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Redesign Canada's Coat of Arms

Redesign Canada's coat of arms to reflect the ideal balance of nationalist loyalties of people living in Canada.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

As a possible culminating challenge, students consolidate their understanding of the ingredients of a collective identity by representing their ideal balance of multiple loyalties in a new coat of arms for Canada.

Introduce the coats of arms as representations of identity
To assist students in understanding how a coat of arms reflects an identity and, in many cases, a multi-faceted identity, invite them to analyze the coats of arms designed for Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean (see References). Discuss how the various features of these coats of arms reflect the individual's various allegiances. Next, direct students to consider which groups' identities are reflected and which are not reflected in Canada's coat of arms (see References).

Examine territorial and provincial coats of arms
Assign one of the provincial or territorial coats of arms to each group of students (see References). Invite them to discuss how these visuals reflect the identities of the groups living in the region. Once groups have examined their assigned coats of arms, invite them to position them on a continuum, as illustrated below, ranging from mostly non-national to mostly national. Encourage students to consider the following criteria when locating the coats of arms on the continuum:

  • prominence (size) of national or non-national symbols
  • dominance (numbers) of national or non-national symbols
  • placement of national and non-national symbols (centre or periphery).

National and Non-national Features in Coats of Arms

Mostly non-national

More non-national than national


More national than non-national

Mostly national

Consider the ideal mix of loyalties
Explain to students that they will be asked to redesign the Canadian coat of arms to represent their view of the ideal balance of national and non-national loyalties. Direct students to consider to what extent two kinds of allegiances should be reflected in a Canadian coat of arms:

  • national allegiances—e.g., Canadian nationalism, Québécois nationalism, First Nations nationalism, Métis nationalism, Inuit perspectives on nationalism, ethnic nationalism
  • non-national loyalties—e.g., religion, region, culture, race, ideology, class, other contending loyalties.

 In deciding on this balance, stress that students are not to assert their own personal preferences, but to decide from the perspective of someone who wants to develop a truly Canadian representation. Encourage students to consider the following criteria in making their decision:

  • recognizes the need for common allegiances and collective identity
  • respects the diversity of groups and rights of individual citizens in Canada.

Invite students to consider the following range of options for an ideal mix of loyalties and to explain their choice.

National and Non-national Allegiances

Common national allegiances

Mostly common  national allegiances

Balance between national and non- national allegiances

Few common national allegiances

Very diverse allegiances

Create a new national coat of arms
Invite students to redesign the Canadian coat of arms to reflect their ideal mix of national and non-national loyalties. Encourage students to consider the following criteria when designing their visual:

  • clearly illustrates students' judgement of the ideal balance of various loyalties that should be represented in Canada's identity
  • makes effective use of iconography; e.g., prominence, dominance and placement of symbols, words and pictures
  • is visually appealing—colourful, interesting, not too cluttered.

It may be useful to point out to students that collective symbols might be used to represent particular loyalties. For example, instead of showing specific religious groups, students might use a nondenominational symbol to represent all major religions in Canada. Instead of a focus on persuasive techniques, encourage students to look for the techniques used in heraldry to create a powerful and meaningful coat of arms. Invite students to provide an explanation of the elements of their coats of arms.

For instructions on how to teach and assess the tools to develop effective visual presentations, see Creating Persuasive and Effective Visuals (Modelling the Tools).

Share the coats of arms
Arrange for students to work in pairs or small groups and to exchange coats of arms but not the accompanying explanations. Ask students to determine from the visuals the extent to which various national loyalties are reflected. Encourage students to ask questions about the visuals and to provide constructive comments to their peers. Invite students to use this feedback to adjust their visuals to reflect more clearly the intended balance.

Last updated: May 30, 2008 | (Revision History)
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