Prominent Canadians

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Imagine how difficult it must be to be the child of an iconic Canadian. Being born a Gretzky, a Trudeau or a Richler might open doors, but with it comes the challenge of living in the shadow of greatness. Perhaps it’s that pressure that inspires many children of icons to pursue careers that put them on the path to becoming icons in their own right. It’s not always in the footsteps of their famous parents, but these second-generation icons are still making their own mark on Canada.

Ben Mulroney (a.k.a. Canada’s Ryan Seacrest) took his famous last name and trademark chin into a career in entertainment news as host of ‘eTalk.’ Though it might seem like a giant leap from his father’s role as prime minister of Canada from 1984 to 1993, the entertainment business isn’t that different from politics. Former screen stars such as Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger made the transition from acting to governing, and as the old adage goes: ‘Politics is like show business for ugly people.’

Justin Trudeau has come a long way since becoming only the second child born to a prime minister in office. He gained prominence is the public eye with his heart-rending eulogy at his father’s funeral in 2000. Voted in as MP for Montreal’s Papineau riding in 2008, Trudeau is hailed by many as a future leader of the Liberal Party.

The most recent echo of his father was in a House of Commons outburst last December. Trudeau swore atEnvironment Minister Peter Kent, mirroring his father’s notorious ‘fuddle duddle‘ moment. Some commentators even went so far as to dub Justin’s flare-up as ‘shiddle diddle.’

Toronto city councillor Mike Layton is the latest entry in a Canadian political dynasty in the making. Son of the late NDP leader Jack Layton, and grandson of a cabinet minister, Mike carries his father’s torch, fighting for progressive causes and championing environmental protection.

The name Gretzky will always be synonymous with hockey, but the Great One’s son Trevor is hoping to bring the name to new arenas with a career in Major League Baseball. Drafted by the Chicago Cubs at 17 after an impressive high school showing, the first baseman signed a contract worth a reported $375,000 in 2011.

Perhaps the least known on this list, Canadian-bred racehorse Northern Dancer was by far the most virile. Of the 635 foals he sired, 368 were race winners and 26 were champions across Europe and North America. Not bad for a horse that was too small to sell at auction and that stable hands said looked more like a golden retriever.

Founder of the NDP and architect of Canada’s universal health care system, Tommy Douglas still tops lists of ‘Greatest Canadians’ today. His daughter was Shirley Douglas, an actor who graced dozens of productions on stage and screen including ‘Road to Avonlea,’ ‘Wind at My Back‘ and ‘Corner Gas.’ She was married to actorDonald Sutherland from 1966 to 1970, and they had a son named Kiefer, who reached the heights of Hollywood glory as star of TV’s ‘24.’

As an alumni of Canadian sketch comedy group Second CityEugene Levy, along with future legends Gilda RadnerJohn CandyMartin Short and Joe Flaherty, laid the groundwork for Canadian comedians to find fame here and in the U.S.

Levy’s son Dan is the spitting image of his father, right down to the signature eyebrows and black-rimmed glasses. The younger Levy hosted MTV Canada’s ‘After Show’ before moving to L.A. to host the online pre-show for ‘X Factor USA.’

With one half of the legendary Canadian folk duo ‘The McGarrigle Sisters’ raising them, it was only natural for Kate McGarrigle‘s children to follow a musical path. Most Canadians got their first taste of the Wainwright kids on the soundtrack for the classic 1988 film ‘Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller.’

Since then Rufus has released six studio albums to critical and commercial acclaim, delving into realms as diverse as pop and opera. Rufus’ sister Martha has also found her fair share of success as a folk-rock singer-songwriter.

Many Canadians will remember Barbara Frum from her days as host of ‘As it Happens‘ on CBC Radio and ‘The Journal‘ on CBC television.

One of the pioneers of Canadian broadcasting, Frum was known for her casual and occasionally flippant interview style and for shouting ‘WHAT DID YOU FEED THE GODDAMN CABBAGE?’ to a hapless and hard-of-hearing farmer.

Her son David seems to have inherited her way with words, working as a speechwriter for former U.S. president George W. Bush. Now a Conservative columnist, David contributes regularly to the Canadian and U.S. mediascape.

Noah Richler – Mordecai Richler


Son of one of Canada’s most esteemed authors, Noah Richler carried on his father Mordecai‘s literary tradition with a vibrant career in journalism and by penning ‘A Literary Atlas of Canada.’