Shannon van der Woerd's MRP presentation: "The Human Cost of State and Industrial Values in Northern Ontario: An Examination of Uranium Mining in the Serpent River Watershed, 1950s-1990s"
Date and Time
Room 132 Mackinnon Extension
The uranium mines in Elliot Lake, Ontario, produced uranium ore from 1953 until 1996. The mining of uranium, while economically beneficial to the Canadian government and mining officials, had lasting negative environmental, health, and social effects in the Serpent River Watershed. While previous historians have studied this uranium mining centre through the lenses of economic history, gender history and Indigenous history, a thorough description of Elliot Lake as a colonial space has yet to be attempted. This Major Research Paper (MRP) crosses disciplinary boundaries and applies the four-element approach of James C. Scott, a political scientist, to Elliot Lake to show how colonialism functioned in Canada in the mid- to late twentieth century.
Scott asserts that state simplification, high modernist ideology, authoritarian power and prostrate society are all elements of state-engineered tragedies in authoritarian states. This MRP reveals that these elements also apply in colonial states like Canada due, in part, to power imbalances that privilege certain groups and marginalize others. By adapting Scott’s approach to the Canadian context, this paper reveals how mining and state officials alienated Serpent River First Nation from its traditional land and withheld information about the dangers of radiation pollution from settler populations for economic gain.
Advisor: Dr. Brittany Luby Committee: Dr. Lianne Leddy