At the end of this lesson, learners will understand what a dilemma is and be able to identify dilemmas faced by individuals and communities, using Canadian and Red River history.

Essential Questions:

2.2: How did the fur trade, European settlement, and the rise of the Métis Nation transform life for the peoples of the Northwest?

3.1: Why did the Métis resist the westward expansion of Canada and what were the consequences?

Historical Thinking Concepts:

1. Establish historical significance

3. Identify continuity and change

4. Analyze cause and consequence

5. Take historical perspectives

6. Understand the ethical dimensions of history


At the beginning of the class, ask students to research the difference between a dilemma and a problem. A dilemma can be viewed as a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially those that are equally undesirable. Ask students to explore examples of social, political, or any other ethical dilemmas that are not purely personal.


As a class, read the section of Joseph Boyden’s Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont that deals with the arrival of McDougall at the border.

Following this, students could explore the potential options the provisional government had at the time. Was this a dilemma or a problem? If these resources are not available, please consult the historical background essay “A History of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia”.


What other dilemmas have you looked at as a class in Canadian History? Did Montcalm face a dilemma? Brock? LaFontaine and Baldwin? Borden, Mackenzie King? Trudeau? In groups, have students investigate a dilemma in Canadian history and present them to the class. Have students explain the context, use primary sources, and identify alternative decisions — the “what-if’s of history!”


As a class, create a book called “The Great Dilemmas of Canadian History.” Host a book launch at the school or local bookstore and have students explain their chapters to the public. Have them compare their chosen dilemma to those faced by the LAA in Red River.