Former HBA and MA student wins Governor General's Award For Excellence in Teaching Canadian History

24 October 2007 - Thunder Bay

The Department of History is proud to announce that former history student John MacPhail (HBA 1996, MA 2000) is one of this year's six recipients of the Governor General's Award (GGA) For Excellence in Teaching Canadian History. Sponsored by Canada's National History Society, the GGA annually salutes history teachers in the classrooms of our nation who have inspired and challenged students to explore Canada's past. 

Currently teaching grades seven and eight at St. Dominic Catholic School in Oakville, Ontario, John was brought to the attention of the society for his firm belief in the idea of "constructive controversy." In the announcement of the award, he describes his classes' annual project, a six-week mock trial of William Lyon Mackenzie,  as a way to develop his students' skills in critical thought, debate, and questioning assumptions. Within the larger theme of conflict and change, the GGA panel found that John "successfully bridges the gap between the Rebellions of 1837 and modern issues such as media bias, power structures, and the justice system. His lesson plans are comprehensive and the scaffolding he provides ensures student success."
John was a fixture in the Department of History for nearly a decade. He completed an honours degree in 1996 with a thesis focussing on the  development and demise of the International Monetary Fund. His master's thesis, completed in 2000, explored urban renewal and rivalry in Thunder Bay, focusing on the downtown cores and the history of major commercial centres  such as Victoriaville between 1947 and 1980. In an interview with the Chronicle Journal, he commented on his time in Thunder Bay and in the Department of History: "[It was] a great time... any success I have now is because of the experiences I had and the people I met in Thunder Bay."
The 2007 GGC awards were announced October 1, 2007. Six recipients were selected, and reflect a diversity in grade levels and teaching approaches. Each winner will be awarded $2,500, a gold medal and their respective schools will also benefit from a cash gift of $1,000. On November 2, 2007, Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, will present the Awards at Rideau Hall. The recipients will also be honoured in the House of Commons as guests of the Speaker. Another highlight of the Award festivities is the gala dinner, and a rare insiders' tour of the Library and Archives Canada Preservation Centre, one of the program partners. 
For more information on the Department of History and its programs, go to 

Telling the IDRC's Story

28 March 2007 - Thunder Bay
Telling IDRC's Story 
By Patrick Kavanagh
Source: IDRC Bulletin (March 2007) URL: 
Historians Dr. Ron Harpelle of Lakehead University and Dr. Bruce Muirhead of the University of Waterloo have been commissioned to write a book-length intellectual history of IDRC, and to produce related materials including a Website.

The two began their research early in 2006 and already have interviewed about 100 board members, staff, partners, and others. They have visited regional offices in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East, and will travel to Africa in the spring. They will deliver their manuscript in December 2008.

They recently gave IDRC Bulletin an update on the project.
Historians tend to squirrel away in dusty archives. Why have you been traveling so much?

RH: If we're going to understand IDRC and its evolution, we have to go into the field. When you write a history it's easy to forget that you're writing about people. It has been a real education for both of us to see the past, present, and future of IDRC, and to reflect on what the organization has meant to peoples' lives.

BM:  Right. I don't think it would be possible to write this history without visiting the field. Our book will have much more vitality and life than something written strictly from documents. IDRC is a massive organization with people all over the world doing incredible work, and that should be celebrated.

RH: Plus, the themes we want to look at have regional aspects, and each time we go to a region we want to focus on one of those. In the Middle East our goal is to concentrate on gender, peace, and security. When we went to the Southern Cone it was the politics of development. In Asia we looked at water, at politics again, and at information technologies. And in Africa it will be Francophonie and health.

Which of your findings have surprised you most?

BM: IDRC's reputation in the developing world. We have met with deputy ministers, other high-ranking officials, and senior academics, all of whom have a special feeling for Canada and certainly for IDRC. The research that the organization funded 25 years ago has resulted in huge benefits today, and it's been remarkable to see the way senior people in those societies now remember IDRC. We have had no problem getting interviews with anybody. It doesn't matter where they are or what they're doing. When we were in India, for example, the Secretary of State for Planning left Parliament to come to speak to us for an hour -- all because of support that IDRC gave him 20 years ago.

RH: More than one person said to us: IDRC offered us money, and our first question was "Okay, what are the strings?" They're amazed when they find out that if there are strings, they are thin ones. They're astonished that Canada is willing to give them money to do research that on the surface doesn't have any real benefit to Canada. And it's not just senior officials who appreciate IDRC. We visited a village called Embalam in southern India, near Pondicherry, and the entire village leadership and maybe 50 people came out to greet us. We sat in the temple courtyard on rugs and the people told us about how IDRC's support for rural telecentres had changed their lives. It was absolutely remarkable to us to see how IDRC has allowed this community to realize its potential.

What have you learned from researchers?
RH: Judith Sutz [Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Uruguay's University of the Republic] told us that there would be no sociology taught or studied in Uruguay today if it weren't for IDRC. When the generals took over they persecuted the sociologists--because they were "dangerous." IDRC supported a few of them in publishing and researching so that when the generals did leave there were trained Uruguayan sociologists who could continue the field.

BM: In Beijing we met a woman, Qi Gubo, who teaches at the China Agricultural University. She runs a course called "gender and development." It's the only such course in China, but it exists because of IDRC. She says the course's reception has been remarkable. Even engineers are taking it.

RH: Qi Gubo also said that even though she was working in development and working with women, she had never really considered gender in development. She learned about it as a result of contact with IDRC. Since she is a young woman I assume that she'll be teaching for the next 25 years and passing this perspective along to the next generations of young scholars. So the ripple effect will be far reaching.

Have you identified any IDRC innovations--ideas, tools, methods, technologies--that have endured?
BM: IDRC has probably had a massive influence on methodologies. For example, it insists on women being included in grant proposals, an approach which has become much more widespread. Also, community-based natural resource management is a hugely significant change. Tackling things from the bottom up as opposed to top down is all over the developing world now. In China, IDRC has emphasized bottom-up planning. People said there is no way you could make such an approach work there, but the government has come round to accept it.

RH: A lot of people point to IDRC and its networking. Thanks to its program officers and its system of regional offices, it can pull together researchers working on similar projects in different countries. Someone told us: you know I was working alone in this run-down building, and IDRC put me in contact with another person who is working in an equally run-down building in another country--so now we have a network in two run-down buildings.

BM: Since I'm at the University of Waterloo I must mention the Waterloo pump, which was developed in the 1970s with IDRC support. It was designed for use in the developing world, it had no electrical parts, and needed little maintenance. It's gone through a number of incarnations and I don't think it's called the Waterloo Pump anymore, but it's the same design that they came up with thanks to IDRC funding. Of course, IDRC's name isn't on it anymore, which is how it should be. A development project has succeeded if it has a life of its own and if the users forget who initiated it.

RH: It's important for people to realize that they're doing it themselves. Maybe they need a little assistance to get going but they should reach the point where they can look back and say: We got to where we are with this project because of our own hard work. I think that's the kind of thing that translates into real development.

Will your book have enough room to cover this huge topic?
RH: We have some other plans, including transcribing our interviews and publishing them separately. We discovered that we're dealing with some of the smartest, most articulate people in the world, and many of these interviews are wonderful. Once we get permission from the interviewees, we'll archive the conversations or maybe even put some up on a website. They would make great primary sources for others to use.

Tell us about the web component.

RH: The web aspect is aimed at younger Canadians, the teenagers who will be paying taxes in a few years, and who are starting to wonder about their place and their country's place in the world. We want to reach out to them and explain what international development is and why it's important. Our objective is to popularize IDRC as much as possible so that people will recognize it more.

What has this project meant for you professionally?

  I talk about IDRC all the time to my students. I tell them that this is an organization that they should know about. Ron and I agree that, for us, this project has been a career-altering experience, but we also hope to alter the future careers of some young people by giving them access to IDRC.

RH:  I don't think there is a single course offered on the planet on the history of international development because it's got such a short history. It's a "contemporary" topic that has always been handled by political science or sociology. That is why both Bruce and I will soon be offering courses on the history of international development and on Canada's role on it. So I guess that makes us pioneers.

Patrick Kavanagh is a senior writer in IDRC's Communications Division in Ottawa.

Former MA Student Awarded Hannah Senior General Scholarship

26 June 2007 - Thunder Bay
Former graduate student Mandy Hadenko (MA History 2005, HBA 2001) has been awarded a prestigious Hannah Senior General Scholarship from the Associated Medical Services Inc. (AMS). The Hannah Senior General Scholarship is designed to support excellence in medical history at the graduate level. Candidates are judged on their track record and the scholarly merit of their research program. A maximum four Hannah Senior General Scholarships are only awarded in any competition. 
Mandy is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in the Department of History at York University. Her project is entitled "Cervical Cancer and the Canadian Woman: Provincial Roles in Cancer Prevention, 1945-2000."
For more information on the Hannah Senior General Scholarship, or any of the programs offered through the AMS, go to

New Book by Adjunct Faculty Member

1 November 2007 - Thunder Bay
The Department of History is pleased to announce the publication of Misconceptions: Unmarried Motherhood and the Ontario Children of Unmarried Parents Act, 1921-1969, the latest book by Dr. Lori Chambers, Associate Professor of Women Studies and an Adjunct member of the Department of History.  The book is published by the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History and the University of Toronto Press
In 1921, despite the passing of legislation intended to ease the consequences of illegitimacy for children (Children of Unmarried Parents Act), reformers in Ontario made no effort to improve the status of unwed mothers. Furthermore, the reforms that were passed served as models for legislation in other provinces and even in some American states, institutionalizing, in essence, the prejudices evident throughout. Until now, historians have not sufficiently studied these measures, resulting in the marginalization of unwed mothers as historical subjects. In Misconceptions, Lori Chambers seeks to redress this oversight.

By way of analysis and careful critique, Chambers shows that the solutions to unwed pregnancy promoted in the reforms of 1921 were themselves based upon misconceptions. The book also explores the experiences of unwed mothers who were subjected to the legislation of the time, thus shedding an invaluable light on these formerly ignored subjects. Ultimately, Misconceptions argues that child welfare measures which simultaneously seek to rescue children and punish errant women will not, and cannot, succeed in alleviating child or maternal poverty.
The Department of Women Studies is holding a book launch for Misconceptions: Unmarried Motherhood and the Ontario Children of Unmarried Parents Act, 1921-1969 on 5 November at 11:30 a.m. in UC 2001. 
Further information on the books written and edited by faculty members of the Department of History can be found at 

World Premiere of Vimy Ridge Project Airs on History Television

2 November 2007 - Thunder Bay
Some of the widely publicized work of Lakehead University's Dr. Carney Matheson and various team members, including the Department of History's David Ratz,  will be broadcast in a world premiere of 1917: The Missing, a documentary that chronicles the team's journey to identify two Canadian WWI soldiers recovered in 2003 from a battlefield in Avion, France. 

 Upon request from the Canadian Department of National Defence, Matheson headed a multidisciplinary team comprising University colleagues Tal Fisher and David Ratz, geneticists, forensic archaeologists, genealogists, and historians on an excursion to identify the soldiers' remains.   
"This piece shows the process involved in determining the identities of the soldiers and telling their stories," says Fisher, Bio-Archaeology Laboratory Technician with Lakehead's Department of Anthropology. 
"We worked closely with the company while the piece was being developed, which made the experience that much more moving for everybody involved."

Ratz, Sessional History Lecturer, recalls how the investigation team worked with an amazing collection of evidence.  "We walked the 1917 battlefield in such close proximity to Vimy Ridge; we analyzed the remains, the associated artefacts, and the historical records."  Team members also traced family histories, contacted living kin, and examined DNA evidence.

Graduate Student Awarded Canada Graduate Doctoral Scholarship

7 August 2007 - Thunder Bay
The Department of History is proud to announce that Masters' student Nathan Hatton has been awarded a 3-year, $105,000 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Canada Graduate Doctoral Scholarship. This award has also been combined with a $10,000 Sport Canada Doctoral Supplement. These recent awards are in addition to a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship and an Ontario Graduate Scholarship which were offered to Nathan in April.
Under the guidance of Dr. Ronald Harpelle, Nathan recently completed his Master's thesis exploring wrestling, class and ethnicity in Thunder Bay between 1913 and 1933. In September, Nathan will be continuing his research at the University of Waterloo where he will begin his doctoral studies. The aim of his upcoming doctoral research is to build upon his work at Lakehead and examine precisely how urban tensions were channelled through individual combat, and how these combatants came to embody the desires and aspirations of the immigrant peoples they represented. 
The SSHRC Canada Graduate Doctoral Scholarship is one of the most prestigious doctoral awards granted in the social science and humanities in Canada. The award aims to develop research skills and assist in the training of highly-qualified academic personnel by supporting students who demonstrate a high standard of scholarly achievement in undergraduate and graduate studies in the social sciences and humanities.
The Sport Canada Doctoral Award Supplement is part of the Sport Participation Research Initiative. A joint Initiative of SSHRC and Sport Canada, its aim is to fund the efforts of selected doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers and postsecondary institution-affiliated researchers to conduct research on matters related to participation in sport in Canada.
Over the past year, a number of graduate students in the Department of History have been awarded SSHRC grants and fellowships. See our News Archive for details. 

Graduate Student Awarded 4-year SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship

25 April 2007 - Thunder Bay
The Department of History is proud to announce that Masters' student Nathan Hatton has been awarded a prestigious 4-year, $80,000 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship. Nathan was also recently awarded an Ontario Graduate Scholarship.
Under the guidance of Dr. Ronald Harpelle, Nathan is currently completing his Master's thesis exploring wrestling, class and ethnicity in Thunder Bay between 1913 and 1933. In September, Nathan will be taking up his fellowship at the University of Waterloo where he will begin his doctoral studies. The aim of his upcoming doctoral research is to build upon his work at Lakehead and examine precisely how urban tensions were channelled through individual combat, and how these combatants came to embody the desires and aspirations of the immigrant peoples they represented.

Film Featuring the Talents of Department Members to Air on BRAVO!

30 January 2007 - Thunder Bay
Dorothea Mitchell: A Reel Pioneer, a documentary film produced by Ron Harpelle and staring Michel Beaulieu, Peter Raffo and Bruce Muirhead, among others, will air on BRAVO! on 8 April at 8:00 p.m. EST.
"A Reel Pioneer" is a documentary film about a significant episode in the history of filmmaking in Canada. It tells the story of Dorothea Mitchell whose story is  quintessentially Canadian. This documentary is about her life, the films she participated in making, and the quest to finish her last film, The Fatal Flower, which was shot in 1930. Dorothea Mitchell: A Reel Pioneer is part of The Fatal Flower Project, a collective effort to revive, publish, distribute and bring to classrooms everywhere the creative works of Dorothea Mitchell. The project is tied to work completed by Michel Beaulieu as part of his MA thesis in History at Lakehead University.
The release of Dorothea Mitchell: A Reel Pioneer brings The Fatal Flower Project to a close. For more information about the project and the film, visit or contact Ronald Harpelle at

Retirement of Dr. A. Ernest "Ernie" Epp

8 May 2007 - Thunder Bay
On 7 May 2007, friends, family, colleagues, and both current and former students gathered to wish Dr. A. Ernest "Ernie" Epp all the best in his retirement. A faculty member with the Department of History since the late 1970s, Ernie has been an instrumental figure in the growth of both the undergraduate and graduate programs. Although retiring, Ernie will still teach courses with the Department and has a number of research projects on the go. Below are a few pictures taken at the event.  
Ernie's years of service to the University was also recognized by the President of Lakehead University on Monday 30 April 2007. Below are some pictures from that event.

Department Member Awarded 2006 Distinguished Researcher

21 November 2007 - Thunder Bay
Lakehead University's Senate Research Committee has named History professor Dr. Ron Harpelle as the 2006 Distinguished Researcher.   

This award, alongside Harpelle's extensive list of achievements will certainly benefit the Social Sciences and Humanities.  His wide range of interests includes international development, Central America's late nineteenth century immigrant, and cookbooks published in Saskatchewan.  He has produced films, developed websites, and written a substantial number of articles and books.

"History has given me access to explore any and all of my interests," Harpelle comments. "That's the beauty of this field - you can study anything you want because everything has a history."  He notes that Lakehead University researchers and faculty generate a multitude of incredible research contributions and efforts each year.  "The fact that I have been given this honour makes me feel more pride and gratitude than words can express."  

A native of St. Pierre-Jolys, Manitoba, Harpelle completed his undergraduate and Masters degrees at the University of Manitoba, and later obtained his PhD in History from the University of Toronto in 1992. A Latin-Americanist, his 20-year working masterpiece is a large collection of archival documents dealing with the West Indian Diaspora to Central America between 1850 and 1950.  Harpelle is also deeply interested in development economics; in fact, he was the first historian to be funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), an Ottawa-based Crown Corporation which assisted with production costs for his film entitled Banana Split - a piece which focused on issues pertaining to the banana trade. Harpelle, along with his filmmaking wife Kelly Saxberg and a team of other interested parties have undertaken several film projects within this genre, one of which includes the award-winning piece Dorothea Mitchell: A Reel Pioneer. Harpelle emphasizes the teamwork involved in his filmmaking activities and acknowledges the endless achievements that can come to fruition when people of similar interests work cooperatively.   

Teamwork maintains a position at the forefront of Harpelle's current agenda. He and former colleague Bruce Muirhead will write an intellectual history of the IDRC.  Through discussions with researchers about what their work entails and the associated role the IDRC has played, Harpelle believes it will be easy to determine the results.  "The IDRC has a knack for funding very promising young people in many countries around the world, and it has propelled a lot of brilliant works and ideas forward throughout the years," Harpelle adds. "Even thirty-years after these funding recipients have moved on and have immersed themselves in success, they remember who gave them funding early in their careers."

Members of the University and Thunder Bay communities enjoyed Harpelle's lecture entitled Nomadic Wanderings across the Academic Plain at Lakehead University on Wednesday, November 21.

Media:  Dr. Harpelle is available for media interview and can be reached at 807-343-8691.  For additional information about this media release, please contact: Heather Scott, Communications Officer, 807-343-8177,; or Eleanor Abaya, Director of Communications, 807-373-8372,