Course Content
CHA3U Course Outline
Unit 1. Historical Inquiry and Skill Development
UNIT 1: HISTORICAL INQUIRY AND SKILL DEVELOPMENT Students will learn how to think like a historian and review different frameworks of historical inquiry, including: historical perspective, cause and consequence, continuity and change, and ethical judgement. Students will review primary and secondary sources to prepare for historical inquiry and research.
Unit 2. The United States, Precontact To 1791
UNIT 2: THE UNITED STATES, PRECONTACT TO 1791 Students will explore Native American history and Native American societies present in the United States before European contact. Students will learn about daily colonial life as well as a focus on the Mississippians and the Iroquois, key groups affected by American colonialism. Students will also learn about the American Revolution, including: causes, events, and long term effects such as the implementation of democracy.
Unit 4. The United States, 1877–1945
Unit 4: The United States, 1877–1945 Students explore how the United States played a part in World Wars, the Cold War, as well as other global conflicts. The Great Depression of the 1930’s is a turning point in American history and its causes and significance will be investigated. Shifts in social change over time such as women’s roles, labour rights, immigration, and the rights of African Americans will be examined.
Unit 5. The United States Since 1945
UNIT 5: THE UNITED STATES SINCE 1945 Students will look at various reformative movements during this time period and how they changed people’s lives. Students will also learn about the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the important impacts and consequences stemming from the historical event. Students will analyse and compare the past few presidencies and explore their effects had around the world.
Culminating Assignment / Exam
COURSE ASSESSMENT & EVALUATION: The process of assessing student learning is continuous and on-going. Teachers use information gathered through assessments to provide feedback for students, to guide instruction and develop individual learning goals for students. This is assessment for learning. Students use this feedback to continuously improve their achievement and set individual learning goals. This is assessment as learning. Information from assessments informs the teacher’s professional judgment, but is not used in determining the student’s level of achievement. Students will be given numerous and varied opportunities to demonstrate their achievement of the Overall Expectations across the four categories of achievement (Knowledge & Understanding, Thinking, Communication and Application). Evidence of student achievement of the Overall Expectations is collected over time from three different sources – observations, conversations and student products. Grading will be calculated according to the Achievement Chart categories. The final grade is determined by the following breakdown: 70 % - evaluations made at the end of units throughout the semester. 30% - final demonstrations of learning (culminating activities and/or final examinations)
About Lesson


History is not simply a description of “what happened.” All we learn about the past comes from clues that have been left behind and discovered, be they artifacts (e.g., tools, photographs, buildings, drawings), documents (e.g., wills, catalogues, posters) or written and oral descriptions. This evidence needs to be critically examined by asking the question, Is the evidence adequate to support the conclusions reached? Understanding the sources and limitations of historical evidence is necessary if students are to appreciate the tentative nature of historical knowledge.

Students will understand that:

    • evidence is information offered to establish a fact or support a position
    • evidence can be found in primary and secondary sources
  • whether we can trust evidence depends on its reliability
  • the validity of evidence depends on whether it is used appropriately, and whether it is relevant to the questions being asked
  • interpretations of evidence can be reasonable or unreasonable – the latter if they extend beyond what the evidence itself can reasonably support

Unpacking the criteria for the quality of evidence:

  • Is it reliable or trustworthy? (and how do we know?)
  • Is it relevant? (does it answer the question we’re asking)
  • Is the interpretation reasonable? (Do the conclusions go beyond the evidence?)

Canadian Teenagers in the 21st Century

As these photographs show, Canadian teenagers lead wholesome, active lives


Do the photographs support the notion that “Canadian teens lead wholesome, active lives according to the following criteria?

Photograph 1

Is it reliable or trustworthy? (and how do we know?) Is it relevant? (does it answer the question we’re asking) Is the interpretation reasonable? (Do the conclusions go beyond the evidence?)

Photograph 2

Is it reliable or trustworthy? (and how do we know?) Is it relevant? (does it answer the question we’re asking) Is the interpretation reasonable? (Do the conclusions go beyond the evidence?)

Photograph 3

Is it reliable or trustworthy? (and how do we know?) Is it relevant? (does it answer the question we’re asking) Is the interpretation reasonable? (Do the conclusions go beyond the evidence?)

Photograph 4

Is it reliable or trustworthy? (and how do we know?) Is it relevant? (does it answer the question we’re asking) Is the interpretation reasonable? (Do the conclusions go beyond the evidence?)

Primary sources need to be assessed for their credibility while secondary accounts need to be evaluated for the justifiability of their claims.

You are now going to be looking at primary and secondary sources on your own. 

You will be looking at two examples of primary evidence:

  1. Housing built for Chinese labourers working on the C.P.R.
  2. Newspaper account of Chinese deaths

You will also be looking at two examples of secondary evidence:

  • The National Dream
  • Rereading Chinese Head Tax Racism

Here is some additional information you need to know for these sources.

Basic context of Chinese railroad workers in the late 19th century:

American contractor Andrew Onderdonk was hired to complete construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia in 1779. Between 1880 and 1881, he hired over 1500 experienced Chinese railroad workers from the United States. Then he began hiring people to transport workers directly from China. In total, over 17 000 Chinese immigrants arrived between 1881 and 1884, of which over 10 000 came directly from China. At the peak of railway building, Onderdonk employed 6000 Chinese workers and 3000 white workers.

Primary evidence A: Housing built for Chinese labourers working on the C.P.R.

Photograph taken in 1883 of housing built for Chinese Workers by the Canadian Pacific Railway in Fraser-Cheam, B.C.

Image I-30869, Accession Number: 198401-006, 1883, courtesy of Royal BC Museum, BC Archives.

From the History Doc: Chinese Canadian life on the railway

Primary evidence B: Newspaper account of Chinese deaths

Excerpt from an 1883 newspaper article that discusses the lack of medical care for Chinese workers on the C.P.R.

Here in British Columbia along the line of the railway, the Chinese workmen are fast disappearing under the ground. No Medical attention is furnished nor apparently much interest felt for these poor creatures. We understand that Mr. Onderdonk declines interfering, while the Lee Chuck Co. (labour contractors), that brought the Chinamen from their native land, refused, through their agent

Lee Soon, who is running the Chinese gang at Emory, to become responsible for doctors and medicine.

Yale Sentinel (1883), quoted in Berton, Pierre. The Last Spike. Toronto: Anchor Canada, 1971.

Secondary evidence A: The National Dream

Excerpts from popular historian Pierre Berton’s 1974 book, The Great Railway, which describes the construction of Canada’s transcontinental railway.

Chinese coolies … could be employed for one dollar a day. In addition, they did not require all the paraphernalia of a first-class camp. The coolie was prepared to move about in the wilderness, set up his own camp and pack all his belongings, provisions, and camp equipment on his back. Michael Haney, who went to work for Onderdonk in 1883, discovered that it was possible to move two thousand Chinese a distance of twenty-five miles and have them at work all within twenty-four hours.

Many inflammatory incidents occurred because of accidents along this line, for which the Chinese blamed the white foremen. On one such occasion, about ten miles below Hope, a foreman named Miller failed to give his gang warning of a coming explosion; a piece of rock thrown up by the subsequent blast blew one coolie’s head right off. His comrades took off after Miller, who plunged into the river to save himself … Deaths appeared to happen oftener [sic] among the Chinese labourers than in the white group.

Source: Berton, Pierre. The Great Railway. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1974, p. 296-298.

Secondary evidence B: Rereading Chinese Head Tax Racism

In an essay written in 2002, historian Lily Cho questions the more common explanations and reasons given for the introduction of the Chinese Head Tax.

Generally, critics have understood the head tax as a racist instrument of restrictive immigration policy, one that sought to limit Chinese immigration once Canada no longer needed cheap Chinese labour… a policy of state-sanctioned discrimination motivated by repugnance [strong dislike] for Chinese immigrants in Canada.


My investigations reveal that the contributions of Chinese immigrants were recognized from the beginning, suggesting that the head tax might have been more ambivalent [hesitant/of two minds] in its intention than one of simple and outright exclusion. From the first report of the Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration in 1885 and throughout the head tax debates, the desirability [importance] of Chinese labour in Canada surfaced frequently. The evidence submitted for the 1885 report …turned again and again to the importance of Chinese labour to an emerging nation… To suggest — as many writers have — that the head tax functioned as an example of Canada’s hatred of Chinese is to ascribe [assign] a uniformity [sameness] to the Canadian body politic [people] that simply did not exist. The 1885 report and the House of Commons debates on the head tax reveal deep divisions along the lines of class and geography within the white Canadian community on the question of Chinese immigration. Chapleau … marked out this division… “In general, the wealthy class, the best-educated class, is favorable to the Chinese” (Canada, Parliament Debates 1885, 3006). For the authors of the 1885 report, and throughout the House of Commons debates, anti-Chinese sentiment was consistently attributed to working- and lower-class Canadians in British Columbia.


Although most discussions of the head tax refer to it as a policy designed to restrict Chinese immigration, these discussions do not question the contradiction between the stated purpose of the legislation (to keep Chinese out) and its effect (an increase in Chinese immigration during the head tax years)… [T]he Chinese were not expendable [unessential] in 1885, nor was the railway a completed project. The last spike was driven in on 7 November 1885, but it was more a photo opportunity than a sign of the actual completion of the railway.


One of the clearest indications that the head tax functioned as a tool for pacifying fear and anxiety in Western Canada lies in understanding an often overlooked fact of accounting. Many writers have assumed that the revenue [profits] from the head tax went straight into Ottawa’s coffers [treasury]. This was not the case. During the 1903 parliamentary debates, just before the bill to raise the head tax to five hundred dollars was read for the third time, Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier stated that, “Under the old law the proportion of the poll tax to be paid to the province [of British Columbia] was one-quarter, and now it will be one-half” (Canada, Parliament Debates 1903, 2399)… Clearly, British Columbia was meant to benefit from the head tax more so than other provinces. What is more, it had always received more benefit from the head tax. The basic facts of accounting point directly to the way in which the head tax functioned as a means of appeasing an increasingly angry BC population.

Source: Cho, Lily, “Rereading Chinese Head Tax Racism: Redress, Stereotype, and Antiracist Critical Practice” in

Essays on Canadian Writing. Toronto: ECW Press. Winter 2002, Issue 75.

Your Task:  Choose ONE (1) primary source and ONE (1) secondary source from this booklet and fill out the charts below. 

Judging the Credibility of Primary Accounts

Relevant information Conclusions about credibility
Adequate access to information: Was the author in a well-informed position to observe or experience the event?
No conflict of interest: Is there an obvious conflict of interest that might prejudice the account?
Internal consistency: Is there consistency among the facts included in the account?
Consistency with other information: Does the account align with or contradict other accounts?

Overall conclusion

Highly credible Probably credible Questionable Not at all credible


Evaluating the Adequacy of Secondary Accounts

Strengths regarding adequacy Questions and concerns about adequacy
Comprehensive account: Does the account offer a generally complete account the event?
Credible sources: Is the account based on accurate and trustworthy sources of information?
Reasonable conclusions: Does the account arrive at conclusions that are warranted given the amount and nature of the available historical evidence?
Balanced perspective: Does the account fairly represent key perspectives of the events?

Overall evaluation of the account:

Inadequate                                                                            Very adequate

1                     2                     3                     4                     5


Exercise Files
Lesson 3 – Evidence and Interpretation Worksheet.docx
Size: 6.81 MB
Lesson 3 – Evidence and Interpretation Worksheet ANSWER KEY.docx
Size: 6.81 MB
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