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Pionniers et Immigrants

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Some Quick Lesson Ideas (3)

Activities for use with the Pioneers and Immigrants section of the Canada in the Making site

Below are a series of lesson ideas for use with the Canada in the Making Web site. Some may require the use of outside sources.

What To Bring?
Immigration Flag Timeline
Great Canadian Immigrants
Explorers' Biographies
Different Nations, Different Histories
Starting a Colony in New France
The Missionaries
Geographical Challenges
The Loyalists

What to Bring?

Settlers had to make sure they were properly supplied before setting out to the frontier. Students could work alone or in groups to develop a list of supplies required to travel to the prairies and start a farm before there were trains. They could compare this to the period after trains crossed the nation.

The links below show the various goods for sale or trade by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1706. It may help students think about the technology available in earlier times and the tools and other goods necessary for frontier life.

Immigration Flag Timeline

Students could research the different nationalities that immigrated to Canada and create a timeline of flags for all the nationalities that have come to Canada. The flags would be placed under the period in which that group came in significant numbers. For example, most immigration to New France (ca. 1600 – 1763) was from France (students could look up the historical flag of France before the French Revolution). Many other nationalities came to the prairies in the period from 1896-1914.

A variation on this idea would be to have a map with flags pinned to different regions. The years of immigration could be written under each flag.

Great Canadian Immigrants

Students could research great Canadians who were not born in Canada. For example, Alexander Mackenzie, Canada’s second Prime Minister, was born in Scotland. Two good places to start this research are the Canada in the Making Biographies page, the Library and Archives site, and the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online:


Students could research the history of the CPR in groups. Areas to explore include:

  • Key historical figures (e.g. Sir John A. Macdonald) who moved the railway forward or who slowed it down.

  • The reasons the railway was built.

  • Promises made by the governments of the day.

  • Geographical challenges with construction.

  • The Pacific Scandal.

  • The role and difficulties of immigrants in building the railway (e.g. Chinese laborers).

  • The long-term impact of the railway's construction.

Sites to visit include:

Explorers’ Biographies

Create a timeline of Canadian exploration. Research the explorers of Canada, including some of the figures below:

Roald Amundsen

Juan Pérez Hernandez

Francisco A. Mourelle de la Rúa

William Baffin

Henry Hudson

The Norse (Vikings)

Vitus Jonassen Bering

Inuit Peoples

John Palliser

John Cabot

Louis Jolliet

William Parry

Jacques Cartier

Henry Kelsey

Peter Pond

Samuel de Champlain

James Knight

Pierre Esprit Radisson

James Cook

The La Vérendrye family

John Ross

The Corte Real family

René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle

William Stuart

John Davis

Urey Fyodorovich Lisiansky


Médard Chouart Des Groseilliers

Alexander Mackenzie

David Thompson

First Nations Peoples

Jacques Marquette

George Vancouver

John Franklin

Estebán José Martinez


Simon Fraser


Lavrentii Alekseevich Zagoskin

Martin Frobisher

Robert McClure


Samuel Hearne

Christian Missionaries



Three excellent sources of information on explorers and exploration are:

As an extended activity, students can try to find works written by explorers on the Early Canadiana Online database at URL: http://www.canadiana.org.

Different Nations, Different Histories

Students could explore the various groups that settled Canada. In groups or individually, they could explore:

  • The reasons the settlers came to what is now Canada.

  • What it was like in their home countries at the time.

  • What kind of reception they received when they arrived.

  • How they contributed to Canada’s history and culture.

Starting a Colony in New France

The settlement of New France presented a challenge to provincial authorities and French authorities in France. The weather, isolation, hostile local inhabitants, scurvy – all these challenges and more made New France unattractive to many … and those that did come often died, particularly in the early years.

Students could discuss in groups the conditions needed for a successful colony in such circumstances. This table might help their thinking:


Equipment tools medicine (etc.) needed to overcome the challenge

People/skills needed to overcome the challenge

1. Cold climate

Warm housing – need woodcutting tools (axes, saws, carpenters tools)
Warm clothing – furs and wool clothing, sheep

Fur trappers







Students should try to remember that people had different attitudes at the time. For example, religion was very important.

Students could then try to outfit the ideal expedition to New France. How many people would it take? How many supplies? Ships?

The Missionaries

Religion was a very important part of life in the time of New France. Europeans felt a genuine obligation to spread their faith across the globe. With this in mind, France sent missionaries around the world – including New France. The effects were not always what they expected. Students could explore some of the writings of the missionaries and comment on what they wrote about.

The Jesuit relations and allied documents: travels and explorations of the Jesuit missionaries in New France, 1610-1791: the original French, Latin, and Italian texts, with English translations and notes

Note: The Jesuit letters – primary source documents – were widely popular in France at the time they were written. People were curious about the New World.

Geographical Challenges

Each geographical region of Canada presented different and challenges to settlers. Students could divide the map of Canada into regions and explore the following issues:

  • Why would people want to move there? Consider natural resources, climate, trade, etc.

  • What would make settling there difficult? Consider weather, terrain, vegetation, food supply, etc.

  • What methods did different settlers use to overcome the challenges? Consider especially Aboriginal peoples and their contributions European survival.

The Loyalists

After the American Revolution, Loyalists moved north into what is now Canada. Students could explore:

  • The regions into which they settled.

  • The different kinds of Loyalists, and their characteristics. Consider Aboriginal Loyalists, Black Loyalists and other.

  • Were there different reasons for groups to remain loyal to the British Crown? What were they?

  • Was everyone who came north motivated by loyalty to the British Crown? What other motives might there be?

Some sources of information:

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