Quizbowl in Canada
Variants of quizbowl in Canada have been around since the 1960s. Quizbowl understood as a tossup/bonus format entered Canada in the late 1990s, where it has since consolidated into a university circuit centered around Southern Ontario. High school quiz competitions almost exclusively use Reach for the Top. Though Ottawa and Toronto-based secondary institutions like Lisgar, UTS, and Woburn have both hosted and attended tossup/bonus quizbowl tournaments—including HSNCT and PACE NSC—growth at the high school level remains uneven. During the COVID-19 pandemic, high school quizbowl has almost entirely ceased to operate in Canada.
High school quizbowl supposedly first appeared with the CBC radio show I.Q. in the early 1960s. The format was loosely based on the American radio version of College Bowl. The show was canceled in 1964 and Reach took root soon after.
A quizbowl tournament catered to high school students came in 2005 as an NAQT event hosted by Ottawa. It has continued each year since, but with low attendance, only peaking at 14 in 2010. Attempts in the mid 00s to run similar events in Vancouver, Toronto, New Brunswick, and Sudbury have all failed due to low interest. The Ottawa Quizbowl Tournament has become an annual event. Later in the decade, Toronto and Kingston also have had universities run high school events, but with lower success.
From 2010 onward excluding provincials, there are around 4-5 tournaments of varying difficulty (NAQT, housewrites recognized by PACE) each year in Ottawa, and a novice tournament in Southern Ontario.
A provincial-level tournament is held in Ontario annually.
|Year||Teams at HSNCT||Teams at PACE|
|2010||Lisgar A, B|
|2011||Lisgar||Lisgar A, B|
|2015||Lisgar A, B, Colonel By||Waterloo CI|
|2017||Lisgar A, B|
Since Reach for the Top nationals is usually the same weekend as an American National, it is a financial and time burden on the team to attend an American National. Canadian teams that have cancelled an HSNCT registration due to a direct conflict with HSNCT have included Lisgar from Ottawa in 2008 and Assumption Catholic High School from Burlington, Ontario in 2010. Webber from Calgary cancelled their HSNCT registration in 2014, although it was not held on the same weekend as Reach Nationals.
Some high school teams or individual high school players on open teams have played in events catered to universities, such as VETO, Ottawa Hybrid Tournament, as well as mirrors of ACF tournaments or independent housewrite events.
University clubs exclusively play tossup/bonus quizbowl, as Reach for the Top does not exist at the post-secondary level. Reach veterans make up the majority of most Canadian quizbowl clubs, with some Americans studying in Canada also playing actively.
Collegiate quizbowl appeared in Canada in the late 1990s and early 2000s in schools such as Queen's and Simon Fraser. NAQT initially provided the questions for most academic events, with some additional amount of "Canadian content." In the 90s, Queen's was the sole Canadian team to participate in ACF events. Due to a relatively small amount of teams and a stronger sense of Canadian quizbowl as separate from American events, it was common practice at this time for clubs across the entire country to attend the same Regionals and SCT sites. From 2000-2010 Canadian quizbowl was at its most expansive geographically—with a presence in Vancouver and, later, Alberta. However, the absolute number of academic events remained fairly low.
By 2010, universities like Toronto, Ottawa, Waterloo, McGill and Western constituted a fairly established Ontario/Quebec circuit. This circuit continued to consolidate and grow across the decade thanks to the effort of organizers like Joe Su. At the same time, quizbowl in British Columbia and Alberta went practically extinct, leaving the Eastern circuit as the de facto "Canadian circuit." The once-common view that quizbowl in Canada is more frivolous and insular than in American circuits largely disappeared by the end of the decade.
Canadian quizbowl in the 2020s has remained centered around Southern Ontario, with Toronto the most common host. Since the mid-2010s, Toronto and McGill have been the largest and most consistently competitive clubs. Efforts to retain the Ottawan clubs have been mixed. In 2019, the University of British Columbia revived Canadian quizbowl's West Coast presence, once again necessitating a distinction between the "Canadian circuit" and the Ontario/Quebec circuit. A countrywide circuit formed to some extent, as online play during the Covid era resulted in multiple years of pan-Canadian competition.
The highest ICT finishes by Canadian Teams are 5th in Division I by 2010 Toronto, and 2nd in Division II by 2008 Western. The highest ACF Nationals finish is T-7 by 2019 McGill. Below is a table of national championship attendance:
|Year||Teams at ICT DI||Teams at ICT DII||Teams at ACF Nationals|
|2011||Toronto, Western (UG), Ottawa||Guelph||Toronto|
|2012||Toronto, Guelph (UG)||Toronto, Ottawa|
|2013||Ottawa, McMaster||Toronto||Alberta, Ottawa|
|2014||Ottawa||McGill, Carleton, McMaster||Alberta|
|2015||Ottawa, McGill, Carleton (UG), Waterloo (UG)||McGill, Carleton||Alberta, McGill, Ottawa, McMaster|
|2016||McGill, Toronto||McGill||McGill, McMaster, Ottawa|
|2017||McGill, Toronto, Carleton||Toronto, Ottawa|
|2018||McGill, Toronto||Toronto, McGill, Waterloo||McGill, Toronto|
|2019||McGill, Toronto, Queen's||Toronto||McGill, Toronto|
Canada hosts a full complement of NAQT and ACF events each year and regularly sends multiple teams to both ICT and ACF Nationals. Additionally, it is common for Ontario clubs to host multiple housewrites per semester and a separate NAQT novice for both Greater Toronto and Ottawa/Quebec. To save travel time, tournaments are often held in pairs on Saturday and Sunday either at the same school or schools in the same area. Though Canada's most idiosyncratic tournament, VETO, died out in the mid-2010s, the Eastern circuit retains a distinctive attention to pop culture events. These are usually hosted as Sunday tournaments or as part of summer "side event weekends." The Hybrid Tournament is the only annual event now written solely by Canadians.
Hybrid, formerly known as the Ottawa Hybrid Tournament, is an annual half-academic, half-pop culture tournament written by Canadians. It was once organized by members of Ottawa under the editorship of Ben Smith. The quality of the tournament has generally increased over time as the Eastern circuit has gained a more experienced cadre of writers and editors. Like VETO, Hybrid is generally pack submission. Unlike VETO, the tournament is centrally edited.
VETO (Open Summer Tournament)
- See: VETO
Organized by Peter McCorquodale, the Vancouver Estival Trivia Open (or VETO Escapes to Toronto, Ontario) was held annually in Vancouver (and often at a Toronto mirror) from 1999 until 2017. In 2002, it converted to a "guerrilla" format in which there is no central editing. VETO was once a common target of ridicule from American quizbowl clubs for its idiosyncratic distribution and retrograde quality. In 2009, ACF members edited VETO as a DI SCT-level academic tournament as an attempt to expand ACF-style writing practices to Canada. Backlash and counter-backlash ensued online as many Canadian quizbowlers felt the tournament had become less unique and "fun." Some credit the experiment with helping introduce younger Canadians to academic quizbowl. VETO continued into the 2010s as a guerrilla tournament, improving as the circuit grew in question-writing experience. The last VETO was held in 2017.
Once organized by Brock Stephenson, various Provincial Bowls took place in October. It began in 2002 as BC Bowl, and since 2003 has included a more popular mirror, Ontario Bowl. In 2005, McGill hosted a third mirror, Quebec Bowl, which was never repeated. BC Bowl ceased in the late 2000s, followed shortly by Ontario Bowl.
Queen's and Simon Fraser were regular participants in earlier years of College Bowl. According to the CBI website, there have been teams from the Universities of Saskatchewan and Toronto (before the modern team).
A list of Canadian universities that have sent teams to tournaments at some point. + refers to active teams.
- Brock University
- Carleton University +
- University of Guelph
- Langara College
- Laurentian University
- University of Manitoba +
- McGill University +
- McMaster University +
- Queen's University +
- Ryerson University
- Simon Fraser University
- University of British Columbia +
- University of Ottawa +
- University of Saskatchewan
- University of Toronto +
- University of Waterloo +
- Universtiy of Western Ontario +
- Wilfrid Laurier University
- York University
A non-exhaustive list of Canadian quizbowlers who have had substantial success at high-level tournaments:
- David Thorsley, Michigan
- Jordan Palmer, McMaster, Queens, Toronto, Ottawa
- Will Nediger, Michigan (2016 ACF Nationals Champion)
- Sinan Ulusoy, Toronto, Alberta
- Patrick Liao, Penn (2015 ACF Nationals Champion)
- Josh Alman, MIT (famous cheater)
- Rafael Krichevsky, Columbia (2019 ACF Nationals Champion)
- Derek So, McGill
- The existence of a board of writers to modify each high school set to be played in Canada to replace about half the American content and simplify the rest of the American content. This may also apply to introductory collegiate tournaments but not any collegiate NAQT or ACF tournaments.