The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Who is the Greatest Canadian?

During CBC's recent Who is the Greatest Canadian? contest, the father of the modern Canadian health care system received the most votes. All in all, the top-ten list comprised four politicians (three prime ministers, one premier), three scientist-researchers, two hockey personalities, and Terry Fox who really, along with Rick Hansen, defines his own category. The one thing every one of them has in common, with the exception of Don Cherry, is that they are each seen as having made one or more major contributions to Canadian -- and sometimes global -- social welfare and quality of life: well above and beyond and frequently outside what might be expected of them in those positions, often not to their own personal benefit. This is a marked trend not only in the top 10, but throughout the top 100. (I note briefly that there is nothing scientific about this selection, just a popular vote held under fairly loose conditions. Initial nominations numbered over 140,000, with over 1.2 million votes cast in all. Still, it stands as somewhat representational of what Canadians do -- and don't -- feel passionately about.)
1 Tommy Douglas (health care)
2 Terry Fox (Terry Fox Run)
3 Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Canadian constitution)
4 Sir Frederick Banting (insulin)
5 David Suzuki (raising science awareness)
6 Lester B. Pearson (flag)
7 Don Cherry (hockey, protest vote)
8 Sir John A. Macdonald (first PM, trans-Canada railroad)
9 Alexander Graham Bell (telephone, visual language for the deaf)
10 Wayne Gretzky (hockey)

Worth noting, perhaps, that no industrialist, military person, or entertainer (unless you count Don Cherry) were voted into the top ten. "Stomping" Tom Connors comes in 13th, just ahead of Neil Young; Peter Gzowski, the first journalist among the top 100, is at 15th; General Roméo Dallaire follows him closely at 16th (with the unknown soldier at 21st); Mike Myers is 20th; Rick Mercer comes in right at the halfway point, with Pamela Anderson just behind him; and only then, at #54, do we arrive at our first entrepreneur, Sir William Stephenson ... although his business savvy was not what he was best known for, or for which he was recognised here. The only true industrialist on the list is John Molson, who was voted in at #92.

Louis Riel, elected twice as member of parliament but never able to take his seat (his signature does appear in the members' registry), and finally convicted and hanged as a traitor to his country, was voted #11th.

Out of 100:




Astronaut: 1
Medical causes: 2
Medicine: 2
Applied science: 5
Actor: 3
Children's writer/entertainer: 2
Comedian: 6
Musician: 15
Painter: 1
Writer/poet: 4
Academic/theoretician: 1
Journalist: 2
Industrialist: 1
Politician: 14
Regional personality: 1


Law Enforcement*


Hockey: 12
Basketball: 1
Curling :1
Golf: 1
Skating: 1
Track: 1
Wrestling: 1
Military: 6
Community work: 7
Rebel: 3**
Spiritual: 1
War of 1812: 2
Women's rights: 2

* All but General Roméo Dallaire are from World War 2 or before.
** Besides Riel, I include here Dr. Norman Bethune (served in Spain and China) and Dr. Henry Morgentaler (abortion clinics).

Three natives were voted into the top 100: Tecumseh, an ally during the War of 1812; chief Dan George, an actor; and Elijah Harper, a member of parliament.

A list of all Canadians voted into the top 100 can be found here.


At Thu Jul 06, 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Ancient Clown said...

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I don't think I know, I just know I'm thinking.
your humble servant,
Ancient Clown

At Fri Aug 18, 07:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This poll is just crap. It doesn't reflect opinions of the average Canadian. Just a bunch of self-serving lefties. What a scam.

At Thu Sep 28, 01:25:00 AM, Blogger Tenebris said...

The poll was open to all. If some choose not to vote, and the end results do not end up reflecting their point of view, whose responsibility is that?

... but if the results of the poll were to be made over in your image, what do you believe should be the rankings?


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