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Could That Ever Happen in Canada?
Using Personal Stories to Study the Moral and Ethical Issue of
Internment in Alberta
Students need to recognize how individuals, groups and governments
interact and bring about change, recognize and respect the democratic
rights of all citizens in Canada, and recognize the influence of
historical events and legislation on democratic decision-making
in our country. How can we critically analyze a time in Canadian
history where the rights of citizens were taken away for the good
of the nation? What was the internment of enemy aliens? What was
done to them? How did they react? Did the government do the right
thing? Will we ever face this issue again in the future?
In this project, students will develop skills of critical and creative
thinking as they analyze a significant historical event from different
perspectives. A major factor in the development of Alberta and Canada
was the immigration of people from many different regions of the
world. Students will research and discuss the internment of people
from certain nationalities during World War I and II. Students will
analyze the pros and cons of the issue, then participating in critical
group discussion about internment. Finally, they will write about
their opinions and feelings on the issue in a format of their choice.
Alberta Social Studies Curriculum Unit Connections
Grade Four - Alberta: The Land, Histories and Stories
4.2 The Stories, Histories and People of Alberta
Grade Five - Canada: The Land, Histories and Stories
5.2 Histories and Stories of Ways of Life in Canada
Grade Six - Democracy: Action and Participation
6.1 Citizens Participating in Decision Making
Materials and Resources Needed
Students will create examine the issue of racism and prejudice
through a study and discussion of the internment during the First
and Second World Wars. They will research the history of internment
in Alberta, discuss the pros and cons surrounding the issue, and
write about their own personal opinion as to what should have happened
during these times.
Begin by introducing the terms "prejudice" and "racism,"
asking the students to share thoughts and ideas that they have when
they hear the words. Explain that they will be looking at some Canadian
historical situations and assessing whether the actions taken were
justified or racist. Define the concept of the "internment
of enemy aliens" and that it was used by both the U.S. and
Canadian Governments during the First and Second World Wars on people
of German, Ukrainian, Italian and Japanese descent, members of communist
of fascist organizations, and even members of religious groups like
the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Using the War and the Homefront section of the Mavericks: An
Incorrigible History of Alberta site, as well as the other Internet
resources above, students will research about the internment of
enemy nationals during the First and Second World Wars. How did
the people deal with prejudice and life in the camps? What was life
like living in an internment camp? What was done to people who were
interned? What kinds of prejudice did they have to deal with at
On their own, students will now create a chart where they list
the pros and cons of the Canadian Government's decision to
use internment on its own citizens. Then students may share their
ideas with the class during a critical discussion about the ethical
issues of the use of internment during the World Wars. Questions
such as the following may be discussed:
- Why did Canada have internment camps during the Second World
- Did Canada have the right to imprison innocent immigrants during
the Second World War?
- How should the situation have been handled by Canada?
- What are the alternatives to internment?
- How would you feel living in these people's place?
- Should internees or their families receive compensation from
the Federal Government?
- What about if we enter into war now? Could internment still
- Due to Islamic terrorists, how should we treat Canadians who
look Arabic or are from Arabic countries?
Have the students write a journal entry about the issue of internment.
Somehow, they should answer how they feel about the question "Was
the internment of possible enemies during the First and Second World
Wars a correct and justified government action or was it a racist
act against our fellow Canadians?" They may write their response
as a narrative, a personal reflection, an essay, or even as a poem.
Assessment and Evaluation
- In groups or as a class, students may conference and debrief
each other after they have presented their projects. Students
should be encouraged to share their personal reflections about
how it felt to speak in front of their audience.
- Students may use their rubric as a guide for writing a self-assessment
of their project work. They will determine their level for each
of the categories and use the criteria specified in their rubric
to justify them.
- Students should use their journal to demonstrate their journey
through the problem solving process. This will allow the teacher
to evaluate whether they looked at all content and possibilities,
their brainstorming, the pros and cons they examined for their
solution, and why they settled on the solution they did.
Ideas for Enriching this Project
- The examination of this issue could be turned into a formal
debate where students take one side of the issue and attempt to
persuade others to agree with them.
- Photographs from the ImagesCanada.ca website may be used to
by students to gain an idea of what an internment camp looked
like in Canada and how people who were interned lived everyday