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Canada at war

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Students will examine historical statistics to find out about the costs of war. In Part A, they will guess the monetary costs of the first year of the First World War and then examine the actual statistics. In Part B, they will examine the human costs of both world wars. Then, using consensus-building skills, they will create a proposal on how their class or school can honour those who contributed to Canada's efforts in solving global crises during the two world wars.


  • To locate relevant information using historical documents.
  • To analyse, classify and interpret information from historical documents.
  • To read a variety of charts and tables for specific purposes.
  • To scan text for specific information.
  • To make inferences and draw conclusions.
  • To communicate information and understanding of the monetary and human costs of Canada's participation in the two world wars.
  • To use vocabulary specific to the topic and theme.
  • To use a consensus-building process to create a proposal for an event to honour Canadians who contributed to the two world wars.

Suggested grade level and subject areas

History, Social Studies


15 to 30 minutes for the introduction (step 1)
50 to 60 minutes for Part A (steps 2 and 3)
100 to 120 minutes for Part B (steps 4 to 6)

Vocabulary (as used in the context of this lesson)

Canadian Expeditionary Army – name of Canadian army in the First World War.
Casualties – serious injuries or deaths.
Democracy – government by the people, through fair elections of representatives.
Expenditures – money spent.
Fatal casualties – deaths.
Militia – a military force that is not part of the regular military but on call for emergencies.
Non-fatal casualties – serious injuries.


Canada Year Book resources

1916/1917 (PDF)

1947 (PDF)

Classroom instructions


  1. Present the following outline to the class:
    1. War is complicated and there are many aspects we could study. In this lesson we will be investigating the costs of war.
    2. In Part A, we will use statistics from the First World War to learn about the monetary costs of war.
      1. i. We will guess the costs of one year of Canada's first significant participation in a global conflict.
      2. ii. We will then check our guesses using statistics in the online editions of the Canada Year Book.
    3. In Part B, we will learn about the human cost of war.
      1. i. We will use data from both the First World War and the Second World War to learn more about the human sacrifices Canadians made to maintain global security and freedom.
      2. ii. After reflecting, we will use a decision-making process to reach a consensus on how our class and perhaps our school can honour Canadians who contributed to the two world wars.
    Review the vocabulary list and any other words you think might be difficult for your students.

Part A

  1. Divide the class into groups and give them copies of student worksheets 1, 2 and 3. Explain the tasks:
    1. Fill in the left side of Student worksheet 1 with your guesses on what expenditures were required to participate in the First World War for a year.
    2. Search online to find the relevant statistics and add the actual expenditures to your chart.
    3. Use Student worksheet 2 to analyse and record what you have learned about war and its monetary costs.
    4. Complete Student worksheet 3 to reflect upon your learning in a systematic way.
  2. After students have completed their tasks, use the overhead transparency to record common findings of the groups.

Part B

  1. Remind students that this part is about the human cost of war and that they will be using statistics from both world wars. Make sure they understand the difference between fatal and non-fatal casualties and know how to reach a consensus in their groups.
  2. Review the tasks:
    1. Students examine the statistics and analyse them.
    2. Students develop a unique and interesting program for their class or school. Each group will develop one proposal that they will present to the class.
    3. The groups describe the process they used to reach consensus and fill in their section of the Evaluation rubric (printer-friendly format).
  3. Allow each group an opportunity to present their proposal and then collectively choose the most appropriate or perhaps combine elements of several proposals to create a class solution. Have the class determine which proposal best represents the collective wishes of the class.