Canadian activist, author and publisher Mel Hurtig dead at 84

National Party Leader Mel Hurtig speaks during the Alberta launch of the National party in Calgary on Feb. 2, 1993. The Canadian Press/Dave Buston

Edmonton-born Mel Hurtig, a prominent Canadian author and political activist has died.

“Albertans’ thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of longtime Edmontonian Mel Hurtig,” Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman said.

“As a businessman, Mel brought books to a literature-hungry Edmonton. As a publisher, he nurtured our pride, knowledge and Canadian identity by bringing us the Canadian Encyclopedia. As a writer, he brought a unique perspective to issues that touch us all.”

On Thursday, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson tweeted how grateful he was to have had the chance to meet Hurtig last year.

The Canadian Encyclopedia, of which Hurtig was the original publisher, tweeted about his death Wednesday evening, and updated his biography.

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The Globe and Mail newspaper interviewed his daughter Leslie, who said Hurtig died of complications from pneumonia in a Vancouver hospital Wednesday, with his four daughters at his side.

Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of Canadians shared her thoughts on his passing.

“Mel Hurtig loved this country more than anyone I ever met. He founded the Council of Canadians along with many dedicated Canadians to fight for a better Canada and a better world. We mourn his passing.”

Barlow also tweeted confirmation of Hurtig’s death¬†Wednesday evening.

The report said he died of complications from pneumonia and his four daughters were at his side when he passed away.

Hurtig was best known as the publisher of The Canadian Encyclopedia.

He was also a co-founder of the Council of Canadians, a left-leaning activist group with a goal of protecting Canadian sovereignty.

In his 2002 book The Vanishing Country, Hurtig wrote the lines, “Let’s never, never, give in to those who are selling out Canada.”

According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, Hurtig opened his Hurtig Books store in Edmonton in 1956. The shop quickly became a hub for the literary community and eventually became one of the largest book retailers in the country.

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In 1972, Hurtig sold his stores and focused on his other business, Hurtig Publishers.

Hoffman said Hurtig’s legacy will continue through the work of the organizations that benefited from his leadership.

“Mel’s dedication and accomplishments were an inspiration to generations of Albertans and Canadians in education, business, politics and the arts. He was a dedicated advocate, a committed nationalist and a model of family and community values.”

The encyclopedia also said he was named Canadian Book Publisher of the Year in 1975 and 1981.

Hurtig published editions of The Canadian Encyclopedia in 1985 and 1988 as well as The Junior Encyclopedia of Canada in 1990.

He was awarded the Order of Canada and received an honorary degree from the University of Lethbridge. There is an annual lecture at the University of Alberta named after him.

He was 84 when he died.

-With files from The Canadian Press and the Canadian Encyclopedia

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