Canadian History in the Twentieth Century

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Prior Knowledge Required

  • the Treaty of Versailles and the borders in Europe following WWI

  • the devastation of the First World War

  • the global economic devastation of the Depression

  • the meaning of the Statute of Westminster

  • Pius XI’s response to what was going on with Catholicism in Germany

Teaching/Learning Strategies

1. The teacher begins the discussion by drawing on students’ prior knowledge of the situation in Europe following WWI as well as their knowledge of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The teacher proceeds to build on that knowledge by asking students to speculate about how Germany felt about the settlement and how they would deal with the reparations payments, considering both the Versailles Treaty and the Depression. Students consider how the rest of Europe might react to the possibility of another war. The teacher records the students’ answers on the board and proceeds to fill in the details, explaining how Hitler used the situation to rise to power, why and how he felt that Germany must be returned to a position of prominence. The steps to war are analysed by examining Hitler’s ambitions and actions with respect to the Rhineland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.

2. The teacher presents the terms of the Munich agreement and students speculate on the implications of the agreement and of Europe’s and the world’s response to Hitler’s aggression. The non-aggression pact with the Soviets is also introduced and students are asked to respond.

3. Students then use their texts to create a map of Europe with its 1914 borders and show on the map Hitler’s progress from 1937-39.

4. The teacher explains the response of England and France when Hitler invades Poland and asks students to explain why Canada was not at war as soon as Britain declared war, as had been the case in 1914.

5. Students read related information in their texts and, in conjunction with the lecture, complete the organizer chart on the coming of war the exercise for homework.

Assessment/Evaluation Techniques

  • Informal teacher observation of student involvement in class discussion

  • Formal assessment of map for completion and accuracy

  • Formal assessment of organizer for completion and accuracy


  • Some students may need a map prepared for them to complete the map activity.

  • Some students may wish to work with a partner in completing the organizer.

  • Some students may need a copy of the board notes or may need to make use of a scribe.

  • Some students may require additional time to complete the map and/or the organizer.

  • Opportunity should be offered for students to redo the assignment if their first try is unsuccessful.

  • Individual exceptional students’ IEPs should be examined so that the activity can be altered to suit their individual needs.

  • Where expectations are to be modified (according to IEP), assessment should be modified to suit.



Approved classroom texts

Kagan, Elynor, ed. War and Peace: Canada’s Global Role (Canada 21). Scarborough: Prentice-Hall Ginn, 1996. ISBN 0-13-459439-8

Pius XI. “Mit Brennender Sorge” (encyclical – “With Burning Sorrow”)

Santor, Donald M. Canadians at War (Canadiana Scrapbook). Scarborough: Prentice-Hall, 1979.
ISBN 0-013-113514-7


Canada at War. National Film Board of Canada (series of thirteen titles) Title Code: 193B 9162 146 MSN: 32854 (Part 1: “Dusk”)

Canada’s Coming of Age 1939-1945. Kit. Veterans Affairs Canada, 1995.

World War 2: Canada’s Role. Burnaby, BC: Classroom Video, 1992.


See web site for sample organizer (2.3.1) on the events leading to war.

Activity 4: The Course of the War

Time: 150 minutes


Through an investigation of the events of the war years at home and overseas, students come to understand the nature of the world conflict, the demands that it put on all countries involved, and the sacrifices required to fight. Students understand the devastation of the war years through an investigation of the major battles, the Holocaust, and the general impact of the Axis’ grand scheme. The activity is divided into two parts. In the first part, students place events on a timeline; in the second part, they investigate the nature and impact of the Holocaust in an attempt to understand why it happened and what was done about it.

Strand(s) and Expectations

Ontario Catholic School Graduate Expectations: CGE1e, 1h.

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

Overall Expectations: CGV.02, SPV.02.

Specific Expectations

CG2.05 - produce a timeline that charts and identifies significant historical events related to the Holocaust and WWII (e.g., anti-Semitism, rise of Nazism, Kristallnacht, establishment of ghettos, concentration camps and death camps) and describe Canada’s response to those events;

CC2.03 - describe the technological innovations that have changed the way war has been fought in the twentieth century (e.g., aircraft, radar, nuclear arms, laser technology, guided missiles);

CC3.04 - summarize Canada’s changing relationships with the United States;

CH2.02 - describe the contributions of selected individual Canadians to the development of Canadian identity since WWI;

CH2.03 - compare the backgrounds, careers, and contributions of twentieth century Canadian prime ministers, in both formal and anecdotal reports;

MI1.01 – use terms related to historical organization and inquiry correctly;

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

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