Lesson Plan: For Teachers: What Is Canada's Constitution?
Brainstorm with students what they know about Canada's Constitution and Charter of Rights. Ask: What role do Canada's Constitution and Charter of Rights play in the lives of Canadians? Why is it important for a country to have a constitution and a statement of citizens' rights? Discuss other countries' constitutions, such as the American Constitution or Britain's "unwritten" constitution, and how these compare to Canada's.
Outline the Opportunity
Direct students to the topic Charting the Future: Canada's New Constitution on the CBC Digital Archives website. Have students browse the site. They should take notes, in chronological order, about the main events, individuals, and issues involved in the patriation of Canada's Constitution and Charter of Rights. Their notes should cover the time period from the late 1960s to April 1982. Students should also note the influence the Constitution and the Charter have had on Canada since 1982.
Write the following statement on the board: The patriation of the Constitution with the Charter of Rights in 1982 marked a decisive turning point in Canadians' national identity and their pursuit of equality. Have students discuss this statement in groups to explain whether they agree with it.
Revisit and Reflect
Ask: How have the patriation of the Constitution and the enactment of the Charter of Rights affected your lives? Discuss the ongoing problems and issues relating to the Constitution, such as constitutional reform, aboriginal rights, Quebec's refusal to sign the Constitution, and the role of the courts in interpreting and applying the Charter of Rights in specific cases.
Students can prepare and present an oral or written report responding to the question: Have the Constitution and the Charter made a positive impact on Canadian government, politics, and society?