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John A. Macdonald: The Impossible Idea

John A. Macdonald: The Impossible Idea

| 27 min
The History Makers
The History Makers
1961 6 films

From the most intrepid explorers to the fathers of Confederation, this series of 17 half-hour episodes tells the compelling early history of our great country.


This short fiction film tells the story of John A. MacDonald’s rise to power. Canada’s first Prime Minister and one of the Fathers of the Confederation, MacDonald didn’t enjoy an easy political career. When he first shared his vision of a Dominion reaching from sea to sea – an audacious proposal regarded as uncertain even by his supporters – his opponents derided him. “The fox is out of tricks," they taunted. "Bankrupt of ideas, he offers us clouds." This film offers us a memorable flashback

  • director
    Gordon Burwash
  • producer
    Julian Biggs
  • executive producer
    Guy Glover
  • script
    George Salverson
  • photography
    John Gunn
  • sound
    Leo O'Donnell
  • editing
    Donald Ginsberg
  • sound editing
    Kathleen Shannon
  • re-recording
    Ron Alexander
  • music
    Joan Edward
  • cast
    Robert Christie
    James Edmond
    Stephen Ker Appleby
    Basil Fitzgibbon
    Angus MacCormick
    Cec Linder
    Martin Andrews
    John Paris


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Ages 11 to 18

History - Canada 1867-1914
History - Canada under British Rule (1764-1867)
History and Citizenship Education - Canadian Federation (1850-1929)
History and Citizenship Education - Imperialism and Colonization (1800s-1900s)

While watching the film, create a timeline of key events that take place in Macdonald’s life. Summarize the context in which the film begins. How does this impact Macdonald’s political career? Macdonald is a controversial person in Canada’s history, leading to recent removal of statues of him. Take time to research the following topics related to Macdonald: Indigenous Peoples (views on and policies towards); the Chinese Head Tax; the execution of Louis Riel; and the CPR scandal. Collect different quotations from leading historians on their views of Macdonald. How has historiography changed in light of recent social movements?

John A. Macdonald: The Impossible Idea
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