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Youngish White Dude says YES to indigenous peoples, visible minorities


I hate to create mysteries during our run-up to Canada Day. But while the book we’re loud-hailing is rightly called 50 Canadians Who Changed the World, it celebrates 49 human beings, give or take -- 19 women and 30 men. Given that the human race is split 50-50, still I felt not too bad about having achieved 38.7 per cent women.
Then Justin Trudeau came along and, with his first cabinet, hit 50 per cent. Talk about raising the bar. I'm not bitter, but will note only that he didn’t have to accommodate the first half of the 20th century.
Then came the voices in my head. What about indigenous people? What about visible minorities? How many of those do we find among your 50 Canadian world-beaters, mister? Just how inclusive are you?
Well, hey, I thought you’d never ask. Turns out we have a dozen -- out of 49, more than 24 per cent. In Canada’s total population, those who self-identify as
indigenous or belonging to a visible minority comprise nineteen per cent. So when it comes to being demographically representative, this dude is ahead of the game. Yes!
The book’s table of contents included no names, only one-line descriptions. My idea was to encourage guessing games -- and it worked, here and there. Now and then. Among a few folks. This time around, I’ll give you bold-face names and then the one-liners:
Sheila Watt-Cloutier: An Inuit activist links climate change to human rights
Irshad Manji: A spirited Muslim calls for an Islamic Reformation.
Douglas Cardinal: A pioneering architect builds on his indigenous heritage
Kenojuak Ashevak: An Inuit artist enriches world culture
Joy Kogawa: A Japanese Canadian clears the way for minorities
Deepa Mehta: A transnational filmmaker gives voice to marginalized women
Michaelle Jean: A Haitian immigrant proves that pluralism works
Jay Silverheels: A talented Mohawk blazes a trail for aboriginal actors
Oscar Peterson: First this Montreal jazzman took Manhattan
K’naan Warsame: A flag-waving rapper tackles trouble in Somalia
David Suzuki: An environmental warrior awakens the world to climate change
Russell Peters: The Canadian comedian makes the world laugh with us
And did I say 19 women? Voila: Louise Arbour, Maude Barlow, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Irshad Manji, Naomi Klein, Jane Jacobs, Kenojuak Ashevak, Alice Munro, Joy Kogawa, Margaret Atwood, Deepa Mehta, Michaelle Jean, Samantha Nutt, Joni Mitchell, Celine Dion, Sarah Burke, Hayley Wickenheiser, Brenda Milner, Sara Seager.
That still leaves our mystery inclusion, our number fifty. No, it is not Northern Dancer -- though I fought hard to include that peerless progenitor. He’s Canadian, right? Anyway, if you can’t stand the suspense, you’ll have to buy the book. 50 Canadians Who Changed the World. It’s available in better bookstores, and here online from Chapters-Indigo.

Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.

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