Hello Vancouver! If you’re looking for some fun trivia to bust out during your next Zoom happy hour, we’ve got just the thing for you- a list of the most interesting people to come from British Columbia. Full honesty- this was originally supposed to be about inventions from around BC, but it seems like Canada’s invention scene is really east heavy, which is weird. No matter- our province is chock full of incredible people and stories, both past and present.
Here are 11 of the most interesting people to come from British Columbia.
Ready to die with the red dirt of mars beneath my feet pic.twitter.com/J6HVVZvDOx
— ☾laire de ☾une (@Grimezsz) March 30, 2021
Born and raised in North Vancouver, Grimes (Claire Boucher) has become synonymous with experimental music and a hypermodern lifestyle. She went to McGill University to study neuroscience and Russian, but left school prior to finishing her degree. Grimes is self-taught in both music and visual art, and has seen immense success in both pursuits. Her albums have become canon within pop’s more niche genres, and recently, she managed to sell a piece of NFT art for a whopping $5.8M USD. True to her passions, Grimes’ personal life is also definitely outside of the status quo, from trying to sail the Mississipi in a homemade houseboat to choosing a name for her and Elon Musk’s child. A creative genius, Grimes is sure to go down in history as one of Canada’s most interesting people.
Chief Dan George
To put it simply, Chief Dan George (born Geswanouth Slahoot) was a man of many hats. Born in 1899, and a survivor of the residential school system, George lived a full life prior to what he’s known for today. Before the age of 60, he had already worked as a longshoreman, construction worker, school-bus driver, and a logger. Plus, he served as Chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation from 1951 to 1963). But it was his golden years that proved to be the most interesting. His poem Lament for Confederation, which offered a scathing indictment of colonial powers, was read during Vancouver’s celebration of the Canadian centennial in 1967. Then, as an actor, George earned an Academy Award nomination for his work with Dustin Hoffman in the 1970 film Little Big Man, becoming the first Indigenous person ever to get the nod.
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While a little more focused in her pursuits, Emily Carr is nonetheless deserving of being on this list. Another late bloomer (in a sense), Carr was interested in art from an early age, and even went on separate trips to England and France at the turn of the 20th century to study. Although she was depicting Indigenous structures and West Coast landscapes as early as the 1910s, lack of interest and financial backing led her to give up the brush. It wasn’t until 1927, when she was invited to the National Gallery of Canada, that she discovered support from other Canadian painters, including the famous Group of Seven. Since her death in 1945, Carr has become synonymous with Pacific Northwest art, and has proven to be invaluable in the assessment and development of art referencing Indigenous cultures.
Among the BC artist canon, Bill Reid is (in our opinion) right alongside Emily Carr. Born to a Haida mother and an American father, Reid spent the majority of his youth unaware of the depth of his Haida heritage, before a trip to Haida Gwaii at age 23 sparked an interest that lasted the rest of his life. A master goldsmith, carver, and sculptor, Reid created dozens of incredible pieces using everything from gold to bronze to trees for totem poles. Perhaps most dazzling are his works in gold though, which synthesized traditional Indigenous imagery with modern design in an astounding fashion.
Nancy Greene (Raine)
A staple name in Metro Vancouver, Nancy Greene Raine was voted as Canada’s female athlete of the 20th century for her dominating career in downhill skiing. Born in Ontario but raised in Rossland, BC, Greene won 14 World Cup events, and won the 1968 giant slalom event at the Winter Olympics by one of the largest margins in history. A former Canadian senator and the recipient of multiple provincial and national honours, Greene will go down as one of the most important athletes to come out of Canada.
Speaking of important athletes, every Canadian knows the story of Terry Fox and the Marathon of Hope, but why not revisit? Born in Winnipeg but raised primarily in Port Coquitlam, Fox was an avid athlete throughout his youth, with a particular emphasis on basketball. In 1977, and at age 19, Fox was diagnosed with osteosarcoma following a lingering pain in his right knee. However, his incredible spirit led to a quick recovery, and a place on the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball team. By 1980, Fox had decided to try and run across Canada in an effort to promote cancer research, and became a national hero before the return of the cancer (this time in his lungs) forced him to stop running after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres.
We mention the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball team because it was none other than Rick Hansen who first asked Terry Fox to join. Born in 1957 in Port Alberni, Hansen became a paraplegic following a pickup truck accident at the age of 15. He went on to become the first person with a physical disability to get a degree in Physical Education from UBC. Inspired by Fox’s Marathon of Hope, Hansen created the Man in Motion Tour, which saw him cover some 40,000km (the circumference of the earth) over two years and crossing four different continents. Hansen raised $26M USD spinal cord research and quality of life initiatives during the tour, but his foundation has gone on to raise over $300 million since then.
Born in West Vancouver in 1953, Wade Davis is another BC resident who has travelled extensively, although for very different reasons. Davis holds a Ph.D. in ethnobotany from Harvard University, and has spent the majority of his life studying the effects of various plants on cultures around the world. Although he spent 13 years as an Explorer-in-Residence for the National Geographic Society (2000-2013), he is perhaps best known for his 1985 book The Serpent and the Rainbow, which tried to unveil the secrets of the Haitian ‘zombie’ in local folklore. His explanation? The use of tetrodotoxin (like pufferfish poison) and datura to induce a state of zombie-like complacency and incoherence.
While Phyllis Munday (born 1894 in Sri Lanka, but emigrated to BC in 1901) may have stayed closer to home, but her exploration is no less notable. An avid mountaineer, Munday was amongst the first women to successfully climb Mount Robson. She and her husband, Don, were also the first people to discover Mount Waddington, which is the tallest among the BC Coastal Mountain range. Van life romantics, eat your hearts out- Phyllis and Don met during a mountaineering trip in 1918, when they saved one another from falling into a glacial crevasse. They also spent three years living in a tent on Grouse Mountain, raising a young daughter in the process.
Ok, back to some modern times. A Vancouverite through and through, Rogen spent the first 16 years of his life in the city, before landing a part on Judd Apatow’s cult-TV series Freaks and Geeks and relocating to Los Angeles in 1999. Rogen spent the early 2000s acting (Donnie Darko, Anchorman, The 40-Year Old Virgin) and writing (Da Ali G Show). However, it was in 2007, when he and his writing partner/friend Evan Goldberg made Superbad, that Rogen became a pop culture powerhouse. Outside of acting and writing, Rogen runs a cannabis company, raises funds and supports various social and health-related issues, and has recently gotten into ceramics (way before the wave, may we add).
Maybe it’s the Aviation Gin talking, but #GreenLantern was nothing to fear! Hundreds of incredible crew and cast members did amazing work — and while it’s not perfect, it ain’t a tragedy. Next time I won’t wait a decade to watch.
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) March 17, 2021
How can we not end on Vancouver’s modern sweetheart? Not only has Reynolds become a verified global movie star, but he’s also backed Vancouver (and had fun doing it) every step of the way. Sure, he’s the Green Lantern (among other characters), but he’s done everything from large-scale donations to Canadian charities to tried to find a lost teddy bear. And, the guy is also a branding powerhouse, most recently partnering with Rob McElhenney to buy a mid-tier professional soccer team in Wales. If that’s not going to make for a few interesting stories, then we don’t know what will.
Alright folks, that’s our roundup of some of the most interesting people from BC. Of course, we’re just scratching the surface here, so please let us know if we missed any obvious picks! And on that note, if you’ve got some inside knowledge about BC inventions, then we wouldn’t mind a couple of tips there, either.
Enjoy the day!