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Social Studies

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Social studies is an interdisciplinary, content-rich subject that empowers students to be lifelong learners. It draws from history, geography, civics, economics, and other disciplines. Social studies provides opportunities for students to learn about and appreciate ideas that have shaped Alberta, Canada, and the world over time. Students acquire foundational knowledge and build understandings of relationships between people, places, and environments. They acquire a growing body of essential knowledge on historical and contemporary controversial issues. Students revisit content as knowledge builds from grade to grade. In social studies, students develop skills that will prepare them to lead fulfilling lives and play a significant role in our democratic society.
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Grade 6
Organizing Idea
History: Understanding the history of our province, nation, and world and developing cultural literacy allow us to appreciate the varied richness of our shared human inheritance of original writings, artifacts, stories, beliefs, ideas and great cultural and artistic achievements from different times and places. Lessons of the past and knowledge of diverse experiences help us overcome ignorance and prejudice and recognize our common humanity and dignity.
Guiding Question
How do the United States and Canada compare in their origins, early development, and founding events?
Learning Outcome
Students examine and explain the extent to which the United States and Canada share a continent and emerged out of both commonly shared and distinctly different historical experiences.
Early colonial America:
  • Jamestown (tobacco/Virginia)
  • Plymouth (Pilgrims/Massachusetts)
  • Massachusetts Bay (John Winthrop/Puritans)
  • New Amsterdam (Manhattan)
  • Pennsylvania (Quaker/William Penn)
  • Florida
Early French settlements in colonial America:
  • Cajuns in Louisiana
  • Acadians in British North America
The American Thirteen Colonies were colonized by many different dissenting groups, many seeking political rights and religious toleration, including Pilgrims, Puritans, and Quakers.

French settlements survived and persisted in both countries long after the political division of the continent.
Skills & Procedures
Explore the origins of American national character: How much did Governor John Winthrop and the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony contribute to shaping the idea of an American identity?

Compare how French minority populations fared in both countries
in the USA and Canada—the Cajuns of Louisiana and the Acadians of Maritime Canada.
The battle for Quebec, September 1759: General James Wolfe and his British forces scale the Quebec cliffs and defeated the French under Marquis de Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham, leading eventually in September 1760 to the surrender of Quebec.

Conquest and revolution: two different transformations—the British conquest of New France and the American Revolution and their impact on each society—remaining British (Loyalist tradition) and breaking away (republican patriot tradition) from the British colonial empire
The battle for Quebec claimed the lives of both the French and British military commanders, and one famous 1770 painting, Benjamin West’s “The Death of Wolfe” captured the scene in vivid fashion from the British viewpoint.

The conquest of 1760 turned Quebec British, and Americans in the Thirteen Colonies (from Massachusetts to Florida) chose to become independent of British rule on the continent. It’s commonly agreed that the American Revolution created two societies, the United States of America and what became the Dominion of Canada.
Skills & Procedures
Examine and analyze Benjamin West’s famous painting “The Death of Wolfe” to see how an Anglo-American artist saw the battle and particularly Wolfe’s death at the moment of victory. :
  • Does it present the fallen Wolfe as a martyr?
  • Were those grouped around him actually present at that time?
  • Why could it be regarded as one of the best-known images in 18th-century art?
American invasion of Canada, 1775: American General Robert Montgomery led an invasion in a campaign launched as part of the War of Independence. Americans faced local resistance in Quebec and eventually abandoned the attempt at occupation. First Nations were divided and allied on both sides of the war. Some First Nations remained neutral in the conflict. Founding father
Benjamin Franklin visited Montreal in a failed attempt to turn the elite into joining the War of Independence against Britain.

The American War of Independence and coming of the Loyalists:
  • The Iroquois Confederacy allied with the British forces in the war.
  • Thousands of United Empire Loyalists settled in Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
  • Settlement of the St. John River valley provided the base of the population for the creation of New Brunswick, 1784.
American independence forces invaded Canada via two routes, trying to take Montreal and Quebec City, because they believed the French-Canadians would welcome Americans as liberators.

The Iroquois Confederacy aligned with the British side in the American War to assert their sovereignty and push back against American settlement further west.

Loyalists included African-Americans opposed to slavery and First Nations allies of the British Crown, including Joseph Brant, chief of the Mohawks.

Loyalists of many backgrounds (British, Indigenous, German, and African) settled in Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
Skills & Procedures
Analyzing the situation:
  • Why did the Americans think that the conquest of Canada in 1775 would prove easy?
  • How were the American forces actually turned back?
Conduct an investigation into the motivations of First Nations (Joseph Brant and Six Nations) in siding with the British in the American War of Independence.
Retell the life of Joseph Brant in your own words.

Examine the evidence: Who were the United Empire Loyalists? Compare the perceived image of the “Loyalist” as being British with the reality of the diversity of groups drawn to the British side in the American War of Independence.
Continental War: the War of 1812–1814 and its impact on Canadian self-image:
  • heroism of Sir Isaac Brock at battle of Queenston Heights (1812)
  • the burning of the two capitals
  • Fort York and French-Canadian resistance inspired by Lieutenant Colonel Salaberry in the victory over the Americans at the 1813 Battle of Chateauguay
  • The American invasion of Upper Canada ended with the British victory in 1814 at Lundy’s Lane on the Niagara Frontier.
Thomas Jefferson was confident that the United States would prevail in the War of 1812. In August 1812, the former president boasted to the editor of a Philadelphia newspaper that “the acquisition of Canada would be a mere matter of marching.” It proved otherwise.
Skills & Procedures
Weighing perspectives:
  • Why would Americans like Thomas Jefferson assume that Canadians could be wooed into joining the United States?
  • When Americans looked at the northern British colonies, what did they see?
  • Why were the vast majority of British North Americans unmoved by appeals from Washington?
Symbols of nationhood:
  • the retaliatory raid on Washington blackened the White House
  • the battle of Fort McHenry (1814) produced an anthem, Star-Spangled Banner
  • the legacy of Indigenous-British alliances was cemented by Shawnee chief Tecumseh
  • The war led to the erection of Brock Monument and awarding of the War of 1812 medals.
The War of 1812 produced an enduring mythology and a number of symbols of emerging Canadian national sentiment, including landmark battle sites, monuments, and war medals.
Skills & Procedures
Examining historical significance:
  • What should we remember from the War of 1812?
  • Which of the symbols and monuments deserve to remain as a historical marker?
  • Which monuments should be built but are missing?
American Civil War and Canadian Confederation (1861–1867): The US Civil War was fought between the northern states (Union) and the southern states (Confederates), who wanted to secede, largely because the southern economy was heavily dependent on slavery, which many in the north wanted to abolish.

The US Civil War was the result of a country founded on an ideal of equality that still upheld slavery in many of its states (3.5 million slaves out of a population of 31 million). It was the bloodiest war in history till that time, 750 000 dead. The north won, and the emancipation proclamation led to the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery.

the American threat and the movement to unify the British North American colonies under the Crown of Great Britain
The United States Congress, controlled by the Democratic party, ruled in the Fugitive Slave Act that escaped slaves must be returned to their owners.
Skills & Procedures
Continental tensions, 1849–1871: Border tensions arose over a succession of contentious issues:
  • burning of Parliament buildings (Montreal, 1848)
  • Annexation Manifesto (1849)
  • Fugitive Slave Act (1850)
  • Underground Railroad (1850–1860)
  • ending of Reciprocity Treaty between Canada and United States (1854)
  • Ottawa chosen as capital of province of Canada
  • construction of Parliament begins (1859)
  • Trent Affair
  • risk of war (Britain and United States 1861)
  • outbreak of Civil War (1861)
  • Fenian border raids (1866)
  • migration of American settlers northward
  • Treaty of Washington (1871)
In the 1861 Trent Affair, Britain and the United States came to the brink of war. This encouraged the movement towards Canadian Confederation.

Instead of the northern United States, Canada became the main escape destination for escaped slaves via the Underground Railroad, a network of friends and associates. African-American fugitive slaves followed the North Star (Polaris), a symbol of freedom, to Canada.
Skills & Procedures
Examine the myth of the undefended border: Today, Canadians and Americans take pride in maintaining peace along the forty-ninth parallel and in having “the world’s longest undefended border.” Take a closer look at the period from 1775–1871. Was it an undefended border back then?
1609–1924: the American “Indian wars”:
  • Some 70 armed settlers attacked the Paspahegh capital (August 9, 1610), burning the houses and cutting down cornfields, beginning the first Anglo–Powhatan War (1610–1614).
  • passage of Indian Removal Act (1830)
  • Sioux War (1876–1877)
  • Battle of the Little Big Horn and Custer’s Last Stand (1876)
  • Sitting Bull and the Ghost Dance movement
  • Battle of Wounded Knee (1890)
  • Isolated skirmishes continued with the Apache Wars up until 1924, considered the end of the long period of conflict between the American government and First Nations.
Indigenous peoples were displaced and forced onto reservations in both the United States and Canada. The American Indian Wars were tragic encounters. The American Republic encroached on Indigenous traditional territory and dispatched the US cavalry to escort First Nations to reservations.
Skills & Procedures
Explain the historical significance: Compare the American and Canadian approach to recognizing First Nations rights with respect to traditional territory.
Guiding Question
How do Canada and the United States compare in their histories and policies relating to religious and ethnic pluralism?
Learning Outcome
Students investigate Alberta’s and Canada’s ethnic and religious diversity.
A popular theory, proposed as a way of drawing a distinction between two different societies, the United States and Canada: It suggests that there is a difference between the Canadian mosaic, where ethnic groups have maintained their distinctiveness while functioning as part of the whole, and an American melting pot, where peoples of diverse origins have allegedly fused to make a new people.
The metaphor of a mosaic versus a melting pot has value when applied to the cultural outlook and the pattern of immigration, ethnicity, and willingness to accommodate differences. It oversimplifies the reality because the two countries have shared similar immigration policies and experienced similar problems with racism, integration, and discrimination.
Skills & Procedures
Compare the myth and the realities of the Canadian mosaic and the American melting pot: Choose two Canadian provinces and two American states for comparison purposes. Study the ethnocultural compositions of the respective populations at different points in their history.
  • Does the popular metaphor hold true?
  • Would the metaphor hold better if we were comparing Canada and the United States to more historically homogenous European or Asian countries?
Today’s Canada and Alberta are becoming increasingly ethnically diverse and is projected to become increasingly so over in the next 20 years. In Alberta, the ethnic composition of the population will shift significantly.

Canada’s latest ethnic composition statistics and projections for growth 20 years later
Contemporary Canada and modern-day Alberta aspire to be open, welcoming, and inclusive societies, exemplifying multiculturalism and acceptance of differences.

Canada welcomes people from around the world to our multicultural society. At the same time, most newcomers have to show English or French language ability and meet education qualifications to immigrate to Canada and must pass a citizenship test to become a Canadian citizen.
Skills & Procedures
Examine the latest Canadian census data on ethnic diversity and projections for changes 20 years later.

Make a pie graph to represent the changing ethnic composition of Alberta from the most recent statistics compared to 20 years later, based on Statistics Canada figures and projections. Clearly indicate the shifts in ethnic composition by ethnic group. What are the biggest projected changes?
The religious affiliation of most Albertans is Christian, and the largest denominations are Roman Catholic, United, Anglican, Lutheran, and Baptist churches. There is growing ethnic and religious diversity in the population.

Canada and Alberta’s latest census data on Albertan and Canadian religious diversity

One of the largest Sikh temples in Canada is located just outside Edmonton. Most of Alberta's Jewish population lives in Calgary and Edmonton.
Freedom of religious practice is encouraged, but we sadly know from history that acceptance can come less easily—in part, because newcomers bring new and unfamiliar religious faiths and practices. But fear of the unknown can be no excuse for intolerance. Students will specifically study other faith traditions so that unfamiliar practices become respected and understood in a pluralistic society.
Skills & Procedures
Examine the latest census data on Albertan and Canadian religious diversity.

Research and produce a report on religious diversity in the local and surrounding community using the most recent Census Canada data.
Christianity: principal teachings:
  • Jesus Christ is Son of God
  • the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)
  • Sermon on the Mount
  • New Testament (including the four Gospels, that tell the life of Jesus)
  • Christmas
  • the Cross, crucifixion
  • Salvation, heaven and hell
  • well-known stories (parables) and teachings: good Samaritan; prodigal son; lost sheep; empty tomb; rich man and eye of a needle; meek inherit the earth; first shall be last; conversion on the road to Damascus.
Learning about what other people believe and what their religions mean in their daily life can break down prejudice.
Skills & Procedures
Describe the main ideas and beliefs of Christianity.
Judaism: principal teachings of the Jewish religion:
  • belief in one God
  • the Torah
  • covenant between God and the Jewish people
  • Old Testament
  • Ten Commandments
  • law, justice, and social responsibility
  • following Kosher Law (dietary law)
  • Well-known stories: Garden of Eden, Noah’s ark and the rainbow, Abraham, Isaac, and the Covenant; David and Goliath; Exodus from Egypt; Moses and parting of the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments, and the Promised Land; Destruction of Solomon’s Temple; Jonah and the Whale; Psalms.
Learning about what other people believe and what their religions mean in their daily life can break down prejudice.
Skills & Procedures
Describe the main ideas and beliefs of Judaism.
Islam: principal teachings of the Muslim religion:
  • The five pillars: 1) One God, Allah; 2) prayer; 3) alms (gifts); 4) fasting; 5) pilgrimage, Mecca
  • the Quran (Muslim holy book)
  • major Muslim stories from Islamic texts: Yusuf and his jealous brothers, Habil and Qabil, Harut and Marut, Suleyman, Dawud (David), jinn, and the Ant story, the prophet Yunus, Ibrahim’s courage, miracles of Allah, story of the heifer, belief in angels, Mohammed and the Archangel Gabriel in the cave
Learning about what other people believe and what their religions mean in their daily life can break down prejudice.
Skills & Procedures
Describe the main ideas and beliefs of Islam.
Hinduism: principal teachings of the Hindu religion:
  • Dharma (ethical conduct); karma (the consequences of one’s actions in life for the future of one’s soul); immortality of the soul (atman) through cycles of rebirth or reincarnation (samsara) until the soul achieves liberation (moksha) from this cycle.
  • Hindus believe in a supreme, all-encompassing being called Brahman, as well as many gods and goddesses, including Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Ganesh, Rama, and Krishna.
  • The Hindu holy books are called the Vedas
  • Hinduism is the oldest of the major world religions, with its origins pre-dated recorded history; it has no human founder and has many traditions and practices.
Buddhism: principal teachings of the Buddhist religion:
  • By following a series of ethical disciplines and spiritual practices (the Three Universal Truths, the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path) a sentient being can transcend all suffering and attachment to impermanent things and attain nirvana, a non-self or enlightened emptiness free of all attachments.
  • Buddhism grew out of Hinduism and is based on the teachings of called the Buddha, whom Buddhists believe was born Siddhārtha Gautama and lived in the 4th or 5th Century BC in what is now modern day Nepal and India.
  • Meditation is a common spiritual practice of Buddhism, and monasticism has played an important part in the teaching and preservation of the religion.
Sikhism: principal teachings of the Sikh religion: One God, religious faith founded by Guru Nanak, Dev Ji, eleven gurus have guided Sikhism; Five Tenets of Sikh faith: compassion: Bhai Daya Singh; duty: Bhai Dharam Singh; courage: Bhai Himmat Singh; honour: Bhai Mohkum Singh; royal: Bhai Sahib Singh; three golden rules or guiding principles:
  • Kirit Karo: work hard and earn/make a living honestly, without exploitation or fraud
  • Vand Chakko: sharing with others, helping those with less who are in need
  • Naam Japo: meditating on God's name to control the five weaknesses (thieves) of the human personality
Sikhism is a distinct religion, even though it exhibits Islamic and Hindu influences. The Sikh community has both religious and secular followers. It is a relatively new religion that arose at the same time as Protestantism in the Christian faith.
Learning about what other people believe and what their religions mean in their daily life can break down prejudice.
Skills & Procedures
Describe the main ideas and beliefs of Hinduism.

Describe the main ideas and beliefs of Buddhism.

Describe the main ideas and beliefs of Sikhism.
Confucianism and Taoism: principal teachings of Confucius: Follow Dao de Jing, the Tao, or “The Way.” The essential Analects of Confucius:
  • concept of ren (virtue, right conduct, humaneness, benevolence)
  • concepts of family, relationships, citizenship, and government
Fundamental questions:
  • What is the Dao or Tao?
  • What is De, virtue?
  • How is De related to Dao?
  • Why does every person deserve respect?
  • Could some persons deserve more respect than others?
  • What is an ideal human?
  • Is it possible to have an ideal government or society?
Guidance is provided by Confucius on each of these questions. He exemplified the ideal model of a “gentleman” (a well-cultivated and virtuous person, rather than someone belonging to a particular social class). The fundamental virtues:
  • honesty, reciprocity, and humaneness/benevolence
  • strong belief in traditional ritual, the family, and piety honouring family and ancestors
Learning about what other people believe and what their religions mean in their daily life can break down prejudice.
Skills & Procedures
Describe the main ideas and beliefs of Taoism and the principles of Confucianism.
Guiding Question
How do Canada and the United States compare when looking at interactions with Indigenous peoples and other racial minorities?
Learning Outcome
Students compare residential school policy and the early fight for racial equality Canada and the United States.
Assimilation and American Indigenous residential schools

Assimilation was the explicit goal of American Indian Affairs policy with respect to educating Indigenous children in day and boarding schools. The United States government passed the Civilization Fund Act in 1819. Federal funds were provided to benevolent groups and church organizations to educate Indigenous peoples.

In 1824, the American government created a Bureau of Indian Affairs to administer the fund.

In 1891, the American government issued a compulsory attendance law that forced Indigenous children to be taken from their homes and placed in residential schools.
Religious organizations took primary responsibility for education of Indigenous children.

The Civilization Fund Act of 1819 was responsible for the assimilation of Indigenous people of the United States and led to the creation of residential schools.

Residential schools were managed by religious organizations and were tasked with assimilating Indigenous children into the mainstream culture, referred to as a “civilization process.”

Indigenous children were forced to abandon their traditional languages, cultures, and practices.
Skills & Procedures
Identify the ultimate goal of American Indian policy: Why did the United States government seek to educate Indigenous children into mainstream American culture? What lessons can be learned from the experience?

Examine the impact of the compulsory attendance law and its effects on Indigenous peoples and cultures.

Compare two Indigenous affairs policies, the Civilization Fund Act and the Canadian Indian Act of 1876, to identify similarities and differences. Compile a comparison chart identifying the key similarities and differences in the two approaches.
Racial segregation on the North American western frontier: the rise and fall of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK): Racial intolerance broke out into the open with the arrival of the KKK, revived in Georgia in 1915, spreading from its southern base into the American and Canadian West from 1920 to 1923. The KKK targeted the Black community, people of colour, and Catholic and Jewish people. The slogan “One Flag, One Language, One School, One Race, One Religion” attracted thousands who held mass meetings, carried torches, and tormented Black people and other groups from the 1920s, until well into the 1930s in Canada. The activities of the KKK are diminished and are no longer openly practised in Canada. In Canada, it is unlawful for one group to promote hatred of another group.
The Ku Klux Klan appealed to Americans and Canadians who felt distracted by social changes and the advances of groups they believed were inferior. Deep racial prejudice and a misguided and anti-scientific belief in the inherent superiority of one race over another fueled the movement. The KKK sought to enforce racial segregation, such as keeping Black people and other groups out of mainstream white society. In some places, it was such a powerful organization that, especially in the southern United States, some politicians, policemen, and even judges were members.
Skills & Procedures
Examine the evidence:
  • Where was KKK membership the highest?
  • Why did it find some support in Canada?
Organizing Idea
Civics: Canada’s constitutional monarchy, democracy, rule of law, and citizenship are understood through knowledge of the origins and development of various contrasting political traditions and ideas.
Guiding Question
How does the American political system compare to Canada’s political system, and what are some of the most important reasons for those differences?
Learning Outcome
Students compare democracy and rulership, constitutions, the rule of law, community responsibility, and individual rights in Canada and the United States.
American Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson’s Vision, 1776:

The core ideas of American democratic creed were captured in the famous Declaration that gave birth to the Republic:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another … a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation ...

A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people ...

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness ...

Democracy in America:
  • Alexis de Tocqueville’s Vision (1835): One of the classic descriptions of the American democratic way of life was written by a French aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville, after a tour of the United States in the 1830s.
  • His book, Democracy in America, presented a description of American democratic ways and view of the equality of people in mainstream society.
The American Revolution spirit, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, may have given birth to two countries, the United States by design and Canada by accident, in reaction against the revolutionaries.

A segment of the American population, called British Tories, resisted American independence and some migrated to Canada as United Empire Loyalists.

The Loyalist refugees included two notable groups who refused to join in the Revolution, former American slaves of African heritage, and a colony of Iroquois, led by chief Joseph Brant, displaced by the war who settled around Brantford as the Six Nations of Grand River.

The French observer Alexis de Tocqueville, studying the American prison system, noted the more humane approach in the treatment of convicts. While French prisons were brutal and harsh places full of human abuses, he noted that the United States considered isolation and removal of freedom to be a harsh enough sentence.
Skills & Procedures
Identify the significance of the two different reactions to the conditions that gave rise to the American Revolution.
  • Why were Americans inspired to take up arms and overthrow British rule in the Thirteen Colonies?
  • Were the American colonies suffering under British rule and, if so, how?
  • How might have the King of England, George III, acted differently?
Asking key questions about Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence: The document proclaimed that “all men are created equal,” yet its prime author was a Virginia slave owner.
  • Did Jefferson see the contradiction (“I tremble for my country when reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever”)?
  • How was this quote realized in the bloody American Civil War?
  • How long did it take for these ideals to be realized in the United States?
Debate the issue: Write a short speech defending the American Revolution or rejecting the appeal of the American patriots bent on breaking away from British rule and traditions.

Weighing different perspectives:
  • How did American society and its prisons look to the French social reformer Alexis de Tocqueville?
  • Why did he view the new world society differently?
Two constitutions: the American republic and Canadian constitutional monarchy

Responsible government means the cabinet is responsible to the elected House in Canada.

In Canada, the government governs in the name of the Sovereign (Her Majesty’s Government and Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition). Ministers of the Crown are accountable to Parliament, and the government must call a new election if it loses the “confidence of the House”
(Eugene Forsey, How Canadians Govern Themselves).

The US has a veto system to ensure checks and balances on arbitrary rule.
Each political system, a republic and a constitutional monarchy, have their own strengths and flaws.

Canada is a constitutional monarchy while the United States is a republic.

The Westminster system is known as “a republic in disguise,” while the US has something like an “elected monarch with term limits.”
Skills & Procedures
Draw a comparison: Explain the qualities and drawbacks of each system using an authoritative handbook, such as How Canadians Govern Themselves, by Senator Eugene Forsey.

Draw comparisons in a chart listing the key differences and similarities between Canada’s constitutional monarchy and a republican form of government.

Explain to what extent the Westminster system is actually “a republic in disguise,” while the US has something like an “elected monarch with term limits.”

Assessing significance: Why is the phrase “peace, order, and good government” considered important in Canada?
Federalism: Canada has
10 provinces and the US has 50 states, plus territories.

Each political community (country, province, state) has responsible government and is sovereign in its own sphere.
A federal system requires different political bodies to work together.
Skills & Procedures
Compare federal systems:
  • How do the two different forms of federalism compare?
  • What’s similar and different between the United States and Canada?
Separation of powers: Political powers are separated in both systems as a check on arbitrary decision making and to make it harder for one group of people, or faction, from gaining absolute power.

The Canadian Parliamentary-cabinet government is accountable to the House of Commons and ensures this principle.

The United States has separation of powers in Congress, presidency, and Supreme Court. Only Congress may declare war (though this has not been the practice since World War II) and ratify treaties.

Appointments must be confirmed by the US Senate.

The US Supreme Court is part of the judiciary, which is one of the three branches of government.

In the US system, Congress was given most of the power (the power to legislate and the “power of the purse”), although the presidency has increased in authority over time, with the growth of the federal administration in the 20th century. Similarly, the judiciary (especially the US Supreme Court) has come to exercise much more power over Congress and the executive branches than originally intended.

In Canada, the executive branch has the exclusive power of appointment, declaration of war, and making treaties. (For a treaty to be binding in Canadian law, it must be incorporated into law by Parliament, like any other law.)

The British North America Act (BNA), 1867 allowed for Canada to create its own Supreme Court. Initially, the Supreme Court was formalized in 1875 under Alexander Mackenzie’s Liberal government. A Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom served as the place for final appeals under Canadian law until 1933 for criminal cases and 1949 for civil cases.

Voting rights did not always apply equally for women, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit, or for people of colour.
Separation of powers was inspired by the constitution of Athens and the Roman Republic. The American founding fathers were educated in this classical political history and it informed how they built the constitution of their “modern” democracy.

The system in Canada is different from the United States as the concentration of power is in the executive (the “government” or the “cabinet” or the “ministry,” made up of ministers and the prime minister, which is accountable to Parliament). Members of the House of Commons are, in turn, accountable to the people via elections.
Skills & Procedures
Explain the background context: Explain clearly where the idea of the separation of powers comes from in ancient times and how the Americans applied it to their new republic.

Drawing conclusions: Explain how the Canadian (British Westminster) system is built around a concentration of power in the executive.

Cause and effect:
  • How long have Canada’s First Nations had the right to vote in federal elections?
  • How did they acquire the right to vote in federal elections?
  • Who supported extending voting rights?
  • What were the obstacles, and how were they overcome?
  • Compare the Canadian situation with that in the United States.
Two houses of government: The legislative branch of both systems is bicameral, meaning it has two chambers rather than one legislative body or assembly.

The federal Parliament in Canada has two houses, the House of Commons and the Senate, and the United States has two houses of Congress, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.

Some of Canada’s provinces had upper houses but all are now unicameral.
  • fixed terms and fixed election dates in the US
  • elected Senate vs. appointed Senate
In Canada, members of parliament are elected while senators are appointed. In the United States, Congress people, the president, and senators are all elected to provide regional representation and each state has equal representation (two per state).

Regional representation in Canada: Provinces are allocated weighted representation in the House of Commons, and the Crown recognizes certain groups left out of the system. Senate representation is by region, not by either equal representation (as in the United States) or by population.

First Nations have recognized status. It was granted to First Nations before they acquired voting rights in the system (section 35 of Constitution).
The United States and Canada both have bicameral systems to ensure checks and balances against arbitrary use of power. The president is restrained by Congress, and the prime minister is accountable to the House of Commons and the Canadian Senate reviews all legislation to ensure “sober second thought” before bills become law.

The Canadian Senate is appointed by the Governor-in-Council on the advice of the prime minister, and senators can serve up the age of 75, whereas the United States Senate is elected directly to six-year terms by the people of each state and senators can serve as many terms as they are elected for.
Skills & Procedures
Compare the make-up of the United States Congress (House of Representatives and Senate) and the Canadian Parliament (House of Commons and Senate).
  • How are they similar?
  • How are they different?
  • Why are some provinces in Canada given more representation in the House of Commons or the Senate than others?
  • What are the barriers to providing more representation to underrepresented provinces?
Debate the issue:
  • Does Canada need an appointed federal upper house or Senate?
  • What role does the Senate of Canada actually play in our government system?
  • Why did the provinces do away with their second houses?
Overall powers in the two systems: Sections 91 and 92 of the Canadian constitution divide powers of government between the federal government (which used to sometimes be called the “Dominion government”) and the provincial governments.

Section 91 of the Canadian Constitution says, “It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate and House of Commons, to make Laws for the Peace, Order, and Good Government of Canada, in relation to all Matters not coming within the Classes of Subjects by this Act assigned exclusively to the Legislatures of the Provinces.” It says “the Queen,” but in practice this means the federal parliament.
Federations like Canada and the United States divide powers between the federal and provincial/state governments in different ways.
Skills & Procedures
Compare: List the powers of the federal government and the powers of the provincial governments.
  • Why do you think power was divided the way it was?
  • How does the fact of federal taxation let the federal government influence how provinces exercise their powers (federal spending power)?
  • How do cities (municipal government) fit into this (creations of provincial government)?
Organizing Idea
Geography: Understanding the world we live in, and the relationship of people and places, is supported by knowing features of the natural and political world, such as oceans, mountain ranges, and boundaries.
Guiding Question
What do historical maps show us about changes over time in terms of migration, conflict, and boundary changes?
Learning Outcome
Students examine continental migrations of people, cross-border conflicts, and boundary changes in a spatial context.
Migrations of First Nations and Inuit before European contact: First Nations and Inuit in northern North America did not live in one place over the entire span of the 30 000 years before contact with Europeans. Archeological finds and surviving records have been used to reconstruct those movements. Some First Nations were more settled in concentrated communities, while others migrated from place to place in response to changes in climate, growing seasons, and the movement of animal herds.

Displacement of the First Nations: The disruptive process of displacement is graphically illustrated in the map tracing the forced relocation of various First Nations from 1770 to 1890. The trail of tears of the Cherokee from 1816 to 1839 is well known, but many others have gone unrecognized in most history books.
Conventional maps showing Indigenous peoples before European contact living in distinct areas tend to simplify the pattern of settlement and obscure the movement of peoples over time.

Maps reveal the extent of displacement of Indigenous peoples in what is now the United States.
Skills & Procedures
Compare two maps: Examine maps showing traditional territories of Indigenous peoples and the migrations of Indigenous peoples before contact with Europeans in northern North America. Why is it so difficult to get an accurate picture in maps?

Draw conclusions: Examine a map showing the displacement of Indigenous peoples in North America.
  • What caused the upheaval and displacement of America’s Indigenous peoples?
  • How does the pattern compare with the experience to the north in British North America and early Canada?
Border disputes and conflicts: Sharing a continent with the American Thirteen Colonies and the American republic has not always been a peaceful experience. Since 1775, a number of cross-border conflicts can be identified:
  • American invasion of Quebec during the Revolution (1775)
  • War of 1812: American invasion of Upper Canada (1812–1813) and Lower Canada (1813)
  • Oregon boundary dispute (1844–1846)
  • the Canadian Confederates St. Albans raid (Vermont, 1864)
  • Fenian raids in Niagara frontier (battle of Ridgeway, 1866)
  • Alaska boundary dispute (1867–1903)
Historic maps showing changing boundaries over time are important and useful in helping to understand border disputes and colonial continental wars.

The North American boundary line between the United States and Canada was a “defended border” up until the Treaty of Washington (1871) and it was marked by cross-border raids and boundary disputes. All of the boundary disputes were eventually resolved at the negotiating table. Since 1871, the border has been largely undefended, making it “the longest undefended border in the world.”
Skills & Procedures
Draw a map and explain the border conflict: Choose one of the border conflicts and conduct research to reconstruct the sequence of events and examine previous maps generated to explain your chosen conflict. Prepare to provide an illustrated explanation of the conflict.
Organizing Idea
Economics: Knowledge of basic economic concepts, such as needs, wants, resources, labour, innovation, trade, and capital, will build toward an understanding of economic systems.
Guiding Question
What does economics tell us about the global economy and the continental relationship in North America?
Learning Outcome
Students compare the relative economic strength of the United States and Canada and examine where North America fits in the world economy.
The global or world economy is a term used to describe the economic activity within and between countries.

A world economy can include
  • trade of goods and services
  • sharing of economic values
  • production
  • distribution
  • consumption
Production is the making of a good or service.

Distribution refers to supplying goods or services to business to sell to consumers.

Consumption is the good or service being used or consumed.

Great inequalities exist among national economies in the world and the problem is termed “the widening gap.”
The global economy is dominated by a few major national economies, led by the United States, China, the European Union, and Russia, based upon volume of domestic production (gross domestic product).

Inequalities exist between national economies, separating the advanced industrial economies from the developing countries. The United States and Canada are both advanced industrial economies with high rates of production measured in GDP per person.

Production and consumption are connected, and more advanced economies produce more than they consume and increase their wealth, measured in national income and income per capita/person.
Skills & Procedures
Study the production (gross domestic product) of the top 10 nations in the world economy and the comparable figures for the 10 nations at the bottom in terms of GDP per capita.
  • Why do we use production and production per capita as an economic indicator?
  • Is it an accurate measure of relative prosperity?
  • What are other ways to measure a society?
  • Compare rankings of countries by happiness, corruption, consumption, and carbon footprint (total and per capita) to rankings by GDP and per capita GDP.
What can happen to an economy over time if it is dependent on resources that can make big swings up and down in value (boom and bust)? What are the advantages of a more diversified economy?
Continental scale: comparing two national economies, the United States and Canada: some important economic facts and figures

Most recent data for both the United States and Canada:
  • population size
  • total land area
  • total production (GDP according to IMF)
  • gross domestic product, per capita
  • government debt (as % of GDP)
  • total trade (exports and imports)
  • fresh water (per person)
Comparing the basic facts for population, land area, and economic activity demonstrates that Canada is slightly bigger in physical size, but the United States has a much larger population and a much bigger economy. Close observers of United States-Canada relations commonly use a ratio of 10 to 1 in comparing the United States to Canada. That ratio is based upon relative population size.
Skills & Procedures
Examine the evidence:
  • How reliable is the ratio 10 to 1 in comparing the United States with Canada?
  • Study the basic facts and explain whether the ratio is a reliable guide in comparing the two countries. Does it apply to the scale of the economy, measured in production?
  • Should the 10 to 1 ratio be used in drawing comparisons?
Comparing world economic systems: Four main types of systems were identified by American economist Robert Heilbroner:
  • traditional: custom and tradition, bartering over goods (market towns)
  • command: government controlled and led or owned, cooperative (socialism/communism)
  • market: private enterprise, competition, consumer choice (capitalism)
  • mixed: a combination identified as mixed market or mixed command (social democracy or enterprise)
Three distinct types were first identified; then the last one added, representing a mix of command and the social market or the market and command.
World economic systems can be classified and better understood by studying their essential features and applying one of the four categories. Such classifications can change over time, usually following a political upheaval or an abrupt shift in economic policy by the government.
Skills & Procedures
Analyze economic systems of the United States and Canada, and develop a comparison chart examining the main features of each system. Do either of them fit the pure type, or are they both mixed economies?
Organizing Idea
Financial Literacy: Responsible choices to build a thriving life for self, family, and society are supported by knowledge, skills, and understanding of earning, investing, spending, borrowing, and financial security.
Guiding Question
How do you prepare a budget for a small, local enterprise?
Learning Outcome
Students create a budget as an essential step in managing an enterprise in a market economy.
A budget is a financial document providing an estimation of income and expenses over a future period of time, normally a year.

Personal income is money received in exchange for providing a good or service or through an investment. An expense is the cost required for a good or service.

Enterprises make money when income from sales of products or services exceeds expenses.

Money is not good or bad. It is a tool, a resource—it can work for you or against you.
Budgeting is a valuable economic practice that can help you “balance your books” and ensure the success of an enterprise. It is also helpful in encouraging sound and responsible financial decision making.
Skills & Procedures
Practice problem solving: One of the following local issues needs to be addressed and it’s your opportunity to try something new. Take on one of these personal challenges:
  • A youth club providing after-school community basketball programs are in financial difficulty and needs help to turn things around. Prepare a budget to address the problem, listing your revenues and expenses, and a plan to break even at the end of the sports season.
  • Identify a need in the community that is currently being unmet, large or small, and plan to take some action to create a service or a product. Turn your idea into a business by preparing a budget to get it off the ground, showing income and expenses and a plan to make a little money for yourself for a community group.
Discuss how your money can work for you. How can it work against you (e.g., interest earned vs interest paid)?
The value of goods goes up or down in the marketplace. A rise in demand will increase its value and make some money (appreciate), but repeated use of a good or service may cause it to wear out or show its age (depreciate). Motor vehicles and bicycles lose value when you drive them off the car lot or cycle home for the first time. Money put into business or rare collectibles can grow your money (appreciate).

Borrowing for appreciating assets is sometimes called “good debt.” Borrowing for depreciating assets is sometimes called “bad debt.”
A wise financial practice is to consider whether buying an item makes good sense or may result in personal losses. Buying a rare hockey card or a piece of art might be a good decision if it appreciates or grows in value. Goods showing wear and tear can provide valuable or necessary service, like a vehicle that gets one to work or school, but go down in value with time and use.
Skills & Procedures
Make a wise decision: Dreaming of buying a new pair of Tessa Virtue figure skates or a rare hockey card (Connor McDavid or Wayne Gretzky rookie card)? How much will the skates depreciate in a year when you outgrow them? Is the hockey card likely to appreciate in value over time? Make a personal list of factors to consider. It’s a lot of money, so be sure it’s a wise move.

Discuss the potential risks and benefits of “good debt.” What are the potential risks and benefits of “bad debt?”