The Greatest Canadian

From Academic Kids

The Greatest Canadian logo

Officially launched on April 5, 2004, The Greatest Canadian was a project by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, to find who is the greatest ever Canadian. The project was inspired by the BBC series Great Britons.

The "Greatest Canadian" was not decided by a simple popular poll, but was instead chosen through a two-step voting process.

On October 17, 2004 the CBC aired the first part of the Greatest Canadian television series. In it, the bottom 40 of the top 50 "greatest" choices were revealed, in order of popularity, determined by polls conducted by email, website, telephone, and letter. To prevent bias during the second round of voting, the top ten nominees were presented alphabetically rather than by order of first round popularity.

This second vote was accompanied by a series of documentaries, where 10 Canadian celebrities acting as advocates each presented their case for The Greatest Canadian. Voting concluded on Nov. 28 at midnight and the following evening, November 29, the winner was revealed to be Tommy Douglas.


The Greatest Canadian

Missing image
The Greatest Canadian

On November 29, Tommy Douglas won the title as Greatest Canadian. He had been at first place for almost the entire contest. Douglas is famous as a father of medicare. Prior to his political career, he received his Arts degree at Brandon College, where he met his best friend Stanley Knowles as well as his wife. He became a Baptist minister in small prairie towns such as Carberry, Manitoba, before he became a minister in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. During his time as a minister in Weyburn, at the height of the Great Depression, local farmers would come to him for help since many of them were losing their farms to holding corporations as they were unable to pay their bills on time. Douglas helped start up the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation as a lobby group of farmers, and it became a political party. Soon, people of the working class wanted to be part of the group, although they traditionally never got along with fellow farmers. While Douglas was Premier of Saskatchewan, he was able to help farmers keep their property, introduced many social reforms including automobile insurance and Medicare, although it was not passed until only a few weeks after Douglas resigned as Premier of Saskatchewan. While leader of the federal NDP, with backing from the Tories, he was able to pressure the federal Liberals to introduce such policies as the Canada Health Act. Actor Kiefer Sutherland, star of such TV shows as 24, is Douglas' grandson, and a noted supporter of Medicare to this day.

Top 10

Missing image
1. Tommy Douglas
2. Terry Fox
2. Terry Fox
3. Pierre Trudeau
3. Pierre Trudeau

On October 17, the top 10 were revealed in alphabetical order, and on November 29 the top 10 were announced in order of votes (with the pictures below following the same pattern):

  1. Tommy Douglas (Premier of Saskatchewan, former NDP leader, Father of Medicare)
  2. Terry Fox (athlete, activist)
  3. Pierre Trudeau (Prime Minister)
  4. Sir Frederick Banting (medical scientist, co-discoverer of insulin)
  5. David Suzuki (geneticist, environmentalist, broadcaster, activist)
  6. Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister, former UN General Assembly President, Nobel Peace Prize Winner)
  7. Don Cherry (ice hockey coach, commentator)
  8. Sir John A. Macdonald (First post-Confederation Prime Minister)
  9. Alexander Graham Bell (scientist, inventor, founder of the Bell telephone company)
  10. Wayne Gretzky (professional ice hockey player)

Frederick Banting Missing image
David Suzuki

Missing image
Lester Bowles Pearson

Missing image
Don Cherry

Sir John A. Macdonald Missing image
Alexander Graham Bell

Missing image
Wayne Gretzky


Louis Riel, #11
Louis Riel, #11

In broadcast order:

Top 50

Neil Young, #14
Neil Young, #14

11. Louis Riel (politician, Métis leader)
12. Jean Vanier (humanitarian, founder of L'Arche, author)
13. Stompin' Tom Connors (singer, songwriter)
14. Neil Young (singer, guitarist, organist)
15. Peter Gzowski (broadcaster, writer, reporter)
16. Roméo Dallaire (Commanding UN Officer Rwanda, humanitarian, author)
17. Stephen Lewis (politician, diplomat, humanitarian)
18. Shania Twain (singer, songwriter)
19. Bobby Orr (ice hockey player)
20. Mike Myers (actor, comedian, writer, producer)

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, #21
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, #21

21. Unknown Soldier (soldiers)
22. Harold A. Rogers (founder of Kin Canada service club)
23. Maurice Richard (professional ice hockey player)
24. Sir Arthur Currie (commander, general)
25. Nellie McClung (feminist, social activist)
26. Dr. Norman Bethune (physician, medical innovator, humanitarian)
27. Céline Dion (vocalist)
28. Sir Isaac Brock (major-general)

Céline Dion, #27
Céline Dion, #27

29. Jim Carrey (film actor, comedian, writer, producer)
30. Rick Hansen (athlete, humanitarian)
31. Pierre Berton (author, historian, broadcaster)
32. Michael J. Fox (actor)
33. Gordon Lightfoot (folk singer, composer, lyricist)
34. Hal Anderson (broadcaster)
35. Laura Secord (heroine)
36. Ernie Coombs (children's entertainer)
37. Tecumseh (native American leader)

Missing image
Mario Lemieux, #38

38. Mario Lemieux (professional ice hockey player)
39. Bret Hart (professional wrestler)
40. Avril Lavigne (singer, songwriter)
41. John Candy (comedian, actor)
42. Sir Sandford Fleming (engineer, inventor)
43. Sir Wilfrid Laurier (prime minister)
44. Mary Maxwell (Bahá'í adherent)
45. Jean Chrétien (prime minister)
46. Leonard Cohen (poet, novelist, folk singer/songwriter)
47. John George Diefenbaker (prime minister)
48. Billy Bishop (flying ace)

Missing image
William Lyon Mackenzie King, #49

49. William Lyon Mackenzie King (prime minister)
50. Rick Mercer (comedian)

Comments and Criticisms

Pamela Anderson, #51
Pamela Anderson, #51

Some critics have said the format used to select the "top 10" was not completely honest since CBC knew the ranking order of the nominees as determined by popular vote, but did not reveal this information. This format is identical to that of the Great Britons series and was designed to encourage a more informed vote as the feature documentaries were run.

At least three members of the top 50 got into the list by an active mass-voting campaign among that individual's loyal, well-organized followers. Kin founder Harold A. Rogers, DJ Hal Anderson, and Bahá'í activist Mary Maxwell all benefitted from an active grassroots campaign to get their names included in the list. CBC openly admitted this, and recognized that these three esoteric individuals are probably quite unknown to the general public. Others complained that all the top 10 were men and all but Suzuki are white. The producers admitted they were surprised and disappointed to see the demographic mix work out as it was, but decided that interfering with it to create a diverse list would be pointless as they would be criticisized for that act as well.

Some critics have complained that the large number of entertainers on the list, like Jim Carrey and Avril Lavigne, reflects Canadians confusing popularity with greatness. In particular, Don Cherry's inclusion in the top 10 upset many Canadians, especially considering it forced out figures they believe are more worthy like Louis Riel and Jean Vanier (Don Cherry supported Sir John A. Macdonald as the Greatest Canadian).

A few members of the list were not "Canadians" in the sense we think of the term today, but rather figures who were associated with some period of early Canadian history, before Canada was a nation. These include the American Indian leader Tecumseh, who never resided in Canada, and Laura Secord and Sir Isaac Brock, who were both British figures associated with the 1812 War (before Canadian Confederation).

Glenn Gould, #55
Glenn Gould, #55

Eight of the top 50 could be considered French Canadians, ignoring the percentage of Francophones included as the Unknown Soldier. Tecumseh, Suzuki, Donovan Bailey, and Louis Riel were the only non-Caucasians on the list.

Many of the top 50 Greatest Canadians' careers have actually been spent with the CBC. David Suzuki and Don Cherry are current on-air personalities, Rick Mercer currently hosts a comedy series, Ernie Coombs was Mr. Dressup for decades on the network, while comedians like John Candy (guest on King of Kensington, lead on Dr. Zonk and the Zunkins and a regular on SCTV) Michael J. Fox (guest on The Magic Lie, star of Leo and Me), and Mike Myers (guest on King of Kensington) all made their first credited TV appearances on the CBC.

Alexander Graham Bell was also on the 100 Great Britons and would be on the subsequent 100 Greatest American lists, and is the only nominee to appear on more than one Greatest shortlist. While the Unknown Soldier was also one of the top 100 Great Britons, this is technically not the same person in the two contests.

SRC, the French equivalent of CBC, wasn't involved in the "The Greatest Canadian" project. As a result, the Greatest Canadians were selected with little French-Canadian input causing the French-Canadian minority to be under-represented in the results.

The next 50

Missing image
William Shatner, #56

CBC also published the next 50, although they did not appear on the show.
51. Pamela Anderson (television actress, model, producer)
52. Craig Kielburger (children's rights activist)
53. Gordie Howe (hockey player)
54. William Stephenson (soldier, airman, businessman, inventor, spymaster, intelligence representative)
55. Glenn Gould (pianist)
56. William Shatner (actor, writer)

Missing image
Lucy Maud Montgomery, #57

57. Lucy Maud Montgomery (author)
58. Paul Henderson (ice hockey player)
59. Tim Horton (ice hockey player, founder of the Tim Hortons donut chain)
60. Stan Rogers (folk musician, composer)
61. Sir William Edmond Logan (geologist)
62. Marshall McLuhan (educator, academic, philosopher)
63. Roberta Bondar (astronaut)
64. Brian Mulroney (prime minister)
65. Burton Cummings (musician)
66. Sheila Fraser (auditor general)

Patrick Roy, #67
Patrick Roy, #67

67. Patrick Roy (ice hockey goaltender)
68. Jean Béliveau (professional ice hockey player)
69. René Lévesque (reporter, founder of the Parti Quebecois, premier of Quebec)
70. James Naismith (inventor of basketball)
71. Margaret Atwood (novelist, poet, literary critic, author)
72. Senator Anne C. Cools (senator)
73. David Thompson (surveyor, explorer)
74. Emily Murphy (women's rights activist)
75. Sarah McLachlan (musician, singer)
76. John McCrae (poet, doctor)
77. Dr. Charles Best (medical scientist)

Sandra Schmirler, #81
Sandra Schmirler, #81

78. Robert Munsch (children?s author)
79. Ed Belfour (NHL goalie)
80. Chief Dan George (actor)
81. Sandra Schmirler (curler)
82. Dan Aykroyd (comedian, actor, screenwriter)
83. Elijah Harper (politician, band chief)
84. Kurt Browning (figure skater)
85. Emily Carr (artist, writer)
86. Mike Weir (professional golfer)
87. Dr. Henry Morgentaler (physician)
88. Farley Mowat (novelist, non-fiction author)
89. Donovan Bailey (athlete)

Donovan Bailey, #89
Donovan Bailey, #89

90. Bryan Adams (singer, songwriter)
91. Preston Manning (politician, leader of the Reform Party)
92. John Molson (brewer, entrepreneur)
93. Joni Mitchell (musician, painter)
94. Anne Murray (singer)
95. Lord Stanley (governor general)
96. Geddy Lee (musician, vocalist, bassist, keyboardist)
97. Louise Arbour (jurist)
98. Mordecai Richler (author, scriptwriter, essayist)
99. Sam Steele (member of the Northwest Mounted Police)
100. J. S. Woodsworth (pioneer of the social democratic movement)

External links

J.S. Woodsworth, #100
J.S. Woodsworth, #100

Other Great People


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools