Sir John Alexander Macdonald was the dominant creative mind which produced the British North America Act and the union of provinces which became Canada. As the first prime minister of Canada, he oversaw the expansion of the Dominion from sea to sea. His government dominated politics for a half century and set policy goals for future generations of political leaders.
Valérie Plante, mayor of Montréal 2017–present, community organizer, city councillor (born 14 June 1974 in Rouyn-Noranda, QC). After running for mayor with an irreverent campaign that advertised her as “the right man for the job,” Plante won Montréal’s municipal election on 5 November 2017, becoming the first woman to be elected mayor in the city’s 375-year history.
Lincoln MacCauley Alexander, CC, QC, OOnt, lawyer, parliamentarian, public servant, lieutenant-governor of Ontario (born 21 January 1922 in Toronto, ON; died 19 October 2012 in Hamilton, ON). Alexander was the first Black Canadian Member of Parliament, cabinet minister and lieutenant-governor (Ontario).
Duncan Campbell Scott, poet, writer, civil servant (born 2 August 1862 in Ottawa, ON; died 19 December 1947 in Ottawa, ON). Scott’s complicated legacy encompasses both his work as an acclaimed poet and his role as a controversial public servant. Considered one of the “poets of the Confederation” — a group of English-language poets whose work laid the foundations for a tradition of Canadian poetry — his intense works made use of precise imagery and transitioned smoothly between traditional and modern styles. However, his literary work has arguably been overshadowed by his role as the deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs. He enforced and expanded residential schools, failed to respond to a tuberculosis epidemic and oversaw a treaty process that many claim robbed Indigenous peoples of land and rights. His oft-quoted goal to “get rid of the Indian problem” became, for many, characteristic of the federal government’s treatment of Indigenous peoples.1
Roy John Romanow, PC, OC, premier of Saskatchewan 1991-2001, lawyer, politician, author, royal commissioner (born 12 August 1939 in Saskatoon, SK). Romanow was a leading figure in the negotiations that led to the 1982 patriation of the Constitution and the creation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As premier, he restored Saskatchewan’s fiscal health in the 1990s. A passionate advocate for publicly-funded medicare, he headed the 2001-2002 Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada.
Wabanakwut Kinew, hip hop artist, broadcaster, university administrator, author, politician (born 31 December 1981 in Kenora, ON). An Ojibwa activist and public intellectual, Wab Kinew began his career as a musician and rapper with the hip hop group Dead Indians. He gained national attention through his radio and television journalism for the CBC, including 8th Fire, a television series on Indigenous issues. Kinew’s 2015 memoir, The Reason You Walk, was a national bestseller and finalist for the RBC Taylor Prize. Kinew was elected to the Manitoba legislature in 2016, despite controversial tweets and rap lyrics that dogged his campaign. Similarly, revelations of stayed domestic assault charges from 2003 threatened to derail his bid to become leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party, though he was named leader in September 2017.
David Lloyd Johnston, professor, university administrator, governor general (born 28 June 1941 in Copper Cliff, ON). After establishing himself as a respected professor and well-published scholar, Johnson became president of two major Canadian universities. Beginning in the 1980s, he served as an advisor to the federal and Ontario governments, both Liberal and Conservative, on a number of sensitive issues, including what would become the Oliphant Commission. Appointed governor general in 2010, Johnston encouraged education, innovation, philanthropy and volunteerism and devoted much of his time to the plight of Indigenous peoples. After Johnston served five years in office, the government asked him to stay in office for an additional two years, making him the longest-serving Canadian governor general in half a century.2
Julia Verlyn (Judy) LaMarsh, OC, lawyer, politician, broadcaster, author (born 20 December 1924 in Chatham, ON; died 27 October 1980 in Toronto). Judy LaMarsh was a force in politics at a time when Canadian women were fighting for equal treatment in the country’s political system. She became the second female federal Cabinet minister in Canadian history when Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson named her Minister of National Health and Welfare in 1963. She was instrumental in the development of several groundbreaking federal programs, including Medicare and the Canada Pension Plan. As Canada’s Secretary of State (1965–68), she pushed for the establishment of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada and coordinated Canada’s Centennial year festivities. Fiercely outspoken, LaMarsh remained active in public life after her retirement from politics, as an author, a broadcaster and a lawyer.
Patrick George Binns, premier of Prince Edward Island 1996-2007, provincial bureaucrat, federal MP, farmer, diplomat (born 8 October 1948 in Weyburn, SK). Binns governed PEI for 11 years as premier, with a focus on strengthening rural communities and developing the Island's renewable energy resources.
John MacLennan Buchanan, premier of Nova Scotia 1978–90, senator 1990–2006, lawyer (born 22 April 1931 in Sydney, NS). A master political campaigner, Buchanan was the longest-serving Conservative premier in Nova Scotian history, and was among the leaders who negotiated the accord to repatriate Canada’s Constitution in 1982.
John Frederick Hamm, premier of Nova Scotia 1999-2006, physician, politician, (born 8 April 1938 in New Glasgow, NS). After a career as a family physician, Hamm moved into provincial politics in 1993 and became premier in 1999 — the first premier in 40 years to balance the province’s budget.
John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon, 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair, Earl of Aberdeen from 1870 to 1916, governor general of Canada from 1893 to 1898 (born 3 August 1847 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom; died 7 March 1934 in Tarland, United Kingdom). As governor general, the Earl of Aberdeen and his wife, Lady Aberdeen, focused on social welfare and engaging with Canadians of various backgrounds and cultures, setting precedents for the philanthropic initiatives of future governors general. Aberdeen also owned an estate in the Okanagan Valley and pioneered commercial fruit growing in the region.