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Thomas D'Arcy McGee

Thomas D’Arcy McGee, journalist, politician, poet (born 13 April 1825 in Carlingford, County Louth, Republic of Ireland; died 7 April 1868 in Ottawa, ON). Thomas D’Arcy McGee was dedicated to the cause of Irish national liberation. This pushed him towards revolutionary anti-British doctrine in his early years. However, he matured to become a staunch defender of British constitutional monarchy and a Father of Confederation. He was an advocate for minority rights at a time when the politics of ethnic and religious identity were intensely fraught. He was an incredibly eloquent public speaker and a passionate advocate for Canadian interests. However, his political transformation ultimately damaged his popularity with Irish nationalists, particularly the Fenians. He was assassinated in 1868.

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Mary “Bonnie” Baker

Mary Geraldine “Bonnie” Baker (née George), professional baseball player, broadcaster (born 10 July 1919 in Regina, SK; died 17 December 2003 in Regina). Mary “Bonnie” Baker was a catcher and utility infielder in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League for nine seasons. In 1950, she also served as the only regular female manager in the league’s 12-year history. A feisty character on the diamond and a vivacious personality off it, Baker was one of the models for the character of Dottie Hinson, played by Geena Davis, in the Hollywood movie A League of Their Own (1992). After retiring as a baseball and softball player, Baker became Canada’s first female sports broadcaster.

Article

Palbinder Kaur Shergill

Palbinder Kaur Shergill, QC, judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in New Westminster (born in Rurka Kalan, Punjab, India). Shergill spent 26 years practising law before she was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. She was the first turbaned Sikh woman to be appointed as a judge in Canada.

Article

Ed Bickert

Edward Isaac Bickert, CM, jazz guitarist (born 29 November 1932 in Hochfeld, MB; died 28 February 2019 in Toronto, ON). Ed Bickert was Canada’s best-known jazz guitarist. He developed a unique, understated style of considerable harmonic sophistication. Rooted in bebop, his intuitive, pianistic approach was characterized by lyrical and rhythmic ease, a deceptively complex simplicity and a generally muted tone. He is noted for his work with Ron Collier, Rob McConnell, Don Thompson and Moe Koffman. Bickert achieved international prominence through his work in the mid-1970s with American saxophonist Paul Desmond. A Member of the Order of Canada, Bickert won a Juno Award and multiple National Jazz Awards. He also played on dozens of Juno- and Grammy-nominated and award-winning recordings.

Article

War of 1812

The War of 1812 (which lasted from 1812 to 1814) was a military conflict between the United States and Great Britain. As a colony of Great Britain, Canada was swept up in the War of 1812 and was invaded several times by the Americans. The war was fought in Upper Canada, Lower Canada, on the Great Lakes and the Atlantic, and in the United States. The peace treaty of Ghent (1814), which ended the war, largely returned the status quo. However, in Canada, the war contributed to a growing sense of national identity, including the idea that civilian soldiers were largely responsible for repelling the American invaders. In contrast, the First Nations allies of the British and Canadian cause suffered much because of the war; not only had they lost many warriors (including the great Tecumseh), they also lost any hope of halting American expansion in the west, and their contributions were quickly forgotten by their British and Canadian allies (see First Nations and Métis Peoples in the War of 1812).

Article

Willie O'Ree

Willie O’Ree, CM, ONB, hockey player (born 15 October 1935 in Fredericton, NB). Willie O’Ree became the first Black hockey player to play a National Hockey League (NHL) game on 18 January 1958. He played professional hockey for more than 20 years, including 45 games in the NHL. Since 1998, O’Ree has been the NHL’s Director of Youth Development and ambassador for NHL Diversity, and has led the Hockey is for Everyone program. He received the Lester Patrick Trophy in 2003 for his outstanding service to hockey in the United States. In 2018, the NHL established the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award in his honour. O’Ree is a Member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of New Brunswick. He has been inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame as a Builder on 27 May 2020 and will be formally inducted in 2021.

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Peter Mansbridge

Peter Mansbridge, OC, television news anchor, journalist, columnist (born 6 July 1948 in London, England). A widely respected journalist, Peter Mansbridge was the face of CBC News for nearly 30 years. As the chief correspondent and lead anchor of The National from 1988 to 2017, he won 12 Gemini Awards for broadcast excellence, including the Gordon Sinclair Award for best overall broadcast journalist in 1990 and 1998. His other honours include two Canadian Screen Awards as well as numerous honorary degrees and lifetime achievement awards. He has been inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

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Albert Johnson, “The Mad Trapper of Rat River”

Albert Johnson, also known as the “Mad Trapper,” outlaw (born circa 1890–1900, place of birth unknown; died 17 February 1932 in Yukon). On 31 December 1931, an RCMP constable investigating a complaint about traplines was shot and seriously wounded by a trapper living west of Fort McPherson, NT. The ensuing manhunt — one of the largest in Canadian history — lasted 48 days and covered 240 km in temperatures averaging -40°C. Before it was over, a second policeman was badly wounded and another killed. The killer, tentatively but never positively identified as Albert Johnson, was so skilled at survival that the police had to employ bush pilot Wilfrid “Wop” May to track him. The Trapper’s extraordinary flight from the police across sub-Arctic terrain in the dead of winter captured the attention of the nation and earned him the title “The Mad Trapper of Rat River.” No motive for Johnson’s crimes has ever been established, and his identity remains a mystery.

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Article

Mr. Dressup

Mr. Dressup was one of Canada’s most beloved and longest-running children’s television series. The program ran for 29 years (1967–96) and more than 4,000 episodes. It starred Ernie Coombs as the jovial Mr. Dressup and was a precursor to the popular American series, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mr. Dressup was influential in tailoring children’s programming towards developing the child’s emotional and logical intelligence. The series won three Gemini Awards and earned Coombs an appointment to the Order of Canada. A 2017 crowd-sourced online vote unofficially declared Mr. Dressup Canada’s most memorable television program. In 2019, Mr. Dressup was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.  

Article

Jennie Smillie

Jennie Smillie Robertson, physician, surgeon and teacher (born 10 February 1878 in Huron County, ON; died 26 February 1981 in Toronto, ON). Smillie is considered the first recorded female surgeon to practise in Ontario. She also performed the first major gynecological surgery in Canada.

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Article

Tom Longboat

Thomas Charles Longboat, distance runner (born 4 July 1886 in Ohsweken, Six Nations Grand River reserve; died 9 January 1949). Tom Longboat (Haudenosaunee name Cogwagee) was an Onondaga distance runner from the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Largely because of his ability to dominate any race and his spectacular finishing sprints, he was one of the most celebrated athletes before the First World War.

Article

Caroline Ouellette

Caroline Ouellette, OC, hockey player, softball player (born 25 May 1979 in Montreal, QC). Caroline Ouellette is one of only five athletes to win a gold medal at four consecutive Olympic Winter Games (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014). She also won six gold medals and six silver medals with Team Canada at the IIHF Women’s World Championship and four Clarkson Cup titles as the champion of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). Ouellette was a formidable power forward early in her career and became an excellent playmaker. Upon retiring from women’s hockey in 2018, she ranked second all-time among Canadian women’s hockey players in assists (155) and third in points (242). She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2019.

Article

James Barry

James Miranda Steuart Barry, FRS (probably born Margaret Anne Bulkley), military surgeon, physician (born c. 1789–99; died 25 July 1865 in London, England). Posted across the British Empire, Barry reformed medical standards in the British army. His final and highest-ranking position was as inspector-general of military hospitals in the Province of Canada in the 1850s. After his death, it was reported that Barry’s assigned sex at birth was female. This has sparked significant debate about his identity.

Note on pronouns: This article refers to James Barry with masculine pronouns, as this was how Barry referred to himself throughout his life.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

Article

Patriation of the Constitution

In 1982, Canada fully broke from its colonial past and “patriated” its Constitution. It transferred the country’s highest law, the British North America Act (which was renamed the Constitution Act, 1867), from the authority of the British Parliament to Canada’s federal and provincial legislatures. The Constitution was also updated with a new amending formula and a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These changes occurred after a fierce, 18-month political and legal struggle that dominated headlines and the agendas of every government in the country.

Article

Graeme Gibson

Graeme Gibson, CM, writer, cultural activist, teacher (born 9 August 1934 in London, ON; died 18 September 2019 in London, England). Graeme Gibson was a noted Canadian author and conservationist. His novels Five Legs (1969), Communion (1971), Perpetual Motion (1982) and Gentleman Death (1993) were widely acclaimed. He also published the environmentally conscious The Bedside Book of Birds (2005) and The Bedside Book of Beasts (2009). A committed bird watcher, he helped found the Pelee Island Bird Observatory. He was also instrumental in forming the Writers’ Union of Canada, the Book and Periodical Development Council and the Writers’ Trust of Canada. He was a former president of PEN Canada and the longtime partner of Margaret Atwood.

Article

Cindy Klassen

Cindy Klassen, OM, speed skater, hockey player (born 12 August 1979 in WinnipegMB). Cindy Klassen is the first Canadian to win five medals in one Olympic Games (Torino 2006). With a total of six Olympic medals, she is tied with fellow speed skater and cyclist Clara Hughes as the most decorated Canadian Olympians. Klassen was also overall world champion in speed skating in 2003 and 2006. In her career, she set six world records and won 115 international medals (46 gold, 41 silver and 28 bronze). She was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year in 2006 and received the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada's female athlete of the year in 2005 and 2006. She has been inducted into the Order of Manitoba, the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.  

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