Leonard Norman Cohen, poet, novelist, singer, songwriter (born 21 September 1934 in Montréal, 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 the Glenn Gould Prize, eight Juno Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and numerous other honours.
Rita Joe (née Rita Bernard), PC, CM, Mi’kmaq poet (born 15 March 1932 in Whycocomagh, NS; died 20 March 2007 in Sydney, NS). Often referred to as the poet laureate of the Mi’kmaq people, Rita Joe wrote powerful poetry that spoke about Indigenous identity and the legacy of residential schools in Canada. Her works continue to influence Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers and artists alike.
Réjean Ducharme, OQ, writer (born 12 August 1941 in Saint-Félix-de-Valois, Québec; died 21 August 2017 in Montréal). Prominent Québécois novelist, playwright, scriptwriter and lyricist, Réjean Ducharme guarded his privacy since his first novel, L'Avalée des avalés, was published in 1966. He was never seen in public, and was admired as much for the uniqueness of his works as for the mythology surrounding him.
Dan George, OC, Tsleil-Waututh actor, poet, public speaker (born 24 July 1899 on the Burrard Indian Reserve No. 3 in BC; died 23 September 1981 in North Vancouver, BC). By his film roles and personal appearances, Dan George helped improve the popular image of Indigenous people, often represented in stereotypical ways.
"I sprang from the oars to my feet, and lifted the anchor above my head, threw it clear just as she was turning over. I grasped her gunwale and held on as she turned bottom up, for I suddenly remembered that I could not swim." - Joshua Slocum, Sailing Alone Around the World, 1900.
Herbert Marshall McLuhan, communication theorist (born 21 July 1911 in Edmonton, AB; died 31 December 1980 in Toronto, ON). Professor of English at the University of Toronto, McLuhan became internationally famous during the 1960s for his studies of the effects of mass media on thought and behaviour.
Margaret Laurence (née Jean Margaret Wemyss), CC, novelist (born 18 July 1926 in Neepawa, MB; died 5 January 1987 in Lakefield, ON). A Companion of the Order of Canada and three-time winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction, Margaret Laurence is one of the pivotal and foundational figures in women’s literature in Canada.
Tomson Highway, CM, playwright, novelist, pianist and songwriter (born 6 December 1951 in northwestern Manitoba). A Member of the Order of Canada and named in Maclean's magazine as one of the 100 most important people in Canadian history, Tomson Highway has proved himself one of Canada’s most prominent and influential writers.