The Grenville Province and other parts of the Canadian Shield contain major (>100 km long) high-strain zones, also called shear belts or ductile shear zones, that are hosted by heterogeneously deformed gneisses and schists. In well-exposed segments of three nontabular zones whose dip angle is known locally, at the erosion level and (or) in the shallow subsurface, we investigate the tangential shear strain (better called the tangential unit shear or TUS) without assuming that mineral-shape lineations, common varieties of stretching lineations, are effectively parallel to the local TUS direction. Employing a graphic technique that copes with the geometric conditions of general triaxial strain, we approximate the actual direction and find the sense of local TUS in parts of (i) the Parry Sound shear zone, Grenville Province; (ii) the South Range shear zone, Southern Province; and (iii) the Uchi – English River subprovince boundary zone, Superior Province. Information thus obtained for individual high-strain zones in Ontario confirms the validity of published hypotheses: (i) 1020–970 Ma, normal-sense distributed shearing in the Grenvillian thrust stack; (ii) northwest-directed thrusting of Huronian rocks over Archean basement; and (iii) north-directed thrusting of English River metasediments and associated migmatites onto the Uchi granite–greenstone terrain, under peak metamorphic conditions.

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