Monday, April 12, 2004


Speaking of lists of greats, I haven't seen much discussion of the CBC's 'Greatest Canadian' survey. I would have at least expected to see people condemning it as trite, useless, gimmicky, vague, ripped-off the BBC, etc. etc. Perhaps no one wants to even dignify it with a response. Or, perhaps people have been carefully considering their nominations, as I have.

I have to admit that while this 'contest,' or whatever it may be, is all of the above things, I am a sucker for Canadiana, lists, the CBC and history, so this little excercise appeals to me.

Deciding on 'the greatest Canadian' is pretty difficult task, in part because the criteria are so vast and vague. I believe the first criterion should be that no one still living should be able to be nominated. First, the person should be dead so that we can gain a proper perspective on thier life's accomplishments and 'greatness.' Secondly, and relatedly, who's to say someone we nominate today wont pull and Alan Eagleson and embarrass us beyond belief a few years from now. Thirdly, imagine the awkwardness of a living Canadian being voted as the 'greatest' ever. I can't imagine any great Canadian, humble as we supposedly are, handling such an accolade well.

The second qualification should be a limit on the time span. Since Canada is a former British colony it is difficult to distinguish the point at which a particular person can be considered 'Canadian.' The CBC seems to think that we can go as far back as John Cabbot and Samuel Champlain. While I agree these people were influential to Canada I don't think they can rightly be counted as Canadians. Personally, I feel that Canada really started to take shape as our own nation in the early 19th century after the War of 1812. Consequently I would excluded anyone who died prior to 1814. This leaves out General Brock and Tecumseh in particular, but despite how important these men were to Canada, I don't really see them as Canadains.

So then, after several days thought and a little research while procrastinating from paper writing, I have put together a short-list of greatest Canadians. Actually its more of a long-list, I'll shorten it if I decide to give it any more thought. I've divided the list into categories to make consideration a little easier. Remember my criteria: the person has to be dead, and has to have died after 1814. I haven't provided links to the bios of any of these people. Most are available at the CBC website. But really, if you haven't heard of these people you might want to re-evaluate your qualifications for citizenship.

Robert Baldwin, Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine, Joseph Howe.

Sir John, Sir Georges Etienne Cartier, George Brown, Thomas D'arcy McGee

Nellie McClung, Agnes MacPhail, Emily Murphy

First Nations
Mistahimaskwa (Chief Big Bear)
Pitikwahanopiwiyin (Chief Poundmaker)

Prime Ministers
Sir Wilfred Laurier, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Lester Pearson, Pierre Elliott Trudeau

Vincent Massey, Tommy Douglas, Joey Smallwood, Frank R. Scott

Robertson Davies, Glenn Gould, Margaret Laurence, Bill Reid

Northrop Frye, Stephen Leacock, Hugh MacLennan, Marshal Mcluhan

Billy Bishop, Gen. Sir Arthur Currie, Lt.-Col. Dollard Menard, Georges Vanier

Dr. Frederick Banting, Dr. Charles Best, Alexander Graham Bell, Sir Sanford Flemming, Dr. Wilder Penfield, Sir William Osler, Dr. Emily Howard Stowe

Dalton Camp, Barbara Frum, Peter Gzowski

Terry Fox, Maurice Richard

Posted by Matthew @ 2:21 a.m.