Fonds P0112 - Brian McKenna fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

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Brian McKenna fonds

General material designation

  • Multiple media

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the content of the fonds

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  • 1908-1996, predominant 1945-1996 (Creation)
    McKenna, Brian

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Physical description

9.43 m of textual records
353 photographs
193 video cassettes
28 maps
26 audio cassettes
1 audio reel

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Name of creator

(August 8, 1945-)

Biographical history

Brian McKenna was born in Montreal August 8, 1945. McKenna is married to journalist Anne Lagacé Dowson.

Brian McKenna first lived in downtown Montreal and started elementary school at a French school of the Congregation of Notre-Dame. His family moved to the Montreal suburb of Valois, and later to Beaconsfield. While a student at St. Thomas High School in Pointe-Claire, McKenna worked as sports editor of the high school paper, the St. Thomas News. He graduated in 1963, and was accepted in the second year of the Honours English program at Loyola College. He joined both the debating society and the college weekly paper, the Loyola News, first as a reporter, then desk editor and subsequently news editor. McKenna took over as editor-in-chief in autumn 1966. He received his first degree in 1967, a Bachelor of Arts in English literature. He was hired as a summer reporter at the Montreal Star to cover the Expo 67 World's Fair. In autumn 1967 he returned to studies and to work as editor of the Loyola News. He graduated in 1968 with a degree in communication arts.

Brian McKenna worked as journalist, author, film-maker, producer, and contributor to numerous local and national radio and television shows. In 1968, he became a full-time reporter at the Montreal Star. From 1969 to 1971 he was parliamentary correspondent in Ottawa. McKenna resigned from the Montreal Star in 1973, and became story editor for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Montreal local TV news and current affairs show The City at 6. At that time, he also became the Quebec correspondent for the CBC's national radio current affairs show As It Happens. In 1975 McKenna joined the current affairs program The Fifth Estate as founding producer, and remained there until 1988. In addition, between 1972 and 1995, he independently produced a number of films. In the fall of 1980 McKenna Purcell Productions Inc. was formed and subsequently McKenna's services were contracted through the company. In 1989, he was named the Max Bell Fellowship visiting professor at the University of Regina School of Journalism, where he taught documentary film-making. The production company Wartime Productions Inc. was incorporated in 1989 by Brian McKenna and Susan Purcell. Brian McKenna also worked on various projects with his brother Terence McKenna.

Brian McKenna wrote for Saturday Night, Weekend Magazine, the Literary Review of Canada, Cité libre, and The Last Post and did book reviews for the Montreal Gazette and the Toronto Star. He co-authored a biography of Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau. He contributed the profiles of Montreal mayors Camilien Houde and Jean Drapeau to The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Throughout his career, Brian McKenna received numerous honours, awards, and prizes. In 1968, he was named Grand Old Man of Loyola News, and honoured as Man of the Year at the annual student awards ceremony. In 1973 he won an ACTRA award for television writing and directing The City at 6 film documentary Settling Accounts. He also won the Anik Award for reporting. He won two Gemini awards for And Then You Die. He received five Gemini Awards for The Valour and the Horror, a Canadian military history film series done in both English and French. He also received four ACTRA awards, including one for His Worship Jean Drapeau, three ribbons from the American Film Festival, two Golden Sheaf awards from the Yorkton Film Festival, a medal at the New York Film Festival, a Chris plaque at the Columbus Film Festival, and a Wilderness Award and an Anik award for The Killing Ground which he co-wrote with Terence McKenna.

Custodial history

The fonds was transferred from Concordia University's Records Management and Archives Department to Concordia University Libraries' Special Collections February 16-17, 2016, April 12, 2106, and April 19, 2016.

Scope and content

The Brian McKenna fonds provides detailed background on a large number of current events, issues, and personages of the second half of the twentieth century.

It consists of materials in a variety of formats accumulated by Brian McKenna in the course of research for, and production of, The Fifth Estate films and other projects. It includes research notes and materials for his articles and books, and documents his involvement as the Max Bell Fellowship visiting professor at the University of Regina School of Journalism, as well as his involvement with the Committee for Investigative Journalism. It also provides information on McKenna Purcell Productions Inc.

The fonds contains research notes, scripts, manuscripts, galley proofs, raw and final videotapes, transcripts of interviews and court hearings, and clippings related to most of the documentaries and film projects.

The fonds is organized into the following series:

P0112/A Personal records and student activities
P0112/B Journalist
P0112/C Involvement in the journalistic community
P0112/D Speeches
P0112/E Awards
P0112/F Administration and personnel
P0112/G Documentaries
The largest series is Documentaries P0112/G It is organized alphabetically according to the name of the series (e.g., The Fifth Estate) for which each proposed or actual documentary was intended.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

The fonds was donated by Brian McKenna to Concordia University Archives in 1996.


Language of material

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Spanish

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Most of the material is in English. Some documents are in French, German, Italian, or Spanish.

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Further accruals are expected.


Copyright belongs to the creator(s).

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