A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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Before His Time: Dr. Alfred E. Waddell
Directed by Lalita Krishna


The son of a headmaster, Alfred Waddell set out from Trinidad, dreaming of becoming a doctor. In 1928 Alfred began to study medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax. After graduating in 1933, he faced the suspicions of Halifax's white and black communities who regarded him as an "outsider." But he took on the cause and care of fellow immigrants and other black neighbours, championing the cause of social justice along the way.


  • Advocate
  • Discrimination
  • Boycott


  • Being of "mixed race"
  • The history of Africville
  • Public Health
  • The island of Trinidad/Tobago
  • The role of eldest sons in families


  • To acknowledge the diversity and contribution of Black Canadians
  • To appreciate a doctor's dedication to helping the sick
  • To learn about public health issues related to poverty


  1. Why was Dr. Wadell considered " A Man Before His Time?"
  2. What role does the "eldest son" often have in families?
  3. Why couldn't Dr. Wadell get an internship in Halifax and what did his fellow students do to help him?
  4. Why was he finally given a job in a TB hospital?
  5. When Dr. Waddell's wife and children came to Canada, the immigration nurse said to them "My gracious, they're so clean." Why did this anger Mrs. Wadell so much?
  6. Who were Dr. Waddell's first patients and how did they help him?
  7. Why were some black people in Halifax prejudiced against him?
  8. Why did black musicians visiting Halifax, including Cab Calloway, have to stay at Dr. Wadell's home when they were there to play concerts?
  9. What did it mean when immigration told Dr. Waddell's family they were admitted "on appeal"?
  10. Who was Viola, and what happened to her when she attended the theatre in Halifax?


1) We often have the impression that the southern United States was the only home in North America to segregation, racism and discrimination. Research what the conditions for black people were like in Nova Scotia starting around the time Dr. Wadell lived there , and then find out what it took to make things better for black people. Write a piece on what the civil rights movement in Canada. Do we have heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King? Do we have shameful events to acknowledge, like the bombing of the church in Little Rock, Arkansas?

2) Trinidadian and other West Indian music, with its soca and calypso rhythms, is having a strong effect on new Canadian urban music. So is Caribana, the summer festival in Toronto that celebrates this musical heritage. With some of your classmates, make your own Caribana. Find some Trinidadian (or Trinidadian insprired) music that you like. Pick one or two songs, and learn to lip-synch to it. Design extravagant, glittery colorful costumes to celebrate in, and prepare a simple choreography to go along with the rhythms of your music. Perform for your classmates, at a school event, to a seniors home or community organization - wherever you think people would have some fun watching you celebrate and might want to join in!

3) Research the history of "Little Black Sambo." Explain why people now think it's racist. If you can obtain a copy of the book or selections from the book, see if you can rewrite the parts that are considered racist, keeping the same style and flavour. Discuss the book (and your rewrite) with your classmates, and decide whether you think the book should be allowed to be read today. (Note: if you cannot locate a copy of the book in your local or main library, find out why? Has it been banned? If so, you might want to explore why and discuss it with your class).

4) A lot of public health research has been done in the last 20 years showing the relationship between poverty and poor health. It shows that poor people die earlier than rich people, and have a greater incidence of poor health while they are living. Do some research to find out what it is about being poor that leads to poor health (for instance: poor nutrition and housing; lack of access to medical care, poor quality drinking water, exposure to toxic chemicals at work, etc.).

5) Now, pretend you are Dr. Wadell. You are concerned about the poor people in your community because they are suffering so many health problems. Plan a meeting with your city's Medical Officer of Health to see if you can improve conditions. Present the MOH with l) a list of the health concerns you have noticed, 2) an explanation of why they may related to their social conditions, and 3) a list of conditions you want to be improved in this community to help make the people better. Make a convincing case! Present this to your class, and discuss whether or not these health concerns might exists within the community you live. If so, perhaps you would like to act on it!

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