The Canadian Polish Research Institute (CPRI) was founded by Dr. Wiktor Turek in 1956. Turek, who had arrived in Canada in 1950, was a Doctor of Law. Realizing that he would be unable to pursue a career in his field, he turned his attention to a scholarly pursuit of history, specializing in the bibliography of historical documents. After obtaining a degree in Library Science, Turek would go on to work at the University of Toronto, first as a Slavic cataloguer, then overseeing the Government Documents section, and the Union Catalogue project. It was under Turek’s initiative that the Institute was founded in order to study the history of Poles in Canada. The Institute became incorporated in 1979.
The first meeting of the Institute took place at the Toronto Branch of the Canadian Polish Congress on September 12, 1956, and was chaired by A. Janicki (who was the president of the Congress’s Toronto Branch). The first meeting included thirteen individuals in addition to Janicki and Turek: B. Boreysza, B. Heydenkorn, P. Jordan, G. Kaczanowski, T. Lubaczewski, A. Lagowski, J. Lopuszański, B. Makowski, A. Malatyński, T. Sawaszkiewicz, and P. Staniszewski. The first meeting laid the course for the Institute. Janicki had noted, “There was a profound need, felt for a long time amidst Canadian Polonia for calling to life a research body that would be responsible for the study of problems connected with the development of a Polish ethnic group in Canada, which is one of the component groups of Canadian population and one of the contributing forces in the creation of a common Canadian culture.”
Wiktor Turek was the Institute’s first president until 1963. Dr. Tadeusz Krychowski, also a lawyer, replaced him until 1972. Members of the Institute elected Mr. Rudolf K. Kogler, an economist, to head the Institute. He led the Institute from 1972 to 1995, when Dr. Edward Soltys, a sociologist, replaced him. Dr. Soltys would lead the Institute until 2011, when Dr. Joanna Lustanski was elected as the president. Dr. Gabriela Pawlus Kasprzak, a historian, took the helm in 2019.