UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES Mel Hurtig Fonds
This guide was prepared with the assistance of a grant from the Canadian Council of Archives, Control of Holdings program. The University Archives gratefully acknowledges the assistance of this grant. Without it, these important records could not have been made accessible to researchers and the public.
II. Committee for an Independent Canada (CIC) Records 56
i. Correspondence Files 56
ii. CIC Operations 59
iii. National and Executive Board Meetings 60
iv. Communications 62
v. Committee/CIC Project Activity 62
vi. Local Chapters 63
vii. Issues 64
III. Council of Canadians (COC) files 77
i. Organization Files 77
ii. Board Correspondence and Documents 77
iii. COC Correspondence 78
iv. Communications/Promotion 85
v. Membership 86
vi. Chapters 87
vii. Financial 88
viii. Policy/Issues Related 88
IV. Mel Hurtig and Politics 110
i. Liberals – 1972 Election 110
ii. The National Party of Canada (NPC) 110
V. Mel Hurtig as Author 122
i. The Betrayal of Canada 122
ii. A New and Better Canada – See records in Series IV, National Party of Canada files 123
iii At Twilight in the Country; Memoirs of a Canadian Nationalist 123
iv. Pay the Rent or Feed the Kids 136
v. The Vanishing Country: Is It Too Late to Save Canada? 136
vi. Rushing to Armageddon: The Shocking Truth About Canada, Missile Defence, and Star Wars 138
VI. Mel Hurtig’s Personal Papers 142
i. Property 142
ii. Awards 142
iii. Family 142
iv. Medical/Insurance 143
v. Personal Calendar/Speaking Engagements/Miscellaneous 143
vi. Personal Correspondence 143
vii. Personal Clipping Files 148
viii. Papers about Mel Hurtig 150
ix. Books: Canadiana 150
x. Photographs 151
xi. Artwork 156
xii. Ephemera 156
VII. Sound Records 158
i. Video Recordings – Date Order 158
ii. Compact Discs 164
iii. Audio Tapes 165
Mel Hurtig Fonds
The University of Alberta Archives was established in 1968 at the recommendation of the President’s Standing Committee on Archives and Documents. Its primary mandate is to acquire, maintain, and preserve the records of the University, in any medium, which contain continuing administrative, legal, and historical value. The Archives constitutes the official “memory” of the University and represents the accumulated experience of our educational community. In addition to these official records, the University Archives also contain the private papers of the University staff whose subjects of research and teaching encompass the world.
Mel Hurtig Fonds
The Mel Hurtig fonds consist of records created and collected by Mel Hurtig, and donated to the University of Alberta Archives. They document his varied and extensive professional and personal interests, and form a valuable addition to the holdings of the University’s archives.
SOURCE: The Mel Hurtig records were received as eight separate donations to the Archives; the most recent donation received in 2004. They have been brought together in a comprehensive finding-aid. Mr. Hurtig donated his records personally, interested in having his papers remain in Alberta and housed in the same facility as the records of his major publishing projects: The Canadian Encyclopedia and The Junior Canadian Encyclopedia. The fondsremain open, with future donations anticipated.
ARRANGEMENT NOTE: The Hurtig records are arranged in seven series and titled: Hurtig Business records, Committee for an Independent Canada records, Council of Canadians’ Records, Mel Hurtig and Politics records, Mel Hurtig as Author records, Personal records; and a final series of Audio-Visual records that encompasses aspects of all of the previous series.
The records are in good physical shape.
RELATED ACCESSIONS: Records of Hurtig Publishers’ The Canadian Encyclopedia and The Junior Canadian Encyclopedia are housed in the University of Alberta Archives and described separately from the Mel Hurtig records listed in this finding-aid. Researchers should also consult the card catalog for references to Mel Hurtig in other accessions.
ACCESS: The Mel Hurtig records are open for research.
EXTENT: 212 m of textual records, 335 photographs, 161 audio-visual items, 21 posters/artwork and ephemera
DATE RANGE: 1930-2004
Mel Hurtig was born in Edmonton on June 24, 1932 to parents of East European descent. He attended schools in Edmonton, but began his career at an early age, working in retail for a family business, A. & M. Hurtig Furs in Winnipeg. Returning to Edmonton in 1956, he founded a bookstore, Hurtig’s Books, in a small downtown shop. Within five years, Hurtig expanded his shop and introduced innovative ideas such as staging plays in the book store, hosting poetry and book readings and setting up areas in the shop for patrons to play chess, drink coffee and socialize. His business grew into one of the largest retail book operations in Canada, with three stores operating in Edmonton and total sales rising to just under $700, 000 a year.
Hurtig sold his book operations in 1972, and established Hurtig Publishers, with a plan to publish Canadian titles. The publishing company published many books, including such titles as: The Unjust Society, An Idiot Joy, and Alberta: A Natural History. Mel Hurtig was twice named Canadian Book Publisher of the Year. In 1980, Hurtig launched the largest and most ambitious project of his publishing career with a plan to publish a comprehensive Canadian Encyclopedia. The Canadian Encyclopedia was published in 1985, a revised and expanded second edition published in 1988, and The Junior Encyclopedia of Canada published in 1990. Mel Hurtig sold his publishing company to McClelland and Stewart in May of 1991; many of his titles remain in print and The Canadian Encyclopedia is available as a CD-ROM, as an online version on the Internet, and a special one-volume Encyclopedia was published to mark the millennium in 2000.
Alongside his career in book selling and publishing, Mel Hurtig was and remains a passionate nationalist and activist. His early political activities included leading a small Alberta group in supporting the 1967 candidacy of Pierre Trudeau for the Liberal leadership. He ran unsuccessfully for Parliament for the Liberals in 1972, but left the party in 1973. With a group of like-minded nationalists, including Walter Gordon, Jack McClelland, and Claude Ryan, Hurtig attended the founding of the Committee for an Independent Canada (CIC), and acted as its chair in 1973-74. The CIC founders were concerned about the high degree of foreign ownership in Canada and its persuasive influence on the lives of Canadians in the domains of politics, economics and culture. The CIC went on to raise a petition of over 170,000 names against foreign economic and cultural domination of Canada, and remained active until 1980. In 1985, Mel Hurtig founded a new national organization: The Council of Canadians (COC). Its focus was to raise public awareness and lobby against the “free trade” initiative in order to preserve and reinforce Canadian sovereignty. The COC, still in existence, develops policies, lobbies government, and strives to create public awareness around issues of Canadian nationalism and sovereignty.
Mel Hurtig announced his resignation from the Council of Canadians at its 1992 Annual General Meeting and his intention to launch a new political party: “The National Party of Canada”. He was elected leader of the party in November 1992, and the party’s policy book: A New and Better Canada was published in December 1992. The party grew quickly and managed to field 171 candidates in ridings across the country in the 1993 federal election. Less than a year later, the party was dissolved by its council amid allegations of financial mismanagement and other internal problems.
After leaving publishing, Hurtig became an author with the publishing of Betrayal of Canada (1991), a passionate appeal for Canada’s survival, and then a memoir, At Twilight in the Country: Memoirs of a Canadian Nationalist (1996). His three latest books include Pay the Rent or Feed the Kids (2000), The Vanishing Country: Is It Too Late to Save Canada? (2002), and the recent Rushing to Armageddon (2004). The high profile Mel Hurtig enjoys with his many involvements, professional career, and writing ensures his demand for public speaking engagements across the country. He has actively volunteered on numerous boards and committees, and his commitments and passions have been recognized with the bestowing of many awards and honorary degrees. Mel Hurtig is an Officer of the Order of Canada and received the Lester B. Pearson Man of the Year Peace Award (1988). Recently, he was named an ‘Edmontonian of the Century’, honoring individuals who contributed significantly to Edmonton’s growth in the past 100 years.
Mel Hurtig has four grown daughters, and he resides in Edmonton with his wife Kay.