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John Richard English has had a multi-faceted career which includes activities as an author, educator, and politician. He was born in 1945 in Plattsville, Ontario and attended Waterloo Oxford District High School, then the University of Waterloo (B.A., 1967) and Harvard University (A.M., 1968; Ph.D., 1973). He has been a Professor of History at the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario since 1971 and in the course of his academic career has been Director of the Centre on Foreign Policy and Federalism, 1988-1993, Director of International Studies, University of Waterloo, 1988-1991, and Chair of the History Department, University of Waterloo, 1989-1991.
John English's political career began when he ran as a candidate in the 1988 Federal election, although he had long been active in both the Kitchener Provincial and Federal Liberal Associations. In October 1993 he was elected as Member of Parliament for Kitchener, Liberal Party of Canada, served one term to 1997. During that time he filled several roles: Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister Responsible for Public Service Renewal, 1993-1996; Member of the Special Joint Committee Reviewing Canadian Foreign Policy, 1994; Member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, January 1994-1997 and its Vice-Chair 1996-1997; Chair, Sub-committee on Sustainable Human Development, 1996-1997; Vice-president, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe - Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE-PA), 1996-1997.
John English's many honours and awards include a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship (1967), Harvard Graduate Prize Fellow (1968-1971), Senior Killam Fellow (1985-1987), Fellow, Royal Society of Canada, (1991- ), D. Litt (Honoris Causa), Wilfrid Laurier University (1992) as well as several literary and professional awards.
John English's professional activities have been many and varied and include active involvement in organizations, on boards and committees. These include the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA), of which he was the President from 1990-1992. Prior to that time he was Vice-President and President of the K-W Branch between 1979 and 1986, Chair of the Library Committee 1983-1984, Chair of the Research and Publications Committee 1984-1987. He served as Vice-President of the CIIA from 1988-1990. He also filled several roles in the Canadian Historical Association, including Member of Council 1976-1979, Chairman of the Joint Committee of the Canadian Historical Association-American Historical Association, 1975-1978, Chair of the Canadian Historical Association Committee on the Historical Profession, 1976-1981. Dr. English was Policy Chair and board member of the K-W Branch of the United Nations Association of Canada, 1981-1985, was a member of the Board and of the Publications Committee of the Champlain Society from 1982-1993, and was on the Research Advisory Board of the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security. In 1981 he was on the Advisory Committee of the Royal Commission on Conditions of Foreign Service. In 1980, and again in 1989-1993 he was on the Advisory Committee of the Department of External Affairs History Project, and from 1984 to 1987 was a Board member of the Canadian Committee on the Second World War. John English has served on the editorial boards of several historical publications, including the International Journal, 1984-1988, 1991-1992; Historical Reflections/Reflexions Historique, 1976-1990 and the Canadian Historical Review, 1983-1989. He served as editor of the Canadian Historical Review from 1986-1989.
In March of 1998 John English was appointed by the Honourable Sheila Copps, Minister of Canadian Heritage, to lead a review of the mandates and future roles of the National Library and of the National Archives.
Community involvement in Kitchener-Waterloo has always played an important role in Dr. English's activities, whether as a speaker to numerous local groups such as Kiwanis, Rotary, Church and Seniors Clubs, or as a member of numerous local organizations including Waterloo Historical Society, Kitchener Rotary, Concordia Club, and the Unity Committee. He has served as a Board Member of the Waterloo Regional Heritage Foundation, 1990-1991 and as a Board Member of the Kitchener Citizens Committee, 1989-1990.
John English is the author of The Decline of Politics, 1977 and 1993; Arthur Meighan, 1977; Robert Borden: His Life and World, 1977; Years of Growth, 1986; Shadow of Heaven: The Biography of Lester Pearson, Vol. 1, 1989 (Macdonald Prize and Canadian Author's Association Non-Fiction Prize); The Worldly Years: The Biography of Lester Pearson, Vol. 2, 1992 (Dafoe Prize); co-author of Canada 1900-1945 with Robert Bothwell and Ian Drummond, 1987; Kitchener: An Illustrated History with Ken McLaughlin, 1984 and 1996; Canada Since 1945 with Robert Bothwell and Ian Drummond, 1981; co-editor with J.O. Stubbs of Mackenzie King: Widening the Debate, 1977; with N. Hillmer of Making a Difference, 1992.
Subsequent to his resignation as a Member of Parliament in 1997, John English returned to his academic position as Professor in the Department of History at the University of Waterloo. At the request of the Government of Canada and various ministries including the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Ministry of Canadian Heritage, Dr. English took on a number of appointments of national significance.
These appointments included acting as a Special Envoy to the Minister of Foreign Affairs concerning Canada's election to the UN Security Council and Special Adviser concerning the issue of the international ban on anti-personnel landmines. Dr. English was a key figure in cultivating support global support for a treaty to ban anti-personnel landmines, known as the Ottawa Convention, which was negotiated in Ottawa in December, 1997 and signed by one hundred and twenty-two nations. His involvement in landmines issues led to his later appointment to the Board of Directors of the Canadian Landmine Foundation, a non-profit organization which is Canada's primary mechanism for raising awareness and funds concerning anti-personnel landmines.
In 1999 Dr. English was also able to draw upon his academic and political experience when he assumed the role of Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, a position held by him until 2003.