Charles Vincent Massey, PC, CC, governor general 1952-1959, 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.
Lincoln MacCauley Alexander, CC, QC, OOnt, lawyer, parliamentarian, public servant, lieutenant-governor of Ontario (born 21 January 1922 in Toronto, ON; died 19 October 2012 in Hamilton, ON). Alexander was the first Black Canadian Member of Parliament, cabinet minister and lieutenant-governor (Ontario).
Wabanakwut Kinew, hip hop artist, broadcaster, university administrator, author, politician (born 31 December 1981 in Kenora, ON). An Ojibwa activist and public intellectual, Wab Kinew began his career as a musician and rapper with the hip hop group Dead Indians. He gained national attention through his radio and television journalism for the CBC, including 8th Fire, a television series on Indigenous issues. Kinew’s 2015 memoir, The Reason You Walk, was a national bestseller and finalist for the RBC Taylor Prize. Kinew was elected to the Manitoba legislature in 2016, despite controversial tweets and rap lyrics that dogged his campaign. Similarly, revelations of stayed domestic assault charges from 2003 threatened to derail his bid to become leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party, though he was named leader in September 2017.
David Lloyd Johnston, professor, university administrator, governor general (born 28 June 1941 in Copper Cliff, ON). After establishing himself as a respected professor and well-published scholar, Johnson became president of two major Canadian universities. Beginning in the 1980s, he served as an advisor to the federal and Ontario governments, both Liberal and Conservative, on a number of sensitive issues, including what would become the Oliphant Commission. Appointed governor general in 2010, Johnston encouraged education, innovation, philanthropy and volunteerism and devoted much of his time to the plight of Indigenous peoples. After Johnston served five years in office, the government asked him to stay in office for an additional two years, making him the longest-serving Canadian governor general in half a century.2
Helen Battles Sawyer Hogg (née Sawyer), CC, astronomer and educator (born 1 August 1905 in Lowell, Massachusetts; died 28 January 1993 in Toronto, ON). Recognized internationally for her research on globular star clusters, Helen Sawyer Hogg significantly advanced astronomers’ understanding of the location and age of stars as well as the origins and evolution of our galaxy, the Milky Way. She also contributed greatly to the Canadian public’s understanding of astronomy and inspired women to enter scientific professions.
Adolphus Egerton Ryerson, Methodist minister, educator (born 24 March 1803 in Charlotteville Township, Norfolk County, Upper Canada; died 18 February 1882 in Toronto, Ontario). A leading figure in 19th century Ontario education and politics, Ryerson was born into a prominent Anglican, Loyalist family, but converted to Methodism and was ordained in 1827 in the Methodist Episcopal Church. He helped found and edit the Christian Guardian (1829), founded Upper Canada Academy (1836) and became first principal of Victoria College (1841). Known as a supporter of religious freedom and the founder of the public education system in Ontario, his contributions to education were honoured in the naming of Ryerson University in Toronto. However, his role in the development of the residential school system has led activists to call for the university to be renamed.
Up until the second half of the 19th century, most rural teachers in Canada were young, female, poorly paid, and held the most limited professional qualifications. These teachers delivered a rudimentary education to thousands of Canada’s rural children, often amidst difficult conditions. Indeed, until the 1960s, rural teachers frequently taught students of various ages and wide-ranging academic abilities together in one-room schoolhouses while also shouldering the burden of maintaining the schools themselves.
Philip J. Currie, palaeontologist, museum curator (born 13 March 1949 in Brampton, ON). In the early 1980s, Currie played a lead role in the founding of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta. He later became the namesake of another institution, the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, which opened in September 2015 near Grande Prairie, Alberta. Much of Currie’s research has focussed on fossils from Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park and other Cretaceous sites, as well as the evolution of carnivorous dinosaurs and the origin of birds.
Herbert Marshall McLuhan, communication theorist (born 21 July 1911 in Edmonton, AB; died 31 December 1980 in Toronto, ON). Professor of English at the University of Toronto, McLuhan became internationally famous during the 1960s for his studies of the effects of mass media on thought and behaviour.
Gloria Mary Maureen George, Indigenous politician, activist and public servant (born 24 July 1942 in Hubert, BC). A tireless advocate for non-status Indians, George was elected president of the Native Council of Canada in 1975, becoming the first and only woman to lead a major Indigenous political organization.
Paul Gérin-Lajoie, CC, GOQ, lawyer and politician (born 23 February 1920 in Montréal, QC), is one of the great figures of Québec’s Quiet Revolution. He served as minister of Youth (1960–64) and Education (1964–66) in the Québec Liberal government of Jean Lesage. Gérin-Lajoie was responsible for reforming Québec’s education system and formulating Québec’s first international-relations policy, two milestone achievements of this period that helped to define modern Québec. He has also played a leading role in the field of international development, as president first of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and then of the Paul Gérin-Lajoie Foundation.
Marie Arzélie Éva Circé-Côté, journalist, writer and librarian (born 31 January 1871 in Montréal, QC; died 4 May 1949 in Montréal, QC). A poet and playwright, Éva Circé-Côté was the city of Montréal’s first librarian as well as the curator of the prestigious Philéas Gagnon collection. Throughout her career as a journalist, she wrote over 1,800 pieces for about a dozen newspapers under several pseudonyms. A progressive, secular free thinker, she fought for compulsory education and the status of women.
Stanley Vollant, CQ, Innu surgeon, professor and lecturer (born 2 April 1965 in Québec City, Québec). The first Aboriginal surgeon trained in Québec, he received a National Aboriginal Role Model Award from the Governor General of Canada in 1996. In 2010, he began Innu Meshkenu (“my Innu path”), a 6,000 km walk whose goals are to bring peoples together, to promote the discovery of the land and the teachings of First Nations and to encourage Aboriginal young people to pursue their dreams.
Nigel S. Wright, lawyer, businessman, chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper 2010–14 (born 18 May 1963, in Hamilton, ON). In 2010, Nigel Wright took a leave of absence from his role as managing director at Onex, a private equity firm, to become chief of staff to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). He was a key figure in the Harper government, and a prominent witness at the fraud and bribery trial of Senator Mike Duffy. After resigning as chief of staff in 2014, he returned to Onex.
George Elliott Clarke, poet, anthologist (b at Windsor Plains, NS 12 Feb 1960). George Elliott Clarke was born near Windsor Plains, a black Loyalist community, and grew up in Halifax. He earned a BA at the University of Waterloo, an MA at Dalhousie, and a PhD at Queen's University.