Developing the North: Hydroelectric Dams and the Hinterlands in Canada and India, 1953-1958, by Jill Campbell-Miller
Tues, February 15, 2022 – 7:00-8:30pm
About the Event
“Electricity, now-a-days, almost symbolises Civilisation.” This quotation, taken from a c. 1951 report by the Central Waterpower Irrigation and Navigation Commission of the Government of India, states plainly the objective of waterpower development in the “hinterlands” of states during this era. Disconnected from the administrative state, often largely populated by Indigenous or other minority ethnic groups, yet rich in potential for natural resource development, the hinterlands of modern states posed challenges and opportunities for governments in the mid-twentieth century, and to a great extent, still do. Hydroelectric power offered governments a technical solution to perceived political and economic problems. During this period Canada saw a growth in the international potential of its consulting engineer sector. As the federal government in Canada sought to develop its own hinterlands, partly by providing hydroelectric power to these regions, they also supported the growth of Canada’s consulting engineering sector abroad, by promoting their businesses through the foreign aid program. This talk will examine two hydroelectric projects built during the same era, the mid-1950s, one in Canada in the Yukon Territory, and one in India in the state of Assam (present-day Meghalaya), and both funded by the Canadian state. Both projects involved the Montreal Engineering Company, a politically-well connected consulting engineering firm. Though such projects achieved the goal of providing cheaper electricity to these hinterland regions, they had major consequence for the Indigenous peoples that lived in the areas where the dams were constructed, a consequence of little concern to those in power at that time.
Dr Jill Campbell-Miller is Adjunct Professor of History, Saint Mary’s University
A link to the virtual event will be sent to registrants on Sunday evening, 13 February.
Graduate nursing students at McGill, by David Bier (Library and Archives Canada)
Between 1950 and 1968, approximately 300 to 400 “trainees” from South and Southeast Asia — India, Pakistan and Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka)– came to Canadian universities, learning from the country’s health education systems, and brought back their new knowledge to their home countries.
The Colombo Plan Fellowships are worth acknowledging in the grander tale of Canadian humanitarian aid, as Jill Campbell-Miller argued on Sept. 14, 2018. The historian, a member of the CNHH who also runs the network’s social media presence, gave a presentation to interested members of academia at Carleton University.
During her afternoon talk, Campbell-Miller presented the subtle racial and historical dimensions of the Colombo Plan Fellowships and the changing landscape of health education in Canada.The post-doctoral fellow’s talk was the basis for a paper she hopes to publish. Continue reading
I came across the name of Dr. Florence Nichols while doing research for my dissertation, which examined the history of Canadian aid to India during the 1950s (you can find a link to the full dissertation on the University of Waterloo’s website: https://uwspace.uwaterloo.ca/handle/10012/8756). In 1955, Escott Reid, the Canadian high commissioner in New Delhi, toured southern India, leaving a detailed record of his trip. He visited the Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore. There he encountered Dr. Nichols, a Canadian psychiatrist and Anglican missionary, whom he briefly mentions in his account of the trip. Nichols complained to Reid that there was no psychiatric ward, and that “many of [the patients] are kept in chains in local hotels where they are looked after by their relatives.” Continue reading