Canadian Who's Who:
1997 Volume XXXII (with CD-ROM)

1360 pages,
ISBN: 0802049966

Post Your Opinion
Well, Who is Who, Anyway?
by John Pepall

There is nothing nosy about wanting to know who people are. It is natural and proper to want to know where people come from, what they do, what family they have, even how old they are. For years I have kept an old copy of Canadian Who's Who handy and made regular use of it to fill in the background of people I have read about or run into or just heard mentioned but could not place. People are now often introduced as "Sue" or "Joe" without even a surname to hang on to. These earnestly casual manners implicitly presuppose that our mere humanity is all we need to know-treating our names like pets' names, simply something to answer to. But we are constituted by every fact about us. If we can know some basic facts about each other, we can have a more genuine regard for each other than the abstract respect enjoined by modern correctness.
Nor is there anything vain about making some basic facts about oneself publicly available. It is a courtesy to save people the trouble of piecing them together over time, and also to be open and direct. Perhaps in time most of us will have Web pages on the Internet. For now, a telephone book listing is the extent of published information available about most people. To get any more detail into a volume even the size of a big-city phone book, there must, of course, be some selection. It is the job of a Who's Who to collect the basic facts about those people who, because of their doings, we are likely to hear of and want to know something about. The Canadian Who's Who does that job for Canada and does it pretty well. It is the only biographical reference book in Canada that is not restricted to some profession or calling-and the only one that does not charge for a listing or expect the people it includes to buy a copy. Its limitations perhaps say more about Canadians than any failure of effort or judgement on part the editors or staff, who undertake this massive task every year. Now that it is available on CD-ROM, it is more useful than ever. Every library and most offices should have one. Individuals should save up and buy one every few years. They never lose their interest and your grandchildren will be grateful for this inheritance.
The obvious test of any biographical reference work is who's in and who's out. With more than 15,000 entries, up from 12,000 only six years ago, there should be room for anyone one might hear of. Since the University of Toronto Press bought this enterprise in 1978, a conscious effort has been made to get beyond the politicians and businessmen who in the past made up the largest portion of the entries, and to include artists, writers, scientists, and sports figures. Despite the editors' best efforts, a list of the prominent Canadians who are not in would be a long one. Not surprisingly, politicians are still well-represented. The federal cabinet and party leaders, the premiers, are all there. But, as if to confirm Trudeau's rudeness, most members of Parliament remain nobodies-though more than eighty senators are in. Andrew Thompson is there, though not in Ottawa. He does not list his Mexican home. Perhaps Svend Robinson is the best-known missing M.P. The Ontario opposition leader, Dalton McGuinty, and his NDP equivalent, Howard Hampton, are missing, though McGuinty's predecessor Lyn McLeod, who always had a recognition problem, is in.
In the media, Pamela Wallin, Wendy Mesley, and Lloyd Robertson are in, but Peter Mansbridge is not. In painting, Alex Colville and Paterson Ewen are in, but Attila Richard Lukacs and John Meredith are not. In music, the composers-Murray Schafer, Harry Somers, and the rest-are well-represented, but the tenor Ben Heppner is absent, as is Nicholas Goldschmidt, conductor, impresario, and Companion of the Order of Canada. The lawyer John McKellar is in but his son Don, actor, director, and scriptwriter, is not.
If distinguished and prominent Canadians are missing, it is not for want of trying by the editors, who are almost completely dependent on people responding to their inquiries for entries. More than five thousand invitations to submit information for new entries produced only about 1,700 new entries for this edition. They have tried to get a response from some people for years without success. Some people may just be too lazy to reply, or think that there is some catch, that they will have to pay to get in, at least for a copy of the book, as they would have to for many apparently similar books. Some may think it is pretentious to be in Who's Who; but if you are a celebrity anyway, such modesty must be false. Some people may be concerned about their privacy. For people who have already been the subject of media profiles, such concern would be equally false. The information provided is in no way compromising and is under the control of the subject.
The entries follow a standard form: name with any title and degrees; occupation (such as "author", "lawyer", or "politician"); place and date of birth; parents; education; family; present position; career; memberships; politics; religion; recreations; and address. Again, the Canadian Who's Who is entirely dependent on its subjects for how this form is filled-and for how much of it. The results can be disappointing. Barbara Amiel, of course, omits her date of birth. Alan Fotheringham omits his parents. So does Art Eggleton, who seems to have done nothing before being elected to Toronto's City Council at the age of twenty-six. One expects to learn in a Who's Who where people went to school or university; in the case of a politician, one wants to know what his taking-off point was. Eggleton also omits his occupation. (Wasn't he an accountant?) His cabinet colleague Pierre Pettigrew changed his occupation from "politician" to "statesman" for the 1997 edition; that got him pilloried in Frank. Catherine Callaghan simply says she is Senior Editor at Chatelaine and gives her office address. As anyone who might look her up would know that much, there is no point to the entry. The editors must have been so grateful for any response that their judgement was clouded.
Where people live can say a lot about them, but many people just give office addresses. Some, like the actor Donald Sutherland, just give an agent's address. Mordecai Richler and his son Daniel both give "c/o McClelland & Stewart". Gordie Howe gives no address at all. Some people have altogether too much to say about themselves. Because of her trip in space, Roberta Bondar has received twenty-two honorary degrees in Canada, many other awards, and a whole column of special lectureships, fellowships, and committee and patron appointments. This entry badly needs editing. The length of entries seems to have been left to the subjects and is no measure of their celebrity or achievement. Jean Chrétien says enough in three inches. Brian Mulroney modestly takes two. Trudeau takes six. The sculptor Elizabeth Holbrook goes over twenty inches describing all her works. If Canadian Who's Who hopes to bring in the large number of notable Canadians who are missing, while keeping the volume to a manageable size in readable print, the editors will have to set some limit on length, and do some abridging.
Apart from the few, like Catherine Callaghan and James Conacher (Gordon Capital's vice-chairman), who are not prepared to say anything about themselves, there seems no reason to drop anyone. The more the merrier. Judith Anderson is a lawyer in Vancouver but nothing in her entry indicates why she should be in when perhaps two thousand other lawyers in Vancouver are not. The effort to include artists has relied too much on membership in the Royal Canadian Academy, which sadly is no longer the assurance of standing in the visual arts that it once was. But the book is most useful in its coverage of the more obscurely accomplished. The famous we may know well enough already or have other sources for. Several who are missing here are in The Canadian Encyclopedia: Heppner, Goldschmidt, and Svend Robinson.
The book is about who is who: entries are supposed to be dropped when the subject dies. But Val Clery, Books in Canada's founder, is still in, though he died in the fall of 1996-yet this edition is sufficiently up-to-date to reflect at least partly the results of the June 1997 federal election. Conversely, The Idler magazine's founder David Warren, who is still alive, well, and busy at the Ottawa Citizen, disappeared when The Idler died in 1993. Generally, people are in for life, though many stop responding when they retire.
A selection of foreign diplomats posted to Ottawa is included and there are several expatriate stars: Joni Mitchell and Neil Young; Christopher Plummer and Donald Sutherland. Oddly, the Body Shop's founder and CEO, Anita Roddick, is in, apparently on the strength of her 118 shops in Canada and an honorary degree from Victoria University.
The editors must take on faith most of the information they get-and hope that the embarrassment of published fibs will keep their subjects honest. They should, however, be strict about titles. David Berger, our ambassador to Israel, styles himself "His Excellency". By diplomatic formalities, he is His Excellency in Tel Aviv; in this country he is plain Mr. Berger. Not a career diplomat but for fifteen years a Liberal member of Parliament, Berger may not know that. Who's Who should. As should our man in Quito, David Adam, and our man in Brussels, Jean-Paul Hubert, both career diplomats. The couple of dozen other Canadian ambassadors abroad, including Raymond Chrétien, do not make the same mistake.
A sillier instance is John Marvin Mitchell. His 1991 entry describes a plausible career in financial services. As of 1996 he had added a series of publications on motivation and negotiation and several odd distinctions, including listings in dubious biographical reference books such as International Men of Achievement and International Who's Who of Intellectuals and Most Admired Man of the Decade, American Biographical Institute, and One in a Million, International Biographical Centre. In 1997 he adds "Mem., Order of the Holy Grail-Knight" and, on the strength of that (presumably), titles himself "His Excellency The Hon." One hopes that most of this is tongue-in-cheek, but it is weak humour and the editors should not indulge it.
With the decay of political allegiance in recent decades, few people now list their politics. Most who do are Liberals. Even most politicians do not bother to say what they are; perhaps they believe, or know, that we know. (Bob Rae does tell us he is NDP.) Many Conservatives who state their politics say just that: Conservative, without the official Progressive qualifier. It is a conservative thing to have a conscious long-term political allegiance.
Perhaps fifteen percent of the entries list a religion. Anglicans, oddly, seem to be the most numerous. Most who do not list a religion must still have some sort of religious affiliation. Maybe religion is no longer seen as saying much about who we are, or is held to be a private matter that the public need not know about.
There is no French edition of Who's Who, but 195 entries are written in French. Parizeau's entry is in French, Bouchard's in English. French Canadians are under-represented in relation to their proportion of the population, but those 195 entries are a small fraction of the entries for French Canadians.
Sport often brings fleeting fame. The inclusion of practically the whole synchronized swimming team from the 1996 Olympics brings in Valérie Hould-Marchand, who, turning eighteen on May 29th, is the youngest person in the book. Casting the net so broadly could bring in hundreds of amateur athletes destined for lives of obscurity after their moment of glory. Donovan Bailey will belong in, even if he never accomplishes anything again, but amateurs had better wait until they establish a career, like Steve Podborski, a skier turned sports commentator. Generally, professional players are under-represented. The superstars of hockey are in: Beliveau, Gretzky, Howe, Hull, Lafleur, Orr. Yet the heroes of 1972, Paul Henderson and Ken Dryden, are not. Alan Eagleson is perhaps the only convicted criminal in the book.
CD-ROM is an ideal medium for works of reference. Canadian Who's Who has wisely not added any mixed-media bells and whistles to its CD-ROM. It gives us just the text. The added value comes from search, copy, print, and bookmark functions. You can find people by surname or given name, occupation, position, or title, birthday, birth year, or birthplace, creative works, recreations, clubs, address by city, region, or postal code, or do a full text search for any words you like. Unfortunately there is no search field for education. If you want to find people who went to Trent University, you have to search the words Trent and University. This calls up anyone who ever taught or received an honorary degree there-or had any connection with any university and had a family member called Trent. Future editions of the CD-ROM could be much more easily searched if the subjects (or the editors) would stick to the standard format for entries. As it is, many searches are tricky because information is given in different places and different forms. There is no easy way to find all the heads of the chartered banks or all the generals or admirals in the Canadian Forces. But you can easily find the oldest person in the book, the retired diplomat and journalist Fulgence Charpentier-he will be 101 in June-or how many people were born in Kamloops: ten, including the jazz composer Phil Nimmons and the Diefenbaker cabinet minister Davie Fulton. Or you can look up all the playwrights; there are forty-seven of them.
Canadian Who's Who cannot get much bigger. Perhaps another couple of thousand entries could be squeezed in. If it is to get any better, notable Canadians will have to overcome their shyness and coyness and perhaps a bit of laziness and be more forthcoming in supplying material for their entries. If they do, the editors may have to make difficult judgements to accommodate the most useful entries. Perhaps Canadian Who's Who should abandon the book form and-once it has mastered the medium-publish only in CD-ROM or, shortly, DVD-ROM. The editors might balk at the work and the cost might be prohibitive. But then there would be room for everyone, and we could really get to know ourselves.

John Pepall is a Toronto lawyer and writer.


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