used over 20 countries.  The NVA is a brief but challenging form of assessment that is diagnostic of the values, practices and norms of a country’s citizenry and of their perceptions of the positive and negative values and societal practices within their countries. It asks three simple questions of each respondent: What are your personal values? What are the values and practices that you believe characterize our country now? And what values and practices would you like our country to maintain and build for the future?

The Canadian Values Conversations study partners worked with the Barrett Values Centre to customize its general NVA for the Canadian population in terms of both the language used to express Canadian values, as well as the addition of Canadian-specific values and practices.  Two different lists of values are presented in the survey and participants are asked to select just 10 that best represent their views of themselves (from List A), their country (from List B) and the country they desire for the future (also using List B). Results are presented both overall and by subcategory, in the form of “Top Ten” Values lists.

The Barrett Centre’s NVA is distinctive in that it is designed to invite respondents’ interpretations of the words they choose to express what is most important to them—their ‘top’ values.  Normally, surveys define their use of terms as part of a validation of the instrument.  Here, while this approach precludes a conventional validation approach, the instrument invites people to talk about their choices and their meanings.  This feature of the method is a priority for Canadian Values Conversations!  Hence, the invitation for respondents to discuss their values choices, what they mean and how they show up in everyday life, which is, of course, varies to some extent across different contexts.  In addition to the central set of questions about values, this survey includes demographic questions that enable us all to learn how our values may be influenced by where we live, how old we are, our level of education, our ethnic origins, and so on.  Canadian Values Conversations is above all about fostering our capability to articulate what is important to us and about promoting mutual understanding across different social groups in the similarities and differences in their values!

Sampling Methodology for Canadian Values Conversations: Phase 1 Survey of 2,169 Canadians

Canadian Values Conversations asked a nationally representative sample of 2,169 average online Canadians to participate in the first phase of our initiative to get our survey going.  We drew our sample from Canadian “Access Panels.”  Access Panels are rosters of Canadians compiled by different commercial research panel companies such as “Research Now” and “Asking Canadians”.  These panel companies regularly invite members of their rosters to participate, for incentives, in online polling and marketing research sponsored by their commercial clients.  The survey is available in both of Canada’s official languages; the French translation is adapted to French as it is spoken and understood among French-speaking Canadians.

By inviting carefully selected members of several of these panel companies’ membership lists, Canadian Values Conversations has been able to ensure a high degree of correspondence (or “representativeness”) between our sample and the Census Canada profile of all online Canadians in major demographic categories and by region (Ontario, Quebec, the Atlantic region and Western Canada). We did this to conduct a statistically rigorous survey of Canadian values that would represent as many Canadians’ voices as possible, in proportion to their share of voice in the general online population.  However, there are many groups within Canada whose numbers are not large enough within a sample of 2,169 to allow interpretation of their results due to their small presence in the sample. So, by opening our survey to the public in the second phase of sampling, we hope to gather enough repsonses from as many of these small groups as possiible to be able to hear all the different voices and values that constitute our nation, and have everyone join the conversation2!

1 Upon completion of the survey and application of a small degree of sample weighting (which is typical of this kind of research), the phase 1 sample was established to be highly representative of published general population targets for online Canadians (gleaned from Statistics Canada and other reputable sources).  In fact, the sample covers, and represents in its proper proportion, each category of the following geographic and demographic variables to within +/- 2%-points: sex, age, region, first language, education, household income, immigrant/birth status, religious affiliation, and neighborhood geographic density.

2 Participation in the survey is anonymous, that is, your responses will not be identified with you.