About | The Canadian Encyclopedia

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 3 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.

If culture is in fact the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, The Canadian Encyclopedia will strive to be the most comprehensive collection of Canadian stories online.

Today, the number of articles in the Encyclopedia — more than 25,000 — is nearly three times the original total and growing (about 80 articles are revised or created every month). The list of more than 5,000 contributors includes David SuzukiMargaret 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 14.5 million visitors annually for over 34 million pageviews. The Encyclopedia contains more than 61,000 multimedia items including images, maps, games, audio and video. Multimedia is augmented through acquisition and partnerships with Maclean’s magazine and The Canadian Press. Interactive features include curated content collections, interactive timelines and immediate updates of important events. The site also offers a 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. Enhanced features and content in the present edition are the work of staff and contributors led by Director of Branding & Digital Media Chantal Gagnon and Managing Editor Erin James-Abra. 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.

Chantal Gagnon

Director of Branding & Digital Media

Chantal has been with the organization since 2007, when she began 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, as well as a master’s degree in journalism new media.

Erin James-Abra

Managing Editor

Erin is managing editor of The Canadian Encyclopedia. She joined the publication in 2013 and served as a subject editor for 10 years prior to assuming her current role. During that time she handled several portfolios, namely science, industry, nature and geography. Erin holds an honours BA from the University of Toronto in English and political science, and a Master of Journalism from Toronto Metropolitan University.

Andrew McIntosh

Senior Subject Editor - Law & Politics, Arts & Culture

Andrew serves as the handling editor for all law, politics, arts and culture entries in The Canadian Encyclopedia. He studied Canadian history at the University of British Columbia 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. Andrew 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.

Clayton Ma

Bilingual Subject Editor - Communities

Clayton is the communities subject editor at The Canadian Encyclopedia. He has a MA in political science from Concordia University where he researched visible minorities’ political behaviour in Canada. He also holds a BA from McGill University in history and political science where he studied a wide range of topics ranging from Canadian voting behaviour to Soviet history. His research interests include topics in military history, immigration and diversity, and Canadian politics.

Harrison Panabaker

Manager of Web & Digital Media

Harrison joined The Canadian Encyclopedia team in 2016 working on all things web. He has a BA 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. 

Jessica Patterson

Marketing & Communications Officer

Jess joined The Canadian Encyclopedia’s marketing and communications team in 2021 after several years working in the non-profit and education fields. She has a Bachelor of Education in social sciences from McGill University, as well as graduate certificates in applied marketing from McGill University and in communications from Concordia University. A former history teacher and curriculum specialist, Jess is especially interested in untold stories.

Jessica Poulin

Bilingual Subject Editor - Science & Industry

Jessica is a bilingual subject editor for The Canadian Encyclopedia overseeing the science and industry portfolios. She completed a BA in anthropology at McGill University with first class honours. Jessica holds a certificate in Canadian Irish studies from Concordia University as well as a MA from the university’s Individualized Program. She obtained a post-graduate certificate in museum management and curatorship from Fleming College.

Joseph Dipple

Subject Editor - Indigenous Peoples

Joseph is a subject editor for content related to Indigenous Peoples. He holds a BA from Gustavus Adolphus College in biology and psychological sciences and a MA and PhD in Indigenous studies from the University of Manitoba. During graduate school, Joseph focused his research on the impacts of hydroelectric power production on Indigenous communities in northern Manitoba.

Lia Le Brun Robles Gil

Subject Editor - Nature & Geography

Lia is a subject editor covering the nature and geography portfolios for The Canadian Encyclopedia. She holds an honours Bachelor of Science in biology and journalism as well as a graduate certificate in knowledge mobilization and science communication, both from Bishop’s University. Lia is also working towards a Master of Science in biology from the University of Saskatchewan. Her graduate studies focused on wildlife ecology and forest pathology, while her research interests include conservation, paleontology and epidemiology. 

Sean Howard

Web Officer

Sean joined The Canadian Encyclopedia in 2022 and works on everything web and code related. He has a Bachelor of Engineering in software engineering from Concordia University. He has an interest in multiple historical topics, including technology, aviation and military history.

Tabitha de Bruin

Subject Editor – History

Tabitha 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.