Académie Lafontaine, St-Jérôme (Quebec)
Lucie Jean-Mercier wished to delve deeper into the theme of immigration with her students. Together, the group was posed the question: Has Canada long been a haven for thousands, or even millions of immigrants who have given this country both its face, as well as its unique history? For this teacher, it was essential for the students to “feel” the story of Canada by getting inside the skin of the people who lived in the past.
The students’ assignment was to design a mock interview based on real events faced by an immigrant arriving in Canada at the turn of the twentieth century. The goal of the work was to better understand the experiences, challenges, and hopes of new arrivals to the country. In addition, a photo search of vintage photographs allowed students to visualize the project, put actual faces on the story and make it more real. Using these primary historical sources also made the project more enjoyable. Many students were inspired by the experiences of their own ancestors, thereby conferring a personal aspect to their research.
Another goal of the project was to develop awareness that we are all of immigrant ancestry, regardless of when those ancestors landed on Canada’s shores. A second phase of the project allowed students to apply historical discipline over the long term. The students collected the testimony and reflections of immigrants’ descendants, inquiring into the legacy and heritage left by these predecessors, while exploring concepts of continuity and change over time.