The Greatest Canadian: Wikis


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The Greatest Canadian logo

Officially launched on April 5, 2004, The Greatest Canadian was a television program series by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to determine who is considered to be the greatest Canadian of all time, at least among those who watched and participated in the program. The project was inspired by the BBC series Great Britons.

Radio-Canada, the CBC's French-language arm, was not involved in The Greatest Canadian project, reducing the input of Canada's French-Canadian minority over the results. The CBC did make its Web site available in French, however.

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 E-mail, Web site, 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 November 28 at midnight and the following evening, November 29, the winner was revealed to be Tommy Douglas.

The series has a spiritual sequel, The Greatest Canadian Invention.


Top 10

Tommy Douglas, #1
Terry Fox, #2
Pierre Trudeau, #3
Sir Fredrick Banting, #4
Dr. David Suzuki, #5

On October 17, 2004, the top 10 were revealed in alphabetical order, and on November 29 the top 10 were announced in order of votes (with the accompanying pictures following the same pattern):

  1. Tommy Douglas (father of Medicare, Premier of Saskatchewan)
  2. Terry Fox (athlete, activist, humanitarian)
  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 United Nations General Assembly President, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, came up with the idea for the U.N. Peace-Keeping Force)
  7. Don Cherry (hockey coach, commentator)
  8. Sir John A. Macdonald (First Prime Minister of Canada, usually regarded the principal "Father of Confederation")
  9. Alexander Graham Bell (Scottish-born scientist, inventor, founder of the Bell Telephone Company, which later became the American Telephone and Telegraph Company)
  10. Wayne Gretzky (hockey player)


In broadcast order:

Comments and criticisms

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, also known as Rúhíyyih Khanum, all benefited from an active grassroots campaign to get their names included in the list. CBC openly admitted this[citation needed], and recognized that these three esoteric individuals are probably quite unknown to the general public. In fact, there is no way of knowing the extent to which use of repeated email submissions influenced the overall outcome: the principle of one vote per person in no way applied. By contrast, for example, in four general elections in Canada between 1962 and 1968, where this rule does apply, parties led by Tommy Douglas never achieved a higher ranking than 3rd nor a popular vote over 18% (see "List of Canadian federal general elections"). Many believe that an organized campaign by the New Democratic Party led to Douglas being chosen over Terry Fox.

Some critics have complained that the large number of entertainers on the list, like Jim Carrey, Bret Hart, 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).

Nine of the top 50 could be considered French Canadians, ignoring the percentage of Francophones included as the Unknown Soldier. Tecumseh, Suzuki, Donovan Bailey, Chief Dan George, Elijah Harper, 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 one of the few nominees to appear on more than one Greatest shortlist.

10 Worst Canadians

As a response to the Greatest Canadian, The Beaver ran a poll to find Canadians' opinions on the "worst Canadian", and as a way to get Canadians talking about Canada's history.[1] The top ten were:

  1. Pierre Trudeau, prime minister
  2. Chris Hannah, musician
  3. Henry Morgentaler, physician and abortionist
  4. Brian Mulroney, prime minister
  5. Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, serial killers
  6. Stephen Harper, prime minister
  7. Céline Dion, musician
  8. Jean Chrétien, prime minister
  9. Clifford Olson, serial killer
  10. Conrad Black, convicted fraudster

It is interesting to note that Trudeau also ranked 3rd in the CBC's Greatest Canadian listing, which underlines his controversial profile.[2] The Beaver's poll has received harsh criticism. For example, Vancouver's Only Magazine stated that "Publishing such a poll in a history magazine officially makes The Beaver about as trustworthy as Wikipedia."[3]

Other editions

Other countries have produced similar shows, see also: Greatest Britons spin-offs


External links



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