The game is six degrees of Canadian history. Take two seemingly unrelated pieces of Canadian culture and connect the dots through various people, places and events to discover how they’re distantly — or maybe not-so-distantly — related. Along the way, we visit the quizzical and curious, the tragic and comic, and everything in between.
Veronica Tennant, CC, FRSC, ballet dancer, teacher, choreographer, television producer, director (born 15 January 1946 in London, England). Veronica Tennant is one of the most prominent figures in Canada’s performing arts community. As a leading ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada, she became an international celebrity for her dramatic intensity and superb technique. Since retiring in 1989, she has worked as a teacher and choreographer, and has also forged a successful career as an award-winning TV producer and director specializing in dance programming. Tennant was the first dancer to be appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada (1975) and was promoted to Companion in 2003. A member of Canada’s Walk of Fame and the Encore! Dance Hall of Fame, she has received many awards and honorary degrees, including the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Afua (Ava Pamela) Cooper, educator, historian, performance artist, poet (born 8 November 1957 in the Whithorn district of Westmoreland, Jamaica), is considered one of the most influential and pioneering voices in the Canadian dub poetry and spoken word movement. Her poems are published in numerous regional, national and international journals and anthologies. Afua Cooper also has CDs of her performances that make her work well known to the global community. In addition to her renown as a performance artist, she is an internationally-ranked historian. She has taught Caribbean cultural studies, history, women's studies and Black studies at Ryerson and York universities, at the University of Toronto and at Dalhousie University.
Quantum Tangle is a performance-based storytelling group from Yellowknife consisting of Inuk-Canadian vocalist Tiffany Ayalik and Anishinaabe-Métis guitarist Greyson (Grey) Gritt. The genre-bending duo’s music is informed by Inuit throat singing, spoken-word storytelling and blues-inspired folk rock. Inspired by their respective Indigenous ancestries, Quantum Tangle’s music explores identity, systemic racism, colonialism, the environment and Indigenous histories. Their album, Tiny Hands (2016), won the 2017 Juno Award for Indigenous Music Album of the Year.
Charles Vincent Massey, PC, CC, governor general 1952-59, historian, business executive, politician, diplomat, royal commissioner, patron of the arts (born 20 February 1887 in Toronto; died 30 December 1967 in London, England). Massey was the country’s first Canadian-born governor general. He helped create the Order of Canada in 1967, and as a champion of the arts in Canada laid the groundwork for the Canada Council, the National Library of Canada and the National Arts Centre.
Catherine Ruth MacLellan, singer, songwriter (born 23 April 1980 in Burlington, ON). Catherine MacLellan is a contemporary folk-roots singer-songwriter whose recordings have won multiple East Coast Music Awards, Canadian Folk Music Awards, Music PEI Awards and a Juno Award. She is the daughter of “Snowbird” composer Gene MacLellan.
Joane Cardinal-Schubert, RCA, artist (born 1942 in Red Deer, AB; died 16 September 2009 in Calgary, AB). Award-winning Kainaiwa (Blood) artist Joane Cardinal-Schubert was also a successful and influential curator, lecturer, poet and director of video and Indigenous theatre. Her artworks and writing often addressed contemporary political issues such as Indigenous sovereignty, cultural appropriation and environmental concerns. She supported other Indigenous artists as a curator and activist, while also questioning methods of displaying historical and contemporary Indigenous artworks. She was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, the Commemorative Medal of Canada and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in Art.
Roy Henry Vickers, CM, OBC, artist (born 4 June 1946 in Greenville [aka Laxgalts'ap], BC). Roy Henry Vickers is one of Canada’s most successful artists. He is perhaps best known for his limited edition prints, which are characterized by bold, often primary colours and inspired by such First Nations imagery as animals, nature and spiritual symbols. He also produces carvings, paintings and totem poles, has written several books for adults and children and is a popular motivational speaker. He is the founder of the Eagle Aerie Gallery in Tofino, British Columbia, and has received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals. He is a recognized leader in the First Nations community and has spoken openly about his recovery from various addictions.
Electronic group A Tribe Called Red (ATCR) has garnered international acclaim for its politically charged, powwow drum-driven dance music. Featuring the DJs Bear Witness (Thomas Ehren Ramon) and 2oolman (Tim Hill), the group emerged from an Ottawa club party called Electric Pow Wow, which began in 2007. Former members include DJ Shub (Dan General), and founding members DJ NDN (Ian Campeau) and Dee Jay Frame (Jon Limoges). The group has described its “powwow step” music as “the soundtrack to a contemporary evolution of the powwow.” ATCR is part of what broadcaster and educator Wab Kinew has called the “Indigenous Music Renaissance,” an innovative new generation of Indigenous artists in Canada. The group was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize in 2013 and 2017, and has won three Juno Awards, including Breakthrough Group of the Year in 2014 and Group of the Year in 2018.
Zacharias Kunuk, OC, filmmaker, carver, sculptor, visual artist (born 27 November 1957 in Kapuivik, Nunavut). An internationally acclaimed media maker, Zacharias Kunuk has played a crucial role in the redefinition of ethnographic filmmaking in Canada and has been at the forefront of the Inuit’s innovative use of broadcast technology. He is perhaps best known for his debut feature film, Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner), which won six Genie Awards (including Best Screenplay, Best Direction and Best Motion Picture) and was ranked the No. 1 Canadian film of all time in a 2015 poll conducted by the Toronto International Film Festival.
Angela Jean Elisabeth Watt, lyric soprano (born 13 November 1915 in Brandon, MB; died 4 June 2017 in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England). West Coast lyric soprano Ann Watt enjoyed a high profile singing career in Vancouver in the 1940s. She was perhaps best known for her starring roles with Vancouver’s Theatre Under the Stars and for singing on CBC Radio’s wartime broadcasts. She drew praise for her vivacious and charming performances, her rich and lovely lyric soprano voice and her versatile range. She was inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame as a pioneer in 2013.
Os-Ke-Non-Ton (also written Oskenonton, meaning deer in the Mohawk language, also known as “Running Deer”), baritone, actor, spiritual leader (né Louie Deer c. 1888 in Caughnawaga [now Kahnawá:ke], QC; died c. 1955 in Lily Dale, NY). Os-Ke-Non-Ton was a celebrated singer and performer who showcased his culture across the globe. He also worked as a healer at a spiritual centre in Lily Dale until his death.
Richard Pierpoint (also Pawpine, Parepoint; Captain Pierpoint, Captain Dick; Black Dick), loyalist, soldier, community leader, storyteller (born c. 1744 in Bondu [now Senegal]; died c. 1838, near present-day Fergus, ON). Pierpoint was an early leader in Canada’s Black community. Taken from West Africa as a teenager and sold into slavery, Pierpoint regained his freedom during the American Revolution. He settled in Niagara, Upper Canada, and attempted to live communally with other Black Canadians. In the War of 1812, he petitioned for an all-Black unit to fight for the British and fought with the Coloured Corps.
Susan Agnes Point, OC, RCA, artist (born 5 April 1952 in Alert Bay, BC). Susan Point is one of the first female Coast Salish artists to have achieved wide recognition, and is an influential figure among Northwest Coast artists. Her work is influenced by traditional Coast Salish art production, but she translates these traditions into contemporary modes of expression. Perhaps best known for her monumental public commissions for institutions such as the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology and the Vancouver International Airport, she also specializes in limited edition prints and artworks inspired by the Coast Salish spindle whorl. An Officer of the Order of Canada, she has been appointed to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and received numerous honorary degrees and lifetime achievement awards.
Joseph Mimran, entrepreneur, consultant, fashion designer, retailer (born 2 December 1952 in Casablanca, Morocco). Mimran is best-known for launching the Alfred Sung, Club Monaco and Joe Fresh fashion brands, as well as his involvement with Pink Tartan, a fashion line designed by Kimberley Newport-Mimran, his second wife. Mimran is a partner at Gibraltar Ventures, a Toronto-based firm that invests in technology-driven companies. He also appears as a Dragon on the CBC series Dragons’ Den.
Anik Bissonnette, OC, CQ, ballerina, arts administrator (born at Montréal 9 Feb 1962). Québec's best-known ballerina, Anik Bissonnette is renowned for her exceptional musicality, purity of line and extraordinary balances, and for using her technical assurance to plumb exciting emotional depths. After garnering wide acclaim in many performances with Louis Robitaille, she was a principal dancer at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (LGBC) from 1989 to 2007 and made annual appearances at Montréal's Gala des Étoiles from 1983 until 2006. She was artistic director of the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur from 2004 to 2014, and has been artistic director of the École supérière de ballet contemporain de Montréal since 2010. An Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalière of the National Order of Québec, she has received the Prix Denis Pelletier and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.
In an era when most contemporary ballet companies presented mixed programs, Gradimir Pankov added a new dimension to Les Grands' programs by commissioning evening-length story ballets. reshaped Les Grands into a starless troupe of young and versatile dancers chosen for their personalities as much as their technique.