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.
André Major, writer, literary critic, journalist (b at Montréal 22 Apr 1942). Since 1973 Major has been a producer of cultural programs for the Radio-Canada network. He first became known in 1961, with the appearance of 2 collections of poetry: Le Froid se meurt and Holocauste à deux voix.
Katherena Vermette, Métis poet, short-story writer, novelist, filmmaker, teacher (born 29 January 1977 in Winnipeg, MB). Métis writer Katherena Vermette is a rising star of Canadian literature. In her poetry, prose and film, she explores some of the most vital issues facing Canada today: the search for identity and the ongoing effects of historical and institutional prejudice. She won the Governor General’s Award in 2013 for her first collection of poems, North End Love Songs, and is the author of the acclaimed 2016 novel The Break.
Afua (Ava Pamela) Cooper, educator, historian, performance artist, poet (born 8 November 1957 in the Whithorn district of Westmoreland, Jamaica), is considered one of the most influential and pioneering voices in the Canadian dub poetry and spoken word movement. Her poems are published in numerous regional, national and international journals and anthologies. Afua Cooper also has CDs of her performances that make her work well known to the global community. In addition to her renown as a performance artist, she is an internationally-ranked historian. She has taught Caribbean cultural studies, history, women's studies and Black studies at Ryerson and York universities, at the University of Toronto and at Dalhousie University.
Joane Cardinal-Schubert, RCA, artist (born 1942 in Red Deer, AB; died 16 September 2009 in Calgary, AB). Award-winning Kainaiwa (Blood) artist Joane Cardinal-Schubert was also a successful and influential curator, lecturer, poet and director of video and Indigenous theatre. Her artworks and writing often addressed contemporary political issues such as Indigenous sovereignty, cultural appropriation and environmental concerns. She supported other Indigenous artists as a curator and activist, while also questioning methods of displaying historical and contemporary Indigenous artworks. She was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, the Commemorative Medal of Canada and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in Art.
Emily Pauline Johnson (also known as Tekahionwake, “double wampum”), poet, writer, artist and performer (born 10 March 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West; died 7 March 1913 in Vancouver, BC) was one of North America’s most notable entertainers of the late 19th century.
Richard Wagamese, Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) novelist, journalist, mentor (born 4 October 1955 in northwestern ON; died 10 March 2017 in Kamloops, BC). A well-known Indigenous writer in Canada, Wagamese won several awards including the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize (2013) and the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Matt Cohen Award (2015).
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
Anne Hébert, CC, poet, playwright, novelist (born 1 August 1916 in Sainte-Catherine-de-Fossambault, QC; died 22 January 2000 in Montréal). A Companion of the Order of Canada, a member of the Royal Society of Canada, and a three-time winner of the Governor General’s Award, Anne Hébert's career was founded on a disciplined life devoted to writing. Her poetry and prose are models for other writers and have been analysed in hundreds of studies, particularly in Québec, but also in France and English Canada.
John McCrae, soldier, physician, poet (born 30 November 1872 in Guelph, ON; died 28 January 1918 in Wimereux, France). A noted pathologist and army physician, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae was also a poet; he wrote “In Flanders Fields” — one of the most famous poems of the First World War.
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.
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.
George Elliott Clarke, poet, anthologist (b at Windsor Plains, NS 12 Feb 1960). George Elliott Clarke was born near Windsor Plains, a black Loyalist community, and grew up in Halifax. He earned a BA at the University of Waterloo, an MA at Dalhousie, and a PhD at Queen's University.
Gregory Scofield, poet, playwright, teacher, social worker (b at Maple Ridge, BC 20 July 1966). A Métis of Cree, Scottish, English, French, and Jewish descent, Gregory Scofield was raised by his mother, an aunt, and in several foster homes in northern Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan, and the Yukon.