Viola Irene Desmond (née Davis), businesswoman, civil libertarian (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. It is, however, the story of her courageous refusal to accept an act of racial discrimination that provided inspiration to a later generation of Black persons in Nova Scotia and in the rest of Canada. In December 2016, it was announced that Desmond would be the first Canadian woman depicted on the face of a Canadian banknote — the $10 note in a series of bills released in 2018.1
Michael Lee-Chin, businessman, investor and philanthropist (born 3 January 1951 in Port Antonio, Jamaica). Lee-Chin is president and chairman of Portland Holdings, a private investment company. According to Canadian Business magazine, Lee-Chin has an estimated net worth of more than $3.95 billion (as of 2017) and was ranked the 20th wealthiest Canadian. He is also one of the richest Jamaicans. Lee-Chin is also a dedicated philanthropist and has pledged and donated more than $60 million to hospitals, universities and, most notably, the Royal Ontario Museum, where the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal is named in honour of his $30-million pledge.
Marion Meadmore (née Ironquill), OC, Ojibwe-Cree, first Indigenous female lawyer in Canada, newspaper editor, community activist, founder and co-founder of national and Prairie Indigenous organizations (born in 1936 on the Peepeekisis reserve near Balcarres, SK.) She helped create the National Indian Council and co-founded the National Indigenous Council of Elders and the Indigenous Bar Association of Canada.
Brandeis Denham Jolly, teacher, entrepreneur, publisher, broadcaster, philanthropist, civil rights activist, community leader (born 26 August 1935 in Industry Cove, Jamaica). Jolly began his business career by purchasing and operating rooming houses and nursing homes. He later purchased and became the publisher of Contrast, a Black community newspaper in Toronto and established FLOW 93.5, the first Black-owned radio station and the first station in Canada to showcase Black music and the stories of the Black community. Jolly also was involved with or founded and led community groups — such as the Black Action Defence Committee — that sought to end police violence targeting young Black men. Jolly also contributed generously to several causes including scholarships for promising young Black Canadians.
V. Prem Watsa, CM, businessman, investor (born 7 August 1950, in Hyderabad, India). Watsa emerged from modest beginnings to found and develop one of the most prominent financial holding companies in Canada, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., of which he is chairman and chief executive officer. Fairfax is engaged in property and casualty insurance and reinsurance, as well as investment management. Among the companies Fairfax either owns, or owns enough shares to give it controlling interest, are Sporting Life, William Ashley, and Prime Restaurants, which has many chains including East Side Mario’s. Fairfax also has investments and owns insurance and other companies in Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Brazil, Poland, Malaysia, Singapore, Barbados and Hong Kong. In 2016, it had revenues of $12.3 billion and held $58.3 billion in assets. Watsa is sometimes called Canada’s Warren Buffett for his shrewd investment practices. According to Forbes, he had an estimated net worth of over $1.08 billion (as of 2017) and was ranked the 31st wealthiest Canadian.
Herbert Clifford (Herb) Belcourt, CM, entrepreneur, philanthropist (born 6 July 1931 in Lac Ste. Anne, AB; died 5 July 2017 in Sherwood Park, AB). Belcourt was a celebrated Métis philanthropist and businessman recognized for starting several successful businesses in Edmonton and Sherwood Park, including Belcourt Construction, which became one of the largest power line companies in Alberta. Belcourt was also a philanthropist who gave back to the Métis community of Alberta through affordable housing and education bursaries.
Joseph Mimran, entrepreneur, consultant, fashion designer, retailer (born 2 December 1952 in Casablanca, Morocco). Mimran is best-known for launching the Alfred Sung, Club Monaco and Joe Fresh fashion brands, as well as his involvement with Pink Tartan, a fashion line designed by Kimberley Newport-Mimran, his second wife. Mimran is a partner at Gibraltar Ventures, a Toronto-based firm that invests in technology-driven companies. He also appears as a Dragon on the CBC series Dragons’ Den.
Craig Kielburger, CM, author, speaker and social entrepreneur (born 17 December 1982 in Toronto, ON). Kielburger is best known for his activism as a young teenager and his work co-founding and leading ME to WE, a business that links purchases to global social and economic development. He also founded and co-leads WE Charity (formerly Free the Children), which focuses particularly on youth education and mobilization. Much of his work revolves around a conviction that youth are fundamental to creating systemic change.
Charles Rosner Bronfman, PC, CC, businessman and philanthropist (born 27 June 1931 in Montréal, QC). Bronfman was co-chairman of the Bronfman family business, Seagram, the world’s largest producer and distributor of distilled spirits. He also owned the Montreal Expos baseball club from 1968 to 1990. According to Forbes, Bronfman had an estimated net worth of over $2 billion (as of 2017) and was ranked the 16th wealthiest Canadian and 896th wealthiest person in the world. Bronfman is also a dedicated philanthropist. He established the CRB Foundation to promote study of Canadian and Jewish affairs, and co-founded and endowed the Historica Foundation of Canada, which later became Historica Canada (publisher of The Canadian Encyclopedia). He has disbursed approximately $325 million through Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies Inc. (ACBP) and private donations.
Joseph-Armand Bombardier, entrepreneur, inventor of the snowmobile and Ski-Doo (born 16 April 1907 in Valcourt, QC; died 18 February 1964 in Sherbrooke, QC). While Bombardier’s many inventions demonstrate his mechanical skills, his ability not only to respond to transportation needs but to create them gave rise to his namesake corporation’s record of shrewd business and innovation.
Edward Samuel (Ted) Rogers Jr., OC, founder and CEO of Rogers Communications, businessman, philanthropist (born 27 May 1933 in Toronto, ON; died 2 December 2008 in Toronto, ON). Rogers was a pioneer in the Canadian communications industry who established Rogers Communications. At the time of his death in 2008, Rogers was the fourth-richest Canadian, with a net worth of over $7 billion, while the company was worth $18 billion and employed roughly 29,000 people. Rogers Communications owned Canada’s largest wireless telecommunications company and cable TV company; 52 radio stations; numerous TV stations (including CityTV, OMNI, Sportsnet and The Shopping Channel); more than 70 consumer and trade magazines (including Maclean’s, Chatelaine and Flare); and the Toronto Blue Jays and Rogers Centre (formerly the SkyDome).
James Laurence (Jim) Balsillie, co-CEO of Research In Motion, business executive, chartered professional accountant, philanthropist (born 3 February 1961 in Seaforth, ON). Balsillie is best known as the former chairman and co-CEO of Research In Motion, the Waterloo, Ontario, company now known as BlackBerry. He is also a major philanthropist and the founder of numerous non-profit organizations, including the Arctic Research Foundation (which found one of the lost Franklin ships in 2016), the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the Balsillie School of International Affairs and the Centre for International Governance Innovation. An avid hockey fan, Balsillie tried on three separate occasions to purchase an NHL team and move it to Hamilton, Ontario.
Samuel Michael Katz, businessman, mayor of Winnipeg 2004–2014 (born 20 August, 1951 in Rehovot, Israel). An entrepreneur and owner of the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team, Katz was elected Winnipeg’s first Jewish mayor in June 2004. The latter half of his administration was marked by controversy over city real estate deals.
Bernard Lord, lawyer, businessman, premier of New Brunswick 1999-2006 (born 27 September 1965 in Roberval, QC). After becoming New Brunswick's youngest elected premier at age 33, Lord successfully revised the province's Official Languages Act and introduced widely praised measures to improve bilingual services.