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Documenting the Second World War

When Canada declared war on Germany on 10 September 1939, tens of thousands of Canadians enlisted to serve in the armynavyair force and supporting services. The military scrambled to buy equipment, train recruits and prepare for war. Little thought was given, at first, to documenting the war effort. By 1940, however, the military was recruiting historians, most notably Charles Stacey, to collect records and write accounts of Canadian operations. In the following years, artists, photographers and filmmakers also served with the various branches of the armed forces. Today, their diligent work provides a rich visual and written catalogue of Canada’s history in the Second World War.

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Nonnie Griffin

Nonnie Griffin (née Lorna Margaret Jean Griffin), also known as Margaret Griffin, actor, playwright and director (born 20 October 1933 in Toronto, ON; died 7 June 2019 in Toronto). A gifted mimic blessed with striking beauty, Nonnie Griffin was known for her virtuosity with accents and her ability to play different ages and styles. Her work was distinguished by sensitivity and intelligence, and she excelled as a radio performer. She worked extensively in CBC TV and CBC Radio productions in the 1950s and 1960s and co-starred in the highly successful musical production of Anne of Green Gables. She appeared in numerous Canadian plays, films and TV series, and wrote and starred in her own one-woman shows, right up to her death at the age of 85.

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Barbara Godard

Barbara Godard, critic, translator, editor, educator (born at Toronto, 1942; died there 16 May 2010). Barbara Godard is one of Canada's leading authorities on literary theory, including her specialities in poststructuralism, feminism, avant-gardism, and translation studies.

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Jovette Marchessault

Jovette Marchessault, novelist, playwright, painter, sculptor (born 9 February 1938 in Montreal, QC; died 31 December 2012 in Danville, QC). Jovette Marchessault was a self-taught multidisciplinary artist. She won major prizes for her literary and theatrical works and made a unique mark on francophone culture. Supported by a deep and lyrical voice, her work celebrates words through myths and liberating poetic language. Her body of work stands as a tribute to women of all backgrounds, notably female artists and writers. She co-founded the international publishing house Squawtach Press, contributed to many publications and was a lecturer in the theatre department at the Université du Québec à Montréal. She won the prix France-Quebec and the Governor General’s Drama Award, among other honours.

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Acadian Heritage

This collection explores the rich heritage of the Acadians through articles and exhibits, as well as quizzes on arts and culture, history and politics, historical figures, and places associated with the Acadian people.

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Documenting the First World War

The First World War forever changed Canada. Some 630,000 Canadians enlisted from a nation of not yet eight million. More than 66,000 were killed. As the casualties mounted on the Western Front, an expatriate Canadian, Sir Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook), organized a program to document Canada’s war effort through art, photography and film. This collection of war art, made both in an official capacity and by soldiers themselves, was another method of forging a legacy of Canada’s war effort.

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Maud Lewis

Maud Lewis, artist (born 7 March 1903 in South Ohio, Nova Scotia; died 30 July 1970 in Digby, Nova Scotia).

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Howard Engel

Howard Engel, novelist, cartoonist (under the pen name “Foo”), story writer, poet (born 2 April 1931 in Toronto, ON; died 16 July 2019 in Toronto). Howard Engel was raised in St. Catharines, Ontario, and educated at McMaster University and the Ontario College of Education. During his career as a producer of literary and cultural programs at the CBC, Engel published a few stories and poems, but he did not begin to write seriously until he became interested in detective fiction.

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Jean Little

Jean Little, CM, writer, lecturer (born 2 January 1932 in Taiwan; died 6 April 2020). Jean Little was best known for her children’s books. She wrote more than 50 books. Little won the Canada Council Children’s Literature Award as well as foreign acclaim. Little’s books are widely translated. Her novels and poetry treat such themes as loneliness, alienation, intolerance, family stress and the difficulties in interpersonal and intercultural relationships. (See also Children’s Literature in English.)

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Nick Cordero

Nicholas Eduardo Alberto Cordero, actor, dancer, musician (born 17 September 1978 in Hamilton, Ontario; died 5 July 2020 in Los Angeles, California). Nick Cordero came to prominence with the 2014 Broadway production of Bullets Over Broadway, which earned him a Tony Award nomination. The imposing, six-foot-five actor also played many gangsters in film and television productions. His life was cut short in 2020 due to complications from COVID-19.

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Carl Beam

​Carl Beam (Carl Edward Migwans), artist (born 24 May 1943 in West Bay, Manitoulin Island, ON [now M’Chigeeng First Nation]; died 30 July 2005 in M’Chigeeng First Nation). The first contemporary Indigenous artist whose work was acquired by the National Gallery of Canada, Beam was one of Canada’s most ground-breaking Indigenous artists. (See also Contemporary Indigenous Art in Canada.)

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Barbara Chilcott

Barbara Chilcott, actor (born Barbara Chilcott Davis in Newmarket, Ont 1923). As a child and young woman in Toronto, Chilcott studied acting with Josephine Barrington and dancing with Bettina Byers at Academy Ballet, and attended Tamara Dakarhanova's School of the Theatre in Mount Kisco, NY.

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Dan Aykroyd

Daniel Edward Aykroyd, CM, OOnt, comedian, actor, screenwriter, musician, entrepreneur (born 1 July 1952 in Ottawa, ON). Dan Aykroyd is a comedian, writer and actor best known for his four seasons on Saturday Night Live (SNL) and for such hit comedies as The Blues Brothers (1980) and Ghostbusters (1984), both of which he cowrote. He won an Emmy Award for his writing on SNL and received an Oscar nomination for his supporting performance in Driving Miss Daisy (1989). He has also enjoyed considerable success as an entrepreneur, particularly in wine and spirits. He is a Member of the Order of Canada and Order of Ontario and has a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.

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R.H. Thomson

Robert Holmes Thomson, CM, actor, director, playwright (born 24 September 1947 in Richmond Hill, ON). R.H. Thomson is one of Canada’s foremost stage actors. He is also known for his extensive work in television and film, including as Matthew Cuthbert in Anne with an E (2017–19), the CBC/Netflix adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. He has won a Genie Award, two Gemini Awards, a Dora Awardand a Canadian Screen Award, as well as the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awardfor Lifetime Artistic Achievement. Thomson is a passionate advocate for arts and culture in Canada. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2010.

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Brent Carver

Brent Christopher Carver, actor (born 17 November 1951 in Cranbrook, BC; died 4 August 2020 in Cranbrook). Brent Carver was one of Canada’s most versatile and soulful actors. He tackled the classics at the Stratford Festival (1980–87) and gave critically acclaimed performances in musical theatre, cabaret and film. The New York Times described him as “sensitive, soft-spoken yet nakedly emotional.” His performance in the 1993 Broadway production of Kiss of the Spider Woman earned him a Tony Award. Associated with Robin Phillips, who directed him both at Stratford and at Theatre London (1983–84), Carver also worked closely with John Neville at Edmonton's Citadel Theatre. Carver received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in 2014.

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Ryan Reynolds

Ryan Rodney Reynolds, actor (born 23 October 1976 in Vancouver, BC). Charming, affable and boyishly handsome, Ryan Reynolds is one of the most recognized Canadian actors in Hollywood. He established his persona as a charismatic, quirky and quick-witted smart aleck in a wide range of Canadian and Hollywood films. They include the college comedy National Lampoon's Van Wilder (2002); the heist movie Foolproof (2003); the romantic comedies Definitely, Maybe (2008) and The Proposal (2009); and the action movies X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), Green Lantern (2011), Deadpool (2016) and Deadpool 2 (2018). He has a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has won two People’s Choice Awards, including Favourite Movie Actor in 2017, and has pursued a variety of successful business ventures.

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Ryan Gosling

Ryan Thomas Gosling, actor, musician, producer, director (born 12 November 1980 in London, ON). Ryan Gosling started out as a child actor before giving a breakthrough performance in the Sundance-winning indie drama The Believer in 2001. He has since created, in the words of the New York Times’ Dennis Lim, “a whole gallery of sensitive, intelligent, anguished young men, often with hipster tendencies or dark sides.” An A-list Hollywood star, he has proven equally adept at comedy ( Lars and the Real Girl, Crazy, Stupid, Love., The Nice Guys, The Big Short), drama ­(The Notebook, Half Nelson, Blue Valentine, The Ides of March, First Man) and science fiction (Blade Runner 2049). He has received two Oscar nominations and won a Golden Globe in 2017 for his lead role in the musical La La Land.

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Rachel McAdams

Rachel Anne McAdams, actor (born 17 November 1978 in London, ON). Rachel McAdams is perhaps best known as a leading lady in such Hollywood romances as The Notebook (2004), The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009) and The Vow (2012). After graduating with a BFA from York University in 2001, she made a meteoric rise to stardom, going from a Gemini Award-winning role in the Canadian TV series Slings & Arrows (2003) to her breakthrough Hollywood performance in the hit high school comedy Mean Girls (2004). She was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2014 and received Screen Actors Guild and Oscar nominations for her supporting performance in the Oscar-winning Spotlight (2015).

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Group of Seven

The Group of Seven, also known as the Algonquin School, was a school of landscape painters. It was founded in 1920 as an organization of self-proclaimed modern artists and disbanded in 1933. The group presented the dense, northern boreal forest of the Canadian Shield as a transcendent, spiritual force. Their depictions of Canada’s rugged wind-swept forest panoramas were eventually equated with a romanticized notion of Canadian strength and independence. Their works were noted for their bright colours, tactile paint handling, and simple yet dynamic forms. In addition to Tom ThomsonDavid Milne and Emily Carr, the Group of Seven were the most important Canadian artists of the early 20th century. Their influence is seen in artists as diverse as abstract painter Jack Bush, the Painters Eleven, and Scottish painter Peter Doig.