This year saw the passing of notable Canadians who, in life, left their mark on the worlds of art, politics, diplomacy, and entertainment. It was a particularly tough year for the Toronto Star, which lost two pioneering female journalists.
Taylor, who died on Oct. 15 at the age of 81, was Canada’s most renowned diplomat. Although he served all over the world during his 25-year career in the foreign service, it was during his posting as ambassador to Iran that shot him to prominence. He will forever be remembered for his role in the so-called “Canadian Caper,” the inventive scheme that saw the Canadian embassy in Tehran help six Americans escape the hostage crisis in 1979.
A native of St. John’s, N.L., Hynes was considered by his contemporaries as one of the finest East Coast songwriters of his generation. A prolific artist, Hynes earned the nickname “the Man of A Thousand Songs,” but his most famous tune was “Sonny’s Dream,” a widely-covered ballad about a boy drawn to the sea. He spoke openly about his lifelong battle with drug addiction, but his death on Nov. 19 at the age of 64 was attributed to cancer.
MacDonald was MP for Kingston and the Islands from 1972 to 1988, and a cabinet member under both Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney. In 1976, she became the first woman to launch a serious bid for leadership of the Progressive Conservatives, but was defeated when her male colleagues’ support evaporated at the decisive moment, spawning the term “Flora Syndrome.” She died on Jul. 26 at the age of 89.
As leader of the Parti Quebecois, Parizeau, who died June. 1 at the age of 84, came within a whisker of delivering victory to the sovereigntists in the 1995 separation referendum. Although he was a skilled economist who is credited by some with giving Quebec the economic tools to control its destiny, outside the province he will always be defined by his speech the night of the referendum loss, in which he blamed defeat on “money and ethnic votes.”
For 41 years, Borovoy served as the general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. A staunch defender of free speech, he was no stranger to controversy and spoke out on behalf of everyone from G20 arrestees to holocaust deniers. He wrote several books and between 1992 and 1996 penned a column for the Star. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1982. At the time of his death in May, he was 83.
Pierre Claude Nolin
Although he was appointed to the Senate by Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney in 1993, Nolin, 64, was respected by politicians of all stripes for his integrity and good nature. He was the senate’s unanimous choice for speaker in Nov. 2014, but lasted just five months in the job before his death April 23 from a rare form of cancer. His passing left the senate leaderless in the midst of an expense scandal that shook public confidence in the Upper House.
Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte
The archbishop of Montreal for 20 years, Turcotte was known as a man of the people who put particular emphasis on helping the poor. Although he had a reputation for engaging with people of all beliefs, he was also a man of strong convictions, and made headlines in 2008 when he returned his Order of Canada in protest after the same honour was bestowed on abortion doctor Henry Morgenthaler. He died on April 8 at the age of 78.
Gordon broke the gender barrier in 1979 when she became the first woman beat writer covering a Major League Baseball team. She spent five years following the Blue Jays for the Star, during which time she faced all manner of sexist abuse and defied attempts to bar her from the locker-room. A comedy writer before her career in sports, she endured it all with patience and good humour. She died unexpectedly on Feb. 12 at the age of 72.
Dubbed the “Grandfather of Saskatchewan art,” Sapp’s paintings were inspired by his childhood on the Red Pheasant Reserve and captured a Cree community whose way of life was rapidly vanishing. He came to the attention of the art world with an exhibition in Saskatoon in 1969, and his fame quickly spread to the U.S.A. and Britain. He was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1985. Sapp, 87, died Tuesday in his sleep.
Turnbull was left a quadriplegic in 1983 at the age of 18, when she was shot in the neck during a robbery at the convenience store where she worked. She refused to let her injury define her, however, and built a remarkable 25-year career as a journalist at the Star while also working tirelessly to champion disability rights and organ donation. Remembered by all those who knew her as a woman of indomitable spirit, she died in May at the age of 50.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper
Piper rose to stardom in the 1980s as one of the World Wrestling Federation’s most entertaining performers. Although he was born in Saskatoon as Roderick Toombs, he crafted the persona of a hotheaded, kilt-wearing Scotsman who entered the ring to the sound of bagpipe music. His wrestling career spanned 42 years, and didn’t preclude him from starring in John Carpenter’s 1988 classic sci-fi satire They Live. He died July 21 of cardiac arrest, at the age of 61.
With files from The Canadian Press and Star staff.