There is a certain pride that comes with being Canadian. We have a lot to offer the world. Beautiful landscapes, diverse cultures and a rich history. One defining trait of Canadians is our resiliency.
Our ability to continue on, in the face of illness, loss and struggle, makes us who we are as a nation. Here are some inspirational Canadians whose resiliency helped them to achieve greatness.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Viola Desmond was one of the earliest proponents of racial equality in Canada. In 1946, Viola refused to exit her seat in a movie theatre and move to a section that was unofficially set aside for black patrons. Police were called and Viola was forcibly removed and jailed. Rather than accept the charges, she brought the matter to court and in doing so called into question segregation both in Canada and around the world. In 1954, segregation was legally ended in Nova Scotia. To honour her bravery, Viola became the first Canadian woman featured on Canadian currency in 2018, gracing the $10 bill.
For a long time in our history, women did not have basic rights- including the right to vote. Suffragists like Nellie McClung took up the fight for women everywhere. Raised in Souris Valley, Manitoba, Nellie worked as a teacher until she met her husband. After moving to Alberta, Nellie continued her activism, petitioning along with other members of the “Famous Five” to have women recognized as “qualified persons” who would be able to participate in public office. She had many personal accomplishments such as being the first female director of the board of the governors of the CBC and was chosen as a delegate to the League of Nations in Geneva in 1938. Nellie broke down barriers for women and because of her, and other like-minded individuals, Canadian women are able to enjoy the same rights as men today.
There are few Canadians more well-known or more inspiring than Terry Fox. Diagnosed with bone cancer when he was only 18 years old, Terry had to have his right leg amputated due to the disease. While in the hospital, he witnessed the suffering of other cancer patients, many of them young people, and decided to run across Canada to raise funds for cancer research. He named this cross-country venture the Marathon of Hope. Starting in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Terry ran all the way to Thunder Bay, Ontario before being forced to stop due to the cancer moving to his lungs. He passed away on June 28, 1981 at the young age of 22. Due to his courage and his fighting spirit, Terry has become an influential part of Canadian history. The Terry Fox Run continues on in his memory, and to date has raised over $750 million for cancer research.
Edith was born and raised on the Six Nations reserve in Ohsweken near Brantford, Ontario. Exceling in academics, she was accepted to New York’s New Rochelle nursing school where she graduated first in her class. In 1914, Edith became the first Indigenous registered nurse in Canada. At age 27, she volunteered with the United States Army Nurse Corps where she served as a nurse during the First World War. Helping to care for wounded soldiers amongst the turmoil, Edith was overwhelmed by the realities of war. She worked tirelessly for her patients and continued her career in nursing long after the war had ended. Edith was an advocate for better Indigenous health care, leading to her honorary election as president of the Ohsweken Red Cross. She passed away in 1996 at 105 years old, with 14 grandchildren and many great- grandchildren by her side.