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.
André Alexis, novelist, playwright, short-story writer (born 15 January 1957 in Port of Spain, Trinidad). Winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for his novel Fifteen Dogs (2015), André Alexis is one of Canada’s most respected novelists. He lives and works in Toronto, where he reviews books for the Globe and Mail and acts as a contributing editor for This Magazine. He has also hosted CBC Radio One’s Radio Nomad and CBC Radio 2’s Skylarking.
Ken Finkleman, screenwriter, director, actor, producer (born 1946 in Winnipeg, Manitoba). Ken Finkleman is a maverick auteur renowned for the caustic humour, bitter irony and deadpan satire embodied by his television alter ego George Findlay, a linking character he has portrayed in seven television series. The winner of six Gemini Awards and an Emmy Award, Finkleman is best known for The Newsroom, the iconoclastic comedy series he created, wrote, produced and starred in. Popular and critically acclaimed during three runs (1996–97, 2003–04, 2004–05) and a TV movie (Escape from the Newsroom, 2002) on CBC Television and PBS, the show is regarded as one of the best media satires ever produced..
Emma Donoghue, novelist, literary historian, teacher, playwright, radio and film scriptwriter (born 24 October 1969 in Dublin, Ireland). Winner of the 2010 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, Emma Donoghue has introduced a fresh, if often jarring, voice in modern fiction produced by women. One of Canada’s most important contemporary literary figures, she is perhaps best known for the novel Room (2010), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and for the screenplay of its 2015 film adaptation, which earned Donoghue a Canadian Screen Award and an Independent Spirit Award, as well as BAFTA and Academy Award nominations.
Laure Waridel, CM, CQ, social activist, author, environmentalist, lecturer and columnist (born 10 January 1973 in Chesalles-sur-Oron, Switzerland). Regarded as one of the 25 most influential political personalities in Québec, Laure Waridel holds an honorary doctorate from the Université du Québec à Rimouski, the Insigne du mérite from the Université de Montréal, and the rank of Knight of the Order of La Pléiade. She is a co-founder of Équiterre, a Québec organization that encourages individuals and governments to make choices that are fair, ecological and consistent with the principles of solidarity. The author of a number of books and essays on environmental issues, Waridel has contributed to many magazines, such as Voir and Reader’s Digest, in addition to hosting the radio show Acheter, c’est voter on Radio-Canada. She is currently strategic advisor for CIRODD, an interdisciplinary centre for research on operationalization of sustainable development. This centre is based at Polytechnique Montréal, and its membership includes over 80 researchers.
Rita Joe (née Rita Bernard), PC, CM, Mi’kmaq poet (born 15 March 1932 in Whycocomagh, NS; died 20 March 2007 in Sydney, NS). Often referred to as the poet laureate of the Mi’kmaq people, Rita Joe wrote powerful poetry that spoke about Indigenous identity and the legacy of residential schools in Canada. Her works continue to influence Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers and artists alike.
Réjean Ducharme, OQ, writer (born 12 August 1941 in Saint-Félix-de-Valois, Québec; died 21 August 2017 in Montréal). Prominent Québécois novelist, playwright, scriptwriter and lyricist, Réjean Ducharme guarded his privacy since his first novel, L'Avalée des avalés, was published in 1966. He was never seen in public, and was admired as much for the uniqueness of his works as for the mythology surrounding him.
Dan George, OC, Tsleil-Waututh actor, poet, public speaker (born 24 July 1899 on the Burrard Indian Reserve No. 3 in BC; died 23 September 1981 in North Vancouver, BC). By his film roles and personal appearances, Dan George helped improve the popular image of Indigenous people, often represented in stereotypical ways.
"I sprang from the oars to my feet, and lifted the anchor above my head, threw it clear just as she was turning over. I grasped her gunwale and held on as she turned bottom up, for I suddenly remembered that I could not swim." - Joshua Slocum, Sailing Alone Around the World, 1900.