Mobilizing Knowledge about the Finnish Experience in Canada

A website in English, French and Finnish.

Hoito_PlasmaReel_LakeheadFinns_AugThe project is dedicated to the memories of Jean Morrison and Varpu Lindstorm, historians who cared about the Finnish-Canadian and working-class experience.

Led by Michel Beaulieu and Ron Harpelle, LakeheadFinns is an interactive historical portrait of the Finnish experience and Finnish working-class culture in Canada, which will permit viewers to explore the past through the eyes of individuals who lived it. The Finnish Labour Temple in Thunder Bay, Ontario will serve as the virtual platform. Built in 1910 by a group of Finnish immigrants, it stands today as a monument to the Canadian working-class. Its motto is carved in stone on the front of the building: Labor-Omnia-Vincit, “Hard Work Conquers All.” This was a temple of a different sort, one where political, rather than religious devotion was practiced. In its early days it was inseparably linked to the activities of the Canadian labour movement as well as a place where culture and politics came together. This project integrates a rich collection of documents, posters, archival footage, audio recordings, and photos together with fictionalized scenes to bring to life the Temple’s dramatic past.

Over the course of this project, numerous individuals and organizations have contributed to its evolution and end product.

Research Michel S. Beaulieu, C. Nathan Hatton, Ronald Harpelle, Amanda Lino, Shirley Kauranen, Kelly Saxberg, History 4313 Class of 2012
Translations Madeleine Bernard, Aarno Peura, Kelly Saxberg
Writing Michel S. Beaulieu, C. Nathan Hatton, Ronald N. Harpelle, Kelly Saxberg

The main source of information for the Lakehead Finns project has been Michel S. Beaulieu’s Labour at the Lakehead: Ethnicity, Socialism, and Politics, 1900-35 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011). However, it is based on information found in various archival collections from across Canada. The most significant is the Lakehead University Library Archives, which contains the Finlandia Club Collection and the Thunder Bay Finnish-Historical Society Collection.

The other main archive used is Library and Archives of Canada, which houses the records of the Finnish Organization of Canada fonds, Finnish Association of Port Arthur fonds, the Community Party of Canada fonds, and the Communist International fonds. Extremely valuable were also records relating to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Royal Canadian Mounted Police records. Various collections held at the Archives of Ontario, the City of Thunder Bay Archives, and Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society were also used.

Letters from Karelia. Directed by Kelly Saxberg. National Film Board of Canada, 2004
Under the Red Star. Directed by Kelly Saxberg. Shebafilms, 2011.

Financial Support Provided by:
The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Friends of the Finnish Labour Temple.