The game is six degrees of Canadian history. Take two seemingly unrelated pieces of Canadian culture and connect the dots through various people, places and events to discover how they’re distantly — or maybe not-so-distantly — related. Along the way, we visit the quizzical and curious, the tragic and comic, and everything in between.
Women’s suffrage (or franchise) is the right of women to vote in political elections; campaigns for this right generally included demand for the right to run for public office. The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long struggle intended to address fundamental issues of equity and justice and to improve the lives of Canadians.
Beverly Sainte-Marie, OC, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, educator, social activist, philanthropist, visual artist (born 20 February 1941 on Piapot Reserve, SK). A pioneering and influential singer-songwriter, Buffy Sainte-Marie specializes in love songs and music with a political and social-activist focus. She was an important figure in the Greenwich Village and Toronto folk music revivals in the 1960s, and is perhaps best known for her 1964 anti-war anthem “Universal Soldier,” which was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. She won a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and an Academy Award for co-writing the hit song “Up Where We Belong.” An Officer of the Order of Canada, she has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame. She has received the Polaris Music Prize and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, as well as multiple Juno Awards, Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, lifetime achievement awards and honorary degrees.
Isobel Gunn (sometimes spelled Isabel, a.k.a. Isabella Gunn, John Fubbister and Mary Fubbister), labourer (born 10 August 1780 in Tankerness, Scotland; died 7 November 1861 in Stromness, Scotland). Gunn disguised herself as a man in order to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 19th century. She travelled to Rupert’s Land (now Canada) to work in the fur trade and is believed to have been one of the first European woman in Western Canada.
Jane Isabel Jacobs, née Butzner, author, urban advocate, economist, ecologist and philosopher (born 4 May 1916 in Scranton, PA; died 25 April 2006 in Toronto). Jacobs earned renown for her books, beginning with The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961). In her writings Jacobs employed innovative expository techniques, including dialogues, to explain how economies and cities function and to analyse the conditions that permit them to thrive.
Alison Redford, QC, 14th premier of Alberta 2011–14, politician, lawyer (born 7 March 1965 in Kitimat, BC). After decades of service in international, federal and provincial politics, Redford was elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta and acclaimed premier of the province in 2011. She was the first woman to be premier of Alberta and the seventh woman in Canadian history to become the leader of a province or territory.
Ann Meekitjuk Hanson, CM, journalist, broadcaster, philanthropist, commissioner of Nunavut (born 22 May 1946 in Qakutut, Northwest Territories). Hanson has spent much of her professional life in the public sector service, furthering the development of Nunavut and its people through her media and philanthropic work.
Viola Irene Desmond (née Davis), businesswoman, civil libertarian (born 6 July 1914 in Halifax, NS; died 7 February 1965 in New York, NY). Viola Desmond built a career and business as a beautician and was a mentor to young Black women in Nova Scotia through her Desmond School of Beauty Culture. It is, however, the story of her courageous refusal to accept an act of racial discrimination that provided inspiration to a later generation of Black persons in Nova Scotia and in the rest of Canada. In December 2016, it was announced that Desmond would be the first Canadian woman depicted on the face of a Canadian banknote — the $10 note in a series of bills released in 2018.1
Arla Agnes Isabella Axelsdotter Saarukka, film editor (born 28 November 1915 in Finland; died 9 May 2013 in Vancouver, BC). Arla Saare was one of Canada’s first women film editors. After working as a cutter at the National Film Board, Saare worked for CBC TV in Toronto and Vancouver. She edited acclaimed films by Allan King, Harry Rasky and Don Owen and won two Canadian Film Awards.
Carrie-Anne Moss, actor, model (born 21 August 1967 in Burnaby, BC). Carrie-Anne Moss is a successful film and television actor. She is best known for her roles in The Matrix trilogy (1999, 2003) and the Marvel television series Jessica Jones (2015–). She was nominated for a Gemini Award in 1997 for a guest role in the comedy-drama Due South, won a Genie Award for her supporting performance in Snow Cake (2006), and won a Film Independent Spirit Award for her performance in Christopher Nolan’s landmark neo-noir Memento (2000).
Her Royal Highness (HRH) The Duchess of Sussex, née Rachel Meghan Markle (born 4 August 1981 in Los Angeles, California), is a philanthropist, a former actress and the wife of HRH The Duke of Sussex (Prince Harry). Meghan has a strong connection with Canada and has described herself as an “honorary Canadian.” She lived in Toronto, Ontario, while filming the television legal drama Suits and, in 2016, she became a Global Ambassador for World Vision.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (born 17 July 1947 in London, United Kingdom), is the second wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, heir to the thrones of Canada, the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth Realms. She has undertaken four official tours of Canada with the Prince of Wales, including celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.
Victoria Michelle (Vicky) Kaspi, CC, FRSC, FRS, astrophysicist (born 30 June 1967 in Austin, Texas). Kaspi is best known for her studies of collapsed stars such as neutron stars and pulsars. In 2016, she became the first woman to win the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal, the country’s top science prize awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.
Jeanne Henriette Corbin, communist activist and union organizer (born in March 1906 in Cellettes, France; died 7 May 1944 in London, Ontario). A member of the Communist Party of Canada and secretary of the Canadian Labour Defense League, she defended the rights of Canadian workers for over 15 years. She gained particular prominence for her role in the lumber workers’ strike in Rouyn, Quebec in 1933.
Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, Indigenous activist, homicide victim (born 27 March 1945 in Shubenacadie, NS; died December 1975 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota). A member of the militant American Indian Movement (AIM) in the United States during the 1970s, Aquash was murdered in 1975, triggering a 35-year investigation that culminated in the conviction of two fellow AIM members. Today, Aquash is a symbol of the injustices suffered by Indigenous women within their own communities.
The Honourable Pauline Vanier, PC, CC (born 28 March 1898 in Montreal, Quebec; died 23 March 1991 in l’Arche, France), vice regal consort of Canada from 1959 to 1967 and chancellor of the University of Ottawa from 1966 to 1973. Vanier was the first woman outside party politics to be appointed to the Queen’s Privy Council. She cofounded the Vanier Institute of the Family in 1965 with her husband, Georges Vanier, and became one of the first companions of the Order of Canada in 1967 for her humanitarian work.
Joannie Rochette, figure skater (born 13 January 1986 at Île Dupas, Quebec). Figure skater Joannie Rochette won the silver medal at the 2009 World Championships and was the Canadian ladies’ champion for six consecutive years (2005–10). She is best known for her courageous bronze-medal performance at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, just days after her mother’s sudden death. Rochette also medalled at several international Grand Prix competitions.
Morna Anne Murray, CC, ONS, singer (born 20 June 1945 in Springhill, NS). Anne Murray is one of Canada’s most successful and iconic singers. She became a household name in Canada and internationally in the 1970s and 1980s with such hit songs as “Snowbird,” “A Love Song,” “Danny’s Song” and “You Needed Me.” A successful crossover artist known for her warm alto voice and girl-next-door image, Murray had 28 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, eight No. 1 hits on the Adult Contemporary chart and 25 Top 10 hits on the Hot Country Songs chart. Named the Female Recording Artist of the 1970s by the Canadian Recording Industry Association, she has sold more than 55 million albums worldwide. She was nominated for or won a Juno Award every year but one from 1971 to 1995, winning 23 in total, more than any other artist. She has also won four Grammy Awards, nine Big Country Awards, two Canadian Country Music Association Awards and three American Music Awards. A Companion of the Order of Canada and a Member of the Order of Nova Scotia, she has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Fame, Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Louise de Kiriline Lawrence (née Flach), nurse, author, ornithologist (born 30 January 1896 in Sweden; died 27 April 1992 in North Bay, ON). Swedish Canadian Louise de Kiriline Lawrence was a Red Cross nurse in Europe during the First World War. She and her Russian husband, Gleb Nikoleyevich Kirilin, were captured by Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War and interned in concentration camps; only Louise survived. In the 1920s she immigrated to Canada as part of a Red Cross initiative in the North. A pioneer of health care in Northern Ontario, she was head nurse for the Dionne Quintuplets from 1934 to 1935. Following her retirement from nursing, she became the award-winning author of seven books and hundreds of scientific papers and a world-class ornithologist. She married Canadian Leonard Lawrence in 1939.
Christine Girard, weightlifter (born 3 January 1985 in Elliot Lake, ON). Christine Girard is one of Canada’s top athletes and among the world’s best female weightlifters. She was North America’s top female weightlifter in the 63 kg class and holds two Canadian weightlifting records and one Pan American Games weightlifting record. Girard won bronze at the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing and gold at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. She is the first Canadian woman to win an Olympic medal in weightlifting and the only Canadian to win two medals in the sport.