The Canadian Encyclopedia

The story of the Canadian Encyclopedia

This version of The Canadian Encyclopedia, released in enhanced digital interactive form in October 2013, represents the latest incarnation of a project with a unique history. Since the first edition arrived in 1985, Canadians have held a claim few others can make: we have our own national encyclopedia. The idea of covering all branches of knowledge or aspects of a subject in one body of work dates back to 1728 in England. However, a bilingual national edition produced by, for and about the people of a single country, charting its events, culture, history and landscape, remains rare.

The Canadian Encyclopedia plays an essential role in providing Canadians and others with accurate, updated information about our people and country. This has been the case even as the Encyclopedia has made the transition from print to CD-ROM, to its present online format. The first edition, led by Publisher Mel Hurtig and Editor-in-Chief James Marsh, was accurately described by Hurtig as “the biggest publishing project in Canadian history.” It carried close to three million words in three separate volumes, featured more than 2,500 contributors and included more than 9,000 articles. It was an immediate, impressive success: the already-ambitious original print run of 154,000 copies had to be increased to 463,500 copies to meet demand. A second edition in 1988 included 500,000 new words; two years later, a five-volume Junior Encyclopedia was published. In 1991, Toronto-based publisher McClelland & Stewart acquired the Encyclopedia and eight years later, Avie Bennett, the M&S chair and prominent philanthropist, transferred ownership to the Historica Foundation, of which he was also chair. (The Foundation was one of the forerunners of the current organization operating the Encyclopedia, now known as Historica Canada.) In 2003, the Encyclopedia incorporated the content of the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, which included some 3,000 articles and 500 illustrations.

Today, the number of articles in the Encyclopedia – more than 19,500 bilingual – is roughly four times the original total and growing (about 60 articles are revised or created every month). The list of more than 5,000 contributors includes David Suzuki, Margaret Atwood, Piers Handling, Daniel Latouche, the late Pierre Berton and Marc Laurendeau.

The move to digital, made in 2001, means the Encyclopedia is available free to anyone with Internet access; it now receives more than eleven million unique visitors annually for 25 million page views. The Encyclopedia contains more than 30,000 multimedia items including images, maps, games, audio and video. Multimedia is augmented through acquisition and partnerships with Maclean’s magazine and The Canadian Press. The new interactive features include curated content exhibits, interactive timelines, immediate updates of important events and a user-generated content map that invites Canadians to share their stories. The site also offers a new learning centre for teachers and parents that contains classroom resources, quizzes and themed study guides.

The Encyclopedia belongs, in a sense, to all Canadians. Nevertheless, its enduring success is particularly due to several people and institutions, including: its publisher, Mel Hurtig; the generosity and commitment of Avie Bennett; the editorial leadership of James Marsh until his March 2013 retirement (he is now editor emeritus); the Alberta government of Peter Lougheed, which provided financial backing for the first edition; and the present support of the federal Canadian Heritage department, now led by the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez. Enhanced features and content in the present edition are the work of staff and contributors led by Editor in Chief Bronwyn Graves, Director of Branding & Digital Media Chantal Gagnon, and Managing Editor Eli Yarhi. We welcome your thoughts, ideas and contributions.

Anthony Wilson-Smith, Publisher

Call to Contributors

We are seeking authors and researchers on the leading edge of their fields to present the Canadian stories, people and ideas that matter most.

Answer our call

Meet Our Team

Anthony Wilson-Smith


Anthony joined the organization in 2012 after a long career in journalism followed by senior executive positions at a Crown Corporation and one of Canada’s largest financial institutions. As a journalist, he served as author, columnist, foreign correspondent, Editor of a national news publication and frequent public speaker. As a political and social commentator, he has appeared on many national and international radio and television networks and continues to do so. A Montreal native, Anthony has worked in more than 35 countries abroad as well as all of Canada’s provinces and territories, and has previous experience in the not-for-profit sector as a volunteer with several national organizations. As President and Chief Executive Officer of Historica Canada, he leads the organization, oversees all operations and, in collaboration with the Board, provides strategic vision.

Bronwyn Graves

Editor in Chief

Since joining Historica Canada in 2011, Bronwyn has worked on numerous projects including Indigenous Arts and StoriesThe War of 1812My Parks Pass, Sir John A Day, Diamond Jubilee, and the Heritage Minute learning tools. Currently the Director of Programs & Education  at Historica Canada, Bronwyn draws on her experiences as a history teacher while working with the National Office programs to create learning tools that will challenge students to think critically about Canada’s history. Bronwyn holds an Honours B.A. from the University of Toronto, a Master’s Degree in Medieval and Modern Languages from Oxford, and a Bachelor’s in Education from OISE/University of Toronto. In her spare time, Bronwyn loves to get lost in a good book and/or get lost in the woods. 

Chantal Gagnon

Director of Branding & Digital Media

Chantal has been with the organization since 2007, when she joined in a role overseeing external communications. Shortly after, she took on web management and new media strategies, and has since added oversight of related aspects of The Canadian Encyclopedia to her responsibilities. She has an Honours degree in Canadian Studies from The University of Toronto, and followed that with a Master’s degree in Journalism New Media. Chantal describes herself as a voracious reader, and is a curiosity-driven web browser who is fascinated by the possibilities of technology and new media. Among her favourite works of CanCon are Yann Martel’s The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios; The Pilgrim, by Timothy Findley; and anything (fiction and non) by the incomparable <Will Ferguson.

Eli Yarhi

Managing Editor

Eli is the managing editor, he first joined The Canadian Encyclopedia as editorial assistant in 2013. Since then, he has worked as special projects editor, covering milestones in Canadian history, and as industry and law editor. He has covered Canadian subjects from eh to zed, but remains committed to finding stories about Canadian people, places and things.

Alison Hendrick

Marketing and Outreach Coordinator

Alison is the Marketing and Outreach Coordinator. She has a B.A. from the University of Guelph and an M.A. in Education in Arts and Cultural Settings from King’s College London. She is passionate about cultural history, education and community building. Before joining The Canadian Encyclopedia, Alison taught in South Korea, managed public exhibitions in the UK and facilitated art workshops for Canadian newcomers. When she’s not sharing fun facts about Canada on social media, Alison’s exploring the outdoors or enjoying the cultural offerings of Toronto. 

Andrew McIntosh

Senior Subject Editor - History, Arts & Culture

Andrew  serves as the handling editor for all arts, culture and history entries in The Canadian Encyclopedia. He studied Canadian History at UBC and holds a master’s degree in Film and Media Studies from the University of North Texas. He worked as a writer, editor and programming consultant at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where he also oversaw the Canadian Film Encyclopedia. He was also a programmer for the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival and the CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival. He has written extensively for Montage and POV magazines and worked as a researcher and story producer for several documentary series broadcast on History Television, TSN and CBC.

Celine Cooper

Subject Editor - Communities

Celine Cooper is the subject editor for communities. A former columnist with the Montreal Gazette, she has worked at the crossroads of scholarship, public policy and journalism for over fifteen years. Her writing can be found in a range of publications including Open Canada, Policy Options, Next City and The World Today, and she has appeared frequently as a bilingual political analyst on television and radio public affairs programs in Quebec. Celine is chairperson of the board of directors for the Association for Canadian Studies and a governing board member for the Fraser-Hickson Library. She holds degrees from Queen’s University and York University, and moonlights as an instructor at Concordia University’s School of Community and Public Affairs. Her research interests include cities, Canadian politics, official languages, multiculturalism, immigration and Canada/Quebec relations.

Dana Amarascu

Editorial Coordinator

Dana has a B.A. in French-to-English translation and a M.A. in Translation Studies from Glendon College. She has been translating texts for the not-for-profit sector since 2013. Fluent in English, French and Romanian, she can also easily follow an upbeat conversation in Italian. Dana is interested in exploring topics related to knowledge transfer across cultures and societies, multiculturalism, and displacement and identity. In 2016, Dana participated in Glendon College’s exhibition on the narratives surrounding objects in exile that took place at the Graduate Student Conference in Translation Studies. Outside work, Dana has various interests, including tennis, poetry and photography.

David Gallant

Subject Editor – Indigenous Peoples

David holds a PhD in Canadian history from the University of Calgary, with a BA and MA in history from Carleton University. Prior to joining The Canadian Encyclopedia, David worked as a historian in Parks Canada’s Indigenous Affairs and Cultural Heritage Directorate (History and Archaeology branch, Calgary office). David also teaches part-time at the University of Calgary (Department of History) and Bow Valley College (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada program). From 2001 to 2009, David taught English, political science, and history at Pusan National University in South Korea. In his spare time, David loves reading history, watching sci-fi movies with his kids, taking long walks with his wife, and all things hockey (Montreal Canadiens fan since birth).

Erin James-Abra

Subject Editor - Nature & Geography

Erin James-Abra is the nature and geography subject editor at The Canadian Encyclopedia. Prior to joining TCE, she worked as a researcher for Dr. Brian Goldman, host of CBC Radio's White Coat, Black Art. Erin holds an honours BA from the University of Toronto and a Master of Journalism from Ryerson University. Her favourite Canadian novelist is Douglas Coupland. She appreciates his wit, humour and ability to synthesize modern culture.

Harrison Panabaker

Web Coordinator

Harrison joined The Canadian Encyclopedia team in 2016 working on all things web. He has a B.A. from Western University where he studied history, communications and digital humanities. He is interested in social and cultural history and using new technologies to make the study of history as accessible and engaging as possible. 

Michelle Filice

Subject Editor – Indigenous Peoples (on leave)

Michelle holds a PhD in Canadian history from Wilfrid Laurier University and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies. Prior to joining The Canadian Encyclopedia, Michelle was a lecturer at Wilfrid Laurier University and program coordinator of The Memory Project Archive. Her research interests include the history of medicine, war and society and Indigenous studies.

Nathan Baker

Subject Editor – Science and Industry

Nathan has worked for The Canadian Encyclopedia since 2015, first as editorial coordinator and later as an editor. His background in the publishing and non-profit sectors includes work as a translator, proofreader, membership coordinator and small-press intern. He studied English literature at McGill University and French-to-English translation at Glendon College. Several of his poems and translations have appeared in CV2, Eighteen Bridges and PRISM international.

Tabitha Marshall

Subject Editor – Politics & Law

Tabitha Marshall has been an Editor at The Canadian Encyclopedia since 2013. She has a PhD in History from McMaster University, where she focused on the relationship between war and health in the 18th century. Her research interests include military history, the history of medicine and science, and the history of sport.