The game is six degrees of Canadian history. Take two seemingly unrelated pieces of Canadian culture and connect the dots through various people, places and events to discover how they’re distantly — or maybe not-so-distantly — related. Along the way, we visit the quizzical and curious, the tragic and comic, and everything in between.
James Nathaniel Simpkins, cartoonist (born 26 November 1910 in Winnipeg, MB; died 1 February 2004 in Dundas, ON). Simpkins was the creator of "Jasper The Bear," a regular cartoon feature of Maclean's magazine for 24 years and the mascot of the national park community of the same name in Alberta.
Leonard Norman Cohen, poet, novelist, singer, songwriter (born 21 September 1934 in Montréal, QC; died 7 November 2016 in Los Angeles, California). Leonard Cohen was one of the most iconic Canadian artists of the 20th century. A sage, mystic, bohemian and romantic, he built an acclaimed body of literary work and a revered career in pop music. In his poetry, novels and music, he constantly probed the human condition, exploring themes of love, loss, death and his commitment to his art. As a poetic and unlikely pop star, his narrow-ranged, gruff voice, which deepened and darkened with age, and his reliance on simple, singsong melodies were complimented by the intense imagery and depth of his lyrics. A Companion of the Order of Canada, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, the US Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Folk Music Walk of Fame. He also received the Glenn Gould Prize, eight Juno Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and numerous other honours.
Norval Morrisseau, artist (born 14 March 1932 in Sand Point Reserve, near Beardmore, ON; died 4 December 2007 in Toronto, ON). Morrisseau was a self-taught artist of Ojibwa ancestry (his Ojibwa name, which appears in syllabics on his paintings, means "Copper Thunderbird") who originated the pictographic style.
Winner of the Sobey Art Award in 2006 and included in prestigious international exhibitions such as Documenta in Kassel, Germany, and in collections like that of the National Gallery of Canada, Annie Pootoogook was born into a family of accomplished Inuit artists. She is the daughter of graphic artist Napachie Pootoogook and printmaker and carver Eegyvudluk Pootoogook, and is the granddaughter of Pitseolak Ashoona. Her uncle was Kananginak Pootoogook.
Robert Markle, painter, writer, musician, educator (born 1936 in Hamilton, ON; died 1990 in Mount Forest, ON). Markle was Mohawk, but his relationship to his ancestry was not straightforward. It was only later in life that Markle actively incorporated aspects of his Indigenous identity into his art. Most well known for his female nudes, Markle usually depicted his wife, Marlene, or burlesque dancers. Following a Toronto police raid of a gallery exhibiting his work in 1965, some of Markle’s drawings were identified as obscene by a judge. Markle remains known for his sensual and passionate artwork.
Phil Comeau, CM, ONB, film director, screenwriter and producer (born 1956 in Saulnierville, Nova Scotia). This Acadian director’s films have received over 55 awards in Canada and abroad. They address subjects such as youth, human relationships, art, history and Acadian identity. His film Le secret de Jérôme (1994) garnered some 15 awards and is regarded as the first independent Acadian feature film produced in Canada. Comeau’s 2016 documentary feature Zachary Richard, toujours batailleur/Zachary Richard, Cajun Heart received the La Vague Léonard-Forest Award and the Audience Choice Award at the FICFA international francophone film festival in Moncton, New Brunswick and the Director’s Choice Award - Documentary Feature at the Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Louis B. Mayer, born Eliezer Mayer, studio executive (born at Minsk, Russia ca 1885; died at Los Angeles, Ca 29 Oct 1957). Louis B. Mayer's working-class family immigrated to New York when he was a small child, and in 1890 moved to Saint John, NB, where his father became a junk dealer.
Tomson Highway, CM, playwright, novelist, pianist and songwriter (born 6 December 1951 in northwestern Manitoba). A Member of the Order of Canada and named in Maclean's magazine as one of the 100 most important people in Canadian history, Tomson Highway has proved himself one of Canada’s most prominent and influential writers.
Boris Vladimirovich Volkoff, dancer, choreographer, ballet master and director (b Boris Vladimirovich Baskakoff at Schepotievo, Russia 24 Apr 1900; d at Toronto 11 Mar 1974). Although he often felt under-appreciated, Volkoff is now considered by many to be the godfather of Canadian ballet.