A century ago Canadian medical researchers achieved one of the top 10 most significant events in Canadian history … the discovery of insulin. Five-year-old Teddy Ryder was among the first to receive the “pancreatic extract” co-discovered by Frederick Banting and Charles Best at the University of Toronto. He would go on to live 71 more years with diabetes, one of millions of lives saved and made better by insulin.
Before insulin, diabetes could mean a death sentence. But in 1920, Dr. Frederick Banting, an unknown in his field, thought he’d found the cure to diabetes. Working out of a tiny lab, Banting and his assistant Charles Best removed the pancreas from dogs, and when they got diabetes, they injected the dog’s own ground up pancreas to treat the disease. Their blood sugar dropped, and a treatment was born. After years of testing, they perfected a formula, winning a Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.
So what else made the top 10 list for Canada? Here, in no particular order, are the historic moments selected in 2013 by James Opp who was then associate professor with Carleton University.
- Battle of Vimy Ridge April 9, 1917:
Canada was in the First World War as part of the British empire. But at Vimy Ridge, Canadians showed their mettle. With a brutal snowstorm raging, 100,000 Canadian troops rushed and overcame the German forces, capturing the ridge and allowing French forces to catch the nearby town of Aisne under-defended. It was a pivotal moment for Canadian nationalism.
• Universal health care, 1960:
Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas believed everyone deserved a basic level of care, and fought tooth and nail to make that happen. Many doctors did not want to be under government control, and went on strike for 23 days until an agreement was reached. Within 10 years every other province adopted a similar model.
• Confederation, 1867, federal Dominion of Canada:
On July 1, Ontario and Quebec were formed and united with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Manitoba, and British Columbia entered Confederation in 1871, followed by Prince Edward Island 1973, Alberta and Saskatchewan 1905, Newfoundland 1949. Northwest Territories joined confederation in 1870, Yukon in 1898 and Nunavut 1999. • Terry Fox 1980:
Fox ran 5,733 kilometres in 143 days on one leg during his Marathon of Hope before cancer claimed him. His legacy has raised over $800 million for cancer research and he continues to be a beacon of inspiration for all Canadians.
• Women’s suffrage:
Women who owned property were allowed to vote as early as 1925, but it wasn’t until 1951 that all women were allowed to vote and enter as an election candidate.
• Second World War:
Canada made its own decision to join the Second World War in September 1939. Canada showed its allies they were a force to be reckoned with, gaining respect around the globe.
• 2002 women’s hockey gold:
At the Olympic Games in Utah, the Canadian women battled for gold. The U.S. had beaten Canada in the last eight consecutive games. But a goal by Jayna Hefford rocketed the team to the top of the podium and gave a boost to the men’s team, who clinched their own gold.
• Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982:
Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau introduced the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which granted greater political and civil rights to all Canadians. The Charter was the result of years of consultation between the provinces and the federal government.
• Paul Henderson, 1972 Summit Series:
Canadians were glued to there TVs to watch the battle of the world’s best hockey teams. Would Canada prevail over their arch rivals, the Russians? Paul Henderson became a national icon when he scored the winning goals in the sixth and seventh games, finally scoring the last goal with 34 seconds left in the final game.