Canada ranks as one of the world's top ten dam-builders, with the majority of dams in the province of Québec. Rampant dam building since the 1940s has led to environmental destruction, the resettlement of thousands of aboriginal ("First Nation") communities and the devastation of their traditional fishing and hunting grounds.

Some of these early large-scale dams and diversion projects include Alcan's Kemano diversion in central BC to power its Kitimat aluminum smelter, the Columbia River Treaty and Peace River power projects (BC); the multipurpose Gardiner Dam (Saskatchewan); and the first Nelson River hydro projects (Manitoba).

Number of Large Dams in Canada
Number of Large Dams in Canada
Canadian Dam Association's register of dams (2003)

While shifting priorities and increasing public concern over the impacts of large water infrastructure projects have decreased their popularity, several large projects continue to threaten the heart of Canada's wilderness, including the Romaine River in Québec. Large dam projects also continue to jeopardize the livelihoods of First Nation communities. Past negotiations between affected people and dam developers focused on compensation packages rather than on whether these communities wanted the projects built in the first place.

More recently, a new type of agreement has been developed whereby resettled First Nation communities are also project beneficiaries. However, whether these agreements represent a genuine paradigm shift in the way dams are developed in Canada or just another way for developers to gain access to the First Nations' resources remains to be seen.