Alex Himelfarb

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Alex Himelfarb
Canadian Ambassador to Italy
In office
MinisterPeter MacKay
Preceded byRobert Fowler
Succeeded byJames Fox
Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet
In office
May 13, 2002 – March 5, 2006
Prime MinisterJean Chrétien
Paul Martin
Stephen Harper
Preceded byMel Cappe
Succeeded byKevin Lynch
Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage
In office
June 1, 1999 – May 12, 2002
MinisterSheila Copps
Preceded bySuzanne Hurtubise
Succeeded byJudith A. LaRocque
Personal details
Born (1947-07-03) July 3, 1947 (age 76)
Alma materUniversity of Toronto

Alexander Himelfarb (born July 3, 1947)[1] is a former senior Canadian civil servant and sometime academic.

Early life and family[edit]

Born in Germany, he was raised and educated in Toronto. He received a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Toronto. In 1981, he married Frum Himelfarb (Weiner), and they have three children.


As academic sociologist[edit]

Himelfarb started his career as a professor of sociology at the University of New Brunswick in 1972. He stayed at UNB until 1981. With C. James Richardson, Himelfarb wrote two introductory textbooks on sociology, which were used extensively in Canadian universities in the late 1970s and early 1980s:

  1. People, Power and Process (and a reader)
  2. Sociology for Canadians (two editions, and a reader)

Himelfarb has published numerous monographs, chapters and articles on Canadian society and public policy and co-edited with his son Jordan the book Tax is Not a Four-Letter Word.[citation needed]

As civil servant[edit]

Himelfarb joined the Canadian public service in 1981 in the Department of the Solicitor General of Canada and served in senior positions in various departments and agencies, including the Parole Board of Canada, Justice, Citizenship and Immigration, the Privy Council Office, and Treasury Board, and led the Task Force on the Social Union. In 1999, he became deputy minister of Canadian heritage. In 2002 under Jean Chretien he was appointed to the dual role of clerk of the privy council and secretary to the cabinet.

On June 14, 2006, under Stephen Harper, Himelfarb was appointed ambassador to Italy, with concurrent accreditation to the Republic of Albania and the Republic of San Marino, and as High Commissioner in the Republic of Malta, and as permanent representative to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, in Rome. He retired as ambassador in 2009.

As university administrator[edit]

In September 2009, Himelfarb was appointed as director of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, at York University, retiring from that position in 2014, when he was made director emeritus.

Retirement years[edit]

Himelfarb is the founding chair of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, based at York University. The organization, which follows the highly successful American model, originated in 2000 and focusses on 10-year Plans to End Homelessness and Housing First approaches.[2] He retired from this position in 2018.

In 2016, Himelfarb was chair of the World Wildlife Fund Canada and of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)'s Ontario Advisory Board.[3] He chairs the Narwhal Board and the Steering Committee of CCPA (federal).


  • Himelfarb and Himelfarb (November 2013): Tax Is Not a Four-Letter Word: A Different Take on Taxes in Canada (Canadian Commentaries Book 3, WLU Press)

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2000, Himelfarb was awarded The Outstanding Achievement Award, considered the most prestigious award in the Canadian public service.[citation needed] In 2006, he was awarded an Honorary Fellow from the Royal Conservatory of Music and an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Memorial University of Newfoundland.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Canadian Who's Who Search. Grey House Publishing Canada.
  2. ^ "About CAEH". Toronto, Ontario. 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-02-20. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  3. ^ "Why proportional representation is likely to produce better public policy - Behind the Numbers". Archived from the original on 2016-10-12.


External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Canadian Ambassador to Albania
Succeeded by
Preceded by Canadian Ambassador to Italy
Succeeded by
Preceded by Canadian High Commissioner to Malta
Succeeded by