Opposition to Slavery in New France


A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14-18


During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Canada maintained a practice of slavery that forced people of Aboriginal and African descent to endure captivity and servitude. Many people at that time saw slavery as a natural social condition for certain peoples. However, there appear to be few records explicitly documenting that other people were, like us, opposed to slavery.

It is important to appreciate why it is not easy to find or interpret evidence about citizens in New France who opposed slavery. Since people who opposed slavery were in a minority, they may have been reluctant to talk openly about their beliefs. In addition, it may be difficult for us in the present to understand the historical reasons why people objected to slavery. We reject slavery because of the injustice and inequality involved in legally “owning” another person and taking away their basic human rights and freedoms. But the equality of all human beings was not always accepted; those living in earlier times may have had reasons for opposing slavery that differ from ours.

Can we find evidence in the historical documents on the Angélique website that establishes that some people in New France objected to slavery? If so, can we determine whether their reasons were the same or different from our reasons for rejecting slavery?

The Task

In this MysteryQuest, you will take on the role of a person living in eighteenth century New France who is against slavery. However, your opinions are in the minority and you fear that raising such issues in public may cause trouble for you. Instead, you will write a letter to your family explaining why you are against slavery and why they should free the slaves they have in their house.

First, you will read about life in New France. You will also learn to make inferences from the evidence you find here about the thinking of people in New France who opposed slavery. Finally, you will construct a dialogue between yourself — the conscientious objector — and your family, explaining why you are against slavery.

continue investigation …

Job Shadow

If you have a career in mind, see if you can spend a day “job shadowing” a person in that career. Job shadowing means that you spend a day following the person in his or her job, observing all that he or she does. Keep a record of the various things involved in doing the job. Make a list of those abilities that you will need to acquire to be successful in the job.

Plinky Prompt

Pick up a book, newspaper or magazine (ok, junk mail will do if you’re having a hard time). Shut your eyes, turn to a page and stab your finger at a word. Pop that in your post title. Do the same again. And again. There’s your prompt for today.

Create a story from this list of random words

Create a story from this list of random words:

  1. ornate
  2. mirth
  3. accordion
  4. pinprick
  5. askew
  6. motley
  7. reverie
  8. vanquish
  9. discordant
  10. symposium
  11. discard
  12. oregano
  13. summon
  14. skewer
  15. protrude
  16. scythe
  17. fathom
  18. blasphemous
  19. scaffold
  20. enthusiastic
  21. incredulous
  22. groin
  23. comradeship
  24. absurdity
  25. requisition
  26. charade
  27. suspicion
  28. sophisticated
  29. assertive
  30. colonel
  31. conscript
  32. Berkely Street
  33. Jesus
  34. Grandma Redbird
  35. gazillion
  36. phony
  37. quarrel
  38. illuminate
  39. commiserate
  40. juvenile
  41. capitulate
  42. idiocy
  43. deprive
  44. implacability
  45. protrude
  46. glower
  47. shovel
  48. subversive
  49. corridor
  50. abuse
  51. bollocks
  52. extenuate
  53. tank top
  54. dark sweater
  55. shorts
  56. pullover
  57. hat
  58. robe
  59. jeans

The Mob and the Scapegoat

On a hot summer evening, Thomas is driving through a central Alberta city where two racially motivated murders have just occurred. Mobs have formed, and it looks as if there will be riots with severe loss of life if nothing is done. The local RCMP sergeant knows the mobs will disperse if they have a scapegoat — anyone will do. He has just stopped Thomas for running a red light. If he turns Thomas over to the mob as the scapegoat, they will kill him, but then disperse. If he lets Thomas go, there will be a riot causing dozens of deaths. If we think just in terms of results, it seems we should require the RCMP sergeant to sacrifice Thomas for the greater good. Does this seem right?

Interview an older relative or friend

Interview an older relative or friend about the changes that have occurred in his or her lifetime. Consider going to a senior citizen’s home and asking if any of the people there would like to share their stories with you. Prepare your questions ahead of time.

Ask open-ended questions such as:

  • What changes have occured in modes of transportation in your lifetime? How do you feel about these changes?
  • What was your daily routine like when you were my age?
  • What has remained constant throughout your life?
  • Do you have any advice to share about adapting to a changing world?

In your report on your interview(s) discuss which responses were most interesting. Were you surprised by any of the changes described? Why or why not?

Too Wrapped Up in Your Own Problems

Describe an occasion when something terrible happened to someone close to you (a family member or a friend), but you have been too wrapped up in your own problems to think about that person’s troubles. What was your first reaction to the other person’s bad news? How did you behave toward him or her? In the future, would you try to deal with similar situations any differently? If so, how?

After the Harvest

Write a comprehensive film review of the film “After the Harvest.”

If you have read “Wild Geese” by Martha Ostenso, be sure to compare and contrast.

Consider especially details from class discussions, notes, essays or any other ideas to help you out.

Tip: consider a 5-paragraph essay as an organizational structure for your review. Perhaps one third focusing on literal elements, one third on figurative elements, and the final third thematic elements.