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Lesson Plan:

For Teachers: First Nations Catch-22

Type: Webquest
Subjects: History, Social Studies, Political Science
Grades: Grades 11-12
Duration: 1 to 2 lessons
Purpose: To examine the legal forms of discrimination facing Aboriginal veterans after the Second World War
Summary: Using a variety of Web-based resources, students research and create a presentation about the equity of benefits given to First Nations veterans after the Second World War.


After the Second World War, the veterans of the Canadian military, including First Nations soldiers, were demobilized and sent home. In recognition for their contribution to the war effort, many veterans received monetary compensation, access to enhanced education, and title to pieces of land.

First Nations veterans, however, were treated differently. They received less money. In the majority of cases, they received land that belonged to the reserves on which they already lived. Most were not provided with increased access to education. As well, as Status Indians, they had rights to some of their reserve benefits as long as they returned to the reserve. However, because they had fought in the war they had gained the right to vote. Because they had the right to vote, they were forced to give up their Status designation. Benefits on the reserves were not given because they had lost their Status designation. At the same time, some military service benefits from the government were not given because they were still considered to have Status rights.

The Task

Students will use presentation software to prepare a presentation about the forms of discrimination that First Nations veterans faced when they returned home to Canada after the war and the impacts of this treatment on their lives. From the information they gather, students will draw conclusions about the equity of the way that First Nations veterans were treated.

Discuss the title for this lesson, First Nations Catch-22. Determine if any students have read Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22. If possible, have a volunteer explain the plot and discuss the term Catch-22. Otherwise, have students look it up in the dictionary and explain why this term might be applied to the First Nations veterans' situation.

The Process

Direct students to Continuing the Fight: Canada's Veterans on the CBC Digital Archives website. Have them observe the clips titled "Fighting the 'white man's war'", "Status Indians compensated for benefits denied", "Native veteran gets no benefits, loses status Indian designation" and "Senate to investigate discrimination against Native veterans". Students can use any other resources they find relevant, and must cite all sources consulted and used. They will use presentation software to prepare their presentation, which should include pictures, video clips, creative text, and sound.


Students will exhibit their information and answer the following questions:

What was the Catch-22 facing First Nations veterans?

What forms of compensation were eventually awarded?

Was the compensation eventually the same as for non-First Nations veterans?

How would you have better handled the benefit distribution after the war?