“A Commodity So Closely Aligned to Armageddon”: The Sudbury Region in Wartime and Aftermath
Keywords:Sudbury, Nickel, INCO, Mining, Mond, First World War
The Northern Review 44 (2017): 371–414
War wrought great change in the Provincial Norths, not least the Sudbury area in Northeastern Ontario. Despite nationalist southern voices calling for “Canadian nickel,” the war confirmed the duopoly of INCO and Mond—nickel reinforced war materiel ranging from bullet casings to battleships. Corporate strategies differed: at first hesitant, the United States based INCO maximized production and profit while British Mond Nickel began with patriotic bluster but ultimately maintained a steadier course. Variant tactics notwithstanding, nickel production increasingly dominated the local economy—even a provincial government keen to “settle” New Ontario favoured the firms over farmers angry about sulphur-damaged crops. Farmers less directly “downwind” took advantage of improved infrastructures, new farming methods, and strong markets to bring local agriculture to commercial levels. Even forestry was vibrant. War, it seemed, was good for this part of the provincial north, or at least its purse. Mixed economies were parallelled by social maturation, or, was it the decline of “northern-ness”? “Southern” voluntary associations made major strides, and the war brought a surge of patriotic societies. Patriotism cut various ways—local Franco-Ontariens, angered by Regulation 17, reacted strongly against conscription. Immigrants volunteered to fight (whether for Canada or homeland) even as their peers collectively challenged the social and economic order. Wartime passions thus reshaped the human landscape even as resource exploitation wrought physical and economic change. Southern pressures, economic and environmental consequences, a struggle for permanence—the Nickel Belt provides a valuable look into the Provincial Norths during the “war to end all wars.” This article is part of a special collection of papers originally presented at a conference on “The North and the First World War,” held May 2016 in Whitehorse, Yukon.
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