Reflecting Canadian values

Values are critical. They provide guideposts for how Canada can move forward as a society, how we can orient ourselves during challenging times, how we can inspire our citizens and how we can be confident that the policies and programs we recommend and the path we choose will reflect the vision of our citizens.

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing is rooted in Canadian values.

It begins with the belief that our cornerstone value as Canadians is the principle of "shared destiny": that our society is often best shaped through collective action; that there is a limit to how much can be achieved by individuals acting alone; that the sum of a good society and what it can achieve is greater than the remarkably diverse parts which constitute it.

mountains and flowers, Banff, Alberta

Banff, Alberta. Photo credit: Marg Soden

core Canadian values word map

From this cornerstone principle of shared destiny and collective action, and from extensive public consultations with Canadians, a number of core consensus values informed the development of the CIW:

  • fairness
  • inclusion
  • economic security
  • diversity
  • health
  • democracy
  • equity
  • safety
  • sustainability

A key challenge has been to ensure that the indicators that the CIW uses to measure wellbeing, reflect these values. Indicators are literally designed to indicate or point toward fundamental social objectives. They can be used to stimulate discussion about the types of policies, programs, and activities that will move Canada closer and faster toward achieving a higher state of wellbeing, and give Canadians evidence to promote wellbeing with policy makers and decision makers.

Transforming core values into CIW domains

From the very beginning, we asked Canadians questions about what mattered to them and their families, about their aspirations for their communities, and about the types of information they needed to promote wellbeing with policy makers and decision makers in order to account for why things are getting better or worse.

Canadians said quite clearly that their top priorities for quality of life were: primary and secondary education, health care access, a healthy environment, clean air and water, social programs, responsible taxation, public safety and security, job security, employment opportunities, a living wage, balanced time use, and civic participation. These common themes cut across regions, social backgrounds and various demographic characteristics. Most importantly for the CIW, Canadians told us that quality of life should be monitored more systematically, uniformly and comprehensively.

The feedback provided by Canadians was distilled by the CIW's National Steering Committee (that existed between 2004 to 2007) into a framework with seven, and then later, eight domains, calibrated from Canadian values. The framework was later presented and discussed at two rounds of pan-Canadian stakeholder consultations and a national conference of Canadian leaders. These consultations confirmed that the CIW had transformed core values into thematic domains, and that the domains were indeed rooted in consensus Canadian values about what really matters.

Roy Romanow

The Honourable Roy J. Romanow, P.C., O.C., S.O.M., Q.C.; Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan; Former Premier of Saskatchewan; Founding Chair, CIW Advisory Board

Indicators are very powerful. What we count and measure drives our understanding of whether we are better off than we used to be, whether we are leaving a better world for our children, and what we need to change.