Ace Burpee's Top 100 Most Fascinating Manitobans 2020

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I say this every year, but it doesn’t make it any less true: I’ve left a lot on the table this year. So many people stepped up and did incredible things in 2020. There were thousands of people who achieved amazing things, faced the pandemic battle on the front lines, gave back, received awards and impacted lives. I try to do 100 new names every year and not repeat any from previous lists. That said, I’ve still got dozens of names to carry forward to next year. Please stay safe and look after yourself. All the best, always.

 

Our Health-Care Heroes: Obviously there are no words to properly honour those on the front lines of health care during this pandemic. They’ve been incredible. The amount of personal sacrifice for literally putting their own lives at risk to help others is immeasurable. My most sincere and total respect and gratitude, forever.

 

Feliciaa Baldner: She is the founder of GENEQU, a foundation promoting gender equality. Just 14 years old, last year she placed first in the Make Your Move competition hosted annually by the U of M’s faculty of engineering. GENEQU focuses on several issues, including the under-representation of girls and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

 

Teachers & school staff: Each. And. Every. One. Of. You. I hope you know the level of appreciation we have. Constant changes and uncertainty. Taking on way, way more than ever before. Switching grades. Juggling remote and in-person learning. Ditching playbooks and drawing up new ones. You’re incredible. Know that.

 

Alan Greyeyes: For his contribution to the development of countless Manitoba artists throughout his career, Greyeyes was the 2020 recipient of the Manitoba Arts Award of Distinction. The honour is given out every two years by the Manitoba Arts Council. Great guy.

 

Health Links/Info Santé Team: They’ve fielded literally thousands upon thousands of calls, very often when people are at their most anxious and vulnerable. It’s a monumental task during a pandemic. You are absolute rock stars. Thank you, so, so much.

 

Becca Aysan-Man, Alex Man, Philip Roadley, Logan Roadley & Jayson Gillespie: Competed as Team True North on Amazon Prime’s World’s Toughest Race: Eco Challenge Fiji. They crushed it, racing non-stop for 11 days straight through mountains, swamps, rivers, oceans and jungles.

 

Lorraine Coutu-Lavallee, June Bruce, Agathe Chartrand: Métis elders from St. Laurent, known to many as “the Dictionary Ladies.” They received an honorary doctor of letters from the U of W for their efforts in preserving the Michif-French language by dedicating years to penning and publishing a definitive dictionary.

 

Gloria Barker and the Strong Warrior Girls Anishinaabe Singers: The choir, led by Barker, features 10 singers eight to 10 years of age from Riverbend School. Last January, they were first to perform the national anthem in Ojibway at a Jets game. They absolutely crushed it. They were awesome.

 

Sheeraj Patel: Stepped into the role of chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. The best to you Sheeraj, and congrats.

 

Lanette Siragusa: We see the press conferences, but it’s the countless hours we don’t see addressing the monumental staffing and countless other issues during this pandemic that are next level. An unprecedented and trying task, one that was handled with compassion.

 

Dr. Sandra Kirby: A tireless advocate and educator who has dedicated her life to fighting sexual harassment, homophobia and violence against children in sport. A former Olympian and already a member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, the U of W professor was named to the Order of Canada in 2020.

 

Mattmac: A few months ago, CBC’s Lenard Monkman posted a piece about an artist from the Oji-Cree community of Garden Hill who had just dropped a single. I read the piece then clicked on the video for the song and instantly knew it was a hit. Mattmac (real name, Matthew Monias), born blind, has a gift. The single Paradise is getting massive play across the country and he just dropped his debut album. He’s fantastic.

 

Val Vint: The creator of a new statue at The Forks called Education is the New Bison. The piece is a 12-foot bison made up of 200 books and articles by Indigenous or other allied authors to symbolize knowledge, unity and understanding.

 

Michelle Chubb: She has racked up millions of views and hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok. Chubb, a member of Bunibonibee Cree Nation, blends traditional dance, activism, education, honesty and pop culture on her platform. She was recently featured in Teen Vogue. TikTok: indigenous_baddie

 

James McEwen: He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C., for a device used in 20,000 surgeries around the world every day. His invention — an automatic surgical tourniquet — ensures safer surgical outcomes and has improved the quality of life for people the world over.

 

Alfred Lea: The founder of the Native Canadian Chip Corporation, makers of the delicious Tomahawk Chips. Based in Riverton, Man., the company also introduces Indigenous youth and local Friendship Centres to business opportunities.

 

Danielle Northam, Rob Holter-Ferguson, Ryan Neudorf & Grant Geard: In an effort to help local restaurants survive through code red restrictions, these four volunteered their time and talents to create a beautiful website housing all restaurants who do their own delivery. Every neighbourhood has its own directory, and it’s really well done. Check out letsorder.delivery.

 

Christa Bruneau-Guenther: She’s the chef/owner of the ridiculously delicious Feast Cafe Bistro in the West End. Rooted in First Nations cuisine, the restaurant is more than just great food. She provides employment opportunities, training and is compassionate to the needs of the area she serves. A tremendous spot.

 

Sebastian Gaskin: Growing up in Tataskweyak Cree Nation (Split Lake), Gaskin grew up listening to everything from R&B and metal, to hip hop and punk. His own music veers R&B, and he’s a legit talent. Mix some into your next playlist and enjoy. The dude is fantastic.

 

Joanne Roberts: The winner of the 2020 Emerging Filmmaker Pitch Competition at this year’s Gimli Film Festival. The concept of the five-minute short film is exploration into “the grey area of a loving relationship” between a mother and daughter. The film, Anak will be screened at the festival next year.

 

Dr. Brent Roussin: Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer. I can’t imagine the pressure attached to a job like that in a year like this. 

 

Stacey & Travis Enns: The owners of Syl’s Drive Inn in Carman, which makes one of the best burgers in the province. Along with running a great joint, the couple are also tremendous assets to their community and surrounding area, and were the recipients of the Community Builder Award by the Carman Chamber of Commerce.

 

Sierra Lathlin: Since opening Barkery Dog Treats three years ago, a shop that creates and sells dog treats, Sierra has grown her idea into a thriving business. From Opaskwayak Cree Nation, she represented our province at the 2020 G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance Summit.

 

Gerry Rosset, Andrew Prokopchuk, Trevor Tetrault, Geoffrey Smith and Matt Wollman: They were part of a group of conservation officers and firefighters who volunteered to travel to Australia to help with the devastating wildfires that devastated the country.

 

Dr. Krishnamurti Dakshinamurti: A professor at the U of M and a senior adviser to the St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre. An innovator in the epigenetics of vitamins and metabolic syndrome disorders, he was named by Cambridge University as one of the Outstanding Scientists of the 21st Century and this year was named to the Order of Manitoba.

 

Hera Nalam: A tremendously gifted actress, Nalam was the star of I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight. The Winnipeg-made film, which opened in the midst of a pandemic, proved to be a monster hit. She’s awesome.

 

Nigel Kirwan: Has been a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning coaching staff for years, and in 2020 earned himself a Stanley Cup ring as video coach for the NHL champs.

 

Cheryl Zealand: The founder of Cranked Energy nutrition bars, Cheryl is both a tremendous entrepreneur and extremely generous. Her delicious, preservative-free bars have become a staple for thousands of athletes, and during the pandemic she supplied front-line workers with bars as well as supporting organizations like Main Street Project. She’s supported countless causes and organizations, and is helping other small businesses navigate COVID-19 as part of the city’s business task force.

 

Francine Bahati, Ima Ekanem & Odette Bahati: They put together a comprehensive, user-friendly guide to all Black-owned businesses, products and services in Manitoba. They did an incredible job — check it out here: blackownedmb.com

 

Virginia Guiang-Santoro: The founder of the Filipino Domestic Workers Association of Manitoba, which works to protect the rights of live-in caregivers in Manitoba. Virginia was honoured as one of Canada’s Top 25 Immigrants in 2020.

 

Katie & Andre Steppler: For their progressive thinking, environmental stewardship and contributions to their community. The pair were named Manitoba’s Outstanding Young Farmers of the Year in 2020.

 

Bryan Salvador & Ogo Okwumabua: Co-owners of the Zueike clothing brand. Not only do they produce tremendous clothing in Winnipeg, they’re consistently mindful of community, equality, mental health and building others up. Check them out at zueike.com

 

Anjali Sidhu, John Hildawa, Chantal Philippot, Aaron Raymundo & Matthew Tardaguila: All graduates of Sisler High School, they were selected to collaborate on an animation piece for the Cops and Robbers project. The short film is an adaptation of Timothy Ware-Hill’s spoken word piece he shared after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. It’s a collaborative film with sections coming from people all over the world, including Lawrence Bender (he produced Pulp Fiction) and Jada Pinkett-Smith.

 

Jaime Manness: Hiking trails have always flown a bit under the radar in Manitoba, but Jaime has helped unlock their potential for many. The owner of hikemanitoba.co, she’s brought trails to life and inspired new adventures via posts and two Hike Manitoba books.

 

Emilie McKinney: Founder/owner of Anishinaabe Bimishimo Corporation which specializes in jingle cones — the decorative metal cones/lids that are sewn onto outfits worn by powwow dancers. She started the business at just 16 and it’s grown every year. Beyond jingle cones, she also produces clothing and has used proceeds to support countless causes including the Swan Lake First Nation Women and Men’s Group, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre and many more.

 

Jordan Stranger: Communicating “the importance of life, culture and acceptance,” Jordan is a phenomenal artist who makes our province (literally) look better. If you’ve never seen his stuff (you likely just didn’t know it was him) check out totemdoodem.myportfolio.com

 

Rhonda Orr: Golfing out of Southwood, Orr has won a ridiculous seven of the last eight provincial senior women’s golf titles. Her latest, this past summer, saw her finish nine strokes clear of the field.

 

Will Penner: I might not have believed this years ago, but math is cool. Will, a teacher at Arthur Day Middle School, went viral during the early days of the pandemic with his Billie Eilish-inspired Math Guy video. He’s encouraged countless students to look at math from a different angle and embrace it rather than fear it. He’s also the maker of the Mathopoly series of games and content all found at mathopoly.ca

 

June Buboire & family: The family has donated literally thousands of hours to the Bear Clan, responding to the needs of the community. They were named Family Volunteer Award winners by Volunteer Manitoba in 2020. Thank you for all you do.

 

Maggie Yeboah: A community outreach worker at Hope Centre Health Care by trade, but that’s just a fraction of how Maggie has made this a better place. She’s put in more than 30 years, giving her time to the Association of African Communities of Manitoba, the Ghanaian Union of Manitoba, the Improving Access Project, the African pavilion at Folklorama and much, much more. An incredible woman.

 

Arvid Loewen: He already held a record for the fastest cycle across Canada (B.C. to Halifax in 13 days!) and this year set another world record. By cycling to Lockport and back to Winnipeg almost 500 times, Arvid has officially cycled more kilometres in one month than anyone else in history. He racked up almost 12,000 km this past July. Also, he’s 63 years of age. He’s long used cycling to raise money for different causes, and in total has raised more than $7 million. Legend.

 

Mary Barton: Since founding Riverview Ashland Child Care Centre in the early 1980s, Mary has played an instrumental part in hundreds of young lives. A movement in the Riverview area was started, and the corner of Churchill Drive and Montgomery is now officially known as Mary Barton Way.

 

Justin Langan: An incredible mental health advocate, volunteer and leader in our province. He’s established a Métis youth scholarship in the Parkland region, sits on both the Northwest and Provincial Youth Advisory committees, has been recognized as a National Champion of Mental Health, is an Indigenous Youth Achievement Award winner… and more. Tremendous.

 

James Deighton: The mascot co-ordinator for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has spent 30 years portraying Boomer (the taller of the Buzz and Boomer duo). An incredible run.

 

The Thompson Stars: This fivepin bowling team was named Team of the Year by Special Olympics Manitoba. They won several ribbons, have produced provincial team members, they fundraise and they are truly incredible ambassadors for Special Olympics. Congrats Stars!

 

Cynthia Boehm & Brenda Davidson: Both had their beaded masks chosen to be featured in the Breathe collection at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff. Submissions for the installation came from all over the world, and their selection means two of the just 45 masks in the collection are Manitoba-made.

 

Melanie Penner, Lorhiz Aquino & Alexander Pop: They make up the executive team of the Manitoba Esports Association. What started as a league at the U of M has grown into a mission to develop the Esports community and create more opportunities province-wide.

 

Dr. Vanessa Poliquin: For demonstrating “leadership, creativity, initiative and acting as a positive role model,” Dr. Poliquin was a recipient (one of only two in the country) of a Canadian Medical Association Young Leaders award. She specializes in infectious diseases as an obstetrician-gynecologist at HSC Women’s Hospital.

 

Arlene Last-Kolb: A passionate leader with Overdose Awareness Manitoba and Moms Stop The Harm. She’s also done an exceptional job in creating and caring for a memorial garden in Stephen Juba Park dedicated to honouring lives lost to addiction and overdose.

 

Robyn Adams: This is a top-10 idea. Adams transformed an old school bus into a mobile music and art venue. The Field Trip Sessions project offers a safe, inclusive and super-cool way to access and promote public art. Tremendous job.​

 

Jay Kilgour: Put on an absolute clinic in terms of stepping up for our community. Having a stake in three different restaurants, obviously his business took a massive hit, but he rallied around the most vulnerable in Winnipeg, other restaurants and his staff. Along with trying to save jobs and businesses other than his own, he provided literally tens of thousands of meals to 1JustCity, and thousands more to our health-care heroes on the front lines. Tremendous.

 

Gerry Atwell: We lost an absolute legend in Atwell this year. From winning a Juno with Eagle & Hawk to his presence in Ministers of Cool, Rockalypso and Voice of Boom, Gerry was respected for his talent and loved for the person he was. Just an excellent person. A huge loss.

 

Angela Taylor: Already a recipient of an Our Manitoba Hero award, Taylor, the founder of Inspire Community Outreach Inc., was winner of the CTV Champion of Mental Health Volunteer Award presented by Volunteer Manitoba. She’s an advocate, ally and champion for those requiring mental health support. Having overcome her share of obstacles, Taylor was essential to many in our community during the pandemic. Thank you for all you do.

 

Tyler Walsh: He created (with help from sons Noah and Jack) some incredible stop-motion LEGO videos that went viral across the country. His recreation of Prime Minister Trudeau’s message to children regarding COVID-19 racked up millions and millions of views. He’s a talented dude.

 

Justice For Black Lives Winnipeg committee: Rallied literally tens of thousands from all over the province for peaceful protest at the Legislature in June. The turnout and organization was exceptional.

 

Treyton Walcott: A 10-year-old budding entrepreneur (just like his mom) with a mission to help his community. His company — Super Socks — sells funky socks, and for every pair sold another pair of warm winter socks is donated to Siloam Mission.

 

Arianne Quinn & Lisa Van Osch: A top-10 all-time proposal that ended up involving The Rock? Not a rock as in a ring, but The Rock that used to be in the ring. Without the other partner knowing, both Arianne and Lisa were planning to propose. Arianne’s sister knew what each was up to, and was involved in having the entire thing professionally captured by Stardust Photography. After one proposal was promptly followed by the other, and the answers were yes, the video made its way to The Rock. He had put out a call for cool wedding clips to use in a video for his wife’s new song. There were Arianne and Lisa on the main page of The Rock’s Instagram. Awesome, and congrats.

 

Mateo Desousa, Devlin Neil-Mcswain, Noah Curoe, Mathew Ferrer, Arshdeep Sarpal, Jeremy Bulaong & coach Robert Esposito: The Sisler High School Cyber Security Team has placed near the top at several national competitions against the best Canada has to offer. Their final competition was the Canadian National High School Cyber Security Contest, which had teams simulate and problem-solve real-world events to protect a hedge fund company. They placed first. Incredible talent, huge futures. Respect.

 

Graeme Green: Just one of those people that makes Manitoba better. He’s helped countless careers get their start through his work at RBC, and his ability to lead and volunteer his time for those in need is admirable. He has also, between his own hundreds of trips to Canadian Blood Services and the hundreds of others he’s inspired, led to countless lives being saved thanks to blood donations. 

 

Kelly Bado: One of the finest, smoothest voices out there. Her music marries pop with R&B/soul and she performs in both English and French. When live music returns, she is a must-see. Massive talent.

 

Rabbi Avrohom Altein: The Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Learning Centre came up with an idea to spread Hanukkah joy and light in the community in a time when holiday gatherings were not permitted. The massive mobile menorah mounted in the back of a pickup truck drove through neighbourhoods every evening for the eight nights of the celebration, blasting music and lifting spirits. Great idea.

 

Christine Pattison: The owner and chef at Miss Christine’s Kitchen, Christine gained a ton of new fans this years after her appearance on the Wall of Chefs reality show. Her stuff is amazing. 100 per cent authentic Jamaican and ridiculously delicious food. Check out MissChristinesKitchen.com

 

Arnel Alibin: He spent 20 years as a health-care aide at Concordia Hospital, and is now co-owner of Max’s Restaurant. Throughout the pandemic, Alibin has stepped up and supported all hospital foundations and countless other front-line workers. He pivoted repeatedly since March and was incredibly giving and compassionate. 

 

James Battershill: He’s the creator of Bump, a 70-30 beef-to-plant protein product that steps into a void in the market for those looking to eat less meat. He began perfecting the idea in 2018 at Red River College’s Prairie Research Kitchen, and his product is now found in several major grocery retailers. It’s super, super good and with new product collaborations like patties and meatballs plus an ever-growing flexitarian market, he’s on to something.

 

Belinda Bigold: She has been in holding it down in St. James, running the exceptional High Tea Bakery. She’s been incredibly kind in sharing her talents and products to help our community, and was also tracked down by the Food Network Canada in 2020 to compete on one of their shows. High Tea also has a top-five all-time imperial cookie, no question.

 

Jay Makwana: Just a straight up supporter and champion for good in our province. Giving with his time and incredible talents to help improve the lives of others. Does so without being asked.

 

Carol Cassell: With people desperate to do something safe while also remaining safe, Carol stepped up. She created a Halloween map of notable places to drive past, and then followed it up with a Christmas lights map. Both were accessible online to whoever wanted them, and it gave families a fun distraction during socially-distant times. 

 

Hayley Gene Penner: Had a ridiculously productive year. Published a very well received book (People You Follow), wrote songs released by the Chicks, the Chainsmokers, Lennon Stella and more, plus released a solo album of her own material. Big future. 

 

Titi Tijani: She is the board president for African Communities of Manitoba. She’s a community activist, an advocate for immigrant issues, and a tremendous leader. She’s had an incredible impact on our province both professionally and by using her time and voice for those who need a champion. Many lives have improved considerably because of Titi.

 

Dr. Wendy Smith: After arriving in Manitoba from New Brunswick in the 1980s for what at the time was supposed to be “just one year,” Dr. Smith has dedicated her life to addressing the health needs of First Nations and Inuit communities. From Norway House to Churchill, Island Lake to Wasagamack, her impact on our province has been enormous. She is the 2020 recipient of the Manitoba College of Family Physicians Family Physician of the Year award. Get her an Alpine.