Books

Canadian author and historian Erna Paris, dead at 83

The Toronto-born historian and author of Long Shadows spent her life fighting discrimination and championing human rights. She died on Feb. 3, 2022 at the age of was 83.

The Canadian author and historian spent her life championing human rights.

Erna Paris was a Toronto-born author and historian. (Helen Tansey)

Canadian historian and author Erna Paris, known for works that championed human rights and accountability, is dead at the age of 83.

Her literary agent Michael Levine says she passed away on Feb. 3, 2022 of cancer at her home in Toronto. 

Paris was a past chair of the Writers' Union of Canada and was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in 2016 for a body of work dedicated to addressing injustice and exploring the roots of intolerance.

Paris was the author of eight acclaimed books, including her 2000 nonfiction book Long Shadows in which she examined the difficulty nations have in confronting shameful past events.

Long Shadows won the Pearson Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize, and the Canadian Jewish Book Award for History and the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.

In the Order of Canada citation, the book was credited with inspiring efforts at reconciliation with residential school survivors in Canada and with descendants of slaves in the United States.

Levine says "the underlying theme of her life was social Justice."

"Whether she was dealing with the legacy of the Nazis, whether she was dealing with the International Criminal Court, whether she was dealing with the history of how the Inquisition came upon Spain after centuries of co-operation between Muslims and Jews, she was always searching out our common humanity," said Levine.

Her family asks that any charitable donations be made to Human Rights Watch Canada or to The Writers' Union of Canada.

Paris is survived by husband Thomas Robinson and children Michelle Paris and Roland Paris, and three grandchildren.

- With files from CBC Books

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