Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Awareness of War of 1812 weak among Canadians

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OTTAWA -- There was a war in 1812? Really?

The Harper government has been highlighting a war with our American neighbours 200 years ago, but the relevance of commemorating the event seemed lost on almost all of those who participated in a comprehensive survey for National Defence.

The poll, conducted annually, measures impressions of the Canadian military, its missions, equipment and important events.

Few people who took part in the survey, and in related focus groups, were aware of the anniversary "and even fewer could identify the War of 1812 by name," said the research conducted by Phoenix Strategic Perspectives Inc.

"Typically, no more than one or two participants in each group were aware that this year is the bicentennial commemoration of the War of 1812, and these people tended to deduce this with simple arithmetic.

"From the year, 1812, they made the logical leap to the War of 1812. Most focus-group participants had no prior awareness of this anniversary."

That may be bad news for the Harper government, which has invested as much as $28 million in historical re-enactments, television commercials, museum exhibits, a $60 commemorative coin, and even a mobile app for smartphones.

The telephone poll of 1,520 people was conducted in February and March this year, while the focus groups were conducted in January and February.

The report revealed that even in areas where the war was fought -- specifically Ontario's Niagara Region -- awareness remained foggy.

"In St. Catharines, which is geographically close to where some significant events of the War of 1812 took place, awareness of the 200th anniversary was higher, but still uneven and not widespread," said the document, released Tuesday by the federal government.

The poll results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2012 A6

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