BC Social Studies Lesson Plans

Workers’ Rights

Grade 11


Workers’ Rights

Big Idea

Social justice initiatives can transform individuals and systems (from Social Justice 12).

Essential Question

What is the contribution of the labour movement in achieving many social programs, policies, and laws in Canada?

Learning Standards Content

Students are expected to know the following:

  • methods used by individuals, groups, and organizations to promote social justice (adapted from Social Justice 12)

Curricular Competencies

Students are expected to be able to do the following:

  • Assess the short- and long-term causes and expected and unexpected consequences of people’s actions, events, phenomena, ideas, or developments (cause and consequence)

Core Competencies

I can name benefits that we enjoy today because of the labour movement.

I can analyze the causes and consequences of milestones in workers’ rights.

I can consider my personal opinions about unions and workers’ rights.

First People's Principles of Learning

Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities.
  • Write the term “labour union” on the board. Below draw a T-Chart and label the sides “Advantages” and “Disadvantages”. Have students brainstorm pros and cons of unions. Have them consider both the workers’ and employers’ perspectives.
  • Show the short videos Thank the Unions (0:53) and Are Unions Useful Anymore? (1:00) from Canadian Labour Congress’s One Minute Message Contest.
  • Challenge students to list ten benefits that we enjoy today because of the labour movement. (Child labour laws, minimum wage, 8 hour work day, 5 day work week, parental leave, right to refuse unsafe work, workers compensation, medicare, health & safety, lunch breaks, paid vacation, the weekend, social security, pensions, whistle blower protection, privacy rights…)

Part 1: Unions and Workers’ Rights

  • Have students brainstorm what they know about workers’ rights. Do they know of any workplace issues? If so, why are these particular problems important?
  • Provide each student with a copy of the handout “Workers’ Rights: Where Do You Stand?”. Have them respond to each statement based on their personal opinion and knowledge of workers’ rights.
  • Explain that Madeleine Parent was a union organizer and social activist. Over the course of her life, she fought for better working conditions for workers in Canada.

She addressed issues such as long working hours, unsafe conditions, and equal pay.

  • Provide students with access to Canada’s History comic Fighting for Fairness and time to read and discuss the comic with a partner.
  • Then provide each student with a copy of the handout “Workers’ Rights: Where Did She Stand?” Have students read each statement and circle the response that reflects Madeleine Parent’s perspective on workers’ rights. Students should refer back to the comic to gather evidence for their responses.


Part 2: Milestones in Workers’ Rights

  • Provide students with access to the Canadian Labour Congress’s History of Labour in Canada and the handout “Workers’ Rights: Causes and Consequences”.
  • Have students work with a partner to determine the causes and consequences of each milestone.
  • Lead a discussion using the Think Pair Share strategy:
    • What was the most significant milestone?
    • Who continues to benefit from this change?
    • How would Canada be different if this had not been achieved?
  • Reflection: What is the contribution of Canadian unions to social justice in Canada?
  • Explain that Canadians celebrate Labour Day on the first Monday in September. For many it feels like the last day of summer because school usually begins the next day. But why do we celebrate Labour Day? What is it about and why did it begin?
  • Have students read the article The First Labour Day from Canada’s History.
  • Have students summarize the article using the 5Ws + H

“9 Times Canada’s Labour Movement Made History and Shaped the Country We Live in Today.” 2017. Press Progresshttps://pressprogress.ca/9_times_canada_labour_movement_made_history_and_shaped_the_country_we_live_in_today/


“A Brief History of Labour Day and Workers' Safety & Rights in Canada.” 2021. Safety Line. https://safetylineloneworker.com/blog/a-brief-history-of-labour-day-and-workers-safety-rights


Canada. 2020. “Young Workers.” Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safetyhttps://www.ccohs.ca/youngworkers/


“Canada History Week 2019: The Winnipeg General Strike.” 2019. Historica Canadahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRF5pXVtbDc&t=53s


Canadian Labour Congress. 2021. Canadian Labour Congress.  https://canadianlabour.ca/


“Canadian Labour History”. [n.d.] Canadian Museum of Historyhttps://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/labour/lab01e.html


“History and Development of Unions in Canada.” 2017. Canadian Legal FAQs. The Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.



“History of Labour in Canada.” 2015. Canadian Labour Congress. https://canadianlabour.ca/uncategorized/why-unions-history-labour-canada/


“Labour Movement.” 2021. History of Social Change.



Rouillard, J., Frank, D., Palmer, B.D. and McCallum, T. 2015. “Working-Class History.”  The Canadian Encyclopediahttps://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/working-class-history


“Workers' Rights: Where do you Stand?” 2019. Canada’s History.


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Last Reviewed

March 01, 2023

Produced by JES

curriculum developers