In this challenge, students explore the pros and cons of joining Confederation during the time of the Charlottetown and Québec Conferences by creating newspapers that highlight the perspectives of different groups.
Present, on the overhead, cover pages for the two historical documents:
- Debate on the Union of the Provinces in the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia, March 16th, 18th, and 19th, 1867
- Letter addressed to the Earl of Carnarvon, by Mr. Joseph Howe, Mr. William Annand and Mr. Hugh McDonald, stating their objections to the proposed scheme of union of the British North American provinces (see References).
Indicate that these are copies of actual documents that outline the reasons some regions or groups wanted to create a union of British North America provinces and why others did not. Invite students to speculate on the reasons for and against joining Confederation.
Assign groups of students one of the following groups or regions:
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
- New Brunswick
- Canada East (English)
- Canada East (French)
- Canada West (English)
- Canadiens in Canada West and Upper Canada
- Aboriginal peoples.
Encourage students to make a T-chart that outlines the reasons their group or region would be either for or against Confederation. You may wish to have students conduct additional online research, using websites, such as Early Canadiana Online, Library and Archives Canada: Constitution for Kids or The Canadian Encyclopedia Online (Historica).
Invite students to create a special edition, Confederation issue, newspaper, dated July 2, 1867, from a selected city within their colony or region. Focus on the various perspectives toward Confederation, including those of Aboriginal and Canadien peoples. Encourage students to use historical documents to conduct their research, including newspaper archives from this period found on the Internet. Teacher-librarians may be able to help plan and conduct this research.
Suggest that each group include the following content in its newspaper:
- newspaper title; i.e., header
- feature news article, with a bold headline that describes the significance of Confederation for the colony, that creates strong feelings toward Confederation but is still accurate and clear
- editorial that describes why Confederation is desirable or undesirable and includes pros and cons for the assigned colony as well as a clearly worded conclusion statement on the newspaper's position
- political cartoon that depicts key figures in the Confederation debate, is stylistic and has a clear message that is consistent with the opinions expressed in the editorial
- three letters to the editor in which fictional local citizens offer differing opinions on Confederation, supported by historically plausible reasons.
Review the different purposes, structures and features of each component of a newspaper. Draw students' attention to techniques that various newspaper writers and illustrators use to increase the authority and authenticity of their message; e.g., vivid images, catchy phrases, bold claims, realism. Invite students to bring in a variety of historical and contemporary examples and ask them to notice possible techniques. Consider adapting the chart in Looking for Techniques (Support Material) to structure this part of the activity.
Encourage students to use desktop publishing applications to create authentic-looking papers. Post or circulate completed newspapers and invite students to read or peer- evaluate them.
In place of the newspaper assignment, you might prefer to invite students to create a documentary that incorporates a feature story with narration, cover footage or re-enactments, historical footage and several mock interviews. See Planning a Documentary (Support Material) for strategies and charts to structure and assess this activity.
Invite an Elder to class to share his or her oral histories about how the Aboriginal peoples reacted to Confederation.
Adapted from Canada: A People's HistoryTeacher's Guide (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Radio Canada, 2000 p. 45).