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Albert Jackson

Albert Jackson, letter carrier (born c. 1857–58 in Delaware; died 14 January 1918 in Toronto, ON). Albert Jackson is thought to be the first Black letter carrier in Canada (see Postal System). Jackson was born into enslavement in the United States, and escaped to Canada with his mother and siblings when he was a toddler in 1858. In 1882, Jackson was hired as a letter carrier in Toronto, but his co-workers refused to train him on the job. While his story was debated in the press for weeks, the Black community in Toronto organized in support of Jackson, meeting with Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to have Jackson reinstated. Jackson returned to his post days later and served as a letter carrier for almost 36 years.

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Murray Sinclair

Murray Sinclair or Mizanay (Mizhana) Gheezhik, meaning “The One Who Speaks of Pictures in the Sky” in the Ojibwe language, lawyer, judge and senator (born in 1951 in Selkirk, MB). Called to the Manitoba Bar in 1980, Sinclair focused primarily on civil and criminal litigation, Indigenous law and human rights. In 1988, he became Manitoba’s first, and Canada’s second, Indigenous judge. Sinclair joined the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2009, before becoming a senator in 2016. He retired from the Senate in 2021 but continues to mentor Indigenous lawyers. The breadth of public service and community work completed by Sinclair demonstrates his commitment to Indigenous peoples in Canada.

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Igor Gouzenko

Igor Sergeievitch Gouzenko, Soviet intelligence officer, author (born 26 January 1919 in Rogachev, Russia; died 25 June 1982 in Mississauga, ON). Igor Gouzenko was a Soviet cipher clerk stationed at the Soviet Union’s Ottawa embassy during the Second World War. Just weeks after the end of the war, Gouzenko defected to the Canadian government with proof that his country had been spying on its wartime allies: Canada, Britain and the United States. This prompted what is known as the Gouzenko Affair. Gouzenko sought asylum for himself and his family in Canada. His defection caused a potentially dangerous international crisis. Many historians consider it the beginning of the Cold War.

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David Milgaard Case

David Milgaard was a 16-year-old hippie when he was charged with the rape and murder of Saskatoon nurse Gail Miller in 1969. Milgaard's prosecution for first degree murder at age 17 became one of Canada's most notorious wrongful convictions. He was finally released in 1992 after 23 years in prison. DNA evidence exonerated him in 1997 and led to the conviction of Larry Fisher, a serial sex offender, in 1999. Milgaard received an official apology from the Saskatchewan government in 1997 and a $10 million settlement in 1999. Milgaard became an advocate for prison reform and the rights of the accused and helped establish a federal commission to investigate cases of alleged wrongful conviction.

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Viola Desmond

Viola Irene Desmond (née Davis), businesswoman, civil rights activist (born 6 July 1914 in Halifax, NS; died 7 February 1965 in New York, NY). Viola Desmond built a career and business as a beautician and was a mentor to young Black women in Nova Scotia through her Desmond School of Beauty Culture. In 1946, Viola Desmond challenged racial discrimination when she refused to leave the segregated Whites-only section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Viola Desmond was arrested, jailed overnight and convicted without legal representation for an obscure tax offence as a result. Despite the efforts of the Nova Scotian Black community to assist her appeal, Viola Desmond was unable to remove the charges against her and went unpardoned in her lifetime. Desmond’s courageous refusal to accept an act of racial discrimination provided inspiration to later generations of Black persons in Nova Scotia and in the rest of Canada. In 2010, Lieutenant-GovernorMayann Francis issued Desmond a free pardon. In December 2016, the Bank of Canada announced that Viola Desmond would be the first Canadian woman to be featured by herself on the face of a banknote — the $10 note released on 19 November 2018. Viola Desmond was named a National Historic Person by the Canadian government in 2018.

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Hugh Burnett

Hugh Burnett, civil rights activist, carpenter (born 14 July 1918 in Dresden, ON; died 29 September 1991 in London, ON). Burnett was a key figure in the fight for anti-discrimination legislation in Ontario. Through the 1940s and early 1950s, he organized tirelessly against racial discrimination in public service in his hometown of Dresden, Ontario, rising to prominence as a leader and organizer of the National Unity Association (NUA), a coalition of Black community members pushing for equal rights in Dresden and the surrounding area. He was instrumental to in bringing about legislative and legal victories for civil rights at the provincial level related to the 1954 Fair Accommodation Practices Act, an early anti-discrimination law in Ontario.

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Peter Lougheed

Edgar Peter Lougheed, businessman, lawyer, premier of Alberta (born at Calgary 26 July 1928, died there 13 Sept. 2012). In 1965, at the age of 36, Lougheed was elected leader of the small Alberta Progressive Conservative Party. A successful political career at the helm of such a marginal party seemed unlikely at the start. By the time Lougheed took charge, the party didn't hold a single seat.

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Princess Margriet of the Netherlands

Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet Francisca of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld (born 19 January 1943 in Ottawa, ON) spent her early childhood in Canada during the Second World War. The annual Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa emerged from gifts of thousands of tulip bulbs from the Dutch royal family. Margriet continues to make regular visits to Canada, strengthening ties between Canada and the Netherlands.