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42 - 45 of the Bay St. Bull Power 50: Activists and Top News Stories

The Power 50 is a collection of Canada’s top people, places and things of 2016. Our list is filled with game changers from all corners of the nation that are inspiring, innovating and influencing the way we live and work from the top. Giving you the best from every city, industry, office and home, The Bull’s Canadian Power 50 is not your typical list and instead is the definitive guide to who and what is changing the way Canada lives, works and plays. 

42. Zunera Ishaq: Activist 

By Nicholas Mizera

illustration by Louise Reimer

illustration by Louise Reimer

One person can sway an election — just ask Zunera Ishaq. What started as a Muslim housewife-turned-activist’s fight for cultural accommodation turned both women’s and religious freedoms into pivotal issues during the 2015 federal election and beyond. The Pakistani immigrant would go on to battle for four years to overturn an unconstitutional government ban on face veils during the Canadian citizenship ceremony, but her struggle reached a crescendo when she won an all-important decision in a federal court — and the Conservative government appealed it in Supreme Court.

The resulting “niqab debate” dominated election coverage. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, running for re-election, declared niqabs oppressive and in opposition to women’s rights; then-Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, hoping to upend Harper’s decade in power, parried by claiming the Conservatives were pushing an anti-Muslim agenda. Inescapable think pieces railed both for and against Ishaq’s position. Hashtag-fuelled movements like Anyone But Harper entered the mainstream. The niqab became many things to many people — a touchstone for multiculturalism and religious tolerance to its proponents, while critics saw it as shorthand for everything wrong with immigration.

While the niqab debate was only one of the election’s key issues, it challenged many aspects of Canadian identity and mobilized Canadians like never before. The election witnessed an unprecedented 71 per cent increase in advance voter turnout. More than 68 per cent of the eligible voter population took to polling stations (about a seven per cent increase from the 2011 federal election). Most notably, youth who had largely grown up knowing only a Harper government turned out in droves to cast their votes.

Ishaq’s stand against the establishment was a wake-up call that showed Canadian voters what it meant to take a stand for their beliefs. The issue debate opened the floodgates for a generation fed up with the status quo on other issues, including climate change, immigration and income inequality.

A month after Ishaq was sworn in as a citizen of Canada, she too exercised her right to vote in the election. Ultimately, the Liberals earned two and a half times the votes of the previous federal election and formed a majority government. Beyond the election, however, Ishaq’s struggle still colours how we carry on, from the creation of a diverse and gender-balanced cabinet to Canada’s welcoming stance on Syrian refugees.

The niqab debate, once a divisive issue, made our nation a better one for all Canadians. Canadians just like Zunera Ishaq.

43. Syria's Refugees 

by Nicolas Mizera

illustration by Louise Reimer

illustration by Louise Reimer

How could we forget it: the shocking, discomforting image of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying drowned, face down on a Turkish beach. For many, this famous photograph would mark the first time they came face to face with the human toll exacted by the punishing war in Syria, which has displaced an estimated 4.2 million refugees. The global response was almost immediate, but while our neighbours to the south assessed the security risks Canada cast aside exclusionist conspiracies and simply asked how it could help. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s response has resulted in the admission and processing of more than 26,000 refugees as of May 2016, plus 10,000 more admitted on private sponsorships. And Canada is already the better for it. Not only are our new neighbours fitting right in, they are giving back in ways ranging from community building and business creation to donating to the internally displaced survivors of the wildfires in Fort McMurray. Canada hasn’t always been the kindest to immigrants, but by embracing Syrian refugees, it has taken a major first step toward reversing its track record and proving the long-held tenet of Canadian identity that we are a nation of many cultures.

44. Fort McMurray's Heroes

By Nicholas Mizera

The wildfires that engulfed Fort McMurray, Alta., forcing the evacuation of its more than 80,000 residents and destroying more than an estimated 15 per cent of the city, stripped raw the Canadian psyche. It reignited old divisions in a province already reeling from the devastating economic impact of dropping oil prices, where some etched party lines in the ashes to politicize the response of our newly minted prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and the Liberal government. Environmental activists and climate change deniers butted heads. But in the end, nothing burned brighter than Canadian goodwill. The natural disaster galvanized a truly Canadian level of generosity and volunteerism, blowing smoke in the faces of cynics as news feeds flooded with stories of Syrian refugees mobilizing their communities to give back to their new countrymen and heroic firefighters sacrificing their own homes to save those of their neighbours. Natural disasters are often the truest test of a country’s character. In Fort McMurray, Canada reminded itself and the world that no matter how high the flames, kindness is what sets our country apart in its lowest, most critical moments. As the smoke clears over Fort Mac, only optimism is left — a certainty that the city will rebuild.

45. Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit

It doesn’t take much to fall in love with Vancouver Island. Home to just under a million inhabitants and some of the country’s most amazing sights, sounds and smells, it was only a matter of time before the Jones’ started moving in and everyone felt the need to keep up.

No longer a hippie enclave, the Island is now one of the country’s most desirable locations for retirees thanks to the region's amazing year-round weather and myriad of activities and accouterments. As a consequence of the growing popularity, living on Vancouver Island is now more expensive, yet more fun, than ever.

Boasting an insane number of resorts, spas and golf courses, it’s no wonder that demand for alternative luxury experiences has grown throughout the region as new money needs places to be spent.

Enter the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit, a private membership club and motorsports playground dedicated to serving up driving enthusiasts with the most amazing luxury thrill ride the country has to offer.

With a 2.3 kilometer track that boasts a whopping 19 turns, a lush clubhouse with a first class restaurant and future plans for a luxury car storage facility, off-road track as well as a major extension to the current track, the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit aims to be the number one destination for car lovers across the land.

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