The Greatest Canadian

The Greatest Canadian

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

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

# Tommy Douglas (father of Canadian Medicare, Premier of Saskatchewan)
# Terry Fox (athlete, activist, humanitarian)
# Pierre Trudeau (Prime Minister)
# Sir Frederick Banting (medical scientist, co-discoverer of insulin)
# David Suzuki (geneticist, environmentalist, broadcaster, activist)
# Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister, former United Nations General Assembly President, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)
# Don Cherry (hockey coach, commentator)
# Sir John A. Macdonald (First post-Confederation Prime Minister)
# Alexander Graham Bell (Scottish-born scientist, inventor, founder of the Bell Telephone Company, which later became the American Telephone and Telegraph Company)
# Wayne Gretzky (professional hockey player)


In broadcast order:
* George Stroumboulopoulos, pop culture commentator, host of CBC's The Hour, and former MuchMusic VJ; for Tommy Douglas
* Deborah Grey, former Reform Party of Canada MP from Alberta, motorcycle enthusiast; for Wayne Gretzky
* Bret Hart, former professional wrestler; for Don Cherry
* Charlotte Gray, author, professor and historian; for John A. Macdonald
* Sook-Yin Lee, actor, musician, writer, director, broadcaster, former MuchMusic VJ, and host of CBC Radio's "Definitely Not the Opera"; for Terry Fox
* Mary Walsh, comedian; for Frederick Banting
* Paul Gross, actor; for Lester B. Pearson
* Evan Solomon, journalist, editor, author, anchor; for Alexander Graham Bell
* Melissa Auf der Maur, rock musician; for David Suzuki
* Rex Murphy, broadcaster; for Pierre Elliott Trudeau

Comments and criticisms

Some criticsWho|date=June 2007 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 thisFact|date=June 2007, and recognized that these three esoteric individuals are probably quite unknown to the general public. Others complained that all the top 10 were men and all but Suzuki are white. The producers admitted they were surprised and disappointed to see the demographic mix work out as it was, but decided that interfering with it to create a diverse list would be pointless as they would be criticized for that act as well.

Some criticsWho|date=June 2007 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 [] . The top ten were [] :

#Pierre Trudeau, prime minister
#Chris Hannah, musician
#Henry Morgentaler, physician and pro-choice advocate
#Brian Mulroney, prime minister
#Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, serial killers
#Stephen Harper, prime minister
#Céline Dion, musician
#Jean Chrétien, prime minister
#Clifford Olson, serial killer
#Conrad Black, media baron

It is interesting to note that Trudeau also ranked 3rd in the CBC's Greatest Canadian listing, which underlines his controversial profile [] . 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." []

Other editions

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

* Germany ran their version on ZDF and called it "Unsere Besten" ("Our Best").
* KRO (part of the Netherlands Public Broadcasting) ran the "De Grootste Nederlander" ("The Greatest Dutchman").
* The Discovery Channel (in conjunction with AOL) ran "The Greatest American" in May 2005 [] .
* The South African Broadcasting Corporation ran the "Great South Africans".
* In Finland, YLE ran "Suuret Suomalaiset" ("Great Finns"). [] .
* In France "Le Plus Grand Français" ("The Greatest Frenchman") ran on France 2.
* In Belgium.: "De Grootste Belg" and "Le plus grand belge".
* A Czech version called "The Greatest Czech" ("Největší Čech") aired in June 2005.
* 100 Welsh Heroes was the result of an on-line poll carried out in 2003-4.
* A Bulgarian version, "The Great Bulgarians" ("Великите българи"), finished in February 2007.
* In Romania, the show called "Mari Români" ("Great Romanians") started in May 2006; on July 8, Televiziunea Română (TVR) presented the 100 Greatest Romanians, and on October 21 the Greatest Romanian of all the times.
* In Portugal, RTP chose dictator António de Oliveira Salazar as the Greatest Portuguese.
* Argentina ran their version on Telefe and called it El Gen Argentino ("The Argentine Gene"). Started on August 27, 2007. [ [ :: T E L E F E :: ] ]
* In Spain, Antena 3 chose the current head of state, King Juan Carlos I, as the The Most Important Spaniard in History, on May 22nd, 2007. []
* Ukraine ran their version on Inter (TV channel) and called it Великі українці ("The Great Ukrainians"). To broadcast 2007-2008 season, 2007. []


External links

* [ CBC The Greatest Canadian] website
* [ CBC Grands canadiens] website (in French)

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