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Activity 4: Where do we come from?

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Suggested level: elementary, intermediate

Subjects: geography, social studies, language arts


This activity makes students aware of the countries in which people who immigrate to Canada are born. Students will gain an understanding of the multicultural nature of Canadian society by examining the cultural diversity present within their classroom.

Duration: 1-2 class periods. As an enrichment exercise, they can look at how immigrants contribute to our society.

Note: See the Teacher's Guide for general background on the census and census vocabulary.

Learning objectives

  • Develop an awareness of the countries in which people who immigrate to Canada are born.
  • Help students locate their country of birth on a world map.
  • Explore / express personal experiences of immigration to Canada through pictures or stories.
  • Recognise contributions that immigrants have made and continue to make to Canadian society.


diversity, immigrate, immigration, immigration source areas, place of birth


Getting started

Using the background information provided in the Teacher's Guide, tell students about the census and let them know that Canada's next census takes place in May 2011. Explain that immigration information is used to provide services for new immigrants to Canada.

Census activity

  1. Distribute Handout 1: Immigration source areas

    Ask your students to name the country in which they were born and find its approximate location on the world map. Instruct students to write in the name of their country near its location and draw an arrow connecting their place of birth to where they live now in Canada. Students who were born in Canada can simply place a dot near their place of birth. Have all students outline or colour in the countries based on the colour key at the bottom of the Handout 1.

    (Maps can be displayed so that students can see the various places of birth of their classmates. Options include increasing the size of the map and having all students write on one map or copying the map to an overhead and using this for the entire class.)
  2. On Handout 2: Immigrant population by country of birth and period of immigration, you will find a graph.

    Ask your students to colour the stacked columns in the graph according to the colour key at the bottom of Handout 1. Compare Handout 1 and Handout 2 side-by-side in order to have a better visual representation of the origins of Canada's immigrant population.

    For more detailed information check our website

    • Click on the census image on the top right corner of the page.
    • Select Release topics under 2006 Census, on the left side of the page.
    • Select Immigration and citizenship.
    • Select Topic-based  tabulations.
    • Select Period of  immigration.
    • Table 5 provides the full data used to produce the table in Handout 2.
  3. Let your students tell the story (a) Do a mini survey of the classroom counting the total number of students from each country. Display the results on the board, Smartboard or overhead.

    (b) In a class that includes students who have immigrated to Canada, invite students to share their experiences.

    (c) If all of the students were born in Canada, invite someone from outside the class who immigrated to Canada to share their experiences.

    (d) Students with parents, grandparents, or neighbours who are immigrants, could ask them about their experience, and report back to the class with the stories they have gathered.

    • Here are a few questions you can use to start the discussion.
    • Where were you born?
    • How long ago did you come to Canada?
    • Why did you come?
    • When you immigrated to Canada, were there others who came here at the same time?
    • Did you already speak English or French when you came to Canada?
    • What language(s) did you learn as a young child?  Do you still speak it (them) now?
    • Did you play the same or different games? Tell us about your culture's art and music.
    • What was the most important thing you brought with you when you came to Canada?
    • What did you find hardest to learn or adjust to in Canada?
    • What do you like best about living here?

    (e) Have each student express ideas about immigrating to Canada by writing a story or drawing pictures. Students who were born in Canada may write or draw from the perspective of a fictional student who immigrated to Canada.

Activity 4: Enrichment

  1. Ask your students to write a story (their own or one they have heard) about immigration to Canada. This story could be included in a book format where each student's story can be a chapter.
  2. Using Handout 3: How immigrants contribute to Canada, help your students research a source area and country of their choice or a country which fits into the social studies curriculum. The work could be done individually or in groups.
  3. Ask your students to visit the Statistics Canada website,, and research immigration characteristics of their community and province.

    • Click on the census image on the top right corner of the page.
    • Select the 2006 Community Profiles button, which also appears on the right side of the page.
  4. Ask students to produce a chart using the data in the profiles. Charts may be drawn by hand or, where available, by using software such as Excel.

Handout 1: Immigration source areas


Map of the world divided into six immigration source areas

Map of the world

Color the map and graph using the colour key.

Colour key legend

  1. North America (excluding Canada) - red
  2. Central America, the Caribbean and South America - green
  3. Europe and Russia - yellow
  4. Africa - blue
  5. Asia and the Middle East - orange
  6. Oceania and other Pacific Islands - purple

Handout 2: Immigrant population by country of birth and period of immigration

DescriptionGraph of immigrant population by place of birth and period of immigration
Graph 1: Immigrant population by place of birth and period of immigration

Handout 3: How immigrants contribute to Canada

Pick an immigration source area that you would like to research online and circle its name.

  • Africa
  • Asia and the Middle EastEurope and Russia
  • Central America, the Caribbean and South America
  • North America (excluding Canada)
  • Oceania and other Pacific Islands
  1. Using a map, name some countries that are located within your immigration source area.

  2. Name some large cities within the countries you listed in Question 1.

  3. Pick a country within your immigration source area and do some research online. Write down the most interesting things you find out. Include things such as special customs, festivals, foods, etc.

    Country :

  4. (a) List some people you know who have immigrated to Canada and tell where they came from. These people could be friends or classmates, or people you know in your neighbourhood. They could be either adults or children.


    (b) Think of the names of some well-known Canadians you've read or heard about, both past and present, whose families immigrated to Canada.

    famous for:
    famous for:
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