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David Helwig

David Gordon Helwig, author (born 5 April 1938 in Toronto, Ontario; died 16 October 2018 in Montague, PEI). David Helwig grew up in Toronto and at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. He attended the University of Toronto, where he earned a BA, and then completed an MA at the University of Liverpool. First publishing as a poet, Helwig moved on to drama and fiction, including a series of novels focusing on characters living in Kingston, where Helwig lived for many years teaching at Queen's University. He was appointed Prince Edward Island's poet laureate in 2008 and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2009.

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Jovette Marchessault

Jovette Marchessault, novelist, playwright, painter, sculptor (born 9 February 1938 in Montreal, QC; died 31 December 2012 in Danville, QC). Jovette Marchessault was a self-taught multidisciplinary artist. She won major prizes for her literary and theatrical works and made a unique mark on francophone culture. Supported by a deep and lyrical voice, her work celebrates words through myths and liberating poetic language. Her body of work stands as a tribute to women of all backgrounds, notably female artists and writers. She co-founded the international publishing house Squawtach Press, contributed to many publications and was a lecturer in the theatre department at the Université du Québec à Montréal. She won the Prix France-Quebec and the Governor General’s Drama Award, among other honours.

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Ivan Reitman

Ivan Reitman, OC, film producer, director (born 27 October 1946 in Komárno, Czechoslovakia [now Slovakia]; died 12 February 2022 in Montecito, California). Ivan Reitman was one of the most successful Canadian producers and directors to work in Hollywood. He started out in Canada as a producer of grindhouse films, including early films by David Cronenberg. He then produced two of the highest-grossing comedies of all time: Animal House (1978) and Ghostbusters (1984); he also directed the latter. His other movies as director include Meatballs (1979), Stripes (1981), Twins (1988), Kindergarten Cop (1990), Dave (1993) and Draft Day (2014). An officer of the Order of Canada, Reitman has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and on Canada's Walk of Fame. He also received a lifetime achievement award from the US National Association of Theatre Owners.

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Mordecai Richler

Mordecai Richler, CC, novelist, essayist, social critic (born 27 January 1931 in Montréal, QC; died 3 July 2001 in Montréal, QC). A singular figure in Canadian literary and cultural history, Richler remained, in the words of critic Robert Fulford, “the loyal opposition to the governing principles of Canadian culture” throughout his long and productive career. His instincts were to ask hard, uncomfortable questions and to take clear, often unpopular moral positions. Born into an Orthodox family in Montréal’s old Jewish neighborhood, a community he immortalized in his work, he was from the start a complex and uncompromising figure, at once rejecting many of the formal tenets of his faith while embracing its intellectual and ethical rigour. That tension, along with an innately absurdist vision of life, a raw, bracing comedic sensibility, and a fearlessness about speaking his mind, as both artist and citizen, ensured that nearly every word he published displayed a distinctive sensibility. No one else sounded like Mordecai Richler, and few other writers in Canada have ever demanded, and maintained, such a high profile as both an admired literary novelist and a frequently controversial critic. A Companion of the Order of Canada, two-time winner of the Governor General’s Award (1968 and 1971), and winner of the Giller Prize, Mordecai Richler is without question one of Canada’s greatest writers.

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Red Robinson

​Robert Gordon Robinson, broadcaster, television host (born 30 March 1937 in Comox, BC). A legendary pioneer and icon in Canadian broadcasting, Red Robinson was the first radio disc jockey in the country to regularly play rock ‘n’ roll records, and one of the first in North America.

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Roch Carrier

Roch Carrier

Roch Carrier, poet, writer of fiction and drama, essayist, former National Librarian of Canada (born at the Beauce, Qué 13 May 1937). After publishing 2 collections of poetry, Les Jeux incompris (1956) and Cherche tes mots, cherche tes pas (1958), Carrier offered critics Jolis deuils (1964), a group of bizarre stories that won him a province of Québec award, Les Concours littéraires du Québec (1965).

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Earle Birney

Alfred Earle Birney, poet (born 13 May 1904 in Calgary, AB; died 3 Sept 1995 in Toronto, ON). Beginning with David and Other Poems (1942), Birney's poetry consistently explored the resources of language with passionate and playful curiosity.

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Bill Bourne

William "Bill" Sigurd Bourne, folksinger, musician (born 28 March 1954 in Red Deer, AB; died 16 April 2022). An excellent blues and folk guitarist, Bourne was also a distinctive vocalist and songwriter. Among his best-known compositions are "Dance and Celebrate," "Ole Buffalo," "The House," "Pitsberg," "Baggins" and "The Road to Tokyo." He won a Juno Award in 1991 and was nominated for four others.

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Indigenous Language Revitalization in Canada

Before European settlement in Canada, Indigenous peoples spoke a wide variety of languages. As a means of assimilating Indigenous peoples, colonial policies like the Indian Act and residential schools forbid the speaking of Indigenous languages. These restrictions have led to the ongoing endangerment of Indigenous languages in Canada. In 2016, Statistics Canada reported that for about 40 Indigenous languages in Canada, there are only about 500 speakers or less. Indigenous communities and various educational institutions have taken measures to prevent more language loss and to preserve Indigenous languages.

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Salome Bey

Salome Bey, singer, actress, songwriter (born 10 October 1933 in Newark, New Jersey; died 8 August 2020 in Toronto, ON). Salome Bey was an award-winning jazz, blues and R&B singer. Known as “Canada’s First Lady of the Blues,” wrote and starred in Indigo, a Dora Award-winning history of the blues, and was part of the all-star lineup of Canadian singers who produced the charity single “Tears Are not Enough.” Bey received a Toronto Arts Award and the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for lifetime achievement from the Black Theatre Workshop of Montreal. She was made an honorary member of the Order of Canada in 2005 and was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2021.

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Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Emily Pauline Johnson (a.k.a. Tekahionwake, “double wampum”) poet, writer, artist, performer (born 10 March 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West; died 7 March 1913 in VancouverBC). Pauline Johnson was one of North America’s most notable entertainers of the late 19th century. A mixed-race woman of Mohawk and European descent, she was a gifted writer and poised orator. She toured extensively, captivating audiences with her flair for the dramatic arts. Johnson made important contributions to Indigenous and Canadian oral and written culture. She is listed as a Person of National Historic Significance and her childhood home is a National Historic Site and museum. A monument in Vancouver’s Stanley Park commemorates her work and legacy. In 2016, she was one of 12 Canadian women in consideration to appear on a banknote. (See Women on Canadian Banknotes.)

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30 Canadian Painters

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, The Canadian Encyclopedia created 30 lists of 30 things that make us proud to be Canadian, from famous people and historic events, to iconic foods and influential artists.

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Sun Dance

The Sun Dance (also Sundance) is an annual sacred ceremony performed by several First Nations in the Prairies. (See also Plains Indigenous Peoples in Canada.) The Sun Dance reaffirms spiritual beliefs about the universe. The Sun Dance was forbidden under the Indian Act of 1895, but this ban was generally ignored and dropped from the Act in 1951. Some communities continue to celebrate the ceremony today. (See also Religion and Spirituality of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Steven Heighton

Steven Heighton, poet, novelist, essayist (born 14 August 1961 in Toronto, ON; died 19 April 2022 in Kingston, ON). Steven Heighton was known for his award-winning poetry and bestselling fiction. His collection of poetry The Waking Comes Late (2016) won the Governor General’s Award while his novels The Shadow Boxer (2000) and Every Lost Country (2010) were national bestsellers. An accomplished writer who could move fluidly between poetry and prose, Heighton’s work has been praised for its exploration of place, culture and politics and has been translated into ten languages.  

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Marcelle Ferron

Marcelle Ferron, OQ, artist (born 29 January 1924 in Louiseville, QC; died 18 November 2001 in Montreal). Marcelle Ferron was an active participant in Les Automatistes, led by Paul-Émile Borduas. She pursued an innovative artistic career including noteworthy public art works in stained glass. She was made a Knight of the National Order of Québec in 1985 and was promoted to Grand Officer in 2000. She was the sister of writers Jacques Ferron and Madeleine Ferron.

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Serena Ryder

Serena Ryder, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, mental health advocate (born 8 December 1982 in Millbrook, ON). Folk-rock singer-songwriter Serena Ryder is known for her raspy, soulful vocals and raw, emotional lyrics. She first gained attention with her gold-certified albums If Your Memory Serves You Well (2006) and Is It O.K. (2008). She won the Juno Award for New Artist of the Year in 2008 and achieved international stardom with her fifth album, Harmony (2012), and her smash hit “Stompa,” which went triple platinum in Canada. She has won a Canadian Screen Award, a MuchMusic Video Award, a SOCAN Award and seven Juno Awards, including Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year in 2014. She received the Allan Slaight Music Impact Honour from Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2021.

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Coeur de pirate

Béatrice Martin (a.k.a. Cœur de pirate), writer, composer, singer, lyricist, pianist (born 22 September 1989, in Montreal, QC). Winner of several Félix Awards, including New Artist of the Year in 2009 and Most Famous Quebec Artist outside Quebec in 2012, Cœur de pirate has made their mark with the Quebec public and French. After the release of their bilingual album Roses in 2015, Cœur de pirate's fame spread across English-speaking Canada, the United States and several European countries.

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Shawn Mendes

Shawn Peter Raul Mendes, singer, songwriter, model, mental health advocate (born 8 August 1998 in Pickering, ON). Pop phenom Shawn Mendes followed in the footsteps of earlier Canadian pop music star Justin Bieber, building a following online in his teens before signing with a major label. Mendes is the only artist to have four No. 1 singles on the Adult Pop Songs chart before the age of 20. Released when he was 16, his first full-length studio album, Handwritten (2015), debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and quickly went platinum in the US. In fact, his first four albums all debuted at No. 1. Together they have sold more than 4 million copies in the US, while Mendes’s singles have sold more than 13 million copies. He has received 13 Juno Awards and 20 SOCAN Awards, as well as three Grammy Award nominations.