Sir John Alexander Macdonald was the dominant creative mind which produced the British North America Act and the union of provinces which became Canada. As the first prime minister of Canada, he oversaw the expansion of the Dominion from sea to sea. His government dominated politics for a half century and set policy goals for future generations of political leaders.
George Brown played an instrumental role in establishing Confederation. As leader of the Clear Grits (forerunner of the Liberal Party) in Canada West, he set aside political differences and allied with his Conservative rivals John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier in 1864, with whom he pitched Confederation to the Atlantic colonies at the Charlottetown and Québec Conferences. From 3 February to 13 March 1865, politicians in the Province of Canada debated the terms of Confederation, offering some of the most compelling defences and critiques of the union of British North American colonies. In the following speech, delivered before the legislature of the Province of Canada on 8 February 1865, Brown explains his reasons for supporting Confederation.
Piita Irniq (formerly known as Peter Irniq and Peter Ernerk), cultural proponent, artist, public servant, commissioner of Nunavut (born 1947 at Lyon Inlet, NT [now Nunavut]). Irniq represented the Keewatin region in the Council of the Northwest Territories from 1975 to 1979. From 2000 to 2005, he served as the second commissioner of Nunavut . Irniq has worked to preserve and promote Inuit culture and languages.
William “Bible Bill” Aberhart, teacher, radio evangelist, premier of Alberta from 1935 to 1943 (born 31 December 1878 in Hibbert Township, Perth County, ON; died 23 May 1943 in Vancouver, BC). An important influence in religious sectarianism in Western Canada, Aberhart led the world’s first Social Credit government, which dominated Alberta politics until 1971.
Charles Joseph “Joe” Clark, PC, CC, journalist, author, 16th prime minister of Canada 1979-80, (born 5 June, 1939 at High River, AB). Clark was Canada's youngest prime minister when he took office one day before his 40th birthday. His brief term put a temporary end to 16 years of Liberal rule. He later gained respect as a senior minister in the Progressive Conservative government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, especially on the international stage.
Ralph Garvin Steinhauer, OC, lieutenant-governor of Alberta, Indigenous leader, farmer (born 8 June 1905 in Morley, North-West Territories [now AB]; died 19 September 1987 in Edmonton, AB). The first Indigenous person to serve as lieutenant-governor of a Canadian province, he was committed to Indigenous affairs in Alberta and Canada.
Paul Gérin-Lajoie, CC, GOQ, lawyer and politician (born 23 February 1920 in Montréal, QC), is one of the great figures of Québec’s Quiet Revolution. He served as minister of Youth (1960–64) and Education (1964–66) in the Québec Liberal government of Jean Lesage. Gérin-Lajoie was responsible for reforming Québec’s education system and formulating Québec’s first international-relations policy, two milestone achievements of this period that helped to define modern Québec. He has also played a leading role in the field of international development, as president first of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and then of the Paul Gérin-Lajoie Foundation.
Bill Wilson (Hemas Kla-Lee-Lee-Kla), Kwagiulth (Kwakwaka’wakw) hereditary chief, politician, administrator (born in 1944 in Comox, BC). A leading theorist in British Columbia Indigenous politics, he was also influential in a successful proposal to amend the Constitution Act, 1982 to enshrine Indigenous rights. He is the father of Jody Wilson-Raybould, minister of justice and attorney general of Canada (2015–), who has continued his legacy.1
Paul Edgar Philippe Martin, businessman, politician, prime minister 2003–06 (born 28 August 1938 in Windsor, ON). Paul Martin had a successful career in business as CEO and then owner of Canada Steamship Lines (renamed CSL Group), before entering politics. He was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament in 1988, and served as Minister of Finance (1993–2002) under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. In 2003, he succeeded Chrétien as Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, but resigned in 2006 after losing the federal election to Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. As prime minister, Martin spearheaded several initiatives, including the Kelowna Accord, a national child care program, health accords with the provinces and the legalization of same-sex marriage.