50 Canadians Who Changed The World

Buy the Book: AmazonIndigo
Title: 50 Canadians Who Changed The World
Published by: HarperCollins Canada
Release Date: 2013


Celebrating Canadians who have created the present and are shaping the future, this book uses the successful format of How the Scots Invented Canada. Ken McGoogan takes the reader on a compelling journey through the lives of 50 accomplished Canadians -- all born in the twentieth century -- who have changed and often continue to change the great wide world.

Here we encounter an astonishing array of activists and humanitarians, musicians and writers, comedians and visionaries, scientists and inventors, all of them transformative figures who have made an impact internationally.

From Marshall McLuhan, Jane Jacobs, Deepa Mehta, and Stephen Lewis to David Suzuki, Oscar Peterson, Romeo Dallaire, and Irshad Manji, McGoogan shows why and how Canadians are making their mark globally as initiators and agents of progressive change. Forty per cent of the figures included are women.

Cutting-edge Canada, the focus of this book, is uniquely pluralistic—multicultural, multi-ethnic, and multinational. The diversity that emerges in these pages defines who we are as citizens, enabling and encouraging individuals to make a difference. With this spirited, accessible work, Ken McGoogan shows how twentieth-century Canada is transforming the twenty-first century.

Reviews Respond

“The biographies . . . are often enlivened by engaging anecdotes. Readers learn how actor Michael J. Fox discovered he had Parkinson’s, are treated to a chance encounter between Leonard Cohen and a Calgary waitress and are provided with an amusing yarn about Mohawk First Nations actor Jay Silverheels, best known for his portrayal of the Lone Ranger’s faithful sidekick Tonto.”
Vit Wagner, National Post

“Our best and brightest have been making their mark internationally for many years, and McGoogan’s book shows there’s plenty more (Naomi Klein, Irshad Manji, Craig Kielburger, Samantha Nutt) where the originals came from.”
Brian Brennan, Facts and Opinions

“McGoogan’s list is diverse, with a particular effort made to include native Canadians, and it is nice to see artists and scientists treated as equals to humanitarians and activists.”
Dan Rowe, Quill and Quire

“. . . the sweep and scope and sheer creativity of choices makes for an enjoyable and entertaining read, and all but the most knowledgeable modern historians will likely learn something new along the way.”
Jon Muldoon, Beach Metro Newspaper

Book Tour Extravaganza

This book, 50 Canadians Who Changed the World, gave rise to Ken’s all-time favorite promotional event — The VIA-Rail, Cross-Canada, Ocean-to-Ocean, Book-Tour Extravaganza. Ken’s 2013 blog postings tell the story. Here we have a few excerpts (check the originals to see photos).

1/ The Great VIA-Rail Book-Launch Extravaganza, August 21, 2013

OK, that may be putting it a bit grandly.But yes, come October, we propose to launch 50 Canadians Who Changed the World with a cross-Canada, multi-event, book-launch extravaganza. HarperCollins Canada and VIA Rail are co-operating to make this expedition happen. Starting from Toronto on October 12, accompanied by my wife, Sheena, and detraining as warranted along the way, I will travel first to the West Coast (Oct. 12 to 30), then to Halifax (Nov. 8 to 13), with a Toronto launch in-between.

We’re already booked to stage a number of events -- at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg and Saskatoon, for example, and at Paragraphe Books in Montreal.

Yes, Alice Munro is in the book. So are David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, Marshall McLuhan, Irshad Manji, Wayne Gretzky, Samantha Nutt, and a host of other Canadian world-beaters. We're talking cutting-edge Canada. All aboard! We're on our way.

2/ Fort Garry Hotel works contest magic for 50 Canadians, Oct. 14, 2013

You’ve got to love the magic of Canada’s grand railway hotels. Soon after we checked into the Fort Garry here in Winnipeg, the first such hotel on our list, we discovered a fantastic contest announcement in the Globe and Mail. (see below)

This year marks the 100th anniversary of this hotel, which was built in the chateau style of architecture that turns up in Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier and New York City’s Plaza Hotel. The Grand Trunk Railway decided to build the Fort Garry in1911, near the junction of its east and west lines (Union Station),and finished the job in 1913.

From our window on the ninth floor, we have a clear view of Union Station and of the original stone gate to Upper Fort Garry, built in the 1850s by the HBC. But this location has exploration history dating back to La Verendrye and the 1730s.

The best news is that Winnipeg is turning that Gate into the entrance to an interpretive centre, now visibly under construction. Or, no, the best news is the contest announcement that caught up with us here. We’re travelling across Canada by VIA-Rail in celebration of 50 Canadians Who Changed the World. Yes, we’re having a blast. But you could enjoy a similar trip if you win the $5,000 travel credit available as top prize. Is that magic or what? Check out www.50Canadians.ca. All aboard!

3/ Jasper marks the spot where the railway meets Canada's most spectacular drive, Oct. 25, 2013)

Jasper has had a 40-foot Haida totem pole since 1915. The original Raven Totem arrived four years after the railway, and ten years before the train station in which I sit. I know these things because we contrived to spend a couple of hours rambling around Jasper after driving here from Banff.
Yes, the Icefields Parkway through the Canadian Rockies offers Canada’s most spectacular drive: Lake Louise, Bow Lake, Saskatchewan Crossing, the Columbia Icefields, Athabasca Glacier, and towering mountain ranges all the way. It didn’t hurt that we had memories, having once spent a summer on Mount Sarbach working as fire lookouts. We used to scramble around the side of the mountain to sit looking out over Howse Pass, where in 1807 David Thompson went mapping.

But the Haida totem in Jasper: By 2009, it was showing its age and had to be removed. Two contemporary Haida carvers went to work, and in 2011, up went the new pole pictured here: the Two Brothers Totem Pole.

Steel rails had reached this picturesque town 100 years before. The Canadian Northern and the Grand Trunk ran competing lines from Edmonton. Both railways collapsed after the onset of the First World War and the opening of the Panama Canal. From their ashes, the federal government forged the Canadian National Railway, and then, in 1925, erected what is now the Jasper Heritage Railway Station. You can see it above, in Sheena's photo . . . but surely the old steam engine deserves pride of place? Today, of course, VIA-Rail runs the only passenger trains through here.

And I can't help myself, because I think it's terrific: along with HarperCollins Canada, VIA-Rail is offering Canadians a chance to win a $5,000 travel voucher that could get you out onto these very rails.

4/ Three reasons why I hate Vancouver, Oct. 27, 2013

You knew it was coming. And now, having been here almost 24 hours, I stand ready to deliver. Why do I hate Vancouver? The first reason is the Seawall that encircles Stanley Park. Today is nothing but sunshine here and of course we went walking along that wall. Yes, in T.O. we have the boardwalk in the Beach, and you can spot me there on any given day, either walking or cycling. But here we have greater potential distance, and you can see freighters standing out to sea, and beyond the horizon, well, to me that looks like the magic of the Orient. Doesn't everybody who lives in not-Vancouver hate the Seawall?

Reason two is the SkyTrain. We saw it whizzing joyously past as we rolled into Van on VIA-Rail’s Canadian, and immediately I felt my gorge rise. The SkyTrain is a light rapid transit system featuring 70 km of track, spectacular views of the city, and 95% on-time reliability. It is precisely what we need in Toronto but cannot have because of what we did to ourselves at the last municipal election. You know it, I know it, the whole world knows it.

The third reason I hate Van, where once UBC granted me an MFA, is that it marks the end of the line for The VIA-Rail, 50 Canadians, Ocean-to-Ocean, Book-Tour Extravaganza. We’ve spent the past couple of weeks crossing the country on Train # 1, getting on and off to promote 50 Canadians Who Changed the World, staying at historic railway hotels (at present the magnificent the Hotel Vancouver), beating the drum for a contest that could win you a $5,000 travel voucher, and generally enjoying the trip of a lifetime . . . and arriving in Van marks the beginning of the end? Of course, that makes me bilious.
But wait: we’re here for a few days more. That photo above? Our Hero ankle deep in the Pacific? That’s just one ocean. We're talking ocean-to-ocean, remember? The Atlantic is yet to come. Vancouver-lovers, as you were.

5/ VIA-Rail, ocean-to-ocean, 50 Canadians: this really happened! Nov. 12, 2013

One month ago, we boarded a train called The Canadian in Toronto. We were bent on celebrating 50 Canadians Who Changed the World – the majority of whom are alive and thriving -- by following in the footsteps of those who created this nation by running steel rails across it. We called this endeavor The VIA-Rail, Cross-Canada, Ocean-to-Ocean, Book-Tour Extravaganza.

Faithful readers of this blog (hi, mom!) will know that Our Hero made stops in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Canmore, Banff, and Jasper. After enduring many hardships and overcoming countless obstacles, he reached Vancouver, made his way to English Bay and, carrying a copy of his new book (which paints a vivid portrait of cutting-edge Canada, if I do say so myself), waded into the Pacific Ocean.

Then came the second leg of the train journey, traveling on VIA-Rail’s “Ocean”: Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax. This afternoon, acting on the advice of locals, and assisted by a trio of volunteers, Our Hero made his way to Point Pleasant Park. There, despite a steady rain and a rocky shoreline that would have deterred a less intrepid author, he waded into the Atlantic Ocean, thus accomplishing his declared objective: ocean-to-ocean. He was tempted to build a cairn.

6/ How Three Canadians spirited the '60s into the 21st century. Oct. 7. 2013

As part of the promotional deal, Ken wrote several articles for Destinations magazine, which no longer exists but was then published by VIA Rail. One of them began as follows . . .

New York City. A thirty-three-year-old Montrealer took up residence in the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street and began crooning his poetry to anybody who would listen. His name: Leonard Cohen.

A few blocks south of the Chelsea, in Greenwich Village, a young Saskatchewan woman who had recently fled a broken marriage was paying the rent by singing songs in the folk clubs where Bob Dylan once played. She called herself Joni Mitchell.

A one-day train ride to the north, in Montreal, a twenty-eight-year-old academic from the Ontario wilds was revising her first novel while teaching two courses at Sir George Williams University. This was Margaret Atwood.

These three Canadians, who grew up in Montreal, Saskatoon, and Toronto, would emerge from the ferment of the 1960s to forge global reputations as ground-breaking artists. The three would become friends. For a few months, two of them, Cohen and Mitchell, would be lovers.

But what, beyond personal interactions, do these three have in common? I found myself wondering about that as I researched them for 50 Canadians Who Changed the World. And it occurred to me that Cohen, Mitchell, and Atwood, shaped by the Zeitgeist of the 1960s, have never ceased to champion the countercultural values of that decade.
[For the rest, pick up the September/October issue of Destinations.]