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.
John McCrae, soldier, physician, poet (born 30 November 1872 in Guelph, ON; died 28 January 1918 in Wimereux, France). A noted pathologist and army physician, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae was also a poet; he wrote “In Flanders Fields” — one of the most famous poems of the First World War.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lucy Maud Montgomery, OBE, writer (born 30 November 1874 in Clifton (now New London), PEI; died 24 April 1942 in Toronto, ON). Lucy Maud Montgomery is arguably Canada’s most widely read author. Her first novel, Anne of Green Gables (1908), became an instant bestseller and has remained in print for more than a century, making the character of Anne Shirley a mythic icon of Canadian culture. Montgomery’s body of work — more than 500 short stories, 21 novels, two poetry collections and numerous journal and essay anthologies — has sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide. Anne of Green Gables alone has been translated into at least 36 languages as well as braille, and been adapted dozens of times in various mediums. Montgomery was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and the Literary and Artistic Institute of France, and declared a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada.
"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.
Herbert Marshall McLuhan, communication theorist (born 21 July 1911 in Edmonton, AB; died 31 December 1980 in Toronto, ON). Professor of English at the University of Toronto, McLuhan became internationally famous during the 1960s for his studies of the effects of mass media on thought and behaviour.