Social Studies – Grade 7 Close this window
  What's this?

Immigration to British North America

  • Assess the levels of hardships experienced by various British immigrant groups and the significant contributions British immigrants made to British North America.
  • Write a diary entry that reflects an immigrant's experience in the new land.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

In this challenge, students explore the experiences of Loyalists and other British immigrants, e.g., Irish, Scottish, English, in British North America, by assessing the levels of hardship and the significant contributions of these groups, and then write a diary entry, based on an individual immigrant's point of view.

Activity 1
Inform students that British contributions to the Canadian recipe were greatly aided by the arrival, in the late 18th and early/mid 19th century, of many thousands of British immigrants, in the form of Loyalists (after the American Revolution) and Irish/Scottish/English immigrants (starting in 1812). Indicate that both push and pull factors influenced these peoples' decisions to relocate. Review, if necessary, the following terms:

  • push factors–factors within a home community that encourage people to leave, such as family pressure, poor conditions, famine and war
  • pull factors–factors about the potential destination that draw people there, including adventure, better future and promise of land.

Suggest that British immigration was controversial, i.e., feelings of resentment toward new immigrants, and that the immigration experience was often mixed–fraught with challenges, expectations and opportunities. Inform students they are to research and assess the levels of hardship as well as the significant contributions of British immigrants in North America.

Assign students to research the experiences and positive and negative impact of one of three waves of British immigrants:

  • Loyalists' migration to and settlement in Québec and Nova Scotia
  • Selkirk settlers arrival in the early 19th century to the Northwest Territory
  • Great Migration of 1815–1850 to Upper and Lower Canada.

Provide students with relevant electronic, print and video resources; e.g., relevant sections from Canada Revisited, episodes 5–7 from Canada: A People's History. Consult alternate resources for maps that show immigration patterns. Consider adapting one of the charts in Collecting Information (Support Material) to structure and assess their research.

Activity 2
Organize students into small groups to compare findings, generate further ideas and share results with the class. Draw out how each immigrant group's identity, sovereignty, cooperation and fair treatment was affected by immigrating. For example, the profound belief of Aboriginal peoples that the land is a gift to all prompted them, initially, to assist immigrants in settling, e.g., helped them become aware of their new land, provided them with food/shelter, but, eventually, led to resentment and retaliation, which contributed to settlers' hardships.

Direct students to work in groups to assess two issues for each wave of immigrants:

  • personal value to individual immigrants on their decision to immigrate. Students should consider the suffering endured versus the improved conditions and freedoms and report their answer on a five-point scale, from a disastrous decision to a great decision.
  • significance of immigrants' contributions to the British North American colonies in which they settled. Students should consider the important positive and negative changes they brought about and report their answer, on a five-point scale, from a disastrous contribution to a great contribution.

Encourage students to provide reasons for their placement of each immigrant group on the two continuums. Consider adapting one of the charts in Rating Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

You may also engage students in an informal debate on these issues. As a class, arrive at consensus on each immigrant group's placement along both continuums.

Activity 3
To encourage personal reflection of the issues and conditions facing these immigrants, ask students to put themselves in the shoes of a British immigrant. Direct them to write a diary entry or entries, weaving in the hardships, benefits and impact this group had on Canada. You may wish to use the actual diary of a Loyalist girl, mentioned in CBC's video, Canada: A People's History, as inspiration or engage the students in a role play before they write.

Discuss possible criteria for a historical diary, including accurate facts, empathic account and revealing insights. Caution students that when they are writing about a historical event or time period, from a modern day perspective, they cannot really know the perspective of those who lived in the past. Suggest that people in the past acted and behaved as they did in the spirit of the times; therefore, judgements should be made on the documented hardships, benefits and subsequent impacts of actions, rather than on assumptions about the character's motives, values and beliefs.

When completed, ask students to share the best parts of their diary with a partner, small group or the class. See Creating Authentic Diaries (Modelling the Tools) for detailed suggestions on how to teach and assess the tools for developing rich, historical diaries. Consider adapting the strategies in Writing Based on a Perspective (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

Adapted from Immigration in 20th Century Canada, edited by Catriona Misfeldt and Roland Case. (Richmond, BC: The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2002, ISBN: 0–86491–254–4) pp. 2–3, 12–13.

Adapted from Snapshots of 19th Century Canada, edited by Roland Case and Catriona Misfeldt, (Richmond, BC: The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2002, 0–86491–236–6) pp. 13–18.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
Copyright | Feedback
Back to top