Dr. Ronald Harpelle

+1 807-343-8010ext. 8691
Ryan Building 3019
& PACI 0011 (Media Lab)
... by appointment, please email Dr. Harpelle directly harpelle@lakeheadu.ca
Academic Qualifications: 
  • PhD in History, University of Toronto
  • MA in History, University of Manitoba
  • BA (hons) in History, University of Manitoba
Date joined Lakehead: 
Previous Teaching/Work: 

I teach Latin American and Caribbean History at Lakehead University. I also teach the history of International Development, Social Justice, and Human Rights. I offer undergraduate and graduate courses on these subjects and supervise graduate students in these areas. I am also the director of a media lab that focuses on documentary films and new media as Knowledge Mobilization in the Social Sciences and Humanities.

Research Interests: 

I publish books and articles, and make documentary films. My work tends to focus on issues of immigration, integration, racism, labour and the post-colonial world. I have also published in the general areas of social justice and human rights. I have published several books and articles and directed and produced a number of documentary films. Two of my most significant contributions are The West Indians of Costa Rica: Race, Class and the Integration of an Ethnic Community, and IDRC: 40 Years of Ideas, Innovation and Impact (co-authored with Bruce Muirhead). I have also edited several collections dealing with Finnish immigration and settlement in North America, notably, Karelian Exodus: Finns in North America and Karelia during the Depression Era. You can find out more about these publications elsewhere on this website.

Among my films are "Pulp Friction," a documentary about the state of single industry towns in Canada, Finland and Uruguay, "Hard Time," a documentary about Robert King who spent 29 years in solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit, "The Big Blue," a documentary about a row across the Atlantic ocean, “In Security,” a documentary film about barbed wire, people and spaces, "Under the Red Star," a docu-drama about Finnish immigration and settlement in Canada, and "Banana Split," an award-winning documentary film about Canada's favourite fruit. I was a key member of the team that produced a six-part series on international development called “Citoyens du Monde.” I am also the producer of "The Fatal Flower," a silent film begun in 1930 by the Port Arthur Amateur Cinema Society and finished in 2004 as part of The Fatal Flower Project, and "Dorothea Mitchell: A Reel Pioneer," a documentary about the first woman in Canada to make independent films. (Visit my film production website)

I am interested in natural resource development and am a researcher with Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic (ReSDA) and with the Resources, Economy and Society Research Group (RESRG) at Lakehead University. One of my current projects concerns shifting economies in resource dependent communities in Canada, Finland and Uruguay. I am the co-editor of Pulp Friction: Communities and the Forest Industry in a Globalized World and  I  also recently completed a documentary film called "Pulp Friction."  I am the executive producer on a documentary film about the toxic legacy of the Giant gold mine in Yellowknife and I am directing a documentary about an academic fraud. These film projects are at various stages and will completed in the near future. (Visit my film production website)

My newest endeavour is a project dealing with the legacy of Sheila Burnford. Burnford is best known as the author of The Incredible Journey, but she also wrote five other books, two of which are on Northern and Arctic communities. This is a project that will, among other things, make Burnford's personal papers available to the public, produce a biography of one of Canada's most important twentieth century authors, produce a documentary film about her life, and connect the communities she visited in northern Canada with her records of their past. This is in partnership with the Thunder Bay Public Library.


I am  on the Program Board for the Ethnografilm Film Festival in Paris, and on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Video Ethnography. Locally, I am the Chair of the Vox Popular Media Arts Festival Board and a past Vice-President of Finlandia Association of Thunder Bay.

In the News:

December 10, 2023

Friends of the Finnish Labour Temple Receives...

The Friends of the Finnish Labour Temple--a registered charity established by Kelly Saxberg, Michel...


February 27, 2020

Rescuing a Visual Record of our Past

Lakehead University’s Department of History and the Thunder Bay Museum film project digitizing the...


October 24, 2018

New Film on First World War to Premiere November...

The Department of History is pleased to welcome faculty, staff and students to the premiere on 4...