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Evolving Identities in Canada

Create a visual representation of changes in the political, economic, demographic and social identities of an assigned group since Confederation.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

In this challenge and possible culminating activity, students create a collage or multimedia display that represents the changing identities of a selected group since Confederation. Suggest Francophones, women, First Nations, Métis, people of British ancestry and other groups that may have particular significance for your students. Students will explore political, economic, demographic and social changes.

Activity 1
Model the steps involved in this challenge, using changes in the identities of Canadian women, including Aboriginal women, as a case study. Guide the class through the following tasks:

  • Identify 10 significant events or trends in the post-Confederation history of the assigned group.
  • Draw conclusions about the implications of these events on the political, economic, demographic and social identities of the assigned group.
  • Create a visual collage, using symbols, to illustrate the changing identities of the assigned group.

In modelling this procedure, provide students with a dozen or more positive and negative post-Confederation events or trends that have had political, economic, demographic and social significance. In the case of changing women's identities, these might include:

  • the Temperance movement
  • gaining the right to vote
  • the Person's case
  • working conditions
  • wartime duties
  • changing family structures
  • discrimination against Aboriginal women
  • increased access to education.

Ask students to collect general information about one of these events or trends. Consider using one of the charts and strategies in Reporter's Log (Support Material) to organize student research around the 5W questions.

Arrange for students to share the information gathered on their assigned event. Direct students to note their event with a short description on a class time line.

Divide the class into groups of four. Have each group focus on one component of identity, i.e., political, economic, demographic, social, and speculate on the implications of the 10 events on the identities of women. Encourage groups that looked at the same component to share their suggested implications.

After identifying possible implications for each event, direct students to work in a foursome, each representing one of the four components, to select the biggest changes in women's collective identities since Confederation. Suggest that students consider two criteria when identifying the biggest changes:

  • plausible change in identity; e.g., Does it seem reasonable to believe that women's identities might have changed in this way? Do several events or trends suggest that this change is likely?
  • significance of the implied change in identity; e.g., Would the change significantly alter women's deeply-rooted self-perceptions?

Once students have identified the key changes, direct them to brainstorm possible symbols that could be used to visually represent the changes. Consider adapting one of the charts in Collecting Information (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity (see sample below).

Event or Trend

Implications for Collective Identities

Possible Symbols

  • women acquired the right to vote in Manitoba in 1914

  • increased political equality
  • a voice in political decisions

  • voting ballot with the equal sign
  • female symbol
  • male symbol
  • bulging bicep or free weight

In the demonstration example, you may choose to discuss what a collage or multimedia representation might look like, rather than actually creating the representation. Depending on your students, you might suggest that the representation be organized around a powerful metaphor. The metaphor would identify an overall theme for the shifting identities and provide a unifying image for the visual; e.g., for women, Canada has been like a jigsaw puzzle, a house or a group pushing a ball up a hill. Each of the individual symbols should fit the overarching metaphor. If necessary, create a powerful visual metaphor as a class.

Activity 2
Direct students to apply the procedure you just modelled to the study of one of the following groups: Francophones, First Nations, Métis, people of British ancestry or other groups of particular significance for your students. You might ask students to generate key events or trends for their assigned group (see References).

Activity 3
Ask students to create a display of visual symbols that represent important changes in the evolving identity of their assigned group. Establish criteria for a powerful visual representation (e.g., reflects key aspects of the changing identities, provides an overall theme, is engaging to look at). If relevant, encourage students to select symbols that fit with an overarching metaphor to explain the changes.

Invite groups to share a brief oral or written explanation of their work. Ask other students to identify the strengths of the representation and raise clarifying questions.

Invite students to look at the Confederation trends that have political, economic, demographic and social significance on Aboriginal peoples, such as gaining the right to vote, wartime duties and access to education.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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