Emily Pauline Johnson (also known as Tekahionwake, “double wampum”), poet, writer, artist and performer (born 10 March 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West; died 7 March 1913 in Vancouver, BC) was one of North America’s most notable entertainers of the late 19th century.
Kim Thúy, CQ, writer (born 18 September 1968 in Saigon, Vietnam). The winner of several prestigious literary awards for her first novel (Ru), this Quebec writer of Vietnamese origin is known for her short and elegant stories. Her novels deal with the migrant experience and the challenges of adapting to a new culture. Written in French, which Thúy calls her “second mother tongue,” they have been translated into 15 languages.
Charles Cromwell Martin, DCM, MM, farmer, soldier, civil servant, author (born 18 December 1918 in Wales; died 13 October 1997 in Mississauga, ON). During the Second World War, Warrant Officer Class II (WO II) Charlie Martin was awarded both the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal. Martin’s "Battle Diary" memoirs, first released in 1994, remain among the most vivid portrayals of the lives of ordinary Canadian soldiers in the war.
Stéphane Bourguignon, writer, author, screenwriter (born 21 January 1964 in Montreal, QC). This script writer and novelist is best known by the general public for his screenwriting on the television shows Tout sur moi, Fatale-Station and La Vie, la vie. The recipient of three Gémeaux Awards for Best Script (2001, 2002 and 2007), he has also contributed to the careers of many Quebec comedians.
Richard Wagamese, Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) novelist, journalist, mentor (born 4 October 1955 in northwestern ON; died 10 March 2017 in Kamloops, BC). A well-known Indigenous writer in Canada, Wagamese won several awards including the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize (2013) and the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Matt Cohen Award (2015).
Duncan Campbell Scott, poet, writer, civil servant (born 2 August 1862 in Ottawa, ON; died 19 December 1947 in Ottawa, ON). Scott’s complicated legacy encompasses both his work as an acclaimed poet and his role as a controversial public servant. Considered one of the “poets of the Confederation” — a group of English-language poets whose work laid the foundations for a tradition of Canadian poetry — his intense works made use of precise imagery and transitioned smoothly between traditional and modern styles. However, his literary work has arguably been overshadowed by his role as the deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs. He enforced and expanded residential schools, failed to respond to a tuberculosis epidemic and oversaw a treaty process that many claim robbed Indigenous peoples of land and rights. His oft-quoted goal to “get rid of the Indian problem” became, for many, characteristic of the federal government’s treatment of Indigenous peoples.1
Madeleine Thien, writer (born 25 May 1974 in Vancouver, BC). Thien is perhaps best known for her epic novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing (2016), which spans the length of China’s modern history from Mao’s revolution in 1949 to the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s to Tiananmen Square in 1989. The novel won the 2016 Governor General’s Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Thien has also been vocal in defending Steven Galloway, who was fired from his position as director of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia.
Anne Hébert, CC, poet, playwright, novelist (born 1 August 1916 in Sainte-Catherine-de-Fossambault, QC; died 22 January 2000 in Montréal). A Companion of the Order of Canada, a member of the Royal Society of Canada, and a three-time winner of the Governor General’s Award, Anne Hébert's career was founded on a disciplined life devoted to writing. Her poetry and prose are models for other writers and have been analysed in hundreds of studies, particularly in Québec, but also in France and English Canada.
Colin McAdam, novelist. (Born 1971 in Hong Kong) Colin McAdam is best known for his novels, Some Great Thing (2004), Fall (2009) and A Beautiful Truth (2013). His work has also appeared in The Walrus, Harpers and Granta. He has won the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and teaches creative writing at Humber College in Toronto.
John McCrae, soldier, physician, poet (born 30 November 1872 in Guelph, ON; died 28 January 1918 in Wimereux, France). A noted pathologist and army physician, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae was also a poet; he wrote “In Flanders Fields” — one of the most famous poems of the First World War.
Marina Nemat, writer, human rights activist (born 22 April 1965 in Tehran, Iran). Nemat emigrated to Canada in 1991, following her imprisonment and torture in Iran. In her published memoirs, Nemat describes her experiences under the Iranian regime, which she denounces. She is also a sought-after public speaker and has won numerous international awards for her commitment to the defence of human rights.
Daniel Nicholas Paul, CM, Mi’kmaq elder, author, social justice advocate (born 5 December 1938 on Indian Brook Reserve, NS). Paul is the author of We Were Not the Savages, one of Canada’s first history books from an Indigenous perspective, and has long campaigned for the removal of Halifax’s statue to its controversial founder, Edward Cornwallis.
David Adams Richards, CM, ONB, novelist, short-story writer, memoirist, Member of the Senate (born 17 October 1950 in Newcastle, NB). An acclaimed author of novels, short stories, memoirs, essays, poetry and plays, David Adams Richards is one of only three Canadian writers to be awarded a Governor General’s Literary Award for both fiction and non-fiction. Perhaps best known for his fictionalized accounts of his native region of Miramichi, New Brunswick, Richards’ work increasingly tackles complex explorations of conscience, morality, integrity and consequences. He has been compared to Leo Tolstoy, Albert Camus and William Blake. He has won the Giller Prize and two Gemini Awards, and is a Member of the Order of Canada and the Order of New Brunswick. He was appointed to the Senate in 2017 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Freda Ahenakew, OC, Cree scholar, author (born 11 February 1932 on the Ahtahkakoop First Nation Reserve in Saskatchewan; died 8 April 2011 at Muskeg Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan). Ahenakew is recognized as one of Canada’s leaders in the acknowledgment and revitalization of the Cree language in Canada.