The history of Black Canadian voting rights is marked by contrasting shifts. Enslaved during the period 1600–1834, Black persons could not vote. Emancipated, they were entitled to the rights, freedoms and privileges enjoyed by British subjects, including the franchise; however, racial discrimination did at times impede Black Canadians’ right to vote. The rights and freedoms of Black women were further restricted by virtue of their sex.
Madeleine Meilleur, politician (born 22 November 1948 in Kiamika, Quebec). Member of the Provincial Parliament (MPP) in Ontario from 2003 to 2016, she was Minister of Culture, Minister of Community and Social Services, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Attorney General of Ontario, and Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs. On 9 June 2016, after 25 years in politics, Meilleur announced that she was resigning as MPP, Attorney General and minister.
Daniel Roland Michener, PC, CC, OOnt, governor general of Canada 1967-1974, lawyer, politician, diplomat (born 19 April 1900 in Lacombe, AB; died 6 August 1991 in Toronto). Michener was the first former MP to become governor general and served during Canada’s centennial year of 1967. He inaugurated the Order of Canada and was a champion of sport and fitness.
Thomas Joseph “Tom” Mulcair, Leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) 2012–17, Leader of the Opposition 2012-15, provincial Cabinet minister, lawyer, university professor (born 24 October 1954 in Ottawa, ON). Appointed to the Privy Council of Canada in 2012. Mulcair played a key role in building support for the NDP in Québec during the 2011 federal election, after which the party, under leader Jack Layton, became the official opposition. Four years later, Mulcair led the party to a disappointing third-place finish.
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.
Justin Pierre James Trudeau, PC, 23rd prime minister of Canada 2015–present, teacher, public issues advocate (born 25 December 1971 in Ottawa, ON). The son of Pierre Trudeau, the former prime minister, Justin has repeatedly defied expectations. In 2007, he won the Liberal nomination in the Montréal riding of Papineau, beating the establishment’s candidate. A year later, he was elected to the House of Commons, confounding pundits who insisted the Trudeau name was political poison among francophone voters. After winning the Liberal Party leadership in 2013, Trudeau propelled the party from third place to first in the House, becoming prime minister at the head of a majority government.2
John Neilson, newspaperman, publisher, editor, politician (born 17 July 1776 in Balmaghie, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland; died 1 February 1848 in Québec City, Canada East). A staunch moderate, John Neilson supported a greater balance of power in the colony. Sympathetic to French-Canadians, he was a deputy with the Parti canadien in the Legislative Assembly – which later became the Parti patriote – and broke away when the party radicalized in the 1830s. Though he opposed the party’s republican and nationalist policies, Neilson continued to fight for French-Canadians, heavily condemning the Union of the Canadas in 1841.
Jagmeet Singh Jimmy Dhaliwal, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada 2017- present, MPP, lawyer (born 2 January 1979 in Scarborough, ON). Singh is the first visible minority leader of a major national political party in Canada. He was also the first turban-wearing Sikh elected to the Ontario legislature.
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.
Andrew James Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and leader of the Opposition (2017– ), Speaker of the House of Commons, member of Parliament, insurance broker (born 20 May 1979 in Ottawa, ON). Scheer was the youngest Speaker of the House when elected to that position in 2011. Six years later, he became the second Conservative leader since the party's re-formation in 2004.
Brian Vincent Tobin, PC, OC, politician, businessman, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador 1996-2000 (born 21 October 1954 in Stephenville, NF). Before serving as Newfoundland and Labrador's sixth premier, Tobin became a hero in the province when, as a federal Cabinet minister, he defended the turbot fishery against foreign overfishing. Nicknamed “Captain Canada,” he was also a strong advocate of national unity during Québec's 1995 referendum on sovereignty.
Observing the grim results of industrial capitalism in Canada and Britain, Woodsworth concluded that his church's stress upon personal salvation was wrong. Moving from middle-class pulpits to a city mission, All People's, Winnipeg, he worked with immigrant slum dwellers 1904-13.
George Brown played an instrumental role in establishing Confederation. As leader of the Clear Grits (forerunner of the Liberal Party) in Canada West, he set aside political differences and allied with his Conservative rivals John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier in 1864, with whom he pitched Confederation to the Atlantic colonies at the Charlottetown and Québec Conferences. From 3 February to 13 March 1865, politicians in the Province of Canada debated the terms of Confederation, offering some of the most compelling defences and critiques of the union of British North American colonies. In the following speech, delivered before the legislature of the Province of Canada on 8 February 1865, Brown explains his reasons for supporting Confederation.
Paul Gérin-Lajoie, CC, GOQ, lawyer and politician (born 23 February 1920 in Montréal, QC), is one of the great figures of Québec’s Quiet Revolution. He served as minister of Youth (1960–64) and Education (1964–66) in the Québec Liberal government of Jean Lesage. Gérin-Lajoie was responsible for reforming Québec’s education system and formulating Québec’s first international-relations policy, two milestone achievements of this period that helped to define modern Québec. He has also played a leading role in the field of international development, as president first of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and then of the Paul Gérin-Lajoie Foundation.
Paul Edgar Philippe Martin, businessman, politician, prime minister 2003–06 (born 28 August 1938 in Windsor, ON). Paul Martin had a successful career in business as CEO and then owner of Canada Steamship Lines (renamed CSL Group), before entering politics. He was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament in 1988, and served as Minister of Finance (1993–2002) under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. In 2003, he succeeded Chrétien as Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, but resigned in 2006 after losing the federal election to Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. As prime minister, Martin spearheaded several initiatives, including the Kelowna Accord, a national child care program, health accords with the provinces and the legalization of same-sex marriage.
John Napier Turner, PC, CC; sprinter, politician, lawyer, prime minister (born in Richmond, England, 7 June 1929). Turner is best known for his early political service as federal justice minister and finance minister, and for the 1988 free trade election battle with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Turner's 11-week term as prime minister is the second shortest in Canadian history, after Sir Charles Tupper (10 weeks).
Mauril Adrien Jules Bélanger, politician (born 15 June 1955 in Mattawa, Ontario; died 16 August 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario). Member of Parliament for the riding of Ottawa-Vanier from 1995 to 2015, he was successively Minister responsible for Official Languages, Associate Minister of National Defence, Minister responsible for Democratic Reform and Minister for Internal Trade. Bélanger was especially known for his campaign to rewrite the words to the national anthem, “O Canada,” to remove sexist language.