CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: The Legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald

History, Political Science
2 to 3 lessons
To evaluate the legacy of a major figure in Canadian history
Using a variety of web-based resources, students will evaluate the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald as a Canadian public figure.

Lesson Plan


Sir John A. Macdonald is widely viewed as one of the most significant figures in Canadian history. His role in Confederation, his major achievements as Prime Minister and his nation-building accomplishments are all regarded as having contributed positively to Canada's emergence and development as a modern nation. However, there are those who point to some of the more negative aspects of this legacy, in particular his decision to execute Métis leader Louis Riel for treason in 1885.

The Task

Students will consult relevant websites and other sources in order to gather information about the achievements and legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald and the views of historians on it.

Beginning with the topic Sir John A. Macdonald: Architect of Modern Canada on the CBC Digital Archives website, students will respond to, reflect on, and evaluate what they think are the most positive and/or negative features of Sir John A. Macdonald's legacy for Canada, and whether he deserves the title "architect of modern Canada." For each example, they should consider whether its effects on the future course of Canadian history were beneficial or harmful, and why this is the case.

The Process

Students work in small groups, with each group examining one aspect of Macdonald's legacy. They can continue their research using other online resources and record all the sources they use.

Student presentations on the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald can include group discussions, visual presentations, written reports, or role-play activities. Students may present the results of their research in any form they choose (e.g., news broadcast, round-table discussion, multi-media presentation).


Have students present their work to the class.

After each presentation, encourage responses from the class about how they view Macdonald's legacy as a Canadian historical figure, either positively or negatively, and why. Students share their opinions in a final summary discussion on whether or not they regard Macdonald's legacy to Canada as being mainly positive or negative, and why.

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