In 1972, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada appointed Dr. T. Symons, President of Trent University, to Chair a Commission on Canadian Studies. By the early 1970s the subject of Canada was becoming more generally accepted as an area of legitimate academic inquiry as borne out by the setting up of formal Canadian Studies programs at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick and Trent University in Ontario.
Canadians from all walks of life were also beginning to question the apparent inadequacy within the higher education community to foster understanding of, and appreciation for, Canada, the land and its people. The growing Americanization of many aspects of Canadian daily life was becoming a concern for politicians, economists and educators alike. Some questioned whether or not educators were taking any responsibility for instilling a sense of national awareness and citizenship responsibility in their students, the future leaders and developers of the country.
Consequently, the AUCC asked the Symons Commission to examine Canadian content in terms of faculty and course offerings at Canadian universities and to make recommendations as to how best to encourage universities and colleges to introduce more Canadian-emphasis courses at their individual institutions.
As part of its research, the Symons Commission visited universities across Canada. In 1973, it met in Halifax, N.S. with representatives of local universities. Dr. Marial Mosher, a Professor of Anthropology, attended that meeting on behalf of Mount Saint Vincent University. She returned convinced that MSVU should introduce a Canadian Studies program since it appeared that none of the other local universities were particularly interested. She outlined her ideas to the President of the day, Sister Mary Albertys, and the academic Dean, Dr. Walter Shelton. It was agreed that such a program would commence in the fall of 1974 and the Canadian Studies program at MSVU was thus born.
Today, the Canadian Studies program is an independent course of study administered by a full-time co-ordinator who also teaches the three core interdisciplinary Canadian Studies courses. In September 1989, for administrative reasons, the program was wedded to the Department of Political Studies resulting in the creation of a new department known as the Department of Political and Canadian Studies. The Canadian Studies program continues to maintain a separate identity, supported by its own co-ordinator, budget and student society. In 1993, Andrea and Charles R. Bronfman set up a unique award for Canadian Studies students at MSVU. Valued at more than $2,000 annually, the award provides for students to spend a week on Parliament Hill, shadowing members of parliament, senators and various government employees. In 2004, a Student Exchange Agreement in Canadian Studies with Trent University, which enables a student to complete one of their years of undergraduate study at Trent. This makes it possible for a student to experience life in another part of Canada and broaden his/her national and academic horizons.
The MSVU Canadian Studies program has particularly flourished over the last decade. Annually there are in the vicinity of 50 Majors. The program is particularly popular with students wanting to pursue careers in education, law, social work, journalism, politics and government. Those who complete a Major or Minor in Canadian Studies will graduate with well developed research skills, oral and written communication skills, a strong sense of civic responsibility, an understanding of what it means to be a Canadian at home and abroad, and a thorough knowledge of Canada, the land and her peoples, past and present.