Canada’s Most Important Biographical Reference gets its Proper Due at Governor General’s History Awards

November 19, 2012

If you were to gather a compilation of every Canadian who played a pivotal role in shaping the history and heritage of this country it would probably take you five hundred years to complete.  Fortunately you don’t have to because it already exists with the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.  Founded in 1959 as a joint venture between the University of Toronto and Université Laval, this fully bilingual historical reference features close to 8,500 alphabetized biographies from Aatsista-Mahkan (the 19th century Blackfoot chief) to Sebastian Zouberbuhler (an early magistrate of Lunenburg). 

For their stories about Canadians who have significantly contributed to the shaping of our history, Canada’s History Society is awarding this year’s Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media: The Pierre Berton Awardto John English from Toronto and Réal Bélanger from Québec City.  The most definitive reference in Canadian biographies, the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, spans 15 volumes, covering Canadians who died prior to 1931.  The 16th volume will showcase significant Canadians from 1931 to 1940.  Each volume covers ten years and takes almost seven years to produce. 

Among the most notable figures featured in the DCM are Canada’s prime ministers from Macdonald to Trudeau.  However, there are plenty of not-so-famous Canadians including Richard Pierpoint, a West African taken as a British slave who fought as a free Loyalist in the American Revolution.  Pierpoint recruited an army of black soldiers who fought in the War of 1812.  After the war, Pierpoint settled near Fergus, Ontario.

“The DCB’s rigorous research standards make it the most authoritative source for Canadian history in the country,” noted Deborah Morrison, President & CEO of Canada’s History Society.  “Notwithstanding this, what we found most commendable has been their continuous efforts to make the resource more accessible by making it available online for free and working in partnership with others to create smaller collections of biographies such as their recent books on Prime Ministers and Canadian Entrepreneurs.”

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography currently receives over 1 million visitors per year at its website

English and Bélanger will receive their prestigious award from His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada on Monday, December 10th in Ottawa at 10:30 a.m. at Rideau Hall. 

The Governor General’s History Awards brings together historians, students, teachers, museums and community organizations, writers and media producers to celebrate as well as learn from each other.  The day prior to the award ceremonies, recipients will participate in a public history forum at the Canadian War Museum.  This year’s forum, “How Should the Great War Be Remembered?” is open to the public to attend onsite or online by registering at

About Canada’s History Society

Canada’s History Society is a national charitable organization devoted to popularizing Canadian history.  In addition to presenting the Governor General’s History Awards, the Society also publishes Canada’s History (formerly The Beaver) magazine, and Kayak: Canada’s History Magazine for Kids, as well as produces a number of educational and online programs to encourage more discovery, celebration, and understanding about our rich history and culture.  More details can be found at

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Nicole Harris

Maverick Media Solutions

Mobile: (204) 470-4555


Deborah Morrison

Canada’s History Society

Office: (204) 988-9300 ext. 222


Posted by: Canada's National History Society- Winnipeg on December 4, 2012.
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