Perspectives on the sesquicentennial

February 15, 2017

Can 50 years really have elapsed since Canadians celebrated the 100th anniversary of Confederation? Those of us who were around then remember well Expo 67 and Bobby Gimby’s Canada song, as well as school projects and community events geared to the centennial.

Canada’s sesquicentennial provides us with many opportunities to reflect on the past, celebrate accomplishments, confront injustices and oppression, and take action towards a better future for all Canadians.

Published with upper elementary and middle years students in mind, Canada Year by Year, by Elizabeth MacLeod, presents a brief tour of milestones in Canadian history. It is divided into 10 eras and highlights a broad range of topics from famous people to politics, arts, culture, sports and business.

Another book geared to elementary and middle school readers is Making Canada Home: How Immigrants Shaped This Country, by Susan Hughes. The book begins with a discussion of the ancestors of Canada’s First Peoples, and includes chapters on First Nations contact with other founding peoples, on various immigrant groups, on dark periods of immigration policy and on providing a haven for refugees.

For those of you planning school trips to historic sites and national parks this year, the National Geographic Guide to the National Historic Sites of Canada has been published as the official companion book to the 150th anniversary of Confederation, while the National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of Canada showcases Canada’s 47 national parks.

Two recent DVDs produced by McIntyre Media feature accomplishments by the Canadian government and by its citizens. The People’s Choice is an investigation into the controversy around and eventual choice of a new Canadian flag in 1964. It is suitable for middle and high school classes. Made in Canada: Canadian Entrepreneurship highlights the innovations of five entrepreneurs and their companies.

Other resources focus on the oppressive and unjust policies and programs related to colonization and their ongoing devastating consequences today. A Requiem for the Canadian Dream, a short documentary by LeMay Media, explores the history and impact of the residential school system through interviews with influential Indigenous leaders and educators such as Shawn Atleo, Dr. Marie Wilson and Phil Fontaine.

The Land We Are: Artists and Writers Unsettle the Politics of Reconciliation, edited by Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill and Sophie McCall, is the product of collaboration between artists and scholars engaged in decolonization. The editors see Canada as an ongoing settler colonial enterprise and view reconciliation not only as a “problematic narrative about Indigenous-settler relations, but also as a site where conversations about what a just future looks like must occur” (p. 2).

A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905, a book for which its author, Bill Waiser, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction in 2016, presents the history of the land through an environmental and Indigenous lens. The historian states that after white settlement boomed and provincehood was attained, the reciprocal relationship between newcomers and Indigenous peoples that had been built over two centuries was ignored in favour of an envisioned future as a white agrarian society within the larger federation.

Websites devoted to sesquicentennial teaching resources are available as well. WE Are Canada at includes elementary, middle and secondary teaching ideas on the broad themes of diversity and inclusion, reconciliation, youth, the environment and sustainability. Numerous ways for schools to take action on these themes are also included. A Kids’ Guide to Canada–By Kids, For Kids at encourages K-8 students to collaborate in the creation of an interactive and multilingual guide to Canada.

To borrow the items mentioned above, please email