You Americans sure do love your celebrities. It’s kind of baffling that a failed presidential candidate (or even a failed presidential candidate candidate) can become a household name; not just in your country, but across the border and around the world. Herman Cain, really? Were he and his ilk really worth the obsession?
Canada has exported a few superstars, of course; Bryan Adams, Justin Bieber, Celine Dion. (You are most welcome to keep them). But we don’t exalt our power players to nearly the same degree.
Here are a few Canadians who, through actual achievements, are generally recognizable throughout this land.
Born in Memramook, New Brunswick in 1927, Roméo LeBlanc is best known for having served as Governor General from 1995 to 1999. He was the first Acadian GG, and the first to be appointed from the Atlantic Provinces.
LeBlanc was the first Canadian Governor General to visit the Czech Republic (1996), India and Pakistan (1998), and Africa (1999). On June 11, 1997 he swore in one of our favourite Prime Ministers, Jean Chrétien.
During his tenure, LeBlanc instituted the Caring Canadian Award, which recognizes “everyday courage and dedication of ordinary people who have made extraordinary contributions to their families, communities or country.” No crasstalker has yet been honoured by this award. He also proclaimed June 21 to be National Aboriginal Day.
The Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc died June 24, 2009.
“If I am to be known for anything, I would like it to be for encouraging Canadians, for knowing a little bit about their daily, extraordinary courage. And for wanting that courage to be recognized.“-Roméo LeBlanc
Environment Canada’s Chief Climatologist, David Phillips is well known to Canadians from coast to coast to coast, if not necessarily by name.
He is responsible for Canada’s best selling wall calendar, The Canadian Weather Trivia Calendar. Phillips has written several weather-related books, including The Day Niagara Falls Ran Dry. He holds a giddy excitement for extreme weather, which often shines through his annual Top Ten Weather Stories.
Lester B Pearson
Born in Newton Brook, Ontario on April 23, 1897, Lester Bowles Pearson was a formidable Canadian.
Best known for his service as Prime Minister, Pearson was first an Ambassador to the United States, President of the United Nations, and the Secretary of State for External Affairs. While serving as Secretary of State, he coordinated the response to the 1956 Suez Crisis, establishing an international police force to resolve the issue. This action is now considered to be the first designated UN peacekeeping mission. For these efforts, Pearson was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1963 Pearson was sworn in as the 14th Prime Minister of Canada. Though he lead a minority government, he ushered in an astonishing number of significant measures, including: the creation of the Canada Pension Plan, the establishment of universal healthcare, and the adoption of our (now) beloved National Flag.
As a tribute to this great Canadian and in particular for his service with External Affairs, the Lester B. Pearson Building stands at 125 Sussex Drive in Ottawa, just a skip down the street from the Prime Minister’s residence. Seen from the air, the building is meant to look like a stylized Sphinx. Pearson’s Nobel Prize is permanently displayed in the lobby, along with a variety of artwork which serve as a tribute and testament to his influential life.
The Right Honourable Lester Bowles Pearson died in Ottawa, December 27, 1972.
“The best defense of peace is not power, but the removal of the causes of war, and international agreements which will put peace on a stronger foundation than the terror of destruction.” -Lester B. Pearson
Doctor Joseph Jean-Pierre Marc Garneau was born on February 23, in Quebec City. Best known for being the first Canadian to fly in space, Garneau has lead a fascinating career.
In 1973 Garneau earned his doctorate in electrical engineering from the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London, England. From there he went on to serve in the Navy for fifteen years, designing and implementing a number of naval weapons and training simulators.
His expertise and aptitude set him apart, and in 1983 he was selected as one of six Canadians to join the Canadian Astronaut Program. Garneau has flown in two space shuttles on three missions: October 5-13, 1984 (On Challenger), May 19-29 1996 (Endeavour), and Nov 30-December 11 2000 (Endeavour).
Garneau is currently House Leader for the Liberal Party in the House of Commons, representing Westmount-Ville-Marie, and should run for PM.
The Starfleet ship USS Garneau was named in his honour.