Trivial Pursuit

Timothy Eaton

Tom Korski of the Hill Times beats the Executive Director of the Dominion Institute at its own daffy game of historical trivia.

Each Canada Day brings another frown from the Dominion Institute, the federally-funded agency that hectors the public for its inability to answer questions on historical facts. This year I decided to put the questions to them for a change.

“Who was Canada’s first Roman Catholic Prime Minister?” I asked Marc Chalifoux, the Institute’s 29-year old executive director, on the phone from Toronto. Chalifoux laughed. “Um, why are you asking me all these questions?” I sensed he was stalling for time. “I assume it is Wilfrid Laurier.” Wrong.

Second question: What did they call the Peace Tower in World War II? Chalifoux interrupted, “Can you put this in an email?” He’d stopped laughing at this point, and sounded peevish. I explained this was a telephone survey like the polls the Dominion Institute commissions. “I’d prefer you send me these questions by email,” he insisted.

Yes, we all test better when questions are submitted in writing, in advance. I marked “no response” on the Peace Tower question. It became apparent Chalifoux had grown weary of my exam.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! It’s about time someone turned the tables on these insufferably self-righteous, narrow-minded scolds.

5 Replies to “Trivial Pursuit”

  1. In the article written by Tom Korski I liked these passages:
    Yet the Dominion Institute with its eye-catching news releases confuses trivia with knowledge, and reduces history to banalities; a 2008 survey concluded the nation was “defined” by the maple leaf, hockey and Pierre Trudeau. It was a serving of History McNuggets processed into bite-sized morsels of processed blandness. Care for dipping sauce with that?

    Is it harmless? Sure—so long as no one confuses it with substance. Yet the two are confused all the time.

    An example: When Michaëlle Jean became the first Governor General to nibble on raw seal heart during an Arctic tour last month, pundits hailed it as an historic nod to aboriginal culture. “Shame on the limousine Liberals,” wrote The Montreal Gazette. “Canada is not a monolith in culture.” A Saskatoon Star-Phoenix columnist called it “touching.” The Regina Leader-Post told readers, “The Governor General represents all Canadians, not just urban café society.”

    Missing in action was the more profound lesson to be drawn from history and culture: In 142 years no aboriginal has been permitted to serve as Governor General. Michaëlle Jean, a TV journalist from Montreal café society, somehow jumped ahead of them in the queue. We might have asked why. Instead we celebrated Seal Hunt Barbie.

    I have to look out for more of his musings…

  2. I’m glad he used the word “hector.” Hector, Lecture and Badger…the Holy Trinity of the Canadian elite.

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