Life and career
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Byfield moved with his parents to Washington, D.C. at the age of 17. He began his journalism career as a copy boy for the Washington Post. He returned to Canada in 1948 and worked at the Ottawa Journal and Timmins Daily Press. In 1952 he moved west to join the Winnipeg Free Press. Covering the city hall beat in Winnipeg, he once crawled into an air conditioning duct in order to eavesdrop on a secret city council meeting enabling him to get a scoop on a funding scandal.
In the 1950s, Byfield became interested in the religious writings of C.S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton and underwent a religious conversion. He worked with parishioners at Winnipeg's St. John's Cathedral to found a private Anglican school (Saint John's Cathedral Boys' School) and, in 1962, left journalism in order to become a history teacher at the new school. In 1968, he moved to Edmonton to found a second St. John's school west of the city (Saint John's School of Alberta), at Genesee, Alberta, near Edmonton.
Byfield decided to return to journalism in 1973 and launched the St. John's Edmonton Report, a local news magazine in 1977 and later the St. John's Calgary Report and then merged the two into Alberta Report in 1979; B.C. Report was launched in 1989 with Western Report (which shared the majority of its content and layout with Alberta Report) beginning publication soon after. In the 1990s, in addition to covering news from a conservative viewpoint, the Report magazines challenged the prevailing Zeitgeist with regard to crime, homosexuality, abortion, and public education.
Until the 1980s the schools were run by lay religious order called the Company of the Cross, which paid employees $1.00 per day plus room and board. His magazines were originally run by the same group and the staff paid the same "wage", while living in a communal apartment building.
The magazines, particularly Alberta Report, articulated a growing sentiment of Western Canadian discontent and alienation. Byfield was one of the inspirations behind the founding of the Reform Party of Canada, and coined the phrase "The West Wants In." Byfield's son, Link Byfield succeeded him as publisher but was unable to staunch the periodicals' declining circulation. They were consolidated and ultimately ceased publication in 2003.
He is currently the president and chairman of SEARCH (The Society to Explore and Record Christian History) and general editor of the Christian history book series The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years.
In 1948, as a reporter in the Ottawa Journal newsroom, Byfield had a bit part in the film "The Iron Curtain", directed by William Wellman and starring Dana Andrews as the Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko.
- Maclean's Magazine profile January 25, 1999