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Lesson Plan:

For Teachers: The Legacy of the Free Trade Pacts

Type: Webquest
Subjects: History, Political Science
Grades: Grades 11-12
Duration: 2 to 3 lessons
Purpose: To evaluate the 1988 and 1994 free trade agreements
Summary: Using a variety of web-based resources, students will research the positive and negative effects of free trade agreements on Canada’s economy and society and present their findings to the class.


It is inarguable that the 1988 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have had an impact on Canada's economic, social, political, and cultural life. However, some people would argue that the impact has been negative, and others would argue that the impact has been positive. The truth might lie somewhere in the middle.

The Task

Students will create a presentation of their choosing to compare the Free Trade Agreement of 1988 and the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994.

Beginning with the topic Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement on the CBC Digital Archives website, students will gather information about both free trade agreements. Their research should include the major terms and conditions and the alleged benefits of each agreement, and the criticisms made at the time each was enacted. For each agreement, students should list the arguments for and against, and then write to explain the negative and positive results of each agreement for Canada.

The Process

Students can work individually or in small groups. They should begin their research by thoroughly reviewing the topic Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement on the CBC Digital Archives website. They can continue their research online or by using any other resources they find relevant. Students should note all resources consulted and cited.

Student presentations should include both visuals and written work, and will be presented orally to the class. Students can present their work in any format they choose (for example, as a newscast, as a report, as a multi-media presentation, and so on). Students should be prepared to answer questions from their classmates.


After each presentation, encourage questions from the audience, as well as class discussion about the way that the free trade agreements have changed Canada's economic, social, political, and cultural life. Students should share their opinions on whether they think these changes have been primarily positive or negative for this country and its people.


Download PDF

Barlow, Maude. Parcel of Rogues: How Free Trade is Failing Canada. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1990.
Cameron, Duncan, and Mel Watkins, ed. Canada under Free Trade. Toronto: James Lorimer, 1993.
Crispo, John. Free Trade: The Real Story. Toronto: Gage, 1988.
Hart, Michael, Bill Dymond, and Colin Robertson. Decision at Midnight: Inside the Canada-US Free Trade Negotiations. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1994.
Hurtig, Mel. The Betrayal of Canada. Toronto: Stoddart, 1991.
Merrett, Christopher D. Free Trade: Neither Free nor About Trade. Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1996.
Ritchie, Gordon. Wrestling with the Elephant: The Inside Story of the Canada-US Trade Wars. Toronto: McFarlane Walter & Ross, 1997.
Winter, James P. The Silent Revolution: Media, Democracy, and the Free Trade Debate. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1990.

Canada: A People's History. Episode 17, Chapter 13: Winners and Losers. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)