Canada drops 7 spots in democracy index since 2020

Despite the removal of the last few remaining public health protections last year, the implementation of the Emergency Act over a year ago prevented Canada from crawling out of 12th place.

Earlier this year, The Economist published their annual Democracy Index for 2022, which ranks the world’s countries based on how democratic their governments are.

In 2020, Canada ranked as the 5th most democratic country in the world, behind Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and New Zealand.

A year later, however, Canada dropped 7 spots to 12th place. This year, it still sits in 12th place.

Support independent journalism

The index scores each country in 5 areas, with a maximum grade of 10 in each area. Here is how Canada scored in each area in 2020, 2021, and 2022:

Electoral process & pluralism9.5810.010.0+0.42
Functioning of government8.938.218.57-0.72+0.36
Political participation8.898.898.89
Political culture9.388.138.13-1.25
Civil liberties9.419.128.82-0.29-0.30

It looks like only 1 of the 5 areas saw an increase—functioning of government—although, technically, three areas didn’t receive a decrease, either. At least not between 2021 and 2022.

The area where Canada saw the largest year-over-year drop, however, was in political culture, where it decreased by 1.25 points in 2021. Last year, the index score remained unchanged for this area, and the area with the largest drop was civil liberties, which decreased 0.3 points. That’s a drop of 0.59 points over the last two years.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of this has to do with the implementation of the Emergency Act at the start of the year in response to the Freedom Convoy occupation of the national capital.

According to the report,

The federal government’s response to the truckers’ protest, which involved the unprecedented use of expanded powers under the Emergencies Act, represented a disproportionate curbing of civil liberties, including the forced clearing of demonstrations, a ban on public gatherings and freezing protestor’s bank accounts.

Democracy Index 2022, p. 35

However, that wasn’t the only cause for concern, as the report also highlighted Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people.

The marginalisation of Canada’s Indigenous population has gained greater visibility over the past year, particularly following the 2021 revelation of systemic human rights abuses at state-led boarding schools between the 1880s and the 1990s. Although the federal government has made Indigenous rights a priority, recent surveys continue to highlight widespread discrimination against Indigenous people in Canadian society.

Democracy Index 2022 p. 35–36

The report also accounted for Québec’s recent ban on religious symbols for public sector employees:

Quebec’s ban on wearing religious symbols in certain public-services jobs, which led to a downgrade in Canada’s civil liberties score in 2021, continues to weigh on this category.

Democracy Index 2022 p. 36

Canada’s increase of 0.36 points in the functioning of government area was a result of the lifting of the remaining public health protections implemented during the beginning of the pandemic.

Canada also performs strongly in functioning of government, with its score of 8.57 up from the 2021 score (8.21). This improvement reflects the lifting of all remaining coronavirus restrictions in 2022, including vaccination and testing requirements for entering the country, which in turn translated into an upgrade in the country’s performance on our “citizen control” indicator.

Democracy Index 2022 p. 35

Despite its slide into 12th place, however, Canada still is classified as a “full democracy”. The report classified the US, by comparison, as a “flawed democracy”.

Even though Canada might be experiencing some of the distrust in political institutions also seen in the United States, it doesn’t seem as though Canada has been affected as intensely. That being said, the US dropped only 0.07 points from 2020 and remained unchanged from 2021.

Now all that being said, Canada is still performing well in the index, relative to the rest of the world.

Electoral process & pluralism5.5910.00
Functioning of government4.708.57
Political participation5.448.89
Political culture5.328.13
Civil liberties5.438.82

As well, 2021’s drop might be a temporary dip, rather than part of a larger trend, as Canada had been rising in the index, compared to their 2006 ranking. However, last year’s barely noticeable increase doesn’t seem too promising.

Now that the Emergency Convoy is long behind us, we’ll have to see how Canada’s 2023 index placement will change a year from now.

Support independent journalism

By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

Comment on this story

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.