The monarchy debate and the Queen on Canada's currency

Citizens for a Canadian Republic's mandate is to concentrate mainly on raising awareness of the merits of ending the monarchy in Canada, something we Canadians have instituted, not the Queen herself. Although we have, in the past, deviated somewhat from that focus and campaigned vigorously against the Act of Settlement 1701 and the swearing of allegiance to the Queen in the Citizenship Oath, we, as yet, have not actively promoted the removal of other symbols of the monarchy such as the Queen's effigy on our currency.

While keeping the door open for that in the future, we also have to recognize that one of the reasons the monarchy has lasted so long in Canada is the apathy surrounding it. Yes, we republicans would love to see the day when the Queen is replaced on our coins and bills by notable Canadians. But imagine how many people are looking at their money right now and wondering why she's there. "Out-of-site, out-of-mind" may, in fact, prolong our goal of a republic. The Queen's face staring back at us when we pay for our groceries (and the thought that it could one day be King Charles) may well be the best advertisement for a republic that money can buy!

Eventually though, the Queen will be replaced on our legal tender. To bring Canada up to international standards, one idea worth contemplating is to simply have parliament pass legislation banning the depiction of living people on our coins and bills. This is a republican tradition going all the way back to ancient Greece, when it was considered improper to assign such status to living people. It was also a tradition of the Roman republic, until broken by the dictatorial emperor Julius Caesar. Early in US history, President George Washington refused to have his image depicted on coins, and even had dies destroyed after congress approved it.

Regardless, our supporters and the media continually ask about the issue so this page is here to be a resource should we finally decide to have the Queen replaced on our money by a famous Canadian from our history.

What Canadians say 

An April 1, 2002 poll conducted by Leger Marketing asked this question:

Question: In your opinion, should we replace the head of Queen Elizabeth II on the Canadian dollar by those of people
who have influenced Canadian history?

Yes: 56%
No: 39%
Don't know: 5%

The nominees

Many on this list of people from Canada's history are easily recognized, perhaps most, if you're a history buff that is. And yes, you may be familiar with the odd one or two from having seen them on Canada's postage stamps, where we've led the "Dominions" in exhibiting Canadian icons and notable historical figures since 1851 (see Dr. Sandford Flemming below). There are, however, several who may not be as easily recognizable - which is precisely why we need a forum like our currency to showcase our heroes and nation-builders. 

Also, you'll probably notice that not all people mentioned are Canadian. Many of course, predate the formation of what we now know as Canada while others simply made enormous contributions to our history and development but happened to be citizens of another country while doing so. The important factor in their acceptance for this list is whether or not they made a positive difference to our destiny as a nation when they lived here.

Take a few moments to check the nominees out and e-mail your comments if you wish. But remember, even though this is an ongoing project and more names may be added later, the purpose is not to document every single notable person who has contributed to Canada but to demonstrate the ease in which selecting substitutes for the Queen can be. 

Which coins and bills are open to new designs?

So now we have some home-grown candidates to put on our money. Is the Queen vacating the spot to make way for them? According to The Royal Canadian Mint and the Bank of Canada, not in the foreseeable future. But since we republicans are an optimistic bunch, we've done some homework just in case things change:

The mint issues seven circulation coins (1, 5, 10, 25 & 50 cents plus 1 and 2 dollar coins) as well as no fewer than 20 sterling silver and gold collector's coins including the world famous 24k bullion gold Maple Leaf. There's only one bank note remaining in circulation featuring the Queen on the reverse and that's the $20 bill. The others, the $1, $2 and $1000 notes, have all been discontinued. That makes a total of twenty-seven coins and one bank note that now feature the Queen's profile on the reverse side that will need new designs if the decision is made to replace the monarchy on our currency. 

A subject of urgency.

The trend toward electronic currency and the very real possibility of a North American (or world) currency makes this an urgent issue. If you feel it's important to have people who have contributed to our great nation on our money rather than a "to the manor born" non-resident who only pays an occasional obligatory visit, please contact your local federal Member of Parliament and express your views.


The categories:

Explorers Politicians and leaders Science, technology and medicine
Humanitarians & social activists Arts and culture Business
Sports Military Martyrs

 


Explorers

Leif Ericsson

(c.960 - c.1025)  Son of Eric the Red and a Norse Greenlander, he is regarded as the first European to document setting foot in the New World around 1000 AD. His landings at Vineland (Land of wine) was presumably Newfoundland, Markland (Wood Land) Labrador, and Helluland (Flat Rock Land) Baffin Island.
Giovani Caboto (1450 - 1557) After being turned down by the monarchs of Spain and Portugal, Genoese-born Caboto was granted a charter to seek a western route to Asia by Henry VII of England. Sailing aboard the Mathew, he sighted land in 1497. Convinced he'd found an island off the coast of Asia, he named the island "new found land."

Jacques Cartier

(1491 - 1557) Sailing from St. Malo, France in 1534, he discovered the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in present-day Canada. On his second voyage in 1535, with the help of Indian guides, he explored the St. Lawrence River and the future sites of present-day Quebec and Montreal. 
Samuel de Champlain (1567 - 1635) A French explorer, he came to Canada for the first time in 1603, sailing up the St. Lawrence River. He accompanied Monts the following year to Acadia and participated in the founding of the Bay of Fundy settlements of Ste. Croix in 1604 and Port Royal in 1605. Known as the father of New France, he founded the city of Québec in 1608 at the first narrows of the St. Lawrence River and governed it until his death. 
Étienne Brûlé (1592 - 1633) Explorer, interpreter, messenger for explorer Samuel de Champlain and one of the first coureurs de bois, he travelled by land and canoe with his Huron guides to be the first European at what is now Toronto.

Pierre-Esprit Radisson

(c.1636 - c.1710) A "coureur des bois", he  established fur posts for the French and English, translated for the Dutch and escaped twice from the Iroquois. In 1661, with his brother-in-law Des Groseilliers, he became the first European to record the discovery of Hudson's Bay.
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de la Vérendrye  (1685 - 1749) A prominent figure in the extension of New France's far frontiers and in the search for an overland Northwest Passage to the Western Sea. Between 1727 and 1744, Vérendrye and his sons established posts ranging from Northern Lake Superior to  Lake Winnipeg and the Red River and west to the Missouri River. They may have even entered present-day Wyoming.

George Vancouver

(1757 - 1798) British naval captain who explored and mapped the coast of north west North America. Commanding the Discovery, he proved that Vancouver Island was an island by circumnavigating it in the year 1792. 

Sir Alexander MacKenzie

(1764 - 1820) In 1793, Mackenzie became the first European north of Mexico to reach the Pacific by crossing overland, discovering the Arctic Ocean and charting the river that bears his name, the MacKenzie river. 

David Thompson

(1770 - 1857) Surveyor for the Hudson's Bay Company and later the North West Company from 1793 to 1812, he explored, surveyed and established trading posts in present-day western Canada and U.S.A. In 1811, Thompson crossed the Athabasca Pass toward the mouth of the Columbia River, hoping to claim it as British territory. He finally arrived on July 15, 1811, four months after the Americans had arrived and built their post, Astoria. Had he beaten them to it, the states of Washington and Oregon would be Canadian territory today.

Sir John Franklin

(1786 - 1847) British explorer, led expeditions to the Arctic in 1819, 1825 and 1845. Probably discovered a Northwest Passage but he and his crew died during the journey. His disappearance inspired numerous expeditions in search of his lost party that, at the very least, succeeded in opening the arctic to further exploration.
Sir Robert McClure (1807 - 1873) British Explorer, who, while searching for Franklin's lost expedition with Captain Henry Kellett, finally discovered the North West Passage..

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

(1879 - 1962) Explorer and anthropologist born in Arnes, Manitoba of Icelandic parents.  Between 1913 to 1918, he lived north of the Arctic Circle and explored beyond the Parry Islands to the north and west, and discovered the islands of Brock, Borden, Meighen, and Lougheed. Aside from his scientific work, his explorations were influential in establishing Canadian sovereignty in the arctic.
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Politicians and leaders

Chief Membertou

(1505 - 1610) - Most famous Mi'kmaq Chief in history, he was of valuable assistance to Jacques Cartier in 1534 and to the survival of Champlain in 1605.

Governor Louis Frontenac

(1620 - 1698) Governor of New France 1672-1682 and 1689-1698. A fur-trading expansionist, along with his commercial partner, Robert Cavelier de La Salle, he built a network of Indian alliances that extended French trading posts to the Gulf of Mexico. He was a staunch advocate of more political independence for the colony (which resulted in his recall to France) and better relations with the Iroquois who he later warred against until their defeat in 1696. Under him, French forces drove Britain's Sir William Phips' fleet from Quebec and raids were made on the British coast as far south as New Jersey. His leadership during the French and Indian Wars enabled the French to maintain the status quo in New France until the signing of the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) ended the war.
John Graves Simcoe (1752 - 1806) First Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Upper Canada. Among his many contributions to the early development of Ontario was his legislation to end slavery, the first to do so anywhere in the British Empire.

Chief Tecumseh

(1768 - 1813) A powerful Shawnee Indian leader and ally of the British, he formed a tribal confederacy to unite resistance against the United States. He was killed in the Battle of Moraviantown in southwestern Upper Canada, probably by mounted American militiamen.

Chief Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant)

(1742 - 1807) Chief of the Mohawks, he was well-educated, fluent in English, and a skillful leader of his people. He led Iroquois allies of the British through American Revolutionary warfare and directed the Six Nations Iroquois to new homes in Ontario territory in the 1780's. An early advocate of aboriginal self-determination, later in his life he traveled in U.S. Indian territory promoting an all-Indian confederacy to resist land cessions.

George Etienne Cartier

(1814 - 1873) Leader of the Conservatives in Canada East, Cartier joined forces with John A. Macdonald to bring about Canadian Confederation.

Louis Riel

(1844 - 1885) Founded the Comité National des Métis to protect his people’s rights and in 1869 helped stage the Red River Uprising. Exiled to the United States, he eventually returned to set up a provisional government and, as the self-declared prophet of his people, became embroiled in the 1885 rebellion. As a result of this and his subsequent capture and execution for murder and treason, he has become a martyr and hero in the eyes of many Canadians.

Louis Joseph Papineau

(1786 - 1871) An eloquent champion of the reform movement in the 1820s and 1830s, he led the unsuccessful Rebellion of 1837-1838 in Lower Canada.

William Lyon Mackenzie

(1795 - 1861) Newspaper publisher, Toronto mayor and reformer, he led the Upper Canada version of the 1837-1838 Rebellion in and around Toronto as a result of his failed efforts to uproot a corrupt colonial government. He was later pardoned and served in the legislature.

Joseph Howe

(1804 - 1873) Son of New England Puritan Loyalists, he was a political leader and editor of the Halifax paper, the "Nova Scotian." Shunning the violent tactics of reformers in the Canadas, he was instrumental in Nova Scotia became the first self-governing colony in the British empire in 1848. He served as premier of the colony from 1860 to 1863, in the federal cabinet of Sir John A. Macdonald and briefly as Lieutenant Governor for Nova Scotia in 1873. 

Chief Pitikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker)

(1842 - 1885) As a Cree chief, he counseled peace with the whites. Although he urged restraint during the Battle of Cut-Knife Creek in the 1885 North-West Rebellion, he  was jailed for "treason-felony", and died shortly after his release, a broken and embittered man. Only later was he acknowledged for his uncompromising role as a peacemaker and defender of his people.

Agnes MacPhail

(1890 - 1954) A crusading politician from Ontario, she was the first female member of Parliament in 1921 and second woman elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1943. She championed the rights of women, farmers and worked hard for social and prison reform. 
J. S. Woodsworth (1874 - 1942) James Shaver Woodsworth, known as the "conscience of Canada," and one of Canada's earliest social democrats, was a champion of the elderly, immigrants and farmers. In 1926, he helped create Canada's social-security system when his Labour Party guaranteed Prime Minister Mackenzie King a coalition government in return for creation of Canada's Old-Age Pension plan. In 1933, Woodsworth became the leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the forerunner of today's New Democratic Party.
T.C. "Tommy" Douglas (1904 - 1986) Saskatchewan  native and ordained minister, he is known mostly as the founding father of universal Medicare. He is also credited for implementation of Canada's central banking and unemployment insurance. His CCF Party became Canada’s first national socialist party and in 1944 won the provincial election to become the first socialist government in North America. In 1961, the CCF evolved to create the New Democratic Party in which Douglas was elected leader. He was a father-in-law of actor Donald Sutherland and grandfather of actor Kiefer Sutherland.

Lester B. Pearson

(1897 - 1972) A history professor at the University of Toronto, he had an extensive career as an international diplomat and statesman - becoming Canada's first ambassador to the U.S.A. in 1945 -  before becoming Canada's 14th Prime Minister in 1963. As a diplomat, he received the Nobel Peace prize for his efforts to resolve the Suez Crisis. As Prime minister, he was the driving Liberal force behind the campaign for a new Canadian flag, bilingualism and biculturalism, Medicare and the Canada Pension Plan. (Editor's note: In a 1999 book Prime Ministers: Ranking Canada's Leaders, Pearson is one of only two of Canada's top PM's that is not already featured on a Canadian bank note. The other is Trudeau.)

Pierre Elliot Trudeau

(1919 - 2000) Prime Minister of Canada from 1968-1979 and 1980-1984. Known favourably for implementing national bilingualism in the Official Languages Act of 1969, strong leadership during the October Crisis of 1970, being a significant factor in the victory of the "No" forces in the Quebec Referendum on Sovereignty-Association in 1980 as well as instituting the Canadian Charter of Rights 1982 and the Constitution Act 1982. (Editor's note: In a 1999 book Prime Ministers: Ranking Canada's Leaders, Trudeau is one of only two of Canada's top PM's that is not already featured on a Canadian bank note. The other is Pearson.)
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Science, technology and medicine

John McIntosh (1777 - 1846) Born in New York State of Scottish parents, he immigrated to Upper Canada as a youth. As a large scale apple grower, he developed the very successful McIntosh apple strain, helping Canada become a world leader in apple production and export. 

Dr. Emily Jennings Stowe

(1831 - 1903) Unable to attend the University of Toronto medical school because of her sex, she attended medical school for women in the United States. Becoming the first woman doctor to practice medicine in Canada, she later worked for the Votes for Women Movement and campaigned to have Canadian universities admit women students. She also founded the Toronto Women's Literary Club which became the first group in Canada committed to women's suffrage.

Dr. Sandford Flemming

(1840 - 1915) Engineer. In 1851, he proposed the present system of standard time, by which the world is divided into 24 equal time zones. It was adopted in 1884. Also, he was responsible for surveying and constructing the Intercolonial, Canadian Pacific and Newfoundland Railways. And, in 1851, he designed Canada’s first adhesive postage stamp, the "Three-Penny Beaver," a symbol of the transfer of postal authority from Britain to Canada.
Sir William Osler (1849 - 1919) Called "the most influential physician in history", he changed how doctors were trained, advocating bedside teaching in hospital wards - as is still done today - rather than in lecture halls or labs. He was a native of Dundas, Ontario.

Alexander Graham Bell

(1847 - 1922) Born in Scotland and an immigrant to Canada in 1870, he's best known as the inventor of the telephone, which took place at the home of his father, Professor Alexander Melville Bell, in Brantford, Ontario in 1874. Using his invention, he made the world's first long-distance telephone call from Brantford to nearby Paris, Ontario on August 10, 1876. He later moved from the Bell Homestead in Brantford to his summer estate in Baddeck, Nova Scotia in 1885, where in 1909, his Silver Dart airplane performed the first powered flight in Canada and the British Empire. In 1919, he also launched the world's first hydrofoil. With these accomplishments, he's widely recognized as the father of Canadian aviation. He's buried in Nova Scotia, close to the Lake Bras d'Or site of the Silver Dart's historic flight. 

Harriet Brooks

(1876 - 1933) Canada's first female nuclear physicist, Quebec-born Brooks made a number of discoveries about radiation which added important pieces to the jigsaw puzzle of modern nuclear science. She conducted research at Cambridge University, taught at McGill University and conducted research in Paris for the famous Dr. Marie Curie.

Dr. Frederic Banting

(1891 - 1941) Serving in WW I as a medical officer overseas, he was awarded the Military Cross for heroism under fire. With the assistance of graduate student Charles Best, he received the 1923 Nobel Prize for medicine for isolating the hormone insulin that, to this day, helps people suffering from diabetes live a normal life. 
Charles Edward Saunders (1867 - 1937) A native of London, Ontario. As a chemist and experimentalist, he developed Marquis wheat for western Canada in 1904. Saunders also applied his methods to barley, oats, peas, beans and flax, all of which allowed early maturation and high yields in Canada's short growing season. His advancements more than doubled the amount of arable land in the western provinces permitting large-scale immigration and Canada's subsequent world leadership in the production of wheat. 
J.A.D. McCurdy (1886 - 1961) An aviation pioneer, Nova Scotian John Alexander Douglas McCurdy made the first airplane flight in Canada and the British Empire in 1909. Piloting Alexander Graham Bell's Silver Dart , he flew about 10 metres above the ground for almost a kilometre at Baddeck, Nova Scotia. One year later, he transmitted the first ever air-to-ground telegraph message during a flight over Sheepshead Bay, NY and in 1911, he conducted the longest trans-oceanic flight of the day - 94 miles from Key West, Florida to Havana, Cuba. He also helped form the Canadian Aerodrome Company, Canada's first aircraft company, began Canada's first aviation school and was chiefly responsible for the founding of the Royal Canadian Air Force. McCurdy also served as Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia from 1947 to 1952.
John Herbert Chapman (1921 - 1979) Physicist. Founder of the Canadian space program which led to the formation of the  Canadian Space Agency. Chapman was also the prime mover behind Canada's co-operative program with NASA and the European Space Agency to design and build communications satellites such as Telesat, Anik and Hermes, of which Canada is now a world leader.
Marshall McLuhan (1911 - 1980) A University of Toronto professor, he was a world renowned pioneer of communications theory. Once referred to as the "Oracle of the Electronic Age", he is perhaps best known for his phrase turned into a book title, The Medium is the Massage. As director of the Center for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto, McLuhan rose to fame as a "guru" of media culture.

Reginald Aubrey Fessenden

(1866 - 1932) Physicist, Inventor. Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec and raised in Southern Ontario. Although Italian Guglielmo Marconi is better known for making the first trans-Atlantic wireless radio broadcast of Morse Code from Newfoundland to Europe, Fessenden was responsible for making the first radio broadcast of the human voice on December 23, 1900 in Virginia. He also made the first broadcast of music on December 24, 1906 in Massachusetts. Due to continued lack of support from the Canadian government, who instead chose to provide financial backing to Marconi plus a series of bad business relationships that resulted in several lost patents, he died largely unrecognized (until recently) in Bermuda in 1932. He's also acknowledged as the discoverer of sound waves, the radio compass, the visible bullet for machine guns and, in 1919, and he helped develop the first television set for North America.
 
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Humanitarians & social activists

Josiah Henson (1789 - 1883) Born a slave in Maryland, he escaped to Upper Canada in 1830. In 1834, with Quaker and Abolitionist support, he founded the British American Institute for Fugitive Slaves, the first educational system in Canada in which skills such as blacksmithing and carpentry were taught to former slaves. By 1842, he had founded the Dawn Settlement of Black farmers in southwestern Kent County. Having read his autobiography, Harriet Beecher Stowe used him as the model for the main character in the book Uncle Tom's Cabin. 

Harriet Tubman

(1820 - 1913)  Although she was physically handicapped, illiterate and a fugitive with a price on her head, she led hundreds of slaves to freedom in Canada on the Underground Railroad. She lived in St. Catharines, Ontario but moved to Auburn, New York following U.S. emancipation.

Adelaide Hoodless

(1857 - 1910) Following the death of her infant son from drinking contaminated milk, she dedicated her life to child care and assisting mothers. She founded or helped to found the National YWCA, the National Council of Women, the Victorian Order of Nurses and the Women's Institute.
Emily Murphy (1868 - 1933) Was the first woman in the then British Empire to be appointed a magistrate. A pioneer in the struggle for women's rights in Canada, she led the campaign to have women declared legal 'persons' in 1929.

Dr. Norman Bethune

(1890 - 1939) Born in Gravenhurst Ontario, he was the inventor of the mobile blood transfusion unit and the rib shears, both of which are still widely used today. His efforts as a humanitarian during wars in Spain and China have earned him hero status around the world. He also was one of the first to actively promote universal health care in Canada. His life was the subject of the movie Bethune: The Making of a Hero starring Donald Sutherland in 1990.

Nellie Mooney McClung

(1873-1951) A noted Canadian feminist, she was active in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, campaigned tirelessly for the women's vote, was a Canadian delegate to the League of Nations (now the United Nations) in Switzerland,  was an elected member of Parliament for Alberta and became the first woman board member of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Terry Fox

(1958 - 1981) A kinesiology student diagnosed with bone cancer, he spent his recovery raising $24.17 million for cancer research on his cross-Canada Marathon of Hope. He ran a full 26 mile marathon every day - with one prosthetic leg - covering half the country before a recurrence of his cancer cut his mission short at the halfway point. He died a few months later.

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Arts and culture

Sir Thomas Chandler Haliburton

(1796 - 1865) - Nineteenth century writer and humourist and native of Nova Scotia, his works, especially those featuring Sam Slick, greatly influenced young Mark Twain. The Clockmaker - first published in 1836 - quickly became the first Canadian international bestseller, and is still in print. 

Lucy Maude Montgomery

(1874 - 1942) One of Canada's most widely-read authors, her books have sold in the millions. Set in Prince Edward Island, Anne of Green Gables is her most well-known work. Montgomery's book series' as well as stage productions, films and syndicated CBC television shows, have made "Anne" a Canadian icon around the world.
Robert Service (1874 - 1958) Born in England of Scottish parents. He emigrated to Canada in 1894 and took a job with the Canadian Bank of Commerce in Whitehorse, Yukon, where he was stationed for eight years. It was while there that he published his first book of poems that was to make him famous - Songs of a Sourdough. Several of his novels and his poem "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" were adapted to movies. 
Stephen Leacock (1869 - 1944) Writer, humourist and economist. Born in England, he emigrated to Canada with his family as a child. A prolific writer of books on political science and economics, as well as the biographies Mark Twain (1932) and Charles Dickens (1933), he is best known for his humourous essays, parodies, and short stories.
Norma Shearer (1899 - 1982) Born in Montreal, she became a popular Hollywood actress, becoming the first Canadian to win an acadamy award for acting. Receiving the Best Actress Oscar in 1930 for her role in The Divorcee, she continued to be a major film star throughout the 1930s, playing leading roles with Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Frederic March, Tyrone Power and John Barrymore. She would receive five more nominations as Best Actress before retiring from movies in 1942.

Pitseolak Ashoona

(1904 - 1983) Drawing on her traditional Inuit lifestyle in the North West Territories, she became one of the most famous of the Cape Dorset artists.

Glenn Gould

(1932 - 1982) A world renowned classical pianist, he's widely recognized as Canada's most accomplished musical genius. Gould was a recording artist, radio and television broadcaster and producer and writer. 
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Business

Robert Cavelier de La Salle

(1643 - 1687) A fur-trading expansionist, in partnership with New France Governor Frontenac, he helped build a network of Indian alliances that extended French trading posts to the Gulf of Mexico.

Sir Samuel Cunard

(1787 - 1865) - Nova Scotian and founder of the world famous Cunard Steamship Line in Halifax in 1839. He also formed the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, which transported mail and passengers in regular steamship service between the continents. A pioneer of the steamship industry, he began his shipping career by operating the steamboat ferry service which ran between Halifax and Dartmouth. Later, his grand ocean liners would be the first to be lit by electricity and the first to successfully use screw propellors rather than paddles. The disastrous sinking of the Cunard ship Lusitania in 1915 by a German U-boat was considered instrumental in edging the United States closer to joining the First World War. 
Daniel Massey (1798 - 1856) Beginning in 1849, he made his small factory in Newcastle, Ontario the most successful farm machinery company in the British Empire. Merging with his main competitor in 1891, Massey-Harris developed the first self-propelled combine in the 1930's, a machine that enabled farmers to harvest grain quickly and efficiently, revolutionizing agriculture in Canada and around the world. His family legacy continued with his great-grandsons Vincent, the first Canadian-born Governor-General and Raymond, who became one of Canada's most outstanding film and stage actors.
Colonel Sam McLaughlin (1871 - 1972)  Born in Enniskillen, Ontario, he's credited with the birth and development of Canada's eventual and current largest private employer, the automotive industry. Starting out as an apprentice upholsterer in his father's factory, he began the McLaughlin Motor Car Company in 1907. Selling it to General Motors in 1918, he became president of General Motors of Canada, a title he retained until well into his 90s. A great philanthropist, he donated hundreds of millions of dollars through his many foundations, trusts and fellowships, benifiting institutions, charities and individuals all over Canada.
Joseph-Armand Bombardier (1907 - 1963) A garage owner in Québec, he developed the first practical vehicle for travelling on snow in 1937. After adapting his vehicles for use on all terrains for the forestry, mining and petroleum industries, a small personal snow vehicle, the "Ski-Doo" was introduced in 1959, revolutionizing the industry. Today, Bombardier is known worldwide as a leader in the transportation and aerospace industries.
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Sports

Edward "Ned" Hanlan

(1855 - 1908) One of Canada's greatest oarsmen and a native of Toronto, he overcame all leading North American competitors in 1880 and won the world single sculls championship in England. Hanlan retained his title until 1884. Recently his character was portrayed by Nicholas Cage in the movie The Boy in Blue
James Naismith (1861 - 1939) Invented the sport of basketball in 1891 as a physical education teacher in Boston. He was born in Almonte, near Ottawa.

George Dixon

(1870 - 1909) - A Nova Scotia native, he was the first Canadian and world's first black to win a World Boxing Title in 1890, as well as the first to win more than two world titles and the first to win by Marquis of Queensbury Rules.
Tom Longboat (1887 - 1949) An Onondaga Indian born on the Six Nations reserve near Brantford, Ontario, he broke many records as a long-distance runner. Among his many victories was the Boston Marathon in 1907, winning it in 2:24:25, a new course record.
Percy Williams (1908 - 1982) Vancouver, British Columbia native and Canada's first Olympic superstar, sprinter "Peerless" Percy took the gold medal and set a world record in the 100-metre dash (10.33 seconds) at the 1930 Amsterdam Olympics. In a later US track tour, he amazed all by winning 19 of 21 races, cementing his title as the best sprinter in the world at the time.

Maurice "Rocket" Richard

(1921 - 2000) Widely regarded as the best all-round hockey player ever, Montréal born Richard was the essence of hockey in its golden age. He become the first National Hockey League player to score 500 goals in a career and was first to score 50 goals in a season. His suspension from play in 1955 even caused a massive riot in Montréal that some say was a symbolic beginning of Quebec's nationalist movement.
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Military

Major-General Sir Isaac Brock

(1769-1812) A British General, he commanded troops in Canada during the War of 1812. With the assistance of his loyal Shawnee ally, Tecumseh, he captured the American Fort Detroit in 1812, a major victory that may have thwarted defeat in the war. He died by the bullet of an American "Kentucky Rifleman" sniper in the Battle of Queenston Heights. One of the more important military figures in Canada's history, his grave and 200 foot high column monument to him straddling the Canada / U.S.A. border remains one of the most imposing historical landmarks in Canada.

Colonel Charles-Michel de Salaberry

(1778 - 1829) On October 26, 1813, Canadian troops under the command of Québec-born Charles-Michel de Salaberry won an important victory over the invading American forces led by General Wade Hampton. Through his role in the victory at the battle of the Châteauguay, de Salaberry became a celebrated and legendary historical figure.

Alexander Dunn

(1833 - 1868) Lieutenant Alexander Dunn, born in York (now Toronto), was the first Canadian to win the Victoria Cross, the British Empire's highest award for valour. It was awarded for his courage during the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War's 1854s Battle of Balaclava. He later achieved the rank of Colonel. Inspired by his valour, Canadian peacekeepers have restored his gravesite in Senafe, Eritrea.

William Hall

(1827-1904) - A native of Horton, Nova Scotia, he became the first black in the British Empire and the second Canadian to win the Victoria Cross. It was awarded for his heroism during the Indian Mutiny in Lucknow, India, 1857. After joining the Royal Navy in 1852 as an able seaman, he later served in the Crimean War of 1854 and 1855 and had been honoured with medals from both Britain and Turkey for his service.

Billy Bishop

(1894-1956) Born in Owen Sound, Ontario, William Avery "Billy" Bishop was an RAF flying ace and the most decorated Canadian in World War I. Shooting down 72 enemy planes, he was awarded the Victoria Cross for "most conspicuous bravery, determination and skill" as well as France's Croix de Guerre. At age 24 he was credited with shooting down "The Red Baron". He later became Commander of the first Canadian Air Force. A 1978 stage production Billy Bishop Goes to War, based on his WWI experiences, remains one of the most successful made-in-Canada stage musicals in history.
Sergeant Tommy Prince (1915 - 1977) A Manitoba Ojibwa, he was Canada's highest decorated aboriginal soldier, serving in both WWII and Korea. Decorated many times over, he is best known for his bravery while fighting with the "Devil's Brigade" in Anzio, Italy. A 1968 movie titled The Devil's Brigade, starring William Holden and Cliff Robertson documents the contribution of Prince and his Canadian comrades in the grueling campaign.
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Martyrs

Evangeline

American poet Longfellow's semi-fictitious heroine of the real-life expulsion of the Acadians by the British in 1755. The tale follows Evangeline and Gabriel, young lovers whose engagement is broken off by the British deportation, through an ordeal of separation and eventual tragic reunion. The story and character have become a symbol of one of the most shameful chapters in Canada's colonial history and the pain and suffering bestowed on a proud people. A recent campaign by Acadian descendants seeking an apology has been rebuffed by the British government.

Shawnadithit

(1800 - 1829) Her people exterminated by disease and bounties by European settlers, Shawnadithit was the last Beothuk. As a reminder of the ruthlessness of humanity, Shawnadithit spent her remaining days recounting her culture and language to early Newfoundlanders. Although no artist is known to have painted or sketched her, detailed descriptions adequate for a reasonable likeness are well documented.
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Resources:

1) National Archives, Ottawa

2) Her Story: Women from Canada's Past by Susan E. Merritt - Vanwell Publishing, 1993.

3) Great Canadian Explorers, Government of Canada / Canadian Heritage

4) National Library of Canada, Heroes of Yore and Lore, Canadian Heroes of Fact and Fiction

5) Canadian Aces Home Page

7) Government of Canada Digital Collections Program Canada Heirloom Series

8) The Canadian Encyclopedia

9) The Canadian Museum of Civilization

10) Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 

11) Discovery.com

12) Ontario Heritage Foundation

13) The Canadian War Museum

14) Victoria Cross Reference

15) Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

16) National Film Board of Canada - Extraordinary Canadians

17) Great Canadian Scientists

18) Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame

19) Government of Ontario Art Collection

20) The Royal Ontario Museum

21) Parks Canada - National Historic Sites

22) Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia

23) Historica

24) Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame

25) Canadian Communications Foundation

Citizens for a Canadian Republic