The Last Word

(Canscene) — The following is excepted from an editorial in the Toronto Star published Boxing Day, December 27, 2000 and with permission we re-publish with pride.

Canada’s international reputation took a drubbing this year, with many Canadians professing themselves embarrassed by their nation’s conduct.

A disappointing performance at the Copenhagen conference had Mayor David Miller and legions of climate change activists singling out this country as a villain. Many Canadians also cringed over the federal government’s blatant obstruction on the issue of prisoner torture in Afghanistan. And, earlier in the year, animal rights activists worldwide were outraged when Governor General Michalle Jean cut and ate a piece of raw heart from a freshly slaughtered seal.

2009 might well be remembered as Canada’s year of living with bad publicity. Some balance is in order.

Whatever missteps have been made by leaders at the national level, we have much reason to feel pride in the accomplishments of our fellow Canadians. In almost every sphere, Canadians this year achieved breakthroughs, were recognized for their deeds or made a difference in people’s lives.

Kapuskasing-born James Cameron is on top of the cinema world, yet again, this time with a landmark 3-D film called Avatar. Having already made movie history with Titanic, a box office record-breaker, Cameron’s latest project is heralded as the first in a bold new generation of computer-animated films.

Stratford’s Justin Bieber is a pop music sensation generating fervent attention, especially from teenage girls. Just 15 years old, he capped a breakthrough year by performing for President Barack and Michelle Obama.

Willowdale-born Dan and Dean Caten are a twin-brother team of fashion designers with global reach. Under their D squared2 label, they’ve outfitted Hollywood celebrities and they are dressing headline performers at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics. A chain of stores selling their work has been launched from Milan to Singapore.

Canadians made their mark beyond the arts this year as far beyond, in fact, as outer space. Astronaut Bob Thirsk, of British Columbia, set a Canadian record for the most time spent in orbit with a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station. Fellow astronaut Julie Payette joined him in July marking the first time two Canadians had ever met in space.

Also in the scientific realm, Nova Scotia’s Willard Boyle won the Nobel Prize for physics after he and two others were credited with discovering technology that ultimately led to the image sensors that revolutionized photography.

Former Ontario premier David Peterson spearheaded a successful bid to host the 2015 Pan American Games. He and his bid team finally ended Toronto’s long and embarrassing losing streak in Olympic and World’s Fair bids.

Also proving there’s meaningful life after politics, former prime minister Paul Martin has emerged as an inspiring advocate both at home, where he is active in the area of aboriginal education and economic development, and abroad, where he is working on programs to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable development in Africa.

There are a great many more Canadians who are a justifiable source of pride. They needn’t be household names. In fact, most aren’t especially those who dedicate themselves to making a difference at the community level. These include people like Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation. She and others in her organization have worked hard to make the Greater Toronto Area a more inclusive and welcoming place. Staff Superintendent Mike Federico, too, has had an impact through community outreach for the Toronto police. He has done exemplary work in connecting with people who have mental illness and in promoting the force’s mobile crisis intervention teams.

Finally, no list of inspiring Canadians this year would be complete without city builder David Pecaut, who died earlier this month. A native of Iowa who made Toronto his adopted hometown 30 years ago, Pecaut was a visionary and organizer of the Toronto City Summit Alliance and Luminato arts festival. His legacy lives on.

From Hollywood to Parkdale, and from frigid outer space to hot fashion runways, Canadians have made a difference this year.

One Response to “The Last Word”

  1. John Robert Colombo Says:


    Thanks for running the item on my semi-namesake Russ Columbo. My parents always maintained that he was “a better singer than Bing Crosby.” Watching the segment from “Keyhole Over Broadway” on YouTube, I am inclined to doubt that judgement, as he seems handsome enough and talented enough (that voice, that violin!) to rival “Der Bingo,” but he seems somewhat stiff and more good-natured than congenial.

    John Robert Colombo