And we got warmed all over by the stunning philanthropy of a humble Nova Scotia couple.
This is a time capsule of the triumphs, terrors and tears that moved us all in 2010.
10. Allen and Violet Large. Sometimes, it takes a lottery to vault a truly special Canadian to our attention. When Lotto 649 announced the winning ticket on July 14, we were the lucky ones in meeting not one, but two extraordinary people: Violet and Allen Large. The couple's surname is certainly in the right place... as well as their hearts. After winning $11.2 million, the Nova Scotia couple wasted no time in giving it away – to charity. "What you've never had, you never miss," Violet told reporters earlier this year.
9. Joannie Rochette. There are too many reasons for Joannie Rochette to make this list. Born in the miniscule Quebec town of Île Dupas, Rochette catapulted to national attention as the country's premier figure skater. Then tragedy struck. While asleep in athletes village in Vancouver, her father delivered a sudden, harsh message: Rochette's mother had died.
With all the pressure in the world on her shoulders – as Canada's brightest hope for a skating medal since Liz Manley 22 years earlier – Rochette had a ready excuse for not taking home a medal. Instead, Rochette turned her pain into a tour de force at the Vancouver Games, earning third-place at the women's singles event.
8. Mark Carney. For a man with such a tight grip on the public purse, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney's proved to be all butterfingers when it came to his personal belongings – if you could call classified bank documents personal. On Nov. 1, while the economic czar was attending a meeting, thieves smashed the windows of his car, making off with Carney's bag. Cue the RCMP, public hand-wringing and all the requisite conspiracy theories. Where was Carney's ubiquitous driver anyway? And what was with all the back-peddling? Suddenly, the missing documents were a little less top secret because they had 'Bank of Canada internal security classification' instead of 'Government of Canada security classification.'
In any case, headlines hummed along for a couple more weeks before the bag was somehow recovered. With documents intact? Well, they're keeping that a secret for now.
7. Leslie Nielsen. For his final act, Leslie Nielsen had us in tears once again – just not the kind we're used to when we hear the beloved comedian's name. The star of Naked Gun and Airplane!, Nielsen's straight-faced shtick seemed hilariously fresh even into his 80s. But in late November, Nielsen succumbed to pneumonia in a Florida hospital. And Canadians laughed a whole lot less.
6. Sidney Crosby. Since Sidney Crosby was drafted in 2005, the National Hockey League hasn't been the same. He's been turning scoring titles – along with goaltenders – upside down. Year after year, the product of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia has improved on his dominant 102-point rookie season. But this year, 'The Kid' has been downright torrid – with 53 points in just 33 games. Over the course of a season, that puts him on pace for an eye-popping 132 points. Did we mention he led Team Canada to a gold medal in Vancouver?
5. Russell Williams. In any other light, the broad-shouldered soldier, with his square-jawed features and impeccably pressed uniform might have elicited a certain martial admiration among his fellow Canadians. Williams seemed the very icon of Canadian military service. But all that changed in one blinding instant in February. Instead of colonel, the 47-year-old earned a couple of other titles: Murderer. Rapist. His trail of carnage – from the stalking and murdering of young women to his own self-documented demons – was suddenly laid bare upon his arrest and confession. And Canadians woke up to find no hero in this story. Only a monster in their midst.
4. Toronto Police Officers. Toronto police get more than their share of hard knocks. If it's not the kaleidoscope of crime the city throws at them every day – it's a local media that's all too eager to throw them under a bus to sell a few extra newspapers.
It is, certainly, an unenviable tightrope to walk every day – especially when your critics are also those you're sworn to protect.
But, on the whole, Toronto police have had an eventful year, on the positive side – community projects, outreach programs, and yes, crime-fighting. Just one blemish. But it's a biggie. The handling of last summer's G20 Summit. There's no getting around the images or the eyewitnesses accounts of police brutality and mass detentions. A few bad apples? Sure. But they made it a heck of a lot easier for the usual antagonists to throw a few pies.
3. Stephen Harper. You knew our Prime Minister was a shoo-in for this list – if only by virtue of having a job that can't help but set the national agenda. The only question was where he would land on the list. Well, for the longest time it looked like Harper would occupy a lower-tier this year – having a particularly ho-hum 2010. Then he showed up at the Conservative caucus Christmas party and burned the place down. He belted out the likes of Jumpin' Jack Flash and the Who's The Seeker with dog-baying enthusiasm. That's right, the 22nd prime minister of Canada, the honourable Stephen Joseph Harper went live. Some say, for the first time.
2. Justin Bieber. Annoyed yet? For some Canadians, just the name may be all it takes to trigger a gag reflex. Call it the price of super-saturation. Since the 16-year-old pop singer parlayed his surging YouTube career into a recording contract with Island Records, Canadians haven't had a moment's silence. Of course, for the millions who made his first two albums – My World and My World 2.0 – platinum that can only be a good thing.
1. Julian Assange. How did an Australian make his way onto Canada's Top 10 Newsmakers of the Year? The WikiLeaks founder may seem like a cheat for this list, but in our defense, he has rocked more Canadian headlines in 2010 than the prime minister. Through his whistle-blowing website, the 39-year-old has exposed everything from how a former CSIS chief really feels about Canadians to the real reason why our prime minister may have taken a sudden French vacation.
If journalism's much-touted mission is to keep authorities honest, then Assange may be the uber-journalist. Through his website, WikiLeaks, Assange has triggered an avalanche of honesty. His enemies brand him a destabilizing force – with some prominent Canadians even calling for his head. His admirers see a champion of truth, being martyred by the machine.
So is Assange a modern-day Robin Hood, stealing information from the rich and doling it out to the poor? Or a reckless endangerer of international diplomacy – and, oh yes, sexual assaulter of Swedish women?
They say history is written by the winners. So it's fair to say that Assange's legacy is still a work in progress. WikiLeaks has made authorities uncomfortable. And it appears that authorities are doing their best to make him even less comfortable. That relationship promises to continue unabated in 2011.
We can only hope it will be a good long read.
Filed under: Canada