Cross-Currents: Hydroelectricty and the Engineering of Northern Ontario


224 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88920-317-2
DDC 333.793'215'0971313




Reviewed by Richard G. Kuhn

Richard G. Kuhn is an associate professor of geography at the University
of Guelph.


Cross-Currents provides a history of hydroelectricity development in the
Moose River watershed of northeastern Ontario. Specifically, the focus
is on the Mattagami and Abitibi Rivers, which flow into James Bay. To
state that this book is a basic history (chronology) of events leading
to the construction of hydro dams, however, would constitute a serious
injustice to its author. What Manore has produced is a rich tapestry of
events and insights.

The use of the metaphor “cross-currents” is apt. Cross-currents
“intersect, intertwine and intermix with other components on the river
and with the river itself. ... [I]nteraction and intermingling is a
continuous process.” In this light, Manore describes and examines the
myriad connections between technology, the environment, politics and
power, and Canada’s First Nations. What emerges is a poignant study of
resource development in Northern Ontario. Both the environment and the
First Nations are portrayed as active agents in the development process,
as opposed to being merely passive receptors of dominant technological
and political processes formulated in Southern Ontario. This in itself
is an important perspective, and one that has only recently come to the

The book’s specific purposes are to demonstrate how technological
systems have shaped the social, political, and natural environments; how
southern power developers shaped the regional interactions between
Northern and Southern Ontario; and how government policies and
interpretations of law excluded the First Nations from practising their
traditional ways of life. However, Manore also demonstrates how the
First Nations were eventually able to overcome these limitations to
achieve significant power in resource management decisions. The ways in
which the environment affects development are also explored. In this
sense, the environment is viewed as an active agent in the development
process, as opposed to being simply a backdrop.

The cast of factors and “agents” involved in the Moose River
watershed projects includes engineers and entrepreneurs, politicians and
political agendas, nature and Native peoples, lawsuits and legislation.
The expansion of mining in Northern Ontario (and the concatenate need
for cheap and plentiful energy), World War II and the postwar boom, and
the emergence of nuclear and coal-fired power plants all had a
significant influence. Manore’s consideration of these and other
issues provides a broader context for the development initiatives.

This very readable and insightful account of hydroelectricity
development in Northern Ontario will appeal to those interested in
resource issues (particularly those involving the First Nations) in
Canada. Highly recommended.


Manore, Jean L., “Cross-Currents: Hydroelectricty and the Engineering of Northern Ontario,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 20, 2024,