There’s an interesting article at The Afterword by Philip Marchand where he talks about the standards used to determine which works should be a part of the canon of CanLit. I have to agree with some of the points he mentions here. I took a lot of English courses in university, but only three specifically “Canadian” courses and all were modernist/post-modernist in nature with a couple pre-modern texts thrown in for context. There are a number of CanLit authors that I have to admit I haven’t read. I’m not familiar with Sheila Watson, who is mentioned specifically by Marchand in this article.
But this backs up the man’s point: often it is the academics who promote the canon in choosing what to teach their students. Beyond this the major awards bring to light new works of note for the enthusiastic young CanLit student to devour. But there’s a large gap for many readers, myself included, that can only gradually be filled through years of reading.