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Irish Canadians

The Irish have played an important role in the history of Canada. From their early settlements in Newfoundland, to the larger waves of migrations in the 19th century and the present, the Irish have been ever-present in the Canadian landscape. Irish Canadians have contributed to Canadian society and its economy, and the Irish-Canadian identity continues to be expressed and celebrated.

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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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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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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.  

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Barney Hartman

Bernard Conrad Hartman, CM, skeet shooter, pilot (born 2 November 1916 in Swan River, MB; died 30 October 2016 in Ottawa, ON). Barney Hartman was considered the greatest skeet shooter in the world. He won a silver and four bronze medals in international amateur competition and was the Canadian amateur 12-gauge champion for seven consecutive years. He claimed nearly 30 world records in various categories and as a professional boasted the world’s best average in nine of 12 years. He once broke a string of 2,002 consecutive clay targets without a miss and had a career success rate above 99 per cent. A Member of the Order of Canada, he was inducted into numerous halls of fame, including Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Armed Forces Sports Hall of Fame and the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

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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.

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Mark Messier

Mark Douglas “Moose” Messier, hockey player (born 18 January 1961 in Edmonton, AB). A talented forward who played in the National Hockey League (NHL) for 25 seasons, Mark Messier is considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time. He ranks near the top of many regular-season NHL records: third in points (1,887), eighth in goals (694), third in assists (1,193) and second in games played (1,756). He is also second all-time in playoff goals (109), playoff assists (186) and playoff points (295), and fourth overall in playoff games played (236). Famous for his leadership, he captained the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. He also won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player with the Oilers in 1990 and with the Rangers in 1992. Messier won six Stanley Cups and received the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1984. An Officer of the Order of Canada, he has been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.

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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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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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Cindy Nicholas

Cynthia Maria “Cindy” Nicholas, marathon swimmer, lawyer, politician (born 20 August 1957 in Toronto, ON; died 19 May 2016 in Scarborough, ON).  Cindy Nicholas was one of Canada’s most dominant marathon swimmers. In 1977, at the age of 20, she became both the first woman and youngest swimmer to complete a return crossing of the English Channel, setting a new world record of 19 hours and 55 minutes. She completed 19 crossings of the Channel between 1974 and 1982, including a record five return-trips, and earned the nickname “Queen of the Channel.” Nicholas was named the women’s world marathon swimming champion in 1976 and won the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada’s female athlete of the year in 1977. She also practiced law and served as a Member of Provincial Parliament with the Ontario Liberal Party from 1987 to 1990. She is a Member of the Order of Canada, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame  and the International Swimming Hall of Fame.  

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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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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.