Community and Regional Development in the North


  • William C. Wonders





... The problems of northern development are essentially the same regardless of the region involved, or indeed in many cases regardless of the country involved. Of these problems it is generally agreed that transportation ranks first. Transportation is the single most important key to northern development - in northern Manitoba, northern Canada, or northern U.S.S.R. ... northern communities, no less than communities elsewhere in Canada, find themselves in a rapidly changing world. No longer can they mark the passing years by the arrival of the annual or semi-annual supply boat or mail run. Aircraft, radio telephone, and even taped television programs are symbolic of the degree to which change has come to the North as well, and are increasingly taken for granted by northerners. There is a comparable change in the need for northern communities. Some of these, while useful in fur trade days have become as redundant as the small elevator hamlets along the railways on the Prairies. Like them it may be better for the long-term opportunities of the residents, to encourage a migration to larger centres within the North - though this is conceded to be a delicate and difficult task. There will always have to be communities in the North, but these probably will be fewer and larger centres, better situated to meet the transportation and development needs of the present and future. It is only in larger centres that the costly and permanent service facilities now expected by all Canadians can be justified. Quite possibly smaller "camps" of relatively short life expectancy may operate out from one major centre, with a variety of commuting developed between them, as was the case for example between Yellowknife and Discovery. With the increasing capital outlay involved in establishing a modern community in the North, it clearly will be more and more difficult to abandon or relocate it in later years. To an unprecedented degree northern communities now represent long-term commitments in the area, involving very large capital investment. Only a thorough, balanced assessment of the regional potential can provide the necessary background for such vital decisions. Community and region always have been inseparably linked in northern development, but never more critically than at present.