Ranking: The Most Influential Canadians of 2016

Canada is home to a small and humble population, but that doesn’t mean we don’t make big waves.

From artists to athletes, thinkers, leaders, and everything in between, we lend our talent, influence, and voice to some of the world’s most important events and happenings both at home and abroad.

Always with a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. And sometimes a ‘sorry’.

Here are 11 of the most influential Canadians of 2016:

Gord Downie

We were blessed this year with perhaps the most powerful musical performance in our lifetime as The Tragically Hip played its final show to a televised audience that included a third of our population. In May, frontman Gord Downie announced he had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. He was and continues to be instrumental in reconciliation efforts with Canada’s First Nations.

Justin Trudeau

No surprise here. Trudeau completed his first term as Prime Minister in 2016 to mixed reviews. He took the world by storm with his progressive views, refugee policy, feminist declaration, and style, but finishes the year with a plummeting approval rating after giving the green light to a controversial oil pipeline, significant overspending, and failing to deliver on promises made during his election campaign.


Penny Oleksiak

Oleksiak became Canada’s most decorated swimmer at a single Olympic Games when she took home four medals in Rio, including a gold in the 100-metre freestyle – all at just 16 years old. She was asked to carry Canada’s flag by her fellow Olympians during the closing ceremonies.

Nellie McClung
Civil rights

McClung was an Albertan suffragette who fought for women to be legally recognized as persons in Canada and was chosen by 27 per cent of respondents to a nationwide survey as the first woman who should appear on a Canadian banknote. Despite her public nomination, the Bank of Canada excluded her from their shortlist.

The Weeknd

It’s great to have a Canadian musician on the list whose name doesn’t have to be followed by an audible sigh. (Sorry, Drake and Bieber). The Weeknd slayed 2016 and took home two of eight Grammys for which he was nominated. He also got a haircut, which is notable in itself.


That said, Drake’s eight Grammy nominations on December 6, including one for Album of the Year, can’t be overlooked. He may just be the biggest name in music right now.

Darby Allen
Public service

The Fort MacMurray fire chief led efforts to fight one of Canada’s greatest natural disasters, one that forced the evacuation of 90,000 people and destroyed 10 per cent of the Albertan city. Miraculously, no one died as a direct result of the fire.

Sidney Crosby

Crosby led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup this year and helped Team Canada win gold at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. Oh, and he has 38 points in 24 games to start this NHL season.

Homa Hoodfar

The Concordia University professor was jailed in Tehran, Iran for 112 days for “collaborating with a hostile government against national security and with propaganda against the state.” She was released on September 26 after more than five countries worked together to free her without concessions on Canada’s behalf.

Peter Mansbridge

The longtime anchor of CBC’s The National announced he will retire in July of 2017 following Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations. He will have worked for the CBC for 42 years.


Leonard Cohen

The legendary Canadian singer, songwriter, musician, poet, novelist, and painter passed away on November 7, not even two months after releasing his most recent album. We’ll never forget Choir! Choir! Choir!’s performance of Rufus Wainwright’s version of Cohen’s timeless ‘Hallelujah’.