Canadians continue to be known the world over for their warmth, benevolence, and progressive outlook on life. When you see our roll call of the all-time greatest Canadian icons, it should be of no surprise why they made the cut!

Leonard Cohen

Coming in at number three on our list is a man who will no doubt always be recognized as one of the most impactful Canadians of all time. The great Leonard Cohen was a Montreal-born singer-songwriter who began his career as a poet, penning such existential works that would earn him comparisons to literary greats James Joyce and Jack Kerouac. Cohen’s literary output spanned multiple books of poetry and novels, the former of which began with a collection published by his Canadian alma mater, McGill University, where he was an English major. 

As it is with all endeavours of the literary variety, however, making a living was a spotty affair, even with a writing grant from the Canadian government. Rising to the challenge, the poet resolved to combine his musical and literary abilities to give us songs featuring his trademark raw, emotional baritone.

A fearless dive into his unique musical career could not deter the naysayers, however, who at times tried to discourage the singer from performing due to his age. But Cohen would persist, going on to give us timeless classics like I’m Your Man and Hallelujah, settling in at Columbia Records alongside his often younger contemporaries.

Many Canadians today of all ages, myself and my mother-in-law included, couldn’t imagine a world without the works of Leonard Cohen, so we are honored to have him on our list of GOAT Canadians!

Coming in at numéro deux, Michael J. Fox is the living epitome of Canadian success. I’m not kidding when I say that, as I write this, I’ve been thinking about an episode of Family Ties–the 80s sitcom Fox found initial fame for–because it was airing on a local Toronto cable channel just hours ago. However, Fox isn’t just a staple in Canada. Thanks to pop culture-defining turns as Scott Howard in Teen Wolf and Marty McFly in Back to the Future and its two successful sequels, the plucky actor, known for his unmatched comedic timing and boyish on-screen energy, is now a household name.

Fox has been very much known lately for his courageous struggle with Parkinson’s disease.
Diagnosed in 1991, Fox would subsequently struggle with depression and alcohol as he wrestled with the new reality of his life. Undeterred, he went on to continue working, starring in The American President, The Frighteners, and lending his voice to Stuart Little and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Since his diagnosis, Fox has contributed to progressivism in politics and spearheaded the search for a cure to Parkinson’s.

Even after all he’s been through and all he’s accomplished, Fox has recently stated that he’s about ready to get back into acting, provided the right roles come along. This persistence in the face of considerable challenges is only a fraction of the reason why Michael J. Fox makes our list. His Canadian pride, as this quote from an interview with CBC News suggests, knows no bounds: “My reference for everything is my Canadian background, my life in Canada.”

Michael J. Fox
Keanu Reeves

Our number one Canadian, the golden GOAT himself, is Canada’s ultimate nice guy, Keanu Reeves. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve seen him appearing across social media platforms in posts that not only feature his forever-youthful aesthetic, but his inspirational quotes that spotlight the simple pleasures he prioritizes. 

Reeves doesn’t just give off an aura of monk-like simplicity, however; as can be seen in a candid 2011 video that went viral, he also prioritizes kindness. In the video, Reeves, riding New York City transit and unaware that someone was recording, can be seen signaling to a woman that he’d like to offer his seat. The exchange is brief, and then the action star simply stands for the remainder of his ride, holding onto a subway pole.

During his induction into Canada’s Walk of Fame, Reeves fired off various references to beloved Canadiana that have been important elements in his life, including Roncesvalles, a small neighborhood known for its charm, Canadian Tire, Toronto transit streetcars and buses, Second City, Toronto’s famed improvisational theater troupe, and countless hours playing hockey. 

Reeves’ accomplishments in film are immense, taking him from his humble beginnings as Ted in the Bill & Ted movies, to Speed, The Devil’s Advocate, Sweet November, the John Wick films, and, of course, The Matrix trilogy, arguably considered to have changed action cinema forever. But his accomplishments and kindness alone aren’t what propel him to the top of our list. 

Reeves has also known much in the way of setbacks and despair in his life. In 1993 he lost his close friend and colleague, actor River Phoenix, to a drug overdose at the age of 23, and in 1999 his girlfriend, Jennifer Syme, personal assistant to director David Lynch, gave birth to their stillborn child. Two years later, Syme was killed in a car accident in Los Angeles, shortly after she and Reeves had mended their relationship, which itself had been fractured under the weight of their lost child.

Despite these tragedies, Reeves has continued to work, pouring his heart out into every project that has come his way since, including charities. He has devoted his time and funds over the years to several causes in an attempt to support animals, children, the homeless, and cancer patients. Reeves has been experiencing a renaissance of late, and it’s clear to see why. We are proud to crown Keanu Reeves our ultimate GOAT Canadian, and we have no doubt
you’ll agree.

But we would be remiss to stop there… We have some honorable mentions!

First on that honorable list is legendary former hockey player Wayne Gretzky, who stunned audiences with his quick play style that emphasized strategy and thinking on the fly over brawn. The Brantford, Ontario native quickly became the star of the Edmonton Oilers right out of his turn in the junior league, and would bring the Stanley Cup home to Canada four times.

Ryan Reynolds, our very own leading man of Vancouver, describes himself as having been a child riddled with anxiety, having been raised by a father who was overly strict. Reynolds’ witty personality was something he developed out of the anxiety, finding that making people laugh was a productive outlet for his state of mind. And as we all know, he would go on to share that wit with the world in Blade: Trinity alongside Wesley Snipes, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, and, of course, the Deadpool films. In recent years he has become a social media golden boy,
lending that trademark snark perfectly to tweets and memes, connecting with generations much younger than his own.

Wayne Gretzky
Ryan Reynolds
Drake (Aubrey Graham)

Last, but certainly not least on our list of honorable mentions is Toronto’s own “Champagne Papi” Aubrey Graham, known to the world as Drake.

Born and raised in Toronto in a musical environment, Drake would get his start as the memorable character Jimmy Brooks on the Canadian teen drama, Degrassi: The Next Generation. Brimming with ambition, he would take the necessary steps to start a career in hip-hop music, releasing his first “mixtape” in 2006 and following up with a subsequent release in 2007.
And it’s a good thing he was proactive, because the next year, his run on Degrassi came to an end. By that time, he was off to the races, however, sharing the mic with Lil Wayne and compiling the experience necessary to make him the Toronto superstar he is today.

We at LuckyHat asked ChatGPT to generate a criteria for the best qualities a Canadian celebrity should have. From this, we requested the A.I. tool to assign a rating of 1-10 to every Canadian celebrity based on these qualities to find the top 20 ‘greatest of all time’.

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