Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Democracy in Action?
Discuss with students the general concepts of direct democracy and ask them to discuss how that can exist in Canada where representative democracy is the norm. Once they have come up with the idea of a plebiscite, a direct vote on an issue by the citizens of a region, ask them to suggest times when a plebiscite might be appropriate.
Outline the Opportunity
Direct students to the topic The Battle for Aboriginal Treaty Rights on the CBC Digital Archives website. Have them view the clip "Democracy debated".
On the board, note that in 1996 the
total population of British Columbia was approximately 3,689,000 and the total
aboriginal population in that province was 139,655, or 3.8%. Ask: Could the
small aboriginal population have had any impact on the final results? Remind
the students that many people opposed to the plebiscite did not vote. Discuss
the challenge that a democracy faces in trying to balance the interests of the
many with the needs and wants of the few.
To illustrate the issues, students create a class plebiscite. As a group, they choose a topic for voting and questions on which they will vote. If they wish, they can impose characteristics on themselves as voters. Students vote secretly and then tally the results. Next, have them repeat the same basic plebiscite, but alter the words of the questions and/or the characteristics of the voters. How, if at all, did the results change? Students can repeat a third time if they wish.
Revisit and Reflect
Have the students discuss and compare the results of all their plebiscites. Ask: Is it in the interests of the many to respect the rights, needs, and/or wants of the few? Why or why not?
Students can develop five to eight plebiscite questions designed to address aboriginal issues. They can use the questions of the 1998 B.C. plebiscite, using the download sheet as a guide.