Vancouver legends were once trailblazers

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      This week, the Straight is featuring miniprofiles of trailblazers, but there is also no shortage of legends in Vancouver. Here’s a list of 13 of them.

      Michael Audain opened his museum in Whistler in 2016 after donating millions of dollars to support visual arts in Vancouver.
      Bob Frid/Audain Art Museum

      Michael Audain


      The major shareholder of Polygon Homes made his fortune in real estate but his greatest legacy may be as a tireless advocate and funder of visual arts—most notably with an art museum he built in Whistler. Audain has also supported environmental charities and his $5-million contribution to Emily Carr University of Art + Design helped it raise sufficient funds from the government to fund a new campus east of Main Street.

      Tung Chan is an honorary captain of the Royal Canadian Navy.
      Charlie Smith

      Tung Chan

      Community service

      The former CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S. and ex–city councillor has been creating a more level playing field for newcomers—and boosting the careers of countless minorties—for decades. He also helped desegrate the management ranks at TD Bank when he worked there as a vice president.

      Spice Radio founder Shushma Datt's Hands Against Racism campaign was launched on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday in 2015.

      Shushma Datt


      The founder of Spice Radio pioneered ethnic programming in the Lower Mainland in the 1970s and remains a potent voice against racism in Vancouver. She's small in stature, yet she showed tremendous courage in facing down threats from extremists in the 1980s.

      Libby Davies fought for underdogs as a city councillor and as a member of Parliament.
      Stephen Hui

      Libby Davies


      The former NDP MP and long-time community advocate went from the Downtown Eastside to Parliament Hill but never forgot her roots. She brought harm reduction into the mainstream, which has saved countless lives.

      Christopher Gaze has succeeded, in part, because of his unpredictable programming at Bard on the Beach.
      Emily Cooper

      Christopher Gaze


      This year, the artistic director of Bard on the Beach and legendary public speaker is marking the 30th anniversary of the Shakespearean festival that he founded. That’s no easy feat.

      Video: Wendy Grant-John received an honorary doctor of laws from Simon Fraser University.

      Wendy Grant-John

      Indigenous affairs

      She was chief of the Musqueam First Nation when it won the first major Indigenous victory before the Supreme Court of Canada following repatriation of Canada’s constitution. The Sparrow ruling set criteria for whether governments were infringing on Aboriginal rights and affirmed the Musqueam’s ancestral right to fish.

      More than 30 years after the Man in Motion World Tour, Rick Hansen is still idolized by young people across the country.

      Rick Hansen

      Disability advocacy

      What can you say about a guy who pushed his wheelchair around the world to raise awareness about the challenges of those with disabilities? It might be the greatest feat of human endurance by anyone from Vancouver (keeping in mind that Terry Fox was from Port Coquitlam).

      Video: Joy Kogawa describes being "zapped" by writing.

      Joy Kogawa


      Best known for her fictional account of the Japanese internment in her award-winning novel Obasan, she’s also an admired poet and humanitarian.

      Bob Lenarduzzi has been Mr. Soccer in B.C. for more than four decades.
      Bob Frid

      Bob Lenarduzzi


      Mr. Soccer in British Columbia, the president of the Vancouver Whitecaps has remained a popular figure since joining the old Whitecaps of the North American Soccer League in 1974. In 1988 and 1989, he coached the Whitecaps to a 46-game unbeaten streak.

      Sarah McLachlan has promoted the careers of other female musicians.
      Rebecca Blissett

      Sarah McLachlan


      Her album sales have exceeded 40 million and she has also distinguished herself as a music educator, animal advocate, and promoter of other women's musical careers.

      Jim Pattison is still showing up to work past his 90th birthday.
      Tammy Kwan

      Jim Pattison


      This entrepreneur’s legendary business acumen has resulted in countless local residents receiving regular paycheques. That’s because he’s a force in everything from groceries to motor vehicles to fisheries to entertainment. He’s also the most generous donor to health charities in B.C. history, as demonstrated by a $75-million gift to St. Paul's Hospital Foundation in 2017.

      Former UBC president Martha Piper obtained her PhD in epidemiology and biostatistics from McGill University.

      Martha Piper


      As president of UBC from 1997 to 2006, she was able to attract huge amounts of government and private-sector funding. This, in turn, helped UBC become a globally recognized university, enabling it to recruit leading researchers from around the world. She helped put UBC on par with some of the largest public universities in the United States.

      David Suzuki has done more than any other Canadian to educate the world about the perilous threat posed by rising greenhouse gas emissions—and effective ways to respond to the crisis.

      David Suzuki


      The founder of the David Suzuki Foundation is Vancouver’s version of the Energizer bunny, still going strong at the age of 83 and still doing his best to stave off an environmental catastrophe caused by rising emissions of greenhouse gases.