• Andy Fillmore MP on CPAC Route 338 giant floor map

    Andy Fillmore, MP for Halifax, poses on CPAC's new Route 338 giant floor map at an event celebrating CPAC's 25th anniversary in Ottawa September 18. A democratic literacy tool created in partnership with The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the map presents Canada's 338 federal electoral districts and will be available to schools along with free lesson plans. (Photo: Alexandra Pope/Canadian Geographic)

If you've ever cast a ballot in a federal election, marched in a protest, written a letter to your Member of Parliament, added your name to a petition on an issue you care about, or even just debated a hot topic around the dinner table, you've participated in — and benefitted from — Canadian democracy. With the launch Monday of a new educational tool called Route 338, the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC), aims to help all Canadians understand the political process and make their voices heard. 

“Now more than ever before, we recognize that democracy is precious but fragile, even in mature democracies like Canada,” says Catherine Cano, president and general manager of CPAC. “CPAC Route 338 is a vital resource because the earlier we study and learn about our democracy, the better our chance to have a society that is curious, knowledgeable and engaged.”

The multimedia project includes a website where visitors can explore an interactive map of Canada's 338 federal electoral districts. This "virtual road trip" features a dossier on each riding, including a profile of and contact information for the current sitting MP, a demographic breakdown of the riding and facts about the area's history, economy and geography. CPAC also partnered with The Royal Canadian Geographical Society to create a Route 338 giant floor map that will tour schools across the country (there's also a downloadable tiled version). Teachers can access 11 free, curriculum-linked lesson plans to help students in Grades 1-12 learn the different levels of government and the functions of each, the role of Members of Parliament, how bills become laws, their own rights and responsibilities in a democracy and more. 

“Learning about democracy has never been more important,” says John Geiger, CEO of the RCGS. “Our partnership with CPAC brings together the best in geographical and political education resources to give students and newcomers the information they need to understand how democracy works in Canada.”

The Route 338 giant floor map was unveiled Monday night in Ottawa at a reception celebrating CPAC's 25th anniversary. Dozens of MPs and staff attended to congratulate CPAC on their quarter-century of providing comprehensive, non-partisan coverage of activities in the House of Commons and delighted in finding (and posing creatively with) their own ridings on the map: 

Speaker of the House Geoff Regan, who proudly admits to being a lifelong fan of maps, praised the Route 338 map as a valuable tool to help students grasp Canada’s political geography. 

“Not only can you walk across Canada in a few seconds, but for kids to be able to see how the country is divided and get an explanation of why and where they fit in is very valuable,” said Regan, who is also a Fellow of the RCGS. “I love it and think it’s a great, great teaching tool.”