Edward W. Laine
Finnish North American Literature Association
Biographical Information

Edward William (Ed) Laine, a renowned historian of the Finnish experience in Canada, died
in January 2003 in Ottawa at the age of 62. He had been suffering from cancer for several
years. He is survived by his wife of 24 years Liisa Orvokki (née Ahokoski) Laine. Dr.
Laine had worked for many years with the National Archives of Canada and later with the
Canadian Museum of Civilization, retiring from Canadian government service in 1997.

Edward Laine was born in Montreal in 1940. His parents, Antti Wiljami Haapalainen from
Kajaani, and Anna-Liisa (Mustonen) from Viipuri, had arrived in Canada in 1930, settling in
Montreal where his father was employed by the Eaton’s department store, while his
mother worked as a domestic.  

Ed Laine received his Bachelor of Arts degree at Sir George Williams (now Concordia)
University in Montreal in 1962.  He graduated with a Master of Arts degree at McGill
University in Montreal in 1967, specializing in the history of Russia and Eastern Europe.
The title of his MA thesis was: The Pagan Finnish Society according to the Kalevala. In
1974 he completed studies for his Doctor of Philosophy degree at McGill University; the
title of his dissertation: Finland’s Road from Autonomy to Integration in the Russian
Empire, 1808-1910. Part of this research was financed by a Canada Council fellowship.

Dr. Laine worked for the National Archives of Canada (formerly the Public Archives of
Canada) from 1974 until 1990 where he collected materials on the Finnish Canadian
community and prepared finding aids on these collections. These included the records of
Lutheran churches in Montreal, Thunder Bay and Copper Cliff, Ontario, social and sports
clubs in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, Suomen Aseveljet Canadassa (Finnish War
Veterans in Canada), as well as the papers of a number of key private individuals in the
Finnish Canadian community. The most significant collection he was associated with was
that of the Finnish Organization of Canada (FOC). The FOC collection includes the
records of the national organization, the many local branches affiliated with it, as well as
different sports clubs and Vapaus Publishing Company.

In 1990, Edward Laine moved to the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC) where he
served as an ethnocultural historian and curator. Dr. Laine prepared the History Hall Guide
for the opening of this institution in 1989. On 29 June 1993, Peter Herrndorf, Chairman of
the Museum, and other dignitaries opened a major museum exhibit, entitled: From Cradle to
Grave, of which Edward Laine was the curator. The opening of this exhibit, coinciding
with the July 1st Canada Day activities celebrating Canada’s confederation, was designed
to raise awareness of Canada’s social history for visitors to Ottawa.

The only ethnocultural historian at CMC, Dr. Laine actively promoted the publication of
social histories, including Nelma Sillanpää’s memoirs, Under the Northern Lights. My
Memories of Life in the Finnish Community of Northern Ontario, a small, well-illustrated
monograph that brought to life a period of time in the history of Northern Ontario that has
all but receded from living memory. It was Laine’s initiative to have her manuscript
published in the Museum’s first-person Mercury Series and to personally oversee all
aspects of the publication process. Laine wrote an overview for this book that succinctly
summarizes the Finnish experience in Canada.

Over the years, Edward Laine made a number of presentations at conferences and wrote
numerous articles and reviews for academic journals with a particular emphasis on the
Finnish Canadian experience. Laine participated in the Finn Forums held in Toronto in
1979, Turku (1984), Minneapolis (1991), and Sudbury (1996). His most notable
publications were the publication of the proceedings of Finn Forum III held in Turku
which he co-edited with Olavi Koivukangas and Michael Karni, and on the FOC finding
aid. Edward Laine was active with the Canadian Ethnic Studies Association and the
Association for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies in Canada (AASSC); Laine
edited the inaugural volume of the AASSC journal, Scandinavian Canadian Studies, in 1983.

(This summary of Edward Laine’s career was prepared by Lennard Sillanpää of Orleans,


Karni, M. G.,  O. Koivukangas, and E. W. Laine, eds. Finns in North America.
Proceedings of Finn Forum III. Turku, Finland: Institute of Migration, 1988.