Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Debating Federalism and Separatism
Record the terms "federalism" and "separatism" or "sovereigntism" on the board. Ask: What do these terms mean in Canada? What recent events in Canada demonstrated these forces engaged in a political struggle for the future of Quebec? Discuss why some people in Quebec support sovereignty while others are committed to remaining in Canada. Ask: Do you think that support for sovereignty in Quebec is rising or declining? Why? Ask students to give some examples of political leaders in Quebec and Canada who have promoted either the federalist or the separatist position, and how effective they think these leaders have been.
Outline the Opportunity
Direct students to the topic Robert Bourassa: Political Survivor on the CBC Digital Archives website. Students will browse the site and take notes. Students should note how federalist and separatist forces in Quebec shaped the outcome of Quebec's provincial elections of 1970 and 1976, the October Crisis, and the sovereignty referendum of 1980. They should note particularly the role of Robert Bourassa in opposition to René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois.
Using the information they have gathered, students will prepare and role-play a debate between Bourassa and Lévesque on whether Quebec should remain part of Canada or become a sovereign state. Before the debate, come to a class consensus on the issues that will be debated. Make sure each student has an opportunity to present and debate.
Revisit and Reflect
Discuss with students what they learned about the visions of federalism and separatism in Quebec politics during the Bourassa-Lévesque era. Ask students how influential they think Bourassa was in the federalist-separatist debates, and whether the outcome would have been different if he had not been involved.
Students can research and discuss the future of Quebec separatism in the 21st century.