CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Acid Rain and Canada-U.S. relations

History, Science, Political Science
1 to 2 lessons
To understand the elements of the acid-rain issue, to argue an issue .
Students will examine the Canadian and American arguments regarding causes and effects of acid rain and debate the issue.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Brainstorm with students the current state of the relationship between Canada and the United States. Ask them to identify any specific areas or issues over which the two countries have disagreed, relating to trade, foreign policy, the environment, culture, and so on. Ask: Do you think these issues have a long-term, negative effect on Canada's relationship with the U.S?

Outline the Opportunity

Direct students to the topic Acid Rain: Pollution and Politics on the CBC Digital Archives website. Students will review the site, particularly sections dealing with how acid rain came to be a contentious issue in Canada-U.S. relations beginning in the 1970s, paying particular attention to the clips titled

"Blame Canada for Acid Rain?", "The cost of inaction is greater", "A long awaited agreement", and "Back from the dead: Go fish!"

 In small groups, students will prepare summaries of the two positions and examine the differences between them. Groups will select one side to represent and pair with another group to debate the acid rain issue.

Revisit and Reflect

After the debates, each group will select two people to present the American and Canadian positions on the issue of acid rain. Those selected will make brief statements to the class. After each spokesperson has presented, ask the class to determine which position it thinks was more persuasive and why. Discuss the steps both countries took to resolve the issue. Ask: Is the resolution satisfactory? Why or why not?


Students can write a brief essay explaining how the acid rain issue exemplifies problems in Canada-U.S. relations, comparing it to one other issue with which they are familiar. The essay should examine the similarities and differences between the two issues, their impact on relations between the two countries, and the means by which they were resolved (or not).

Related Content

Acid Rain: Pollution and Politics

When fish started turning belly up in lakes and streams, North America's eyes were suddenly op...

Pollution in the Great Lakes

Bacteria-laden beaches, lakes choked with algae and fish contaminated by industrial waste: the...

The Sinking and Raising of the Irving Whale

Environmentalists dubbed it a ticking time bomb, and nobody knew when -- or if -- the Irving W...

1986: CEO polluter gets jail time

A millionaire CEO in Toronto is sentenced to one year in prison for polluting city sewers.

1989: Cleaning up after the Exxon Valdez

Emergency response to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill is too small and too slow, critics say.

Oilsands mean high profits, but also pollutio...

Drought conditions in Alberta are exacerbated by the huge volume of water consumed by Alberta'...