Brendan O’Donnell Wins 2024 Marion Phelps Award for Bibliography on English Speaking Quebec

--Sherbrooke, Qc., April 29, 2024.

The Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network is pleased to announce Brendan O’Donnell as this year’s recipient of the Marion Phelps Award in recognition of his outstanding long term contributions to the preservation and promotion of Anglophone heritage in the province of Quebec. This prestigious award honours Brendan O’Donnell’s countless hours of volunteering over the past 45 years in the creation of his comprehensive Bibliography on English speaking Quebec (BESQ), as well as for his contributions to the Missisquoi Historical Society and Museum.

Brendan O'Donnell

It was back in 1976, on election night when the Parti Québécois came to power in Quebec, that O’Donnell realized the need for a “published history of English speaking Quebec,” in response to what he and his brother, the late Kevin O’Donnell, understood as the opening of a period of great change and an opportunity to reverse “how little French Quebecers really understood their English speaking neighbours, or the impacts of government policies on us,” he wrote in “Searching for English Quebec History: A 40 Year Odyssey,” published in 2021. The soon to be bibliographer saw that an essential prerequisite to writing any social history of English speaking Quebec would be “to gather what written studies existed about English Quebec. I said I would start putting to get her a bibliography of secondary sources on the topic. And so began my odyssey in search of English Quebec history."

According to O’Donnell’s nominator, Dr. Lorraine O’Donnell (no relation) of the Quebec English speaking Communities Research Network (QUESCREN), “Brendan painstakingly gathered over 14,000 bibliographic references, one by one. He began this work as a summer student in 1978, then continued it as a volunteer. Brendan told us that his career job (with the federal government) took him across Canada. When he had downtime, he would go to local libraries and identify new publications for the bibliography. All told, he has spent thousands of volunteer hours combing countless libraries to identify and list the publications.”

While the majority of the publications focus on English-speaking Quebec, Lorne Huston, the co-author of “George M. Brewer et le milieu culturel anglophone montréalais” (Septentrion, 2020), praises the bibliography. “Any serious research on English speaking communities in Quebec,” he says, “must involve extensive recourse to the Bibliography on English speaking Quebec. This is particularly the case for researchers in history and heritage who are not only interested in the most recent research in their field, but also in the ways their research object was perceived in earlier times… The BESQ is unique in the depth of its coverage.” Huston confirmed the impetus for launching this lifelong project: the Bibliography helps increase understanding of stories from linguistic communities, bringing “into focus realities of English Quebec which are often neglected in French-language studies and in English-language studies of Canada.” Its sources range from books and article to films, thereby appealing to a broad range of users.

Published in print form until 2008, the BESQ transitioned to an online platform housed by QUESCREN in 2009; it continues to be updated and consulted regularly. “Many bibliographic projects did not survive the transition to online digital versions,” Huston says, adding, “Brendan O’Donnell persisted through this transformation and the constant exchange he has been able to maintain with researchers, librarians, publishers, and archivists over time constitutes a magnificent achievement.”

Dr. Richard Bourhis, Emeritus Professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal, describes the bibliography as a ‘one stop shop’ for stakeholders, scholars and students committed to understanding the past and present situation of the [English speaking community of Quebec] in areas such as education, health & social services, arts and culture, sociolinguistics, language policies, history, political science and law… Scholarly work of this continuity and rigour deserve the recognition of the Marion Phelps Award.”

Sylvia Martin-Laforge of the Quebec Community Groups Network explains the broader use of O’Donnell’s bibliography as a tool for developing and sharing knowledge. “Any community group, researcher, government official, or journalist wishing to find out about English-speaking Quebec, including its history and heritage,” she says, “can consult the Bibliography to get the full picture of what others have already found out on their research topic.”

“Brendan's commitment to the Missisquoi Historical Society and Museum is unparalleled,” writes museum president Marc Grenon. Brendan “has consistently offered his time and support, fostering a sense of community among fellow volunteers and patrons. His positive attitude and willingness to lend a helping hand made him an invaluable asset to the Society.” As a member, Grenon says, O’Donnell “demonstrated exemplary leadership skills and a strong work ethic. His creative ideas and strategic thinking greatly contributed to the success of various initiatives and events.”

QAHN will be hosting an awards ceremony to formally recognize this year’s recipients of both the Marion Phelps Award and the Richard Evans Award. It will take place at the Maison Louis Joseph Forget in Montreal on June 29, 2024, from 5-7 p.m. 
NOTE: Space is limited and an RSVP is essential! RSVP: [email protected]

About QAHN: 
The Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network (QAHN) is a non profit, non partisan, province wide organization engaged with its members in the preservation and promotion of the history, heritage and culture of Quebec and, in particular, of Quebec’s English speaking communities. QAHN strives to advance the knowledge of the history, heritage and culture of those communities by informing, inspiring and connecting people through its activities and services. Membership in QAHN is open to individuals, families and organizations. Our current institutional membership numbers over 100.