On our country’s 147th birthday it got me thinking about all the lists of great Canadians compiled out there. Did I agree? Who did they miss, who did they get right? And if I picked my own list, what would the criteria be for someone to make said list?
I am proud of my country and I want my kids to know which of our fellow Canadians are someone they can be proud to share a nationality with and aspire to be like.
So tell me if you agree, or who should be here instead, in your opinion. (Keep in mind I limited it to between the twentieth century and the present, although I’m sure Louis Riel was great and all).
Happy Canada Day!!
10. Wayne Gretzky
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
You knew he would be on here right? Hockey’s greatest champ. Rightfully so with over twenty seasons in the NHL and continuing to hold the record for most points in NHL history. Along with his four Stanley Cup rings he won with the Oilers, Gretzky’s award cabinet includes a host of other trophies and awards. Yes, “The Great One” is considered the best and smartest hockey player in the history of the game that is truly, Canada’s game. As great as number 99 was on the ice, he is even more outstanding as a Canadian ambassador, a hockey humanitarian, a lover of the game and of life.
9. Douglas Coupland
“You can’t get mad at weather because weather’s not about you. Apply that lesson to most other aspects of life.”
Douglas Coupland is a Vancouver born novelist, short-story writer, essayist, visual artist. His first book, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991) was an immediate commercial success, and Coupland became a spokesperson for his generation. The use of the term Generation X has since been adopted by the media. In addition to his written work, Douglas Coupland is a well-known visual artist, whose work has been exhibited across North America and Europe showcasing his interest in breaking down boundaries between media, and between fiction and non-fiction. His remarkably prolific production across a diverse range of media over the past 12 years addresses the singularity of Canadian culture, the power of language, as well as the ever-pervasive presence of technology in everyday life.
8. Betty Fox
“Never, ever give up on your dreams”
Betty Lou Fox was a Canadian cancer research activist, the mother of Terry Fox and founder of the Terry Fox Foundation. She was the most prominent figure in Terry Fox’s legacy. Terry expressed to his mother his wish to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. He began the Marathon of Hope on April 12, 1980, which was a run across Canada. Endorsing his dream meant suppressing her maternal instincts to keep him safe at home under her protective eye. In retrospect, she believed that her son’s life had a higher purpose, that contracting cancer was a pre-ordained affliction so that he could inspire others to support his cause: cancer research. In the years after Terry passed away, Betty Fox ferociously protected her son’s memory, fought off the commercialization of his name and championed the Marathon of Hope to keep his legacy alive and to pursue his goal of finding a cure for cancer. It is estimated that Betty spoke to more than 400, 000 school children alone during her 25 years of touring the country, leaving each and every child with the inspirational story of the Marathon of Hope.
7. Michael J. Fox
“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.
Actor, director, author,producer, advocate and voice-over artist. Fox would have been a hockey player had he been bigger but instead became one of the most popular and lovable actors of the 1980s. Going public in 1999 with his Parkinson’s diagnosis he has single handedly become the number one proponent to further research for the disease and other degenerative disorders. Being open and candid about his struggles, including alcoholism and the advancement of his Parkinson’s Disease has inspired millions of people around the world.
6. Farley Mowat
“Inaction will cause a man to sink into the slough of despond and vanish without a trace.”
Farley Mowat was a highly praised author, environmentalist, activist. Mowat is one of Canada’s most widely read authors. His books have been translated into 52 languages and have sold more than 17 million copies around the world. He did trail-blazing work in a variety of subgenres that other Canadian writers have taken up and developed: environmentalism, autobiography/memoir, exploration narrative, adventure travel, cultural advocacy, cross-gender biographical narrative, the man never stopped writing. While he was at it, Farley Mowat “invented” the Canadian North — certainly in terms of global awareness, but also for many Canadians. Farley Mowat never stopped working, never stopped sharing his vision, his passion, and his literary gifts. He kept blazing trails, opening up one new path after another.
5. Ernie Coombs (Mr. Dressup)
“Keep your crayons sharp, your sticky tape untangled, and always put the top back on your markers!”
Mr. Dressup was a Canadian television icon. From 1967 to 1996, Ernie Coombs brought pleasure and imagination to Canadian children. The show aired every weekday morning, Mr. Dressup would lead children through a series of songs, stories, arts, crafts, and imagination games, with the help of his friends Casey and Finnegan, a child and a dog who lived in a treehouse in the back yard. The gently-paced show primarily sought to stimulate the imagination and creativity of children. After retirement, Coombs continued to work as an entertainer, playing roles in family-oriented stage productions and acted as a spokesman for children’s charities.
4. Jean Chrétien
“You have to look at history as an evolution of society.”
Joseph-Jacques-Jean Chrétien, politician, lawyer and long-time parliamentarian Jean Chrétien was Canada’s 20th prime minister, and one of the longest-serving leaders in Canada’s history. A street-fighter with fine political instincts, Jean Chretien was an MP for 40 years and led three consecutive Liberal majority governments. Jean Chretien governments gave Canada liberal social policies and a healthy Canadian economy, including elimination of the deficit. Some of his highlights as Prime Minister: created an active social agenda included Child Tax Benefit (Yes that monthly check all of us with children receive), ratified Kyoto Protocol, worked for global ban on landmines and pushed for establishment of International Criminal Court supported war on terrorism but would not send troops to Iraq without UN resolution for military action. A man who, love or hate his politics, served the Canadian people for over 50 years and was a major factor in making it the way it is today.
3. Sir Arthur Currie
“To those who fall I say; you will not die but step into immortality. Your mothers will not lament your fate, but will be proud to have bourne such sons. Your names will be revered for ever and ever by your grateful country, and God will take you unto himself. Canadians, in this fateful hour, I command you and I trust you to fight as you have ever fought with all your strength, with all your determination, with all your tranquil courage. On many a hard fought field of battle you have overcome this enemy. With God’s help you shall achieve victory once more.”
Sir Arthur William Currie was a Canadian military commander during WWI. A public school teacher before starting his military career on the very bottom rung as a gunner and then rising through the ranks to become the first Canadian commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was the first Canadian to attain the rank of full general. He is generally considered to be among the most capable commanders of the Western Front, and one of the finest commanders in Canadian military history.
2. Pierre Berton
“I am an atheist, a rationalist and a humanist.”
Pierre Berton, journalist, historian, media personality. Berton was among Canada’s best-known writers and was particularly well regarded as a serious popularizer of Canadian history. Volunteering for every military posting there was in a non war period and seeing no action, he worked on the Vancouver News-Herald, the Vancouver Sun, Maclean’s and on the Toronto Star. From the late 1950s to the early 90s, he was a staple of Canadian TV as host of his own shows or as a panelist. You can not find a more patriotic and essentially Canadian, Canadian.
1. Lester Pearson
“I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given to participate in that work as a representative of my country, Canada, whose people have, I think, shown their devotion to peace.”
Lester Bowles Pearson was a Canadian professor, historian, civil servant, statesman, diplomat, and politician, who won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1957. He was noted for his diplomatic sensitivity, his political acumen, and his personal popularity. During Pearson’s time as Prime Minister, he introduced universal health care, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan, the Order of Canada, and the new Flag of Canada. Pearson also campaigned heavily to keep Canada out of the Vietnam War. In 1967, his government passed Bill C-168, which abolished capital punishment in Canada. He was a strong supporter of international agencies and helped establish NATO. This unassuming man became a national icon, winning a last place in the hearts and minds of a whole generation of Canadians.