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Immigrants describe their hopes for their children's future (2:34)

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Using the Great Western Garment Company as a case study, this program will guide your students as they learn about the experience of immigrant workers in Edmonton. Students in Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Brantford may research the stories of immigrant workers, either in the GWG plants or in other workplaces; students in other cities may use this as a model in researching the experience of immigrant workers in their own communities.

Students will learn about how factors such as Canadian immigration policy and events in other countries combined to determine from where people emigrated at different points in time. They will learn about the challenges faced by immigrants in their home countries, in coming to Canada, and in finding employment and starting their new lives, and will have the opportunity to think about immigration from different perspectives.

Knowledge and Skill Outcomes
Value and Attitude Outcomes
Materials Required
Social Studies Curriculum Links
Other Related Websites
The Immigrant Experience
Immigrant Workers in the Garment Manufacturing Industry

Knowledge and Skill Outcomes

Students will:
  • Identify and understand changes in Canadian immigration policy in the 20th Century
  • Identify and understand the positive and negative aspects of immigration
  • Compare the similarities and differences in the experiences of individual immigrants
  • Understand the impact and legacy of immigration on individuals and Canadian communities, using the Great Western Garment Company as an example
  • Assess the significance of immigration to the future of Canada and Canadians

Value and Attitude Outcomes

Students will:
  • Develop a greater understanding of their own identity
  • Value the contributions of various groups to the development of Canada in the 20th Century
  • Develop a global consciousness; demonstrate respect for human equality and cultural diversity
  • Appreciate the historical role of manufacturing companies in providing valuable employment for immigrants with limited English language ability


  • This program is designed to take three classroom periods with an hour required for an interview with a family member
  • If you have more time to work on this topic, check out the other resources in the For Teachers section

Materials Required

  • a variety of primary (catalogues, artifacts, archival photographs) and secondary (articles) resources are available on this site
  • print copies of the BINGO game card and Interview Guide for students' use

Social Studies Curriculum Links

Alberta: Grade 7 - Following Confederation: Canadian Expansions; Grade 8 - Canada Responding to Change Atlantic Canada: Grade 9 - Twentieth Century Canadian History (under development)

British Columbia: Grade 7 - Identity, Culture and Society Manitoba: Grade 6 - Canada: A Country of Change (1867-present); An Emerging Nation; Shaping Contemporary Canada

Ontario: Grade 10 - Canadian History Since World War I

Saskatchewan:Grade 7 - Canada and Our Pacific and Northern Neighbours

Other Related Websites

Pier 21 Canada's Immigration Museum; note the online interactive game about the immigration process

Search the Internet for information related to:

The Immigrant Experience

This virtual exhibition provides an outline of federal government immigration policy throughout this period, and introduces the experiences of a number of immigrants to Edmonton. It may be used as a stepping-off point for discussion of immigration to communities throughout Canada.


To prepare for this discussion, ask students to interview their parents/grandparents about where their family came from, when they came to Canada, why, and what they brought with them. Provide copies of the Interview Guide to assist students in their conversations with family members.

Download Interview Guidelines (70kb - pdf)* (html)

* Download Acrobat Reader

Period 1:

Ask students to stand up and sort themselves into groups according to:

  1. Whether their family were First Peoples, or when they immigrated to Canada — before Confederation (i.e., before1867); between Confederation and World War I (1867-1914); between World War I and World War II (1918-1939); between World War II and 1967; or after 1967.)
  2. Where their family migrated from (e.g., Europe; Asia/Pacific; Central/South America; Africa)
  3. Why their family immigrated (e.g., economic opportunity; political freedom; danger in their home country)
  4. What occupations their family worked in when they first came to Canada (e.g., fur trade; farming; a professional field; manual labour, etc.)

Depending upon the composition of the class, teachers may want to modify the questions above to make them more relevant.

Facilitate discussion about the relationship between when people came to Canada, where they came from, why, and what they experienced when they arrived.

Period 2:

Immigrant Workers in the Garment Manufacturing Industry

Before World War II, most workers at GWG were English-speaking; they originated primarily from eastern Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and the Ukraine. Throughout the 20th Century, the workforce became increasingly diverse as newcomers joined previous groups. With the arrival of refugees from Europe after World War II, and particularly after the beginning of Asian immigration in the 1960s, newcomers were advised to apply for work at GWG by family and community members, government, and later immigrant services agencies. The company did little to accommodate newcomers until the large number of immigrant workers made integration essential.

Ask students to review the labour-related sections of this virtual exhibition.

Ask students to create a profile of an immigrant who worked at GWG.

Students should choose one of the immigrants featured in video clips on the website, read the information about the experience of immigrants arriving at that time, view the video and to ask questions such as:

  • What was the name and place of origin of the immigrant?
  • What was the greatest challenge he/she faced?
  • How did he/she overcome that challenge?

Period 3:

Divide the class into groups of four to six students to work together on solving the Immigration Bingo. In many cases there is more than one right answer. The game should be used to stimulate discussion.

After the first group has called BINGO, wait until the others are finished, then discuss the answers.

Download Student Bingo Card (61kb - pdf)* (html)
Download Teacher Bingo Card (70kb - pdf)* (html)

* Download Acrobat Reader