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Different Perspectives: The Durham Report and Act of Union

An activity for use with the Canada in the Making site

Student Work Sheet

After the Upper and Lower Canada rebellions of 1837, Lord Durham was sent from England to investigate the cause of the unrest. He produced his famous and highly controversial Report on the Affairs of British North America (also known as the Durham Report) after a short stay in the region. This led to the Act of Union, 1840. This activity will give you the opportunity to work together and examine the different perspectives of the social and political groups that were involved in and affected by the events that led to these important documents. You will present your findings to the class.


In groups you will examine one of the following perspectives and prepare a group presentation:

Group 1: French Canadian nationalists
Group 2: Upper Canadian reformers
Group 3: The Family Compact
Group 4: The Château Clique
Group 5: The Colonial Office in Britain
Group 6: Lord Durham

For all groups:

Briefly examine the system of government in Upper or Lower Canada (depending on which group you are researching) from 1791 to 1837. Note some of the problems with the British system of rule and identify the major areas of dispute.

For your group's perspective:

Describe the group/person.

  • Who were the leaders?

  • To which social class did they belong?

  • What was their economic status?

  • What was their historical position in Canada?

  • How were they related to the other groups?

  • What was their relationship with the other groups?

What were their interests?

  • Did they support the status quo? Why?

  • What were their grievances with the government or the other groups?

  • What did they see as a reasonable solution to the problems of the time?

How did they react to the rebellions of 1837 and 1838?

  • Did they participate? To what extent?

  • What were the short-term consequences of the rebellion for this group?

For Groups 1 to 5: What was the impact of Lord Durham's report?

  • What findings had the most impact on this group?

  • Did this group contribute to the findings of the report? If so, how?

  • Did this group approve of the report's findings? Why or why not?

  • Did the recommendations of the report meet their demands or expectations?

For Group 6 (Durham Group): What factors influenced Durham's findings?

  • Consider the following factors, among others you find important:

    • His background and personality.

    • The amount of time he spent in British North America.

    • The groups with which he communicated.

    • His familiarity with Canada.

The Act of Union, 1840.

  • How did this act meet the demands/recommendations of your group/individual?

  • How did this act fail to meet the demands/recommendations of your group/individual?

Long-Term Consequences

  • What were the long-term consequences of the events and the documents discussed above on your group?

  • Did your group achieve its aims later? If so, which aims did it achieve?

Note on Sources

Primary sources
Primary sources represent the most authentic resources that historians can draw upon. The documents that you will be using below may be digitized, but are still considered primary sources. Try to use the sources available on the "Canada's Constitutional History" portion of the Canada in the Making Web site to strengthen your arguments.

For tips on how to use primary sources, go to the "Using Primary Sources in Your Work" page.
URL: http://www.canadian.org/citm/guide/essay_e.html

Secondary sources
Secondary sources are works that interpret or analyze an historical event or phenomenon. Generally the author is at least one step removed from the event. Although not as authentic as primary sources, secondary sources are still valuable.

Possible Sources of Information Online

Note: It is important to choose sources that are produced by reputable institutions or individuals. Such information is more likely to give you a balanced, neutral view and be prepared or reviewed by experts.


Canada in the Making: Canada's Constitutional History
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution1_e.html

The Canadian Encyclopedia
URL: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com

National Archives of Canada: Canada's Constitutional Evolution
URL: http://www.archives.ca/05/051103_f.html (French)
URL: http://www.archives.ca/05/051103_e.html (English)

National Library of Canada: Towards Confederation: Lower Canada
URL: http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/2/18/h18-2002-e.html

National Library of Canada: Towards Confederation: Upper Canada
URL: http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/2/18/h18-2001-e.html

Solon Law Archives: Canadian Constitutional Documents
URL: http://www.solon.org/Constitutions/Canada/

The Rebellions of 1837 and 1838

Canada in the Making: Canada's Constitutional History: 1837 - 1839: Rebellion
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution11_e.html

Canada in the Making: The Rebellions of 1837 and 1838
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/specifique/rebellions/rebellions_e.html

The Durham Report and the Union Act, 1840

Canada in the Making: Canada's Constitutional History:
1839 - 1849: Union and Responsible Government
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution12_e.html

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