Sir John Alexander Macdonald was the dominant creative mind which produced the British North America Act and the union of provinces which became Canada. As the first prime minister of Canada, he oversaw the expansion of the Dominion from sea to sea. His government dominated politics for a half century and set policy goals for future generations of political leaders.
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. In 2016, Kinew was elected to the Manitoba legislature, despite controversial tweets and rap lyrics that dogged his campaign. In 2017, he announced his intention to seek the leadership of the Manitoba New Democratic Party.
Floyd Roland, mechanic, politician, premier of Northwest Territories 2007 to 2011, mayor of Inuvik 2012-2015 (born 23 November 1961 in Inuvik, NWT). Roland sat in the NWT legislature for 12 years before becoming premier on 18 October 2007. His premiership was marred by a scandal over an affair between Roland and a clerk of the legislature.
Piita Irniq (formerly known as Peter Irniq and Peter Ernerk), cultural proponent, artist, public servant, commissioner of Nunavut (born 1947 at Lyon Inlet, NT [now Nunavut]). Irniq represented the Keewatin region in the Council of the Northwest Territories from 1975 to 1979. From 2000 to 2005, he served as the second commissioner of Nunavut . Irniq has worked to preserve and promote Inuit culture and languages.
Frank Arthur Calder, OC, Nisga’a politician, chief, businessman (born 3 August 1915, Nass Harbour, BC; died 4 Nov 2006, Victoria). Frank Calder was the first Indigenous member of a Canadian legislature, elected in 1949 during the BC general election. Calder is best known for his role in the Nisga’a Tribal Council’s Supreme Court case against the province of British Columbia (commonly known as the Calder case), which demonstrated that Aboriginal title (i.e., ownership) to traditional lands exists in modern Canadian law.
Stephen McNeil, business owner, politician, 28th premier of Nova Scotia, 2013 to present (born 10 November 1964 in Halifax, NS). Few observers expected much from refrigerator repairman Stephen McNeil when he was first elected to the Nova Scotia legislature in 2003. But he surprised pundits when he became leader of the Liberal Party, and was twice elected premier, winning majority governments in 2013 and 2017.
Brian Vincent Tobin, PC, OC, politician, businessman, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador 1996-2000 (born 21 October, 1954 in Stephenville, NF). Before serving as Newfoundland and Labrador's sixth premier, Tobin became a hero in the province when, as a federal cabinet minister, he defended the turbot fishery against foreign overfishing. Nicknamed “Captain Canada,” he was also a strong advocate of national unity during Québec's 1995 referendum on sovereignty.
William “Bible Bill” Aberhart, teacher, radio evangelist, premier of Alberta from 1935 to 1943 (born 31 December 1878 in Hibbert Township, Perth County, ON; died 23 May 1943 in Vancouver, BC). An important influence in religious sectarianism in Western Canada, Aberhart led the world’s first Social Credit government, which dominated Alberta politics until 1971.
Charles Joseph “Joe” Clark, PC, CC, journalist, author, 16th prime minister of Canada 1979-80, (born 5 June, 1939 at High River, AB). Clark was Canada's youngest prime minister when he took office one day before his 40th birthday. His brief term put a temporary end to 16 years of Liberal rule. He later gained respect as a senior minister in the Progressive Conservative government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, especially on the international stage.
Ralph Garvin Steinhauer, OC, lieutenant-governor of Alberta, Indigenous leader, farmer (born 8 June 1905 in Morley, North-West Territories [now AB]; died 19 September 1987 in Edmonton, AB). The first Indigenous person to serve as lieutenant-governor of a Canadian province, he was committed to Indigenous affairs in Alberta and Canada.
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.
Bill Wilson (Hemas Kla-Lee-Lee-Kla), Kwagiulth (Kwakwaka’wakw) hereditary chief, politician, administrator (born in 1944 in Comox, BC). A leading theorist in British Columbia Indigenous politics, he was also influential in a successful proposal to amend the Constitution Act, 1982 to enshrine Indigenous rights. He is the father of Jody Wilson-Raybould, minister of justice and attorney general of Canada (2015–), who has continued his legacy.1
Samuel Michael Katz, businessman, mayor of Winnipeg 2004–2014 (born 20 August, 1951 in Rehovot, Israel). An entrepreneur and owner of the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team, Katz was elected Winnipeg’s first Jewish mayor in June 2004. The latter half of his administration was marked by controversy over city real estate deals.
Edward Richard Schreyer, PC, CC, CMM, teacher, politician, diplomat, premier of Manitoba 1969-1977, governor general of Canada 1979-1984 (born 21 December, 1935 in Beausejour, MB). Schreyer was the first New Democrat to form a government anywhere in Canada. He was also the first Manitoban to become governor general. In that post, Schreyer was a strong advocate of bilingualism, the environment and women’s equality, and sought to make Rideau Hall more accessible to Canadians.
Paul Edgar Philippe Martin, businessman, politician, prime minister 2003–06 (born 28 August 1938 in Windsor, ON). Paul Martin had a successful career in business as CEO and then owner of Canada Steamship Lines (renamed CSL Group), before entering politics. He was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament in 1988, and served as Minister of Finance (1993–2002) under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. In 2003, he succeeded Chrétien as Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, but resigned in 2006 after losing the federal election to Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. As prime minister, Martin spearheaded several initiatives, including the Kelowna Accord, a national child care program, health accords with the provinces and the legalization of same-sex marriage.