Department Member Releases Book

23 November 2004 - Thunder Bay
The Department of History is pleased to announce the publication of Karelian Exodus: Finnish Communities in North America and the Soviet Union in the Depression Era, (Aspasia Books/Journal of Finnish Studies),edited by Ronald N. Harpelle, Varpu Lindström and Alexis Pogorelskin. The articles in the book are drawn from a conference organized by the Department of History last spring. The book contains an introduction written by Dr. Harpelle, and articles written by Dr. Peter Raffo (History) and Dr. Raija Warkentin (Anthropology). In addition, the book contains articles by leading Canadian, U.S., Finnish and Russian scholars in the field.

Book Short-Listed for Raymond Klibansky Award

5 November 2004 - Thunder Bay
Jean-Yves Bernard's recent book on the Suez Crisis entitled La genèse de l’expédition franco-britannique de 1956 en Egypte is one of five books short-listed for this year’s prestigious Raymond Klibansky Award given by the The Aid to Scholarly Publications Programme.

Jean-Yves Bernard is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History who specializes in European History and International Relations in the 20th century.

New Learning Tool Launch at Lakehead U

13 October 2004 - Thunder Bay

Department of History, Faculty of Education work together to create new Website

Lakehead University's Department of History and Faculty of Education have teamed together to create a new tool to help teachers and students learn about a unique subject.

Some Lakehead U Education students will be getting a first-hand look at the educational Website on Friday, October 15. This site is an example of the unique way that educational resources are being made available to teachers. is devoted to the silent films of the Port Arthur Amateur Cinema Society and the people behind them. It is intended to provide visitors with historical information and educational resources about a unique part of Canada's film history. It will allow students to experience how silent films were made, from start to finish, during the 1920s in Canada.

What:    Educational Website Launch
Where:  Lakehead University, ATAC 1003
When:   Friday, October 15, 2004, at 1:30 p.m.

"Our objective is to have this website used in every school in the country," says Dr. Ron Harpelle, Project Co-ordinator and Chair of the History Department. "It is a valuable resource with a wealth of information on it. This is an intriguing part of our history, and will be an engaging subject for students to learn about."

Speakers at the launch will be Dr. Harpelle; Michel Beaulieu, who worked on research and writing; Noreen Ivancic, the educational designer; and Dan Peerenboom, the Web designer.

MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA are invited to attend the launch. Please call Marla Tomlinson at 343-8177 to have a parking pass issued.

Former MA Student Receives Two Major Books Awards

1 September 2004 - Thunder Bay
Steven High, a graduate of the Department of History's MA Program and now a professor at Nipissing University in North Bay, is the 2004 recipient of the prestigious John Porter Memorial Prize, Raymond Klibansky Prize, and the Albert B. Corey Prize for his book, Industrial Sunset: The Making of Canada's Rust Belt, 1969-1984.

CIDA Recognizes History Professor’s Documentary with Significant National Award.

6 June 2004 - Thunder Bay
The internationally acclaimed documentary Banana Split has earned another significant national award. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has given the film the first annual Deborah Fletcher Award of Excellence in Filmmaking.
This award recognizes an outstanding international development film by a Canadian producer/filmmaker and comes with $10,000 in funding to begin a new film. Banana Split was produced and directed by Dr. Ron Harpelle of Lakehead University's History Department, and local filmmaker, Kelly Saxberg. On their Website, the CIDA says the film was selected "for its entertaining and thought-provoking look at the issues surrounding the banana, a popular tropical fruit much loved by Canadians."
The film takes viewers to the vast, foreign-owned banana plantations in Honduras where workers labour for very little a day under often-dangerous conditions. "This is a wonderful recognition from CIDA," says Dr. Harpelle. "Banana Split examines the historical, social, economic, scientific, and environmental aspects of banana production -- all issues CIDA deals with concerning international development."
Dr. Harpelle is available for interviews by calling Marla Tomlinson at 343-8177.

SSHRC Standard Research Grant Announcement

5 June 2004 - Thunder Bay
The Department of History is pleased to announce that two members of the department were successful in their applications for SSHRC Standard Research Grants. This brings the number of SSHRC grants currently held by members of the Department of History to 5.
Dr. R. Harpelle was awarded grant for a project entitled "Protestants, Missionaries and Imperialists on the Central American Frontier," and Dr. Bruce Muirhead (Principal Investigator) along with Greg Donaghy, (Head of the Historical Section, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade), received funding for a project investigating "The Development of Canadian Aid Policy from 1945 to 1989."

Dr. Bruce Muirhead receives Lakehead University's Distinguished Researcher Award (SSHRC).

18 March 2004 - Thunder Bay

Bruce Muirhead, this year's Distinguished Researcher at Lakehead University, came to Thunder Bay with his family to teach in the History Department in 1985. Since then, he has published two books with prestigious university presses, McGill-Queen's University Press and the University of Toronto Press, and has another book in process with the latter. His second book, Against the Odds: the Public Life and Times of Louis Rasminsky, won the Faye and Joseph Tanenbaum Prize for Canadian Jewish History.

He has also published articles in the top refereed journals of his profession, both national and international. In one of these, the American Review of Canadian Studies, an external assessor wrote that Muirhead's article had changed the way in which he viewed the issue upon which Muirhead was writing.

He has also been active in the university community. Muirhead has represented Lakehead at the Council of Ontario Universities, based in Toronto, where he was eventually asked to serve on its executive committee. As well, he served for a term on the council of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, one of the federal granting agencies, with a budget of approximately $120 million. In January 2003, he was selected by the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute as its lecturer in Canadian Studies and was sent on a lecture tour to nine Indian universities. He and his family also spent a year in Japan, with Muirhead as a visiting professor at Gifu University for Languages in Gifu, Japan.

Finally, he has held two prestigious Social Science and Humanities Research grants to undertake research for his books, and one research contract from the Bank of Canada to research and write his biography of the former governor, Louis Rasminsky. He continues to research and write and has shifted his attention from trade policy development to the evolution of Canada's overseas development assistance policy from 1945 to 1989. He and his collaborator on this project, Greg Donaghy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, have already begun the legwork that will result in another book.

This year Muirhead was also the recipient of a Lakehead University "Contribution to Teaching Award." His students obviously appreciate the fact that his research, and his stories of peril in various archives, informs his teaching. As well, for the past number of years he has been cited in Maclean's Real Guide to Canadian Universities and Colleges as one of this university's most popular professors.

History Conference Focuses on one of the Region’s Pioneering Communities

1 February 2014  Frances Harding, Agora - Thunder Bay
Lakehead University's Department of History is hosting an international conference next month to celebrate the Finnish community in Canada. Finnish Immigrants in the Decade of Depression 1929-1939, at the Prince Arthur Hotel, is expected to draw more than 100 people from around the world including scholars, filmmakers, diplomats, journalists, and, of course, the large Finnish community in Thunder Bay.
Conference Coordinator and Lakehead History Professor Ronald Harpelle says the event is aimed at drawing attention to the Finnish culture and its role in Canadian history. In addition to the panel discussions and presentations, there will be tours, films, book launches, art exhibits, and a trade show featuring local businesses. "It's much more than an academic exercise," says Dr. Harpelle. "We want to reach out to the people of Thunder Bay, and make what we do in the Social Sciences and Humanities more relevant to the community.
This event is significant because it reminds us all of the importance of history in the shaping of our lives. The Finnish community in Thunder Bay is one of the pioneering communities of our region, and we must remember both the sacrifices and contributions they, and others like them, made to our history." Harpelle's organizing committee includes Dr. Raija Warkentin (Department of Anthropology) and Dr. Bruce Muirhead (Department of History) from Lakehead University, and they are joined by two other history professors - Dr.Varpu Lindstrom from York University and Dr. Alexis Pogorelskin from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
The conference program, posted online, outlines the weekend's activities and provides a one-page summary of the historical context surrounding North American Finnish immigration and emigration to Soviet Karelia, a region adjacent to Finland. It says: "A little known fact is that several thousand Finnish immigrants in North America emigrated to Karelia in the 1930s. In Karelia, North American Finns soon became the target of Stalinist purges with the result that thousands of people were killed or disappeared.... This conference situates the Finnish immigrant community of Thunder Bay within a global geo-political context. It is a recognition and celebration of the history of the Finnish immigrant communities everywhere."
On Saturday, March 27, at the Finlandia Club on Bay Street, there will be a banquet with proceeds going towards the Lakehead University Chair in Finnish Studies program. The keynote speaker is Ilkka Ristimäki, Ambassador of Finland. Tickets are $45.
Conference sponsors include the Department of History, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, Northern Studies Program, Chair in Finnish Studies Advisory Committee, York University, Suomi Foundation, University of the Arctic, Journal of Finnish Studies, National Film Board of Canada, and Knights of Kaleva. As well, Dr. Harpelle obtained an Aid to Occasional Research Conferences grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
For more information visit the Department of History's website, or contact Ronald Harpelle ( at 807-343-8691. To register for the conference send $25 to the Finnish Immigrants Conference c/o Department of History.

Jean Morrison Launches Latest Book

22 January 2004 - Thunder Bay
The History Department hosted a book launch in honour of Jean Morrison, M.A. Graduate Student of History, entitled "Lake Superior to Rainy Lake: Three Centuries of Fur Trade History" on Thursday, January 22 in the Faculty Lounge.

‘Fatal Flower’ Blooms at Lakehead

1 January 2004 - Thunder Bay
Members of the local film community have teamed up with faculty and students from Lakehead to pay tribute to one of the most important episodes in the history of film in Canada.
"The Fatal Flower" is a feature length silent film that was shot in 1929, but not completed. It is now being finished in Thunder Bay as a collaborative effort--and it will be the first silent film produced in Canada in seventy years. Flash Frame, a local film and video cooperative, has its hands on the entire body of original work by the Port Arthur Cinema Society from the 1920s. The Society went bankrupt in 1930 during the Depression, but managed to produce two complete feature-length amateur films--the first feature-length films in Canada. They were written by Dorothea Mitchell, perhaps the first independent female film maker in Canada. She was a remarkable, well-traveled, literary figure of the early 20th century - and of Thunder Bay and region.
In 1929 the Port Arthur Cinema Society came together to make films. They became part of the Amateur Cinema League and they produced dramas, popular for the period, but movies not associated with Hollywood The 45-50 minute films were intended to be shown in movie houses. They were professional films with sets and actors that now speak to an era, and to an important part of Thunder Bay's history. The Port Arthur Cinema Society aimed to see their community, and stories made by real people, on film. Their films document Thunder Bay's history and heritage as well as the buildings, local people and actors of that era. "A Race for Ties" was their first film, a drama involving a family needing to save themselves financially by winning a contract for railway ties. "Sleep Inn Beauty" was a slapstick comedy framed around a beauty contest, filmed at Surprise Lake, involving forty women of the day, a boat chase and a quick wedding ceremony. "A Race for Ties" is well-known, but "Sleep Inn Beauty" has not been seen in public since 1930. The Port Arthur Cinema Society's final film, before going bankrupt, was "The Fatal Flower," a murder mystery about a Police Chief and his daughter. The original footage from that final film was left unfinished. One and a half rolls of scrambled clips have been salvaged--but with no idea of what the intentions were for the story. The Port Arthur Cinema Society dissolved after that third film, as a result of the Depression as well as due to the emergence of 'talkies', but Dorothea Mitchell had the foresight to donate the silent footage to the National Archives of Canada, preserving it forever.
The current group of local filmmakers has taken the original footage from "The Fatal Flower," written a story, and the film now becomes the first silent feature film in over 70 years in Canada. The group aims to preserve the spirit of the original filmmakers, using local talent and involving the local film industry--and to finish a job that was started in 1929. They started three years ago by obtaining rights to the films, tracking down the Society's family members for permission to use the films and subsequently the release of the films from the National Archives. Next came converting the 16mm film to Beta tapes, editing with modern equipment, writing a story based on the scrambled clips, producing artwork and music, and packaging and marketing the films. They aim to complete the final product for release in February 2004, when there will be an opportunity for local community to view the film...and to find out how the Fatal Flower mystery ends!
The second component to the project was an application to Audio-Visual Preservation Trust (AV Trust), for funding of an educational film package. AV Trusts works to preserve Canada's audio and visual heritage and The Fatal Flower Project is the 2003 recipient of a Feature Film Education & Access Program Grant. The project was also awarded the Canadian Film Institute's Burrit/Thompson Award for 2003. The film group has secured funding to package all films produced by the Society and to produce an educational package about amateur silent films for use by schools. Schools currently teach a media component in their curricula and the group aims to garner an appreciation of silent films in students. They will provide elementary, junior and high school students with an appreciation of silent film through educational tools such as a website, classroom activities and a "How-To" package appropriate for grades 1-12 in differing levels of complexity on the production of a silent film. The educational package will enable educators to work with Canadian films and use them in the classroom. Producing "The Fatal Flower" has been a team effort and the final product is "as good as any other silent film of that period," according to Dr. Ron Harpelle (History), the project manager and producer.
The group has immersed itself into the period, pulling together all the details necessary to produce an authentic silent film. Kelly Saxberg is the editor/director of the production, working with a team of people from Lakehead and the community: Noreen Ivancic (Distance Education) is the curriculum development specialist, packaging the film for schools; Michel Beaulieu (formerly of History) is the group's researcher; Peter Raffo (History) is the writer; Danny Johnson is responsible for producing a musical score appropriate to the period; Donald Delorme (Confederation College film program) is the technical hand; Allyson Kailik is responsible for design of titlecards and artwork; Anne Clarke (Visual Arts) is in charge of the design of a period poster for the film. The final result is a "part of Thunder Bay's history that's important and one that no one knows exists. There are no other examples of film like this... and we have it all," says Dr. Harpelle. "It is the only complete body of amateur work available from that period and from the first amateur film society in Canada. That first society allowed others in Canada to blossom afterwards." The film project is one of local resonance, with national significance, says Dr. Harpelle. "It challenges conventional thinking on film in remote communities. And it is significant to Canada, because it was done in Thunder Bay, in the 1920's and we were there first. And now we're the first group in 70 years to be doing it again."
Look forward to the release of "The Fatal Flower" and the re-release of "Race for Ties" and "Sleep Inn Beauty" later this winter!