Canada’s Fight Against Apartheid

Developer’s Name:

Yvan Brochu, Ed.D.


Grades 10 – 12 History

Lesson Description – Overview:

On September 17, 1984, Brian Mulroney began serving as Canada’s 18th Prime Minister. During his years in office, he was an outspoken critic of the racist apartheid system which had existed in South Africa since 1948, and made opposition to it one of the highest priorities in Canada’s international affairs. As John Diefenbaker did decades ago, Brian Mulroney lobbied leaders of the Commonwealth of Nations and beyond to take a bold stand, this time in the form of placing economic sanctions against the nation. Although Britain’s Prime Minister Margret Thatcher, and the United States’ President Ronald Reagan were vocal critiques of this move, other nations joined in, ultimately helping to bring an end to apartheid. For his leadership, Brian Mulroney was lauded by Nelson Mandela when he was released from prison in 1990, and eventually by South Africa itself in 2015, being awarded one of the nation’s highest honours.

This lesson explores the role of Brian Mulroney, and Canada as a nation, in supporting the fight for human rights in South Africa.

Lesson Objectives:

Using an inquiry-based approach, students will leverage technology to access both primary and secondary sources of information to research both the system of apartheid and Canada’s response from 1984 and into the 1990’s. Work will be carried out both individually, and collaboratively with peers.

  • Analyze Canada’s leading role as a voice of conscience abroad, including the use of political and economic means to exert influence
  • Understand the rights and responsibilities of citizens in taking a stand, including the challenges and rewards incumbent
  • Self-reflect upon the lens we choose to view our world, and efforts to move forward in addressing human rights issues

Relevant Ontario Curriculum:

  • CHV20: B3.4: analyze rights and responsibilities of citizenship within a global context, including those related to international conventions, laws, and/or institutions
  • CHC2D: E2.5 describe some ways in which Canada and Canadians have participated in the international community since 1982, with a focus on Canada’s response to international conflict and Canadians’ cooperation in humanitarian work, and explain some key factors that have affected this participation.
  • CPW4U: C1.3 identify strategies used by individual countries or groups of countries to influence the internal policies of others in the international community
  • CPW4U: E3.1 analyze some violations of human rights in Canada as well as the Canadian government’s responses to violations of human rights, humanitarian crises, and genocides internationally.

Relevant Ontario Curriculum Documents

Human Rights Instruments:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • Article 2 – Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
  • Article 7 – All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
  • Article 13 (1) – Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

Lesson Plan Details by Stages of African Epistemology:


Reflect and Connect

Reflect and Connect




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Mandela Global Human Rights: Peace, Reconciliation and Responsibility Copyright © by Dolana Mogadime (Ed.) Project Lead is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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