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Lesson Plan:

For Teachers: Major Players in the Patriation Process

Type: Webquest
Subjects: History, Political Science
Grades: Grades 11-12
Duration: 2 to 3 lessons
Purpose: To investigate and assess the role of politicians in a major historical event
Summary: Using a variety of Web-based resources, students prepare a profile of a major political figure in the patriation of the Canadian Constitution and enactment of the Charter of Rights during the period 1968-82, assessing their contribution to the process.


The struggle to patriate the Canadian constitution and enact the Charter of Rights was a dominant issue in the life of this country from the late 1960s to 1982, occupying the attention of many of the most important political figures of the time. It pitted such giants as Pierre Trudeau and René Lévesque against each other, and helped rising politicians like Jean Chrétien and Roy Romanow on their road to future success. The issues involved in the patriation debate went to the core of what Canadians value and how they view themselves as a people. Issues such as Canada's sovereignty as a nation; relations between the federal and provincial levels of government; Quebec's place in Confederation; the rights of women, Aboriginal Peoples, and minorities; the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms; and the role of government in citizens' lives all became matters of debate and controversy as Canadian leaders, and Canadians, considered the weighty questions of constitutional reform.

The Task

Students will prepare and present a profile of one of the major political figures involved in the process of Canadian Constitutional patriation from 1968 to 1982. They may choose from the following individuals:

Pierre Trudeau, prime minister of Canada

Daniel Johnson, premier of Quebec

Robert Bourassa, premier of Quebec

René Lévesque, premier of Quebec

Claude Ryan, Quebec Liberal leader

Roy Romanow, Saskatchewan attorney general

Jean Chrétien, federal minister of justice

Roy McMurtry, Ontario attorney general

Joe Clark, federal Conservative leader

Ed Broadbent, federal NDP leader

Peter Lougheed, premier of Alberta

Students' profiles should include the subject's position on patriation, the reasons for that position, and the subject's impact on the process and its final conclusion. Students should also include their thoughts on whether their subject's role was positive or negative, and why.

The Process

Students may work either individually or in groups to prepare a biographical summary of the life and career of one of these political figures, focusing specifically on his role in the patriation process. Students should begin their research on the topic Charting the Future: Canada's New Constitution on the CBC Digital Archives website, and then expand their research to include other relevant online, print, or video resources. Students must cite all resources used in the course of their research and writing.


Have students present a summary of their profile to the class. Following the presentations, conduct a debriefing activity to determine how students would evaluate the role of the political figures they researched in the patriation process. Summarize the points arising from the discussion on the board. Ask students to compare the political leaders of Canada today to those who played such important roles during the patriation debates of the 1970s and '80s.


Hogg, Peter. Constitutional Law of Canada. Scarborough, Ont: Carswell, 2000.
Peacock, Anthony, ed. Rethinking the Constitution: Perspectives on Canadian Constitutional Reform, Interpretation, and Theory. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1996.
Romanow, Roy, et al. Canada -- Notwithstanding: The Making of the Constitution, 1976-1982. Toronto: Carswell/Methuen, 1984.
Russell, Peter H. Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign People? Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993.
Smith, Lynn, and Eleanor Wachtel. A Feminist Guide to the Constitution. Ottawa: Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, 1992.
Canada: A People's History. Episode 17: In an Uncertain World, 1976-1990. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2002: Susan Dando, dir.)
The Road to Patriation: Parts 1 and 2. (CBC and NFB of Canada, 1984).

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