My Favourite Canadians (eh?)


Happy Canada Day everyone.

Today is one of my favourite days of the year because we get to celebrate the 142nd birthday of our country. Its not just a paltry rip off of July 4th either, its the day we get to gloat about living in the best nation in the world.

As part of the day of civic pride, I thought I would share with you my favourite 5 Canadians. These are people who inspire me and we should all be proud of. The list isn’t in any particular order.

1. Sue Johanson – Sex Educator and Education Activist

Sue Johanson

If you have never seen Sue live, its a real treat. At 88 years old, she shakes up our stereotypes of women, sex-education, and octogenarians with hilarious, candid stories. I remember her describing (and acting out) how boys will attempt to hide their unwanted erections in grade 8 math class. Through stories like this she manages to connect to her audience on levels no other health worker can. Yes, her messages are very much the same as any other RN or health worker (wear condoms, talk to your partner, don’t pressure/or be pressured in to anything, etc.) but her real value is that when she talk, people really listen. They leave believing that they aren’t alone in what is usually an awkward growing experience and that they can talk to their friends/parents/doctors about issues around sexual health.

Sex truly is a universal motif. As uncomfortable as it may be to talk about, its the one thing that almost every person on the planet has (or will have) some experience in. Sue taps into that universal knowledge bank and proves that you can have an impact on lives no matter how old you are.

She was also awesome on The Hour. Check out the intro here.

2. My Grandfather/Canadian Military

Canadian Forces

If there is one area that Canada has continued to punch about its weight class in it is our military. We have a record of sacrifice and honour in all of our engagements. Our politicians have played a part in this record, putting Canadians in harm’s way only when it is necessary to protect our citizens or values (some people think otherwise).

My late grandfather served for his entire career in the Forces. He was a shining personification of the Canadian military: polite and modest yet strong, steady, and ready to quietly do what needs to be done. The members of the forces that I know have similar traits. They are some of the most professional people I have ever encountered. They are certainly an inspiration to me and hopefully, one day they will get the respect they deserve in this country.

3. Jack Layton – Leader of the NDP/Crazy Socialist/Trekkie

Jack 'The Moustache' Layton

People who know me probably think that this is a strange one to be on my list. I can’t stand Jack Layton. I don’t like his party and I don’t like his vision for the country. What I can respect though is him as a model politician. I met Jack on UBC campus once after he gave a brief speech about some of his economic plans were he to become PM.  It was nuts: something about restricting the amount oil and gas that will be shipped to the US every year. After he was done he walked out into the audience to meet with the students who came to hear him. I shook his hand and asked him about his plan.

Me – “You do realize that your plan for Canadian business is akin to nationalizing private industry. Is that how it is intended?”

Jack – “Yes.”

Its very rare to meet a politician (Federally or even at AMS council) who will give you a straight answer. I can respect that. He knew that we were at odds about the issue so instead of trying to appeal to my sentiments or forcing his upon me he simply stated his position. Canada could benefit from a more straightforward style of politics and Jack Layton emulates how politicians should present themselves.

I just hope he never gets any real power. That would be some scary stuff.

4. Terry Fox

Terry Fox

Maybe the only person on my list with a true international following, Terry is one of the most iconic figure of just before my time. Living in the second largest country in the world should not only fill us with pride, it should be seen as a challenge. Running/biking/wheeling from one ocean to the other is a time honourd challenge. It is a task that is daunting to most people. But, some individuals, given significant motivation and an unbreakable will, rise to that challenge. Terry Fox should the world the power of Canada’s quiet determination. He is undoubtedly a Canadian who will forever be immortalized in our psyche.

5. Roberta Bondar – Canada’s First Woman in Space

Roberta Bondar

Dr. Bondar is a example of Canada’s continuing role in international science and exploration. Not only was she a contributor to Canada’s successful space agency, CSA, but she continues to impact science, business, and medical communities as a public speaker, consultant, and activist. Her space research concerning the adaptability of humans to chaotic environments has been beneficial to major companies, like Pfizer, and government organizations, like the FBI.

It is important to also remember Canada as a scientific leader. Roberta Bondar belongs up with Canada’s most prolific researchers such as Banting, Polanyi, and the inventors of McIntosh apples, the zipper, plexiglass, green currency ink, and basketball.

So there you have it. A list of my favourite Canadians.

Whose on your list?

PS – I’m preparing a list of my least favourite Canadians to be released on Trudeau’s birthday. I’m also open to suggestions for that.

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Geoff is a 5th year student who studying a double major in Integrated Science (Evolutionary ecology, virology) and Political Science. He was the 'Wish' speaker at the 2008 Terry Talks and is passionate about university education, especially when it comes to interdisciplinary experiences. After graduation Geoff wants to find a job that allows him to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds and share stories. If your savvy enough you can follow Geoff on Twitter - user: gcosteloe.