Recording artists Bruce Cockburn, Jully Black, Canada's First Lady of the Blues - the late Salome Bey - and Allan Slaight Impact Honour recipient Serena Ryder are among the 2021 Canada's Walk Of Fame Inductees and Honourees.
The ceremony, which will be held in person this year at Toronto's Beanfield Centre on Saturday, December 4, honours 10 people annually in five pillars of recognition: Arts and Entertainment; Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy; Humanitarianism; Science, Technology and Innovation and Sports and Athletics.
Additional 2021 honourees - which will raise the total number of Canada Walk Of Fame inductions to 200 since the holding of the first ceremony in 1998 - include actors Graham Greene and Keanu Reeves (Arts and Entertainment;) Dr. Ajay Virmani, Cargojet founder and CEO (Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy) retired Lieutenant-General, The Honourable Roméo A. Dallaire, human rights advocate (Humanitarianism;) the late Drs. Frederick Banting, Charles Best, John Macleod and James Collip, the Nobel Prize-winning insulin discovery team (Science, Technology and Innovation) and Olympic decathlon gold medallist Damian Warner and ex-WWE champion wrestler Bret "The Hitman" Hart (Sports and Athletics.)
For the first time this year, a new category - the National Hero Honour - is being introduced: a special recognition presented to an individual whose selflessness, dedicated efforts and outstanding contributions have made a significant societal difference.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is the inaugural recipient of the National Hero Honour,
The right guard of the 2019 NFL Super Bowl Champs Kansas City Chiefs, Duvernay-Tardif made international headlines as the first NFL player to opt-out of the 2020 season to join frontline pandemic efforts in his Montréal hometown, deferring his US $2.75 million salary in the process. Duvernay-Tardif also earned his doctorate in medicine from McGill University in 2018.
Except for the Allan Slaight Impact Honour recipient Serena Ryder, known for her powerful pipes and mental health advocacy - and the late Tony and Grammy nominee Salome Bey - the remaining musicians, inducted through the Arts and Entertainment categories, express their elation at the honour.
Perhaps the most eloquent was Jully Black, Canada’s Juno-award-winning Queen of R&B / Soul and Ambassador for Women’s Empowerment.
"Sometimes, I have to pinch myself," said Black, filmed as part of a Canada's Walk of Fame sizzle reel announcing the inductees.
"To know that, 40 plus years later, after deciding to migrate to Canada, my parents' daughter - Jullyann Inderia Gordon, who you know as Jully Black - is sitting here representing their sacrifices, their resilience...I'm so grateful for this opportunity to speak, to express, to represent every little Black boy and girl who looked out and didn't see someone who looked like them...I am grateful."
Bruce Cockburn, the immaculate singer, songwriter and guitarist who has won 13 Juno Awards and is an Officer of the Order of Canada, said he was excited by the news and is looking forward to the celebration.
"Being inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame feels to me like an excuse for a party," he chuckled, "It feels wonderful."
We could also stretch the musician category a bit by including Keanu Reeves; The Beirut-born, Toronto-raised actor served as bass player for his band Dogstar, releasing an EP - Quattro Formaggi - and two albums, Our Little Visionary and Happy Ending, on Zoo/ BMG between 1996 and 2000.
Said Reeves: "My palms are sweaty...my heart's beatin'...and frankly, I'm overwhelmed. I'm really grateful to have grown up in the culture of Canada and to grow up in Toronto. It's so much a part of who I am."
Established in 1998 by the late Peter Soumalias, the late Bill Ballard and the late Murray "Dusty" Cohl, with Dianne Schwalm and in partnership with Gary Slaight, Canada's Walk of Fame honours inductees with an engraved star cemented on the sidewalks of Toronto's Entertainment District.
This year may qualify as a bit of a bittersweet occasion, due to the fact that co-founder Soumalias passed away at the age of 70 on October 1.
Jeffrey Latimer, CEO, Canada's Walk of Fame, paid tribute to Soumalias in a statement.
“Peter was a passionate visionary whose love for Canada and his dedication for celebrating and telling the stories of our country’s great achievers will continue through the legacy that he leaves behind,” he said.
The ceremony will be broadcast on CTV at a later date.
Previous Canada's Walk Of Fame musical inductees include Bryan Adams, Paul Anka, The Tragically Hip, Joni Mitchell, and Oscar Peterson, among many others.