The Canadian literary world is mourning the death of the man behind “The Canadian Encyclopedia.”
Mel Hurtig died yesterday at age 84 from pneumonia. He was surrounded by family in a Vancouver hospital. His eldest daughter Barbara Hurtig says he was “a good dad and a great Canadian” who wasn’t afraid to face people who disagreed with him.
Douglas Gibson, the former president and publisher with Toronto’s McClelland & Stewart, says the Encyclopedia of Canada “changed the country.”
— CanadianEncyclopedia (@CdnEncyclopedia) August 4, 2016
In addition to publishing the encyclopedia, Hurtig co-founded the Council of Canadians with Maude Barlow, Pierre Burton and others. The group was dedicated to preserving Canadian sovereignty.
He also led the National Party of Canada which formed in 1992 to battle foreign ownership of Canadian business and industry. He stepped down after the party failed to win any seats despite running 170 candidates in the 1993 federal election. That was not his first foray into politics; he ran for the Liberals in 1972 but failed to win. A year later he broke with the party over foreign ownership and formed the Committee for an Independent Canada.
Barbara Hurtig says her father maintained an interest in politics right to the end. When he heard yesterday about the inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, he said, “Bravo, it’s about time.”
Hurtig was an Officer of the Order of Canada, held honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from six Canadian universities and was a recipient of the Lester B. Pearson “Man of the Year Peace Award.”