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Researching decades of development connections

Canada and the global South have exchanged ideas and action about economic development since the 1950s. This page shares research about the history and its ongoing impact today. Scroll down for more!

Has Canada promoted a unique development model?


A Samaritan State Revisited

Canada’s foreign aid programs are an area of ongoing interest, yet there is little knowledge of Canada’s 70-year aid history, the historic forces that have shaped Canadian aid policy, and the many complex factors that affect Canada’s future foreign aid policy.

A Samaritan State Revisited brings together a refreshing group of emerging and leading scholars to reflect on the history of Canada’s overseas development aid. Addressing the broad ideological and institutional origins of Canada’s official development assistance in the 1950s and specific themes in its evolution and professionalization since the 1960s, this collection is the first to explore Canada’s history with foreign aid with this level of interrogative detail.

Extending from the 1950s to the present and covering Canadian aid to all regions of the Global South, from South and Southeast Asia to Latin America and Africa, these essays embrace a variety of approaches and methodologies ranging from traditional, archival-based research to textual and image analysis, oral history, and administrative studies. A Samaritan State Revisited weaves together a unique synthesis of governmental and non-governmental perspectives, providing a clear and readily accessible explanation of the forces that have shaped Canadian foreign aid policy.

This book is a free download from University of Calgary Press or can be purchased online.

Keith Spicer, A Samaritan State? External Aid in Canada’s Foreign Policy, original edition, 1966
Book contents

Introduction | David Webster and Greg Donaghy

Part 1: Entering the Aid World, 1950–1960 | Chapter 1. Encounter and Apprenticeship: The Colombo Plan and Canadian Aid in India, 1950–1960
Jill Campbell–Miller | Chapter 2. “Reasonably Well Organized”: A History of Early Aid Administration
Greg Donaghy | Chapter 3. Developing the World in Canada’s Image: Hugh Keenleyside and Technical Assistance
David Webster

Part 2: Development, Diplomacy, and Trade, 1953–1991 | Chapter 4. “A One Way Street”: The Limits of Canada’s Aid Relations with Pakistan, 1958–1972
Ryan Touhey | Chapter 5. One Size Fits All?: Canadian Development Assistance to Colombia, 1953–1972
Stefano Tijerina | Chapter 6. Samaritanos canadiensis?: Canadian Development Assistance in Latin America During the Trudeau Years
Asa McKercher | Chapter 7. “Trotsky in Pinstripes”: Lewis Peribam, CIDA, and the Non–Governmental Organizations Program, 1968–1991
Kevin Brushett

Part 3: Imagery and Symbolism | Chapter 8. Building a Base: The Growth of Public Engagement with Canadian Foreign Aid Policy, 1950–1980
Ted Cogan | Chapter 9. Pictures in Development: The Canadian International Development Agency’s Photo Library
Sonya de Laat | Chapter 10. “Tears are Not Enough”: Canadian Political and Social Mobilization for Famine Relief in Ethiopia, 1984–1988
Nassisse Solomon

Part 4: The Political Economy of Canadian Aid, 1980–2018 | Chapter 11. Canadian Development Assistance to Latin America
Laura Macdonald | Chapter 12. CIDA and Aid to Africa in the 1990s: A Crisis of Confidence
David Black | Chapter. 13. A Samaritan State?. Canadian Foreign Aid, and the Challenges of Policy Coherence for Development
Stephen Brown |

Concluding Reflections: Beyond Aid
Dominique Marshall

Has Canada been a generous development aid donor

The global target for development cooperation assistance was set by the Commission on International Development, chaired by Canada’s Lester B. Pearson, in 1969. The commission report, Partners in Development, recommended 0.7% of a country’s GNI for to aid. Canada peaked at 0.54% under Pierre Trudeau. It’s at half that under Justin Trudeau.

Aid compared to Gross National Income in charts

Canadian aid total as % of GNI since 1961

Aid % by prime minister, Trudeau to Trudeau

Canadian % aid (red) compared to USA (green), UK (blue), France black)

The Tonga kitchens project, 1983

A case study in Canadian aid history

Lessons from an aid project that centred women

Traditional societies in outlying islands use three types of structures — dwelling houses, cooking houses and bathing houses. While international agencies helped to rebuild homes, there was poor understanding of the need for cooking houses, known as peito (kitchen in English). Enter a new Canadian organization: the Pacific Peoples’ Partnership.

Read more…

“Through this program, nationalist concerns were articulated through a medicalized discourse, with the Iranian government using imagery of Iran as a sick mother in need of care…. Nursing was used as a pathway for imperialism and professionalism, as well as a pathway for women’s mobility in terms of financial, social, geographical, and professional avenues.”

Lydia WYtenbroek on American nursing assistance to Iran, 1907-79. Read More here.

“The presence of women in Indian healthcare systems had roots in an imperial system that promoted Western systems. It also, however, promoted the professional growth of Indian women in their role as educators and improved the medical system in India.”


Canada for Africa

New Directions for Examining Historical Relations | by Nassisse Solomon