Canadian History in the Twentieth Century

Activity 5: Changes in the Canadian Economy: 1919-1928

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Activity 5: Changes in the Canadian Economy: 1919-1928

Time: 260 minutes


Students examine the changing economic conditions of the 1920s and investigate how those changing economic conditions affected Canadians. In the context of Catholic social justice, students learn about the reasons for the growth of the labour movement in Canada. They compare the role of consumer products in the Canadian economy of the 1920s and the Canadian economy of today. By studying the automobile’s effect on transportation, students become aware of the relationship between invention and the economy. An analysis of American branch plants in Canada during the 1920s leads to an investigation of the advantages and disadvantages of American participation in the Canadian economy.

Strand(s) and Expectations

Ontario Catholic School Graduate Expectations: CGE3b, 7e.

Strand(s): Change and Continuity; Citizenship and Heritage; Social, Economic, and Political Structures; Methods of Historical Inquiry

Overall Expectations: CCV.02, CHV.01, SPV.01, MIV.01.

Specific Expectations

CC1.03 - explain how the lives of adolescents and women have changed as a result of post-World War I urbanization and the post-World War II population shift to the suburbs;

CC2.02 - describe the relationship between invention and the economy (e.g., the invention of the car and its effect on transportation);

CC2.04 - assess the scientific and technological innovations created by Canadian inventors;

CH1.02 - evaluate the role of the labour movement in Canadian society;

SP1.03 - demonstrate knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of American participation in the Canadian economy;

MI2.03 - record and organize information effectively using notes, lists, concept webs, timelines, organizers, charts, maps, graphs, and mind maps;

MI4.03 - express ideas and arguments in a coherent manner during discussions and debates, or in graphic displays.

Planning Notes

  • Some of the student role playing dealing with the 1920s and prepared in the previous activity are presented during time allotted to Activity 5.

  • Plan to invite a member of a local labour union to speak to the class.

  • Become familiar with the Catholic Church’s position on labour unions and strikes.

  • Schedule some class time to help students with their culminating activity.

Prior Knowledge Required

The students will need to know cause-and-effect relationships as studied in previous activities.

Teaching/Learning Strategies

1. Some of the student presentations and/or role playing related to the 1920s and prepared in Activity 4 are presented in the time frame of Activity 5. Information from the Frederick Banting and Charles Saunders role playing may be used to discuss the impact of Canadian inventions on society.

2. The class discusses the concept of a labour union. The teacher asks the class to brainstorm the purposes of labour unions. The teacher asks the students to name examples of labour unions today. A member of a local labour union may be invited to speak to the class. The speaker may present information about labour unions today and about employment opportunities in the workplace.

3. Students read about early Canadian labour unions and the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 in their textbooks. The class discusses the concepts of collective bargaining and “general strike”. Students examine prices and wages in the years immediately after World War I and problems faced by returning war veterans. Students compose notes on the causes of the Winnipeg General Strike and the results of the Strike.

4. Students study the view of the Catholic Church on labour unions. As background information, the teacher may read “Supporting Labour Unions a Christian Responsibility”, Document 59 in Do Justice! The teacher may make reference to the Papal Encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891), and to Section 2435 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states in part: “Recourse to a strike is morally legitimate when it cannot be avoided, or at least when it is necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit. It becomes morally unacceptable when it is accompanied by violence, or when objectives are included that are not directly linked to working conditions or are contrary to the common good.” Using Section 2435, the class discusses whether or not the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 was morally legitimate.

5. Students read about Canadian economic growth during the 1920s in their textbooks. After examining material in their textbook or another source such as a 1920s scrapbook, students list new consumer products which appeared in Canada during the 1920s. Students also compose a list of new consumer products which have appeared in Canada during their lifetimes. The teacher leads the class in a discussion of why a large number of new consumer products were present in the society of the 1920s and why they are present in the society of today. The discussion should focus on such factors as inventions, consumer demand, mass production techniques, advertising, and the affluence of consumers. The students write a paragraph describing how the life of a young person or a woman would be different in the 1920s compared to the period before World War I.

6. The class examines one mass-produced consumer product from the 1920s: the automobile. The class researches the price of an average automobile in the 1920s and the wages of an average working person. The class investigates the reasons why automobiles became affordable for average families in the 1920s. The class discusses the concepts of mass-production and assembly-line production. In small groups, students construct flow charts illustrating the economic effects of the invention of the automobile. The flow charts should deal with the expansion of industries (e.g., oil refineries, rubber and glass plants, repair shops, highway construction, motels, etc.).

7. By the use of diagrams on the board, the teacher explains the concept of a branch plant. The class discusses the reasons why American branch plants were set up in Canada during the 1920s and the consequences of branch plants in Canada. The class examines what happened to Canadian-made cars such as the McLaughlin and the Gray-Dort during the 1920s.

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