The economic and social problems facing Northwestern Ontario aren’t unique to the region and there are opportunities to learn from countries as far away as Nepal and Uruguay, said the director of Lakehead University’s Centre for Northern Studies.
Issues surrounding resource development and single-industry economies have been dealt with around the world, said Michel Beaulieu.
"A lot of places in the north are single-industry dependent," he said. "Those industries have since moved elsewhere in the world or because of changes in the climate – the global economies – they’ve disappeared or they’ve downsized. It’s led to massive unemployment. It’s led to a need for social change."
The Centre for Northern Studies hosted a conference on the effects of globalization on Northern Ontario economies Tuesday at the Finlandia Club with guest from Finland, Uruguay and Nepal to share what their countries are facing and engage in mutual learning.
Beaulieu said how issues Northern Ontarians are dealing with have been handled in other parts of the world is useful just not to look at their successes but where they didn’t succeed.
Keynote speaker Dipak Gyawali, an academic form the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, said the primacy of economic efficiency versus human well-being is just as strong in the north as in the global south and there is a need for rethinking development.
"It is to rethink what we consider is a good and correct future," he said. "Generally the assumption is you get in a lot of investments, build a lot of factories, sell a lot of things, make a lot of money, but it seems the money that is made does not reach these communities and very often and too late in the game do they find they’ve been shortchanged."
Gyawali said this results in anger, depression and leads to many social problems.
"This rethinking of development simply means rethinking of our place in society," he said.
Also presenting at the conference were members from various government and non-government organizations from the region and academics whose works focus on social impact of shifting economies.