In this challenge, students explore the cultural and social impact of various actions instituted since Confederation by the national government. Students assess the extent to which these actions are consistent with the principles of pluralism and write a diary entry that reflects the perspective of an immigrant group, e.g., Eastern Europeans, Asians, or a founding nation; e.g., Francophones, Anglophones or Aboriginal peoples; e.g., Cree, Blood.
Discuss Canada's commitment to pluralism; e.g., the Charter, multicultural policy, official bilingualism, immigration. Explain that pluralism requires balancing cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity with social cohesion. Introduce the following three principles of pluralism, whereby differences among diverse groups can be resolved:
- a commitment to respecting differences and fostering inclusiveness
- an understanding and appreciation for shared values
- a respect for democratic principles and process for decision making, such as dialogue and deliberation (Social Studies Program of Studies, Alberta Learning 2003, pp. 4–5).
Explain to students that they are to determine the extent to which these principles have been national policy since the country's inception in 1867. Assign students, in groups, to research one action by the government in Ottawa that impacted western Canada. These actions might include the following:
- Ottawa's response to the Red River Resistance (1869)
- Ottawa's response to the second Métis uprising (1885)
- Manitoba School Act
- the National Policy
- purchase of Rupert's Land
- building of the CPR
- formation of the NWMP
- signing of treaties
- Official Languages Act.
Suggest that students collect general information about the event. You might want to use one of the charts and strategies in Reporter's Log (Support Material) to organize student research around the 5W questions. Direct students to gather additional specific information about the cultural and social impact of these actions on key groups or nations who may have been affected.
Ask each group to rate its assigned government action, in terms of the principles of pluralism; e.g., inclusiveness of differences, shared values, democratic principles. Suggest a five-point scale, from fully supports the principle of pluralism for all groups to completely violates the principle of pluralism. Direct students to give three arguments to support their rankings. Consider adapting one of the charts and strategies from Rating Options (Support Material) to assess and structure this activity.
Arrange for the groups to explain their event and their assessment of its cultural and social impact to the rest of the class. Discuss whether the cultural identities of some groups were respected better than other groups.
Ask students to write a diary or a journal entry that reflects the perspective of one of the immigrant groups or founding nations affected by the actions. Point out the differences between a diary and journal:
- Diaries tend to have shorter, more frequent entries. They focus more on the day-to-day events that occur to the individual.
- Journals tend to have longer entries. They focus, in more depth, on a particular issue. They would include the writer's views on the event and/or the impact/possible impact of the event on his or her life.
In preparation for developing an entry, suggest that students create a brief biography of their character, including:
- family members, if any
- place of birth.
Suggest criteria for effective historical diaries/journals, including:
- accurate; i.e., includes documented historical facts; is plausible for the person, time and place
- specific; i.e., contains clear and precise details of the event
- revealing; i.e., provides information that is useful in understanding the historical event
- empathic; i.e., is sensitive and realistic in presenting the historical character's perspective.
Students may also want to make their final copy look authentic. Indicate that students may incorporate their thoughts and reactions, but should base the entry on documented events and outcomes that resulted from the policies. You may want to share one or two reflections from the Digital Archive, Passages to Canada with students. See Creating Authentic Diaries (Modelling the Tools) for detailed instructions about how to teach and assess the tools for developing historical diaries. Invite students to share their completed entries with other members of the class.