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Lesson Plan:

For Teachers: The Free Trade Debate

Type: Assignment
Subjects: History, Political Science
Grades: Grades 9-10
Duration: 1 to 2 lessons
Purpose: To analyze an issue and debate one side
Summary: Students will explore the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and debate the pros and cons of the issue.

Before Exploring

Ask students what they think the main issues would have been in the debate on the proposed Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in the 1980s. Have them discuss why they think this debate was so important to Canadians of the time.

Outline the Opportunity

Have students examine the topic Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement on the CBC Digital Archives website. Have them note the major participants and issues from both sides, in support of or in opposition to the deal.

Divide the class into small groups. In each group, students will role-play individuals or members of a group who took a position in the free trade debate. Have students review their notes on the issues, then prepare their individual arguments. Each group will prepare and present an informal debate, in role, to share the information they gathered. Presentations might be in the form of a round-table interview, a town-hall meeting, a televised news feature, and so on.

Revisit and Reflect

Have the class evaluate how successfully each group handled the issue and presented the arguments. As a class, list the major issues on both sides of the free trade debate. Ask: Why would a technical, economic issue become so important and elicit such strong and passionate feelings among Canadians?


Students can write a position paper stating which side of the debate they themselves would support and why.

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