There are many great Canadians, but here are 5 of them that deserve a special mention.
Terry Fox raised $23 million for cancer research and became the youngest person to become a Companion of the Order of Canada. He did this by attempting run across Canada. Sadly, his cancer progressed and he was unable to complete the journey. Forty years later, many people continue to participate in the annual Terry Fox run.
Dr Sir Frederick G Banting helped a lot of people by creating synthetic insulin to treat diabetes. He became the youngest person, and the first Canadian, to receive a Nobel Prize. Banting wanted to ensure that people who suffer from diabetes would have access to his new medication, so he sold the patent for insulin to the University of Toronto for a mere $1.
E. Pauline Johnson or Tekahionwake was the daughter of a Mohawk hereditary chief. She is known for her poetry and short stories, and she traveled throughout North America as a performer. Johnson was both a feminist and an advocate for indigenous rights. Her work has been considered foundational to the genre of Canadian literature.
And only where the forest fires have sped,
Scorching relentlessly the cool north lands, A sweet wild flower lifts its purple head, And, like some gentle spirit sorrow-fed, It hides the scars with almost human hands.
And only to the heart that knows of grief,
Of desolating fire, of human pain, There comes some purifying sweet belief, Some fellow-feeling beautiful, if brief. And life revives, and blossoms once again E Pauline Johnson
In 1946, Viola Desmond refused to leave the ‘whites only’ section of a cinema in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. There were no actual laws enforcing racial segregation in Nova Scotia, but there were social rules about it. People living in New Glasgow knew that blacks were expected to sit in the balcony. Desmond lived in Halifax and was unaware of this social custom. She was only at the cinema at all because she was waiting for her car to be fixed after it broke down nearby. After being forcibly removed from the cinema and roughed up, Desmond was arrested. Unable to charge her with anything, the prosecutor managed to get Desmond convicted of sales-tax fraud. The reasoning was that the ‘whites only’ section cost slightly more than the ticket she was sold, and she had therefore robbed the government of their due. This conviction was not overturned until 2010! You can see Desmond’s face on the Canadian ten dollar bill and she has been named one of Canada’s National Historic Persons.
Thomas Longboat, or Cogwagee, was a long distance runner. As an Onondaga, at 12 years old he was forced to attend the Mohawk Institute Residential School. While at this residential school, Longboat was expected to stop speaking his native language and to convert to Christianity, but he managed to escape. He went on to become the first Native American (First Nations person) to win the 1907 Boston Marathon, breaking the former record by nearly 5 minutes. In 1909, Longboat further won the title of ‘Professional Champion of the World’ at a race held at Madison Square Garden in New York. He also set two world records for the 24 km and 32 km races. After retiring as a professional athlete, Longboat enlisted in the Canadian army, serving in France as a dispatch runner. Longboat is commemorated by a postage stamp, Longboat Avenue and Tom Longboat Lane, and a Tom Longboat Day, which is June 4th.
How many of these famous Canadians did you know?