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Jann Arden

Jann Arden Anne Richards, singer, songwriter, actor, broadcaster (born 27 March 1962 in Calgary, AB). Jann Arden is a multiple Juno Award-winning singer and songwriter. Her melancholy yet hopeful adult contemporary pop songs, distinguished by her expressive vocal delivery and introspective lyrics, earned her an international following in the 1990s and 2000s. Candid and down-to-earth, she has parlayed her salty sense of humour and affable, self-deprecating persona into a successful second career as a host, broadcaster and sitcom star. She is a member of the Order of Canada and Canada’s Walk of Fame. She was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2020.

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Christopher Plummer

Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer, actor (born 13 December 1929 in Toronto, ON; died 5 February 2021 in Weston, Connecticut). Christopher Plummer, a great-grandson of Prime Minister  Sir John Abbott, was an international star who worked widely on stage and in film and television in the US, Britain and Canada. He was Canada’s most distinguished movie star in the classical mould — the New York Times hailed him as “the finest classical actor in America.” He took on innumerable larger-than-life roles, including Cyrano de Bergerac, King Lear, Hamlet, Rudyard Kipling, John Barrymore, and Baron von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965), one of the most popular films of all time. He won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, two Tony Awards, two Emmy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Film Independent Spirit Award, a Canadian Screen Award and a Genie Award. He received lifetime achievement awards from the Governors General’s Awards, the Canadian Screen Awards and the National Arts Club of America. A Companion of the Order of Canada, he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and Canada's Walk of Fame.

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Alexandre Bilodeau

Alexandre Bilodeau, freestyle skier (born 8 September 1987 in Montreal, QC). Alexandre Bilodeau’s gold medal in moguls at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver made him the first Canadian athlete to win an Olympic gold medal on home soil. At the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, he became the first male Canadian athlete to successfully defend his Olympic gold medal; as well as the first freestyle skier to win consecutive Olympic gold medals. He finished his career with three world championships in dual moguls and 19 World Cup medals. He then became an accountant and a national spokesperson for people with disabilities. He has been inducted into the Québec Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

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First Nations

First Nations is a term used to describe Indigenous peoples in Canada who are not Métis or  Inuit. First Nations people are original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada, and were the first to encounter sustained European contact, settlement and trade. According to the 2016 census by Statistics Canada, 977,230 people in Canada identified as being of First Nations heritage, a growth of 39.3 per cent since 2006. There are 634 First Nations in Canada, speaking more than 50 distinct languages.

For more detailed information on specific First Nations, see Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

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John Shiwak

John Shiwak (Sikoak), Inuit hunter, trapper, soldier (born February or March 1889 in Cul-de-Sac, near Rigolet, Labrador; died 21 November 1917 near Masnières, France). Shiwak was one of more than 60 men from Labrador who joined the military during the First World War. He went on to become one of the best scouts and snipers on the Western Front.

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Leonard Cohen

Leonard Norman Cohen, CC, GOQ, poet, novelist, singer, songwriter (born 21 September 1934 in Montreal, 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 a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, the Glenn Gould Prize, eight Juno Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and numerous other honours.

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James Naismith

Dr. James Naismith, physical educator, author, inventor, chaplain, physician (born 6 November 1861 in Almonte, Ontario; died 28 November 1939 in Lawrence, Kansas). James Naismith is best known as the inventor of the sport of basketball. He was also the first full-time athletics instructor at McGill University and established the basketball program at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where he worked and lived for 41 years until his death. Naismith became the first member of the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959. He was posthumously inducted to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame. In 2010, his original hand-written rules for the sport of basketball were sold at auction for $4.3 million, a sports memorabilia record. 

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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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Joseph Rouleau

Joseph Alfred Pierre Rouleau, CC, GOQ, bass, teacher (born 28 February 1929 in Matane, QC; died 12 July 2019 in Montreal, QC). Opera singer Joseph Rouleau was renowned worldwide for his unerring theatrical sense and impressive vocal flexibility. He performed for 20 years with Covent Garden in London, where he played leading roles in more than 40 productions. In Canada, Rouleau appeared often with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Quebec Symphony Orchestra. He premiered the role of Monseigneur Taché in Harry Somers’s Louis Riel with the Canadian Opera Company (COC) in 1967. He also commissioned and premiered Jacques Hétu’s Les Abîmes du rêve with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra in 1984, and issued a recording of songs by Félix Leclerc in 1990. Rouleau received the Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée, the Prix Denise-Pelletier and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. He was made an Officer and then Companion of the Order of Canada, and an Officer and then Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec. He was inducted into the Canadian Opera Hall of Fame in 1992.

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Félix Leclerc

Félix Eugène Leclerc, OC, GOQ, singer-songwriter, poet, novelist, playwright, actor, broadcaster (born 2 August 1914 at La Tuque, QC; died 8 August 1988 at Ȋle d'Orléans, QC). Félix Leclerc was a revolutionary artist whose work in several fields marked a turning point in Quebec culture. As a poet and playwright, he was one of Quebec’s literary giants. As a singer, he was a superstar in Canada and Europe, particularly in France. He greatly influenced the course of the Québec chanson and paved the way for the popular chansonnier movement in Quebec and France. He was a vocal proponent of Quebec nationalism and helped galvanize the collective identity of the people of Quebec. Some of his most popular songs included “Notre sentier,” “Moi, mes souliers,” “Bozo” and “Le Tour de l’Ȋle.” He received three Grand Prix du disque from the Académie Charles-Cros in Paris, as well as the Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée, the Prix Denise-Pelletier and the Diplôme d'honneur. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Grand Officer of the National Order of Québec and a Chevalier of France's Légion d'honneur.

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Janette Bertrand

Janette Bertrand, CCCQ, journalist, actor, author, playwright, feminist (born 25 March 1925 in Montreal, Quebec). A leading figure in Quebec television, Janette Bertrand has left a profound mark on journalism and culture in Quebec. She is renowned for her frank, sincere approach to social issues that had never before been addressed on Quebec television, such as sexual relationships, homosexuality, AIDSsuicide, and violence against women. She has long been recognized for her progressive stances on social issues and her role in educating the public about them. She is a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec.

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Martha Salcudean

Martha Eva Salcudean (née Abel), OC, OBC, professor of mechanical engineering (born 26 February 1934 in Cluj, Romania; died 17 July 2019 in British Columbia). Salcudean was a leading authority on computational fluid dynamics and heat transfer. In 1985, she was named chair of the department of mechanical engineering at the University of British Columbia. This made her the first female head of a Canadian university’s engineering department. Salcudean dedicated much of her academic career to forging research and development partnerships. She fostered collaboration between universities, government agencies and industry groups in sectors such as mining, pulp and paper and aeronautics.

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George Dixon

George Dixon, boxer (born 29 July 1870 in Africville, NS; died 6 January 1908 in New York, New York). George Dixon was the first Black world champion in boxing history and the first Canadian to ever win a world championship. Despite his small stature (5 feet 3.5 inches and between 87 and 115 pounds), Dixon amassed several notable accomplishments across a 20-year career and was the first boxer to win championships in multiple weight classes — bantamweight (1890) and featherweight (1891–96; 1897; 1898–1900). A cerebral fighter known as a “pioneer of scientific boxing,” he is credited with inventing various fundamental training techniques, including shadowboxing and the use of the heavy bag. As a dominant Black fighter in the post-Civil War United States, Dixon was subjected to fierce racism. He died in poverty from alcoholism at the age of 37. He was an inaugural inductee into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame, and was also named to The Ring Magazine Hall of Fame and the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Sheldon Kennedy

Sheldon Kennedy, CM, OM, AOE, hockey player, activist (born 15 June 1969 in Brandon, MB). Sheldon Kennedy is a retired professional ice hockey player and a public advocate for child abuse prevention. He was part of the 1988 World Junior Championship-winning team and captained the 1989 Memorial Cup champion Swift Current Broncos before playing eight seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL). In 1996, he came forward with revelations of years of sexual abuse at the hands of his junior hockey coach. Named the Canadian Press Newsmaker of the Year in 1997, Kennedy became a public speaker and activist. He is a member of the Order of Manitoba, the Alberta Order of Excellence and the Order of Canada. He has been inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and received the Order of Hockey in Canada.

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Norman Kwong

Norman “Normie” Lim Kwong (né Lim Kwong Yew), CM, AOE, football player, executive, businessman, lieutenant-governor of Alberta 2005–10 (born 24 October 1929 in Calgary, AB; died 3 September 2016 in Calgary). Nicknamed “the China Clipper,” Norman Kwong was the first Chinese Canadian to play professional football. In his 13 years as a halfback in the Canadian Football League (CFL), Kwong won four Grey Cups and set 30 league records. He was twice named the CFL’s most outstanding Canadian player and received the 1955 Lionel Conacher Award as Canada’s male athlete of the year. He served as president and general manager of the Calgary Stampeders (1988–92) and part owner of the Calgary Flames (1980–94) before becoming the first Chinese Canadian to serve as lieutenant-governor of Alberta. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

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The Tragically Hip

The Tragically Hip have been called “the most Canadian band in the world” by the BBC. The New York Times described them as “the band that for many has come closest to defining [Canada]’s cultural identity.” Between 1987 and 2016, they cemented themselves as the most popular Canadian band ever — despite having limited success outside the country. Their records have sold over six million copies in Canada. Nine of the band’s 13 studio albums topped the Canadian sales chart. The Hip amassed 46 Juno Award nominations and 15 trophies, including three wins each for Entertainer of the Year, Group of the Year and Rock Album of the Year. They also received the Juno’s Humanitarian Award and were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame. After lead singer and songwriter Gord Downie announced he had terminal brain cancer in 2016, the band undertook a farewell tour that rivetted much of the country. Downie was named the Canadian Press Newsmaker of the Year in 2016 and 2017 — the first entertainer to receive the honour.

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Sleeping Car Porters in Canada

Sleeping car porters were railway employees who attended to passengers aboard sleeping cars. Porters were responsible for passengers’ needs throughout a train trip, including carrying luggage, setting up beds, pressing clothes and shining shoes, and serving food and beverages, among other services. The vast majority of sleeping car porters were Black men and the position was one of only a few job opportunities available to Black men in Canada. While the position carried respect and prestige for Black men in their communities, the work demanded long hours for little pay. Porters could be fired suddenly and were often subjected to racist treatment. Black Canadian porters formed the first Black railway union in North America (1917) and became members of the larger Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1939. Both unions combatted racism and the many challenges that porters experienced on the job.

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Agnes Macphail

Agnes Campbell Macphail, politician, reformer (born 24 March 1890 in Proton Township, Grey County, ON; died 13 February 1954 in Toronto, ON). Agnes Macphail was the first woman elected to the House of Commons (1921–40) and was one of the first two women elected to the Ontario legislature (1943–45, 1948–51). She was also the first female member of a Canadian delegation to the League of Nations. Macphail was a founding member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the forerunner of the New Democratic Party). She was a noted pacifist and an advocate for prison reform. As a member of the Ontario legislature, she championed Ontario’s first equal pay legislation (1951).

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Dan Hill

Daniel Grafton Hill IV, singer, songwriter, guitarist, writer (born 3 June 1954 in Toronto, ON). Dan Hill is a successful adult contemporary singer and songwriter. Known for his plaintive voice and unabashedly sentimental lyrics, he achieved international stardom at age 23 with the hit single “Sometimes When We Touch.” In addition to his solo work, Hill has enjoyed a long career as a pop and country songwriter. He has amassed over 100 million in sales for his songs, which have been recorded by such artists as Céline Dion, Britney Spears, Alan Jackson and Reba McEntire. Hill has won five Juno Awards, a Grammy Award, five SOCAN Awards for outstanding radio airplay in Canada, and six ASCAP Awards for airplay in the United States. He was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2021.