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Jennifer Hodge de Silva

Jennifer Hodge de Silva, née Hodge, documentary filmmaker (born 28 January 1951 in Montreal, QC; died 5 May 1989 in Montreal). Jennifer Hodge de Silva was a pioneering African Canadian filmmaker of the 1970s and 1980s. She was the first Black filmmaker to work consistently with both the National Film Board and the CBC. She produced an acclaimed and influential body of work known as realist social issue documentary. Her highly regarded film Home Feeling: A Struggle for Community (1983), co-directed with Robert McTair, is widely taught in film studies programs throughout Canada.

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Lorena Gale

Lorena Gale, actor, playwright, activist (born 9 May 1958 in Montreal, QC; died 21 June 2009 in Vancouver, BC). Lorena Gale was an award-winning actor and playwright who achieved a strong body of work in Canadian theatre. Her acclaimed 1995 play Angélique tells the story of Marie-Joseph Angélique, an enslaved Black woman who was hanged in Montreal for arson in 1734. Gale spent a season with the Shaw Festival and served as artistic director of Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop. She also appeared in more than 130 films and television series. In 2009, the Union of BC Performers created the Lorena Gale Woman of Distinction Award in her honour.

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Cowboys and Cowgirls in Canada

Cowboys and cowgirls are people employed to tend cattle or horses. The first cowboys to work on the Canadian prairies arrived in the 1870s. The traditional cowboy lifestyle has since given way to a more contained, corporate model of ranching. But the romanticized image of the cowboy on the “open range” lives on as a symbol of the prairies. Today, the terms cowboy and cowgirl can refer to ranch workers or rodeo competitors.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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John Ware

John Ware, cowboy, rancher (born c. 1845–50 in the United States; died 11 September 1905 near Brooks, AB). John Ware is legendary in the history of Alberta for his strength and horsemanship. Born enslaved, he became a successful rancher who settled near Calgary and Brooks. He was widely admired as one of the best cowboys in the West, even at a time of widespread anti-Black racism and discrimination.

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Monique Mercure

Monique Mercure, née Émond, CC, actor (born 14 November 1930 in Montreal, QC; died 16 May 2020 in Outremont, QC ). The career of this distinguished actress, among the most visible on Quebec and Canadian stages and screens, has broad international appeal. Performing some one hundred major theatre roles in French and English, her spirit, intensity and hearty laugh made a mark on several television series and award-winning films.

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Damian Warner

Damian David George Warner, men’s decathlete (born 4 November 1989 in London, Ontario). Damian Warner is regarded as Canada’s all-time best decathlete. At the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, he won the gold medal and set an Olympic record in decathlon with 9,018 total points. He is one of only four decathletes to reach 9,000 points in international competition. Warner also holds the men’s decathlon world records in the 100 m (10.12 seconds), long jump (8.28 metres), and 110 m hurdles (13.36 seconds). He has won many medals in international competition, including a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games and a record six titles at the prestigious Hypo Meeting in Götzis, Austria.

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Thomas King

Thomas King, CM, novelist, short-story writer, essayist, screenwriter, photographer (born 24 April 1943 in Roseville, California). A Member of the Order of Canada and two-time nominee for the Governor General’s Award, Thomas King is often described as one of the finest contemporary Indigenous writers in North America.

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Bret “Hitman” Hart

Bret Sergeant “Hitman” Hart, professional wrestler, stroke and cancer survivor advocate (born 2 July 1957 in Calgary, Alberta). The most famous member of the “first family of professional wrestling,” Bret Hart grew up in Calgary, where his father’s Stampede Wrestling promotion thrived for more than 30 years. Hart succeeded Hulk Hogan as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF)’s biggest draw. He earned a reputation as the best in-ring performer of all time and was the biggest star in the sport for most of the 1990s. He has been inducted into the Canadian Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, the WWE Hall of Fame and the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.

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Tom Longboat

Thomas Charles Longboat, distance runner (born 4 July 1886 in Ohsweken, Six Nations Grand River reserve; died 9 January 1949). Tom Longboat (Haudenosaunee name Cogwagee) was an Onondaga distance runner from the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Largely because of his ability to dominate any race and his spectacular finishing sprints, he was one of the most celebrated athletes before the First World War.

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Islam

Islam is one of the major religions of the world and is estimated to be the fastest-growing religion in Canada and worldwide. Its 1.6 billion adherents are scattered throughout the globe, though concentrated most densely in South and Central Asia, the Middle East, and North and East Africa.

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Baha'i Faith

Bahá’í Faith is a world religion with members in 235 countries and territories, and with 184 National Spiritual Assemblies. As of 2015, there were an estimated 30,000 Bahá’ís in Canada, a number that includes Francophones and Anglophones living in 1,200 communities. An estimated 18 per cent of the Bahá’í community in Canada are Inuit or First Nations people, while recent Canadians immigrants make up 30 per cent.

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Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Yannick Nicholas Nézet-Séguin, CC, OQ, conductor, pianist (born 6 March 1975 in Montréal, QC). Known for brilliance, energy and consummate skill from an uncommonly young age, Yannick Nézet-Séguin made a meteoric rise to prominence as a conductor, particularly of operas. His appointments as music director of Montréal’s Orchestre Métropolitain (2000–) the Philadelphia Orchestra (2012–) and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra (2008–18) made him an international star. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada at age 37 and an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec at 40. In 2016, he was named music director of The Metropolitan Opera, a position he officially began in September 2018. His many honours include numerous Félix Awards, the National Arts Centre Award, the Virginia Parker Prize and the Prix Denise-Pelletier.

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Edwin A. Baker

Edwin Albert Baker, CC, OBE, MC, co-founder of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) (born 9 January 1893 in Ernestown Township, ON; died 7 April 1968 in Collins Bay, ON). After he was blinded as a soldier during the First World War, Baker was motivated to create employment opportunities and training for people with blindness and vision loss (see Blindness and Visual Impairment). He assisted in the establishment of the CNIB, a national organization. As managing director, Baker championed rights and broadened research and awareness of blindness. His work was recognized by prominent figures around the world.

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Fred Fisher, VC

Fred Fisher, VC, student, soldier (born 3 August 1894 in St. Catharines, ON; died 24 April 1915 in St-Julien, Belgium). Lance Corporal Fisher’s act of bravery made him the first Canadian in the First World War to earn a Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.

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Christine Sinclair

Christine Sinclair, OC, soccer player (born 12 June 1983 in Burnaby, BC). Soccer player Christine Sinclair has been named Canadian Player of the Year 14 times. She has scored more international goals (187) and more Olympic goals (12) than any other player in the world. After twice being named the top women’s college soccer player in the United Sates and winning two NCAA championships, Sinclair led the Canadian women’s team to three World Cups (2011, 2015, 2019) and four Olympic Summer Games (Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020). The team won back-to-back Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and 2016 before winning gold in Tokyo. Sinclair received the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada’s female athlete of the year in 2012 and 2020 and was named Canada Soccer Player of the Decade in 2019. The first soccer player to win the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year, she has been inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

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King George V

King George V (George V, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India) (born 3 June 1865 at Marlborough House, London, United Kingdom; died 20 January 1936 at Sandringham House, Norfolk, United Kingdom). The grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II, George V reigned during the First World War. His reign included key innovations that continue to shape the modern constitutional monarchy, including the Balfour Report of 1926 and the 1931 Statute of Westminster. George visited Canada three times, including a month-long tour across Canada by train in 1901.

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Dale Hawerchuk

Dale Martin Hawerchuk, hockey player, coach (born 4 April 1963 in Toronto, ON; died 18 August 2020). Dale Hawerchuk was the face of the Winnipeg Jets franchise in the 1980s. After winning two consecutive Memorial Cups, the highly skilled centre was selected first overall in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft. He won the 1982 Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year, setting a record for most points by a rookie and became the youngest player in NHL history to notch 100 points. Often overshadowed by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, Hawerchuk played 16 seasons in the NHL and was a five-time All-Star. He ranks No. 20 and No. 21 among the NHL’s all-time points and assists leaders, respectively. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

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Nellie McClung

Nellie Letitia McClung, née Mooney, suffragist, reformer, legislator, author (born 20 October 1873 in Chatsworth, ON; died 1 September 1951 in Victoria, BC). Nellie McClung was a women’s rights activist, legislator and author who is perhaps best known for her involvement in the Persons Case.

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John Carter Callaghan

John Carter Callaghan, OC, AOE, FRCSC, heart surgeon (born 1 October 1923 in Hamilton, ON; died 6 April 2004 in Orillia, ON). Callaghan is perhaps best known as the surgeon who performed Canada’s first successful open-heart surgery in 1956. Callaghan also co-developed  a portable artificial external cardiac pacemaker in 1950. This revolutionary discovery laid the groundwork for the development and use of implantable external pacemakers in humans. 

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Nellie J. Cournoyea

Nellie J. Cournoyea, OC, politician, premier of the Northwest Territories 1991–95 (born on 4 March 1940 in Aklavik, NT). Cournoyea is the first Indigenous woman to lead a provincial or territorial government in Canada.