On Being Canadian

On Being Canadian

July 4, 2017
Christina Cuk and Ping Li

This year marks two important milestones in Canadian history. In April 2017, Canada commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the World War I battle that historians generally consider representing Canada's "coming of age" as an independent nation state; and on the July 1, we will celebrate the nation's sesquicentennial - or the 150th Anniversary of Confederation. This milestone warrants both celebration and critical reflection. Canada's history is a history of growth, achievement and opportunity but also a history of division, exclusion and marginalization. Our understanding of what it means to be Canadian continues to evolve, and the process of building that understanding is guided as much by questions as it is by answers. 

Students at Crofton House learn about Canada, both past and present, in a variety of courses. The overall aim in Social Studies courses is that by engaging with the historical and contemporary topics and issues that have shaped, and continue to shape Canada and its role in the world, students will gain a better understanding of the nation in which they live. Students examine the social, political, economic and environmental questions that are a part of the public discourse; and they develop an awareness of what it means to become informed, engaged and active citizens. 

This year, students in Social Studies 8 and 11 used the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of Confederation to consider what it means to be Canadian by exploring two hundred "Faces of Canada".

Grade 8 students used texts and discussions to broaden their own understanding of what they value about Canada. They photographed themselves with a description of who they themselves are as Canadians.

Grade 11 students researched notable Canadians from the twentieth century and considered their respective contributions to, or impact on, Canada. All the faces of Canada were used to create a collage in the shape of the Canadian landmass. The hope is that students' engagement with the mosaic of Canadian faces will give them occasion not only to celebrate achievements and reflect on past wrongs but also to begin to understand what it will mean to be Canadian in the next 150 years.

By Christina Cuk, Department Head, Social Studies, Senior School
Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation is a valuable opportunity to recognize the deep connection of diverse cultures and the long history of First Nations as well as immigrants from all over the world. To honour this occasion and to better understand what it means to be a proud Canadian, the Mandarin 10 and Mandarin 11a classes worked on their final projects this year reflecting upon their family heritage and community diversity. 
Mandarin 10: “My Family’s Journey to Vancouver”
The Mandarin 10 class worked on a project titled “My Family’s Journey to Vancouver”. Students were asked to prepare an introduction of their family history including where their ancestors came from, why they came to Canada, and what they did after arriving in Canada. They were encouraged to interview their family members and ask for photos or artefacts and items of cultural significance to display in class. They created a world map to trace their ancestors’ footpaths to Vancouver.

The inquiry-based final assignment helped students understand their family history better, and appreciate the struggles and hardships early immigrants experienced as well as their contributions to Canada. They gained a new perspective on what it means to be a proud Canadian at a time when Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday.

As one student reflected after the final assignment:
“After discovering all the reasons why my family, as well as others, have immigrated to Canada, it makes me feel proud to be a citizen of this wonderful country. I am glad my grandparents immigrated to Vancouver, or I would have never been able to experience living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world."

Mandarin 11a: “Our Community: Past and Present”

The Mandarin 11a class, consisting of many descendants of Chinese immigrants, focused on the history of Chinese immigration to Canada. The students visited  the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection at UBC and learned about early Chinese immigration through viewing rare and unique cultural artefacts on display. They did research on four historical periods involving milestone events such as the Fraser River Gold Rush, the Canadian Pacific railway construction, the Head Tax, and WWII. Then each student wrote a piece from the perspective of a Chinese immigrant and role-played interactively with their audience, recreating the life at that time. 

Both classes also watched an excerpt from Cedar and Bamboo, a documentary that tells the stories of interactions between Chinese immigrants and First Nations people, which adds a seldom-explored dimension of cultural hybridity to the immigrant story. 

By Ping Li, Teacher, Languages, Senior School