Provincial Hinterland: Social Inequality in Northwestern Ontario


137 pages
Contains Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 1-895686-25-3
DDC 971.3'104




Edited by Chris Southcott
Reviewed by Ashley Thomson

Ashley Thomson is a full librarian at Laurentian University and co-editor or co-author of nine books, most recently Margaret Atwood: A Reference Guide, 1988-2005.


The general thesis of the book is hard to dispute: that while Canada is
generally considered to be a country of have and have-not regions, even
within one of the wealthiest “have regions,” the province of
Ontario, there are pockets of “have-not” territories, such as
Northwestern Ontario. To illustrate this theme, Chris Southcott, a
professor of sociology at Lakehead University, has gathered together
eight articles dealing with the following aspects of Northwestern
Ontario; politics, unemployment, women, health care, retirement, Native
fishing agreements, racism, and, lastly, Lakehead University. All but
two were originally published elsewhere, the oldest being a 1977 article
by Geoff Weller.

As Southcott acknowledges, within the framework of Northwestern
Ontario, there are at least three subregions, and no doubt each of these
areas could be broken down even further. In fact, if one cares to
examine the city of Thunder Bay, one could find have-not sections in the
community that are set apart from wealthier sections. The reasons for
the continuance of social inequality within a region (however one
defines region) are very complex. It is a strength of this book that it
explores one of the most interesting: namely, that when a have-not
region does not have regionally coterminous political, social, economic,
or cultural agencies, there are serious limits placed on the area’s
ability to extricate itself from its various problems, since it must
depend on many outside the region for solutions.

The usual critique of a book like this is that the articles vary in
quality, but even taking Weller’s dated “classic” into account,
only David Nock’s previously unpublished article on Lakehead
University seems unworthy of inclusion. It reads like a faculty
association position paper about how hard done by everyone is at that


“Provincial Hinterland: Social Inequality in Northwestern Ontario,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed November 28, 2023,