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 Minister Mélanie Joly. Enhanced features and content in the present edition are the work of staff and contributors led by Managing Editor Davida Aronovitch, and Web and New Media Strategist Chantal Gagnon. 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

Andrew McIntosh

Associate Managing Editor and Arts & Culture Editor

Andrew oversees the workflow and performance of the editorial team and serves as the handling editor for all the arts and culture 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.

Alison Hendrick

Marketing and Outreach Officer

Alison is the Marketing and Outreach Officer. 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. 

Chantal Gagnon

Web & New Media Manager

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

Senior Subject Editor – History & Politics

Eli is senior subject editor, covering history and politics. 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.

Tabitha Marshall

Senior Subject Editor – Sports & Biographies

Tabitha Marshall has been the Sports and Biographies 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.

Nathan Baker

Subject Editor – Science, Industry and Geography

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.

Michelle Filice

Subject Editor – Indigenous Peoples

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.

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. 

Anthony Wilson-Smith

Publisher

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.

Maude-Emmanuelle Lambert

Senior Subject Editor - Communities

Maude-Emmanuelle is the Senior Subject Editor for Communities. She holds a PhD (University of Montreal, 2014) and an MA in Canadian History (University Laval, 2005). She is interested in social and cultural history, the history of women and gender, as well as the environmental history of Canada. Her most recent work has focused on how the growth of the personal automobile contributed to the creation of tourist regions in Quebec and Ontario (1920-1967). She is the author of numerous articles (including in Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française) and chapters in collective works. In 2011, she was the recipient of the Hilda Neatby Prize presented by the Canadian Historical Association for the best article in French on the history of women and gender. 

Davida Aronovitch

Managing Editor

Davida joined Historica Canada in 2010 to travel across the country collecting service stories with The Memory Project. She worked on Black History and the War of 1812 programming before undertaking the revitalization of both the Heritage Minutes and The Canadian Encyclopedia. Davida has a B.A. from McGill and an M.A. in Art History from the University of Toronto. She is an award-winning screenwriter. Her culture writing has appeared in publications including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Life, and the University of Toronto Art History Journal.