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Political Steps toward Confederation

Assess the impact of four major political acts in the years leading to Confederation, based upon English, Canadien and First Nations perspectives.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

In this challenge, students explore the significance of four major political acts that led to Confederation by writing a report card that assesses their impact, based on English, Canadien and First Nations perspectives. Note: French people living in Canada were referred to as French prior to 1600 and as Canadiens from 1660 to 1917. The four acts that students will examine are the Royal Proclamation Act (1763), Québec Act (1774), Constitution Act (1791) and the Act of Union (1841).

Activity 1
Present students with excerpts of well-known contemporary acts; e.g., School Act, Youth Criminal Justice Act, Canadian Bill of Rights, the Alberta Act (see References for online links to these acts). Explain that acts are legal documents that summarize actions, laws, policies or procedures and that their purpose is to advance various political, economic, social and/or legal interests. Suggest that acts are created as a result of deliberations by a committee or governing body in response to issues or problems that arise in society.

Explain that four major political acts were written prior to Confederation. Each was designed to improve the state of affairs for the people in British North America. Direct students to read prepared briefing sheets or online and print sources, such as The Canadian Encyclopedia, that offer general information about each of the four pieces of legislation and their impact on various groups or peoples.

Activity 2
Inform students that they are to work with several others to assess the impact of each piece of legislation on three groups of people–English, Canadiens and First Nations. They are to create a report card to assess how effectively these pieces of legislation promoted the well-being of each group. Discuss the idea of a report card, e.g., its purpose and contents, and offer four criteria for students to consider when assessing well-being:

  • identity; e.g., allowed expression of individual culture
  • sovereignty; e.g., offered control over one's affairs
  • cooperation; e.g., enhanced the ability to co-exist and work together
  • fairness; e.g., considered the unique needs of each group.

Direct students to provide a rationale for each letter grade they assign. Consider adapting the report card and strategies in Writing a Report Card (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

Legislation Report Card

Grading Scale



Legislation: The Royal Proclamation

Key Aspects:

  • provided a constitutional framework for negotiation of Aboriginal treaties
  • created the province of Québec and described how it would be governed
  • defined large legal boundaries/areas in North America for Aboriginal reserves
  • claimed ultimate control over the Dominion for King George III and his heirs


Very Good








Very Poor




Rating Components





Overall Average











Aboriginal peoples




  • the Act, itself, did not enable Aboriginal peoples to express their culture any more or less



  • the land set aside for reserves ensured Aboriginal peoples a large area of land but they were still bound by the laws of the King so they didn't gain greater control of governing themselves








Arrange for students to share their assessments for each of the three groups with the rest of the class. Discuss the overall mark earned by each of the acts.

Invite students to dramatize reactions to a given piece of legislation, based upon the perspective of the groups most affected by its passing. Direct them to work in groups to script a Heritage Minute that illustrates the circumstances surrounding the piece of legislation and the differing views of various groups. For example, the Constitution Act most affected the Loyalists, First Nations and Canadiens. A scene might show an English Loyalist discussing the act with a First Nations leader. The Loyalist would be proud of the fact that the act provides for a form of representative government, while the First Nations leader might be upset by the lack of consideration for Aboriginal homelands.

Adapted from Snapshots of 19th Century Canada, edited by Roland Case and Catriona Misfeldt (Richmond, BC: The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2002, pp. 5–8, 56 (ISBN: 0–86491–236–6).

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