If Canada were to be defined by the deeds of only five people, it would have to include a humanitarian politician, a dedicated peacekeeper, charismatic nationalist, enthusiastic scientist and possibly the best sportsman of all time. These five Canadian figures briefly explain Canada’s story throughout the 20th century and offer a broad view of how Canada has become what it is now. I chose the five people because I believed they best represented the advancements made by Canada in those fields during the 20th century.
The humanitarian advancements would have be undoubtedly the result of the work of Tommy Douglas, who I chose as the most influential Canadian of the 20th Century and Canada’s peacekeeping identity should be credited to the father of UN’s peacekeepers, Lester B. Pearson. Also, the bilingualism in Canada would not exist without the work of Pierre Trudeau, the science and eco-friendliness of Canadians is the effect of the effort of David Suzuki, and last, but not least, the identity of Canada as a nation in the world of sports can be defined through the accomplishments of Wayne Gretzky.
Tommy Douglas was born to a poor family and when he was young, he suffered a severe bone infection. This was treatable, but without the sufficient funds of the family, Tommy was not able to get it fixed and as a result, he was scheduled for a leg amputation. Even with such a dreadful fate on his hands, Tommy went to search for a better solution and by the slightest of chances; he met a doctor who was willing to do the surgery for free as long as his students could observe.
The story ended with Tommy keeping his leg and this was the story that inspired Tommy Douglas to take action. His dream was to allow every person to be able to receive health care, no matter the financial status and with this goal; he became the premier of Saskatchewan and offered the citizens of Saskatchewan Universal Healthcare. Even on top of that, he greatly contributed to the central banking, unemployment insurance, and old age pensions. I have included Tommy Douglas on this list because of the fact that one man, who did not become prime minister, added these components to this country was extraordinary. Not only that, the services that Tommy Douglas publicized are vital services that are much more efficient and cheaper when they are government controlled.
A central bank to control inflation and standardize interest rates, unemployment insurance to lower homelessness rates and poverty levels, old age pensions to insure good senior treatments and increase net income for those with senior parents to support, and finally universal health care to offer everyone equal healthcare and adding a bit of humanity to the otherwise lifeless government. With these changes, Canada has become a better nation that boasts excellent living conditions and proved by the Human Development Index. Universal health care is obviously better for the citizens than private health care and it was the courage and initiative taken by Tommy Douglas that made the change possible. Before Tommy Douglas came around, there weren’t many significant differences between America and Canada and with those socialistic, yet beneficial touches to the government, Tommy Douglas changed the face of Canada for the better.
During the First World War, all the soldiers of both sides wanted a better solution than all the fighting and killing, an alternative that did not involve as much violence and pointless combat. However, they did not know that the Canadian medic, Lester B. Pearson, would later in his life convince the world and achieve such a goal. With a strong educational background, Lester B. Pearson could have done pretty much anything he wanted, but his dedication for change forced him to turn down many appealing jobs and take up politics.
When he finally became Prime Minister, he had a job to do: to spare his people from the dreadfulness of war and racism. With that mind set, he did not send Canadian troops to Vietnam and rid of the racist immigration laws especially against the Chinese and Jews. With his immigration policies, Pearson created the multicultural Canada that we live in today and opened Canada to many opportunities and prosperities due to them. However, the possibly most important deed that Pearson did was not on the national scale, but rather on the international scale.
When the Suez Crisis occurred, Pearson did not see the valid reason for all the violence and deaths resulted from the violence. As a result, he led the UN into creating peacekeepers to resolve the issue. The goal of peacekeepers wasn’t to stop the war with force, but instead enforce peace treaties, create living conditions even with the presence of war and make sure human rights are carried out throughout the whole world. Introducing peace keepers allowed Canada to take initiative and become famous and second for intensive peace keeping everywhere.
The final deed which Pearson changed Canada was by changing the image that the world saw Canada with, its flag. With Canada having lost many of its original ties to Britain, the Union Jack on the Canadian flag was no longer appropriate. As a result, Pearson encouraged changed of the flag and in his second year in office, he made the change that gave Canada its own identity on the international scale. Nonetheless, Pearson was a great figure to Canada; he offered peace, equality in times of war and terror.
A sector that grows even in times of economic distress is the entertainment sector. Even when times are rough and people are short on money, entertainment never fails the people and the people never fail it. As a result, the famous people in this district turn out to be the most influential and celebrated people of the world.
The case of Wayne Gretzky was no different. Wayne grew up with hockey and by the age of 16, he was on his way to becoming the greatest hockey player in the world. When he reached the NHL, he was clearly the greatest and possibly the most talked about player in sports. With this status, Wayne Gretzky took the advantage and gave hockey and Canada a good name. His sportsmanship and kindness resulted in many good images of Canada and the sport of hockey and eventually he erased many biases on hockey players and the country itself. On top of all the change towards hockey, Gretzky set a good example of a model Canadian. For the first time, there was an internationally known person who was proud to be Canadian and gave Canada a good name. His game on and off the ice was his was of contributing to Canada and being such a great person, Gretzky succeeded in doing so. This example led many kids all over Canada to do the same and as a result there is a new wave of Canadian patriotism that was created by Gretzky.
The end of the 20th Century was the end of a great era for Canada. The ties that Canada had with Britain almost disappeared completely and Canada had taken many steps to become a fully independent and a self run country. With the help of Tommy Douglas, the Canadian structure of society and government gained the unique touches that it needed to become a better nation and with Pearson, Canada gained its own flag and a new identity in the international scale as peacekeepers. Pierre Trudeau gave Canada a new side to its identity, the French side, which has actually be around longer than the English side, David Suzuki gave Canada the scientific acknowledgement and the care for Canada as land, and Wayne Gretzky gave Canada the recognition in the world of sports and entertainment.
With all these great figures changing Canada for the good, this country was given the greatest make over from a simple British colony to an independent country that measured up or was better than the United States when it came to many levels. It could be said that the 20th century was a great start to Canada as a modern country and a better nation overall.