The Ten Most Important Canadians
Okay, time to get a little patriotic with my next list. Its worth noting that the importance of the people on this is are for Canadian people first and foremost, but world influence also has some weight.
10. Terry Fox (1958 – 1981)
Its very common to hear about someone who has been diagnosed with a serious illness and has taken up the reigns and become a spokesperson for the awareness of that disease. And yet Terry Fox remains special. He was able to inspire Canadians in a way that has lasted for thirty years with no indication of his legacy diminishing any time soon.
Terry Fox was a young athlete in B.C. who was diagnosed with a cancer which ended up taking his leg. Despite the odds against him, Fox started up his “Marathon of Hope”, in which he declared that he would run across the country to raise awareness and funds for cancer research in the country. Unfortunately, his cancer became too aggressive and ended his trek, taking his life within the year.
Every year hundreds of thousands of people in Canada take part in the Terry Fox run each September. He may not have finished his run, but he certainly accomplished his goal and has become one of Canada’s heroes.
9. David Suzuki (1936- )
David Suzuki has been the most famous scientist in Canada since the 1970’s. Through his radio broadcasts and his long-running television series “The Nature of Things”, Suzuki has spread a love and interest in science and ecology throughout the country. You can think of him as Canada’s answer to Rachael Carson. He is one of the most vocal activists for the dangers of climate change, which have brought him many admirers as well as many critics. He has managed to instill in Canadians a quest for knowledge of the world we live in and has also helped us see our responsibility to care for that world.
8. Arthur Currie (1875-1933)
World War I was a big turning point for Canada. It gave the country a level of independence as a sovereign nation which it had not really yet achieved, despise confederation in 1867. Up until them, Canada was still seen as the followers of Britain, but their military successes and strength they showed in WWI set them apart. Sir Arthur Currie had a lot to do with that. He had a unique form of leadership and turned a bunch of green volunteers into hardened soldiers.
Currie was a key figure in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the defining battle of Canada’s military history and perhaps the turning point of the entire war. Currie ensured that his troops were well prepared for their incredibly difficult offensive. His expertise and instincts demanded respect from his troops. Currie was a shining figure in this terrible war, and in a way his spot on this list is represented of all of Canada’s troops in this defining era of Canadian history.
7. Harold Cardinal (1945-2005)
Canada’s historical black eye has always been the treatment of the Aboriginal population by the government. Though the settlement of Canada by the Europeans looked like a peaceful venture in the history books through the formation of treaties with the First Nations peoples as opposed to taking the land by force, this country is far from from innocent of injustices against the original inhabitants of Canada.
In 1969, the Government took a huge step in eliminating Aboriginal culture through the “White Paper”. This paper worked under the false claim of creating a just society and removing all Aboriginal rights and assimilating their people into ‘normal’ Canadian society. Harold Cardinal struck back with the “Red Paper” which invigorated Aboriginal Canadians to take a hold of their culture with pride and protect it from the government where were trying to essentially dissolve it. Cardinal and his chiefs were successful in defeating the proposed White Paper, and ever since Aboriginal culture has been slowly but steadily gaining back strength and influence in Canadian society.
6. William Osler (1849-1919)
Known as the “father of modern medicine”, Dr. William Osler revolutionized medical teaching by putting medical students into the wards and hospitals to learn first hand. He was one of the founders of Johns Hopkins and his medical teaching methods have a huge and lasting impact to this day. He is one of the most important figures in medical history and a man whose legacy we Canadians can be proud of.
5. Frederick Banting (1891-1941)
Dr. Banting is the man who discovered insulin, along with his partner Charles Best after isolating the pancreatic secretions of the body. This discovery was a major medical breakthrough and saved millions of lives, starting with a young 14 year old boy in Toronto in 1922. Now those who suffered from diabetes had hope. They could use the insulin to regulate their blood sugar and live as close to a normal life as possible. And with obesity and diabetes on the rise, Banting’s impact becomes more important than ever.
4. Tommy Douglas (1904-1986)
Tommy Douglas was the seventh premier of Saskatchewan, but the impact he had ended up affecting the entire country. His social democratic government was a risky venture in those cold war times, but through this government he was able to pass many bills and programs aimed at helping the less-fortunate in society. The Most notable of these was the idea of universal health care in 1959. Douglas’ vision of a medicare program which would benefit everyone in his province was adopted by the entire country a few years later and is now one of Canada’s most defining national policies. In a CBC special, the people of Canada even voted Douglas the ‘Greatest Canadian’ because of his contribution of universal healthcare and the millions of people it has helped for the last fifty years.
3. Lester Pearson (1897-1972)
Canada’s 14th Prime Minister had a major impact not just on his country, but on the entire world. He had a strong role in the founding of the United Nations and NATO and developed the worlds first race-free immigration policy. His biggest impact perhaps was his quest for peace, which led tot the formation of the UN peacekeeping forces. Canada has always had a strong role in peacekeeping in places like Cyprus and Bosnia, and let us hope that Lester B. Pearson’s legacy of making Canada a leader in the fight for World peace continues for many decades.
2. Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922)
Alexander Graham Bell changed the world with his invention of the telephone, making instant communication across great distances possible. This is likely the greatest Canadian invention and one of the preeminent inventions in the last two hundred years. Bell’s influence definitely extends beyond his home country and is know felt by everyone who has ever put their ear to a phone.
1. John A. Macdonald (1815-1891)
He is the George Washington of Canada; our first Prime Minister and the leading figure in the Confederation of 1867. True, he may not have the worldwide influence that others such as Bell and Banting have had, but for Canadians he is a man of great importance if for no other reason than because he practically founded the country.
Okay okay, it wasn’t single-handed and did have many decades of history leading up to it, but John A. was the driving force towards the British North America Act which would separate Canada from the British and be given dominion under its own people. Macdonald then continued expansion westwards through support of the transcontinental railroad project which ran all the way out to B.C., building this great nation we have today.