BC Social Studies Lesson Plans

Internments in Canada

Grade 10


Internments in Canada

Big Idea

Historical and contemporary injustices challenge the narrative and identity of Canada as an inclusive, multicultural society.

Essential Question

How have past governments of Canada used laws to discriminate against Canadian citizens?

Learning Standards Content

Students are expected to know the following:

  • discriminatory policies and injustices in Canada and the world

Curricular Competencies

Students are expected to be able to do the following:

  • make reasoned ethical judgments about actions in the past and present, and assess appropriate ways to remember and respond

Core Competencies

I can describe how the War Measures Act discriminated against some Canadians based on their race, ethnicity, religion, and political beliefs.

I can make judgements about past discriminatory policies and assess how current legislation protects rights and freedoms.

I can explain the importance of balancing individual rights with the need to protect security and order.

First People's Principles of Learning

Learning involves recognizing the consequences of one’s actions.
  • Explain that the term “enemy alien” referred to people from countries, or with roots in countries, that were at war with Canada.
  • Have students list countries that were at war with Canada during World War Two. (Germany, Italy, Japan) Then do the same for World War One. (Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire/Turkey)
  • Ask students to predict if any of these groups, besides those of Japanese ancestry, were considered “enemy aliens” in Canada.

Part 1: Internment

  • Explain that during wartime, some people were interned in Canada because they were prisoners of war (usually captured enemy soldiers) while others were considered “enemy aliens” (civilians with roots in countries that Canada was at war with). Sometimes these two groups were sent to the same camps.
  • Use a Barometer Activity to have students take a stand on the question: Was it reasonable for civilians to be treated the same as enemy soldiers?
  • Provide students with the handout Internment Camps in Canada During the First and Second World Wars and access to the Library and Archives of Canada’s Thematic Guides - Internment Camps in Canada during the First and Second World Wars in order to determine if each group was placed in internment camps of prisoners of war, enemy aliens, or both.
  • Afterward use a Think-Pair-Share strategy to have students discuss:
  • What do you notice about the groups that were interned as enemy aliens?
  • What role did religion, ethnicity, race, or political beliefs play in internment?


Part 2: War Measures Act

  • Explain that the War Measures Act was a federal law adopted by Parliament in 1914. It gave broad powers to the Canadian government to maintain security and order during war. Significantly, it allowed the government to detain or imprison people without a fair trial. Many feel the law was used unethically to suspend the rights of Canadians belonging to certain ethnic and religious groups during the two world wars.
  • Provide each student with the graphic organizer Internment in Canada and access to the digital resources linked to the handout.
  • Students can work with a partner or in small groups to conduct research and complete the graphic organizer.
  • Afterwards, have students share their findings. The Answer Key—Internment in Canada can be used to help students fill in any gaps in their research.
  • Lead a class discussion about the following questions:
    • Why did the Canadian government provide redress for the internment of Ukrainian Canadians during WWI and Japanese Canadians during WWII?
    • In what ways was the internment of these two groups similar or different from the internment of other groups?
    • Are there any other groups who were interned who should receive an apology and/or compensation?


Part 3: Emergencies Act

  • Remind students that the Canadian Government has attempted to right historic wrongs through apologies and compensation. Explain that abolishing the War Measures Act was the most significant aspect of the redress for the internment of Japanese Canadians. In 1988, the War Measures Act was repealed and replaced with the Emergencies Act.
  • Pose the question: How does the Emergencies Act differ from the War Measures Act?
  • Provide students with the handout Comparing the War Measures Act and Emergencies Act and access to the Canadian Encyclopedia article Emergencies Act. Have them research both acts and record their findings in the chart.
  • Lead a class discussion about the following question: How does the Emergencies Act balance the rights of the individual with the need to provide protection, security, and order for all Canadians?
  • Engage students in a Carousel Activity by creating four groups and having them rotate around the room to respond to the following questions:
    • How can we prevent discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, and political beliefs during times of crisis?
    • What are the benefits and limitations of government apologies and compensation for past injustices?
    • How can we balance the rights of individuals with the need to provide security and order?
    • What circumstances would justify the use of the Emergencies Act today?
  • Have students research the benefits and challenges of using the Emergencies Act during a public welfare emergency such as the COVID-19 health crisis. The following resources are a good place to start:



  • Then have students write an opinion paragraph about whether or not the Emergencies Act should be used.


Canada. 2020. “Japanese Canadian Redress Campaign.” Library and Archives Canada.



Canada. 2022. “Thematic Guides - Internment Camps in Canada during the First and Second World Wars.” Library and Archives Canada.  


Canada. Public Order Emergency Commission. 2023. “Report of the Public Inquiry into the 2022 Public Order Emergency.”

On February 17, 2023, Commissioner Rouleau released the Report of the Public Inquiry into the 2022 Public Order Emergency. The report is made up of the five volumes.

Canadian Race Relations Foundation. 2015. “The Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement.” 



Canadian War Museum. “The Internment of Ukrainian Canadians.” [n.d.] 



Critical Thinking Consortium. 2017. “Changes to the War Measures Act.” Background Brief: Historic Injustices and Redress in Canada. https://tc2.ca/uploads/backgroundbriefs/BBChangestowarmeasuresact.pdf


Japanese Canadian History. 2002. “Internment and Redress: The Japanese Canadian Experience: A Resource Guide for Social Studies 11 Teachers.”  



Mah, Spenser. 2017. “The History of the Emergency Act: What Are We Willing to Sacrifice?” NATO Association of Canadahttps://natoassociation.ca/the-history-of-the-emergency-act-what-are-we-willing-to-sacrifice/


McRae, Matthew. [n.d.] “Japanese Canadian Internment and the Struggle for Redress.” Canadian Museum for Human Rights.



Millette, Dominique, Yarhi, Eli and McIntosh, Andrew. 2020. “Internment in Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. 



Petawawa Heritage Village. 2011. “Canadian Internment Camps.” 





Miki, Roy and Kobayashi, Cassandra. “Justice in Our Time: The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement.” Vancouver: Talon Books, 1991. 



Field Trip


Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre in Burnaby, BC.

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Last Reviewed

February 01, 2023

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