The Canadian Bill of Rights

Bill of Rights: Educational Activity

This activity is designed to familiarize students with the evolution of human rights in Canada. Students will look at and discuss various primary documents provided by the Diefenbaker Canada Center. These documents will look at the first stages of development of the Bill of Rights, what Diefenbaker’s government accomplishes, and some of the negative reactions to the Bill. This activity is best done in conjunction with the human rights timeline activity, also provided by the Diefenbaker Canada Center upon request. Consult the online primary documents and website text as resources.

Introduction

  • Give the students an introduction to the life of John Diefenbaker, focusing on his interest in developing the Bill of Rights.
  • Explain his lifelong interest in human rights and minorities, which became evident during his second term as Prime Minister, when his government was able to focus on the creation of a Bill of Rights.

Refer to the following links:

  • Provincial Bill of Rights with Diefenbaker outlining the pros and cons of each.
  • A piece from the Financial post (03 May 1958).
  • “The Bill of Rights is Wrong,” (28 September 1958).

Activity

  • Students will explore the evolution of human rights in Canada during this activity. Break students up into smaller groups and research the major events and defining moments that led to the creation of the Bill of Rights, then bring the class together to share their ideas.
  • Students could make a timeline of important dates or they could use the human rights activity created by the centre.
  • Introduce and discuss the first primary document and evaluate its content. What are the pros and cons of the Bill of Rights and what other points are relevant to the students.
  • Divide the students into groups. The students can discuss the aforementioned two articles and discuss the validity of these opinions.
  • Students will have thoroughly explored the Bill of Rights and the impact it had on Canadian citizens; they will also be aware of the controversies it generated.
  • Have students look back at the timeline of human rights, do they think the Bill of Rights was effective?

Optional Activities

  • Students can look at the Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They can look at the similarities and differences between these documents, as well as look at the legal differences between them.
  • There is a human rights timeline activity available from the Diefenbaker Canada Centre upon request which would enhance the lesson.

Download

Copy of the Canadian Bill of Rights
Canadian Bill of Rights
Media and Document Gallery

Images

Canadian Bill of Rights
Creator: Government of Canada

Subject: Canada – Canadian Bill of Rights | Canada – Parliamentary Statutes

Description: Copy of the Canadian Bill of Rights

Date Created: 1960

Identifier: Canadian Bill of Rights

John Diefenbaker in Cornwall, Ontario
Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Personalities

Description: : John Diefenbaker in Cornwall, Ontario, surrounded by children in Eastern European costumes

Date Created: [1958?]

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD2899

John and Olive Diefenbaker with a group of Polish children
Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Personalities | Traditional Costume

Description: John and Olive Diefenbaker with a group of Polish children in costume in Sarnia, Ontario

Date Created: 18 August 1959

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD6926

John Diefenbaker at a Chinese Youth Services banquet
Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Personalities

Description: View of large banquet table at Chinese Youth Services banquet. Large group of unidentified individuals present including John Diefenbaker. Diefenbaker is being instructed on the use of chopsticks.

Date Created: [1958?]

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD2928

John Diefenbaker in House of Commons office
Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canadian Bill of Rights

Description: John Diefenbaker working at desk in House of Commons office. Behind him is a plaque of the Canadian Bill of Rights.

Date Created: [1975]

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD3141

John Diefenbaker and a delegate to the Progressive Conservative General Meeting – 16
Creator: Ted Grant – Photo Features

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Personalities

Description: John Diefenbaker and delegate at the Progressive Conservative annual general meeting, holding copy #10 of the Bill of Rights, Ottawa

Date Created: 18 March 1961

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD3299


Audio

Speech by John Diefenbaker at the Young Progressive Conservative Convention, Ottawa

Creator:Progressive Conservative Party of Canada

Subject:Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Human Rights | Canada Bill of Rights

Description:John Diefenbaker affirms his lifelong championing of human rights and calls upon the youth of the party to take on responsibility for leading Canada into the future

Date Created:30November1959

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T163-PAC23

Speech by John Diefenbaker to the Progressive Conservative Women’s Association, Ottawa

Creator:Progressive Conservative Party of Canada

Subject:Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Human Rights | Canada – Bill of Rights

Description:John Diefenbaker declares his desire to have a Bill of Rights voted on by Parliament in the coming session

Date Created:30November1959

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T187-PAC39

Speech by John Diefenbaker to a Progressive Conservative banquet, Ottawa

Creator:Progressive Conservative Party of Canada

Subject:Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Human Rights | Canada – Census

Description:John Diefenbaker advocates for a Canadianism which will find expression in the coming census when citizens will, for the first time, be asked whether they are a Canadian

Date Created:17March1961

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T203-PAC50


Documents

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