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Bobby Curtola

Robert Allen Curtola, CM, singer, songwriter (born 17 April 1943 in Port Arthur, ON; died 4 June 2016 in EdmontonAB). Bobby Curtola emerged as a teen idol and dominated the Canadian pop chart in the 1960s. His string of hit singles, including “Fortune Teller” (1962), dominated the Canadian singles chart from 1960 to 1967 and sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. Curtola was one of the first Canadians to receive a multi-million-dollar contract to perform in Las Vegas. He also helped raise millions of dollars for charities as a host of various telethons. He was a Member of the Order of Canada, the RPM Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2019.

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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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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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Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Emily Pauline Johnson (a.k.a. Tekahionwake, “double wampum”) poet, writer, artist, performer (born 10 March 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West; died 7 March 1913 in VancouverBC). Pauline Johnson was one of North America’s most notable entertainers of the late 19th century. A mixed-race woman of Mohawk and European descent, she was a gifted writer and poised orator. She toured extensively, captivating audiences with her flair for the dramatic arts. Johnson made important contributions to Indigenous and Canadian oral and written culture. She is listed as a Person of National Historic Significance and her childhood home is a National Historic Site and museum. A monument in Vancouver’s Stanley Park commemorates her work and legacy. In 2016, she was one of 12 Canadian women in consideration to appear on a banknote. (See Women on Canadian Banknotes.)

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Peter Raymont

Peter Raymont, director, producer, editor, writer (born 28 February 1950 in Ottawa, ON). Peter Raymont is one of Canada’s most accomplished and acclaimed documentary filmmakers. After beginning his career at the NFB, he started his own production company in 1978 and co-founded the Canadian Independent Film Caucus (now the Documentary Organization of Canada) in 1982. He has won four Gemini Awards, an Emmy Award, a Genie Award and a Canadian Screen Award, as well as major prizes at the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival, among many others.

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Roberta Bondar

Roberta Lynn Bondar, CC, OOnt, FRSCastronaut, neurologist, physician, educator, photographer (born 4 December 1945 in Sault Ste Marie, ON). Bondar became the first Canadian woman and second Canadian in space when she flew aboard the American space shuttle Discovery in 1992. A doctor specializing in the nervous system, she is a pioneer in space medicine research. Bondar is also an exhibited and published nature photographer. She established The Roberta Bondar Foundation to educate people about environmental protection through art, and she currently serves as one of the organization’s directors.

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Editorial: Canadian Art and the Great War

Canadian painting in the 19th century tended towards the pastoral. It depicted idyllic scenes of rural life and represented the country as a wondrous Eden. Canadian painter Homer Watson, under the influence of such American masters as Frederic Edwin Church and Albert Bierstadt, created images that are serene and suffused with golden light. In On the Mohawk River (1878), for instance, a lazy river ambles between tall, overhanging trees; in the background is a light-struck mountain. In Watson’s world, nature is peaceful, unthreatening and perhaps even sacred.

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Chilliwack (band)

The Vancouver rock band Chilliwack produced some of the most enduring Canadian rock songs of the 1970s and early 1980s, including “Lonesome Mary,” “Fly at Night,” and “My Girl (Gone Gone Gone).” Their catchy, easygoing hooks and bright, melodic style were distinguished by the soaring falsetto and tasteful guitar playing of lead singer and principal songwriter Bill Henderson. In 18 years (1970–88), Chilliwack released 11 albums, four of which were certified platinum in Canada. They also had 19 Canadian singles. The band moved in an increasingly commercial direction through varying styles — from psychedelic, progressive and country rock to adult contemporary and pop rock. They endured multiple changes in labels and band members before achieving success in the United States. The band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2019.

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Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, PC, prime minister of Canada 1896–1911, politician, lawyer, journalist (born 20 November 1841 in St-Lin, Canada East; died 17 February 1919 in Ottawa, ON). Sir Wilfrid Laurier was the dominant political figure of his era. He was leader of the Liberal Party from 1887 to 1919 and Prime Minister of Canada from 1896 to 1911. A skilful and pragmatic politician with a charismatic personality, he unceasingly sought compromise. Above all, he was a fervent promoter of national unity at a time of radical change and worsening cultural conflict. Laurier also promoted the development and expansion of the country. He encouraged immigration to Western Canada; supported the construction of transcontinental railways; and oversaw the addition of Alberta and Saskatchewan to Confederation.

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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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Gordon A. Smith

Gordon Appelbe Smith, CM, OBC, painter, printmaker, teacher, philanthropist (born 18 June 1919 in East Brighton, England; died 18 January 2020 in West Vancouver, BC). Gordon Smith was a key figure in Vancouver’s art scene during the latter half of the 20th century. He was best known for his monumental, modernist abstractions of the West Coast landscape, and for his long and influential career as a teacher and philanthropist. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada for making “a major contribution to the development of the fine arts in Canada.” He also received the Order of British Columbia, the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts, and the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts.

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John Diefenbaker

John George “Dief the Chief” Diefenbaker, PC, CH, KC, FRSC, prime minister 1957–63, politician, lawyer (born 18 September 1895 in Neustadt, ON; died 16 August 1979 in Ottawa, ON). John Diefenbaker was Canada’s 13th prime minister. He was well known as a defence lawyer before his election to Parliament, and was an eloquent spokesman for “non-establishment” Canada. A supporter of civil rights for all, Diefenbaker championed the Canadian Bill of Rights and the extension of the right to vote to First Nations peoples. He also played an important role in the anti-apartheid statement that led to South Africa’s departure from the Commonwealth in 1961. He was a charismatic and popular speaker; but he was also a divisive force within the Progressive Conservative Party. He was criticized for his indecision concerning nuclear missiles on Canadian soil; for his strained relations with US President John F. Kennedy; and for his cancellation of the Avro Arrow project.

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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.

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Lucy Maud Montgomery

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 best-seller. It has remained in print for more than a century, making the character of Anne Shirley a mythic icon of Canadian culture. Montgomery produced more than 500 short stories, 21 novels, two poetry collections, and numerous journal and essay anthologies. Her body of work 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. It has been adapted dozens of times in various mediums. Montgomery was named an Officer of both the Order of the British Empire and the Literary and Artistic Institute of France. She was the first Canadian woman to be made a member of the British Royal Society of Arts and she was declared a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada.

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Tony Golab

Anthony Charles “Tony” Golab, CM, football player (born 17 January 1919 in Windsor, Ontario;  died 16 October 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario). Known as the “golden boy” of Canadian football, Tony Golab was a hard-charging, versatile player with the Ottawa Rough Riders. He played with the team from 1939 to 1941 and again from 1945 to 1950, serving as an RCAF flight lieutenant and pilot during the Second World War. Golab played offence and defence for Ottawa, where his spirited style made him a fan favourite. He appeared in four Grey Cup games, winning in 1940, and was named Canada’s male athlete of the year (now known as the Lionel Conacher Award) in 1941. He is a member of the Order of Canada, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

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Oscar Peterson

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, CC, CQ, OOnt, jazz pianist, composer, educator (born 15 August 1925 in Montréal, QC; died 23 December 2007 in Mississauga, ON). Oscar Peterson is one of Canada’s most honoured musicians. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. He was renowned for his remarkable speed and dexterity, meticulous and ornate technique, and dazzling, swinging style. He earned the nicknames “the brown bomber of boogie-woogie” and “master of swing.” A prolific recording artist, he typically released several albums a year from the 1950s until his death. He also appeared on more than 200 albums by other artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, who called him “the man with four hands.” His sensitivity in these supporting roles, as well as his acclaimed compositions such as Canadiana Suite and “Hymn to Freedom,” was overshadowed by his stunning virtuosity as a soloist. Also a noted jazz educator and advocate for racial equality, Peterson won a Juno Award and eight Grammy Awards, including one for lifetime achievement. The first recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the International Jazz Hall of Fame. He was also made an Officer and then Companion of the Order of Canada, and an Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters in France, among many other honours.

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Lester B. Pearson

Lester Bowles (“Mike”) Pearson, PC, OM, CC, OBE, prime minister 1963–68, statesman, politician, public servant, professor (born 23 April 1897 in Newtonbrook, ON; died 27 December 1972 in Ottawa, ON). Lester Pearson was Canada’s foremost diplomat of the 1950s and 1960s. He formulated the basics of the country’s postwar foreign policy; particularly its involvement in NATO and the United Nations, where he served as president of the General Assembly. In 1957, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his diplomatic efforts in facilitating Britain and France’s departure from Egypt during the Suez Crisis. A skilled politician, he rebuilt the Liberal Party and as prime minister strove to maintain Canada’s national unity. Under his leadership, the government implemented a Canada Pension Plan; a universal medicare system; a unified Armed Forces; and a new national flag.

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Sir Clifford Sifton

Sir Clifford Sifton, PC, KCMG, KC, lawyer, politician, businessman (born 10 March 1861 near Arva, Canada West; died 17 April 1929 in New York City, New York). Sir Clifford Sifton was one of the ablest politicians of his time. He is best known for his aggressive promotion of immigration to settle the Prairie West. Under his leadership, immigration to Canada increased significantly; from 16,835 per year in 1896 to 141,465 in 1905. A Liberal politician of considerable influence and vision, he was also a controversial figure. Sifton promoted a single education system and opposed the public funding of denominational schools, largely disregarding the concerns of French Catholics. He also showed little interest in the Indigenous peoples of the Prairies; he oversaw cuts to Indigenous education and approved Treaty 8. His brother, Arthur Lewis Sifton, was premier of Alberta from 1910 to 1917.

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Chinese Head Tax in Canada

The Chinese head tax was enacted to restrict immigration after Chinese labour was no longer needed to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Between 1885 and 1923, Chinese immigrants had to pay a head tax to enter Canada. The tax was levied under the Chinese Immigration Act (1885). It was the first legislation in Canadian history to exclude immigration on the basis of ethnic background. With few exceptions, Chinese people had to pay at least $50 to come to Canada. The tax was later raised to $100, then to $500. During the 38 years the tax was in effect, around 82,000 Chinese immigrants paid nearly $23 million in tax. The head tax was removed with the passing of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923. Also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, it banned all Chinese immigrants until its repeal in 1947. In 2006, the federal government apologized for the head tax and its other racist immigration policies targeting Chinese people.