Seeking a clearer channel: Canadian ventures in satellite technology and nation building, 1958--1972

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Title: Seeking a clearer channel: Canadian ventures in satellite technology and nation building, 1958--1972
Authors: Roper, Pamela
Date: 2003
Abstract: This account of Canada's early research and telecommunications satellite programs provides insight into the evolution of Canada's advanced technology capacity, viewed by most as essential to a country's well-being. It synthesizes developments in several fields including federal government science and industrial policies, and Canada-U.S. relations. It also reveals the unintended impacts of nationalism. Through source materials including Royal Commission reports, position papers, and internal memoranda, this study attempts to recreate the policy consciousness that pervaded the federal government from the late 1950's into the early 1970's to expose and understand the motivations that led Canada to enter the space age and to become the first country in the world to have its own domestic telecommunications satellite. Like consciousness itself, the development of Canada's early satellite program was based on the blending of experience and perception. The success of the first Alouette led to the extended International Satellites for Ionospheric Studies (ISIS) research satellite program, while prevailing perceptions about the need to bolster Canada's science and technology base as well as concerns about American cultural and economic dominance guided policy makers to invest in a domestic telecommunications satellite in the late 1960's. The consciousness that affected Canadian policy and opinion makers oscillated between a defensive and an expansionary nationalism. Despite nearly a century of nationhood, the Canadian mentality of the 1960's unfairly compared itself with the leading Anglo metropoles of Great Britain and the United States, which resulted in a self-defeating inferiority complex and anti-colonial outlook. At the same time, Canada, in keeping with the rest of Western culture, was affected by an imperial drive that impelled politicians and government officials to seek ways to ensure that the country expanded and developed. In the early part of the decade, this drive began to focus on science and technology as the keys to prosperity. Canadian policy makers quickly adopted this stance, but their prescriptions were based on misleading analyses that the country's research and development (R&D) greatly lagged behind other industrial nations. Social critics and government insiders leapt to the mistaken conclusion that the blame for this perceived underdevelopment lay with the pattern of American foreign ownership in the Canadian economy. Policy and opinion leaders' ready acceptance of the "branch plant" explanation regarding what they believed were weaknesses in Canada's R&D base, despite credible evidence to the contrary, indicated their tendency to place perception ahead of analysis to the detriment of sound decision making and planning. Thus, the paradox of economic nationalism was that it weakened Canadian initiative rather than strengthened it, as was the purported intent.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/29003
http://dx.doi.org/10.20381/ruor-12724
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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