1. Chrystia Freeland
Photo, Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images
For standing up for Canada by standing up to Trump: How do you renegotiate a deal like NAFTA with a guy who wants to tear it to bits? Chrystia Freeland, a Ukrainian-Canadian who is banned from Russia, was assigned a hell of a task when she became Canada’s minister of foreign affairs in January. But the Toronto Liberal MP has kept the peace with Donald Trump without backing down, ensuring that Canada is a strong advocate for democratic, women’s and LGBTQ rights abroad. —Sarah Boesveld
2. Ellen Page, Rachel McAdams and Sarah Polley
For exposing Hollywood’s harassment culture: Page, McAdams and Polley have clocked plenty of interview time talking about their work — but significantly less talking about Hollywood’s working conditions. That all changed this fall, amidst the Weinstein deluge, as the Canadian actresses (and director) all went on the record, in scarring detail, about the harassment and — in Page’s case — homophobia each had encountered on the job. Though the granular details of their horror stories differed, the women’s collective message was clear: no more. —Katie Underwood
3. Jen Agg
Photo, Renee Rodenkirchen.
For being the realest bitch in the kitchen: Agg’s superlative not only comes from the celebrated restaurateur’s juicy memoir, I Hear She’s a Real Bitch, released this May — she’s also been instrumental in exposing the food industry’s seedy sexist underbelly. See: Her stinging op-ed about the restaurant industry’s “Weinstein moment” in The New Yorker this fall. —K.U.
4. Tanya Talaga
For shining a much-needed light on the deaths of young Indigenous people: The deeply affecting book Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City came at a crucial moment for a Canada 150–ing nation this year. Toronto Star reporter Tanya Talaga’s in-depth account of the lives of seven teenagers who died in Nishnawbe Aski Nation near Thunder Bay in 2010–2011 drove home the depth of the intergenerational trauma of colonization while calling on all of us to do better. —S.B.
5. Michal Hay
For leading Jagmeet Singh’s historic leadership campaign: In the spring, Michal Hay was chief of staff for popular Toronto councillor Mike Layton — son of the legendary NDP leader many knew simply as “Jack.” By fall, Hay was heading up the leadership campaign for a politician many Canadians now know as “Jagmeet.” With his landslide first-ballot win on Oct. 1, Singh became the first person of colour to lead a federal political party, and secured record membership levels for the NDP. Hay and her team made it happen. —S.B.
6. Rupi Kaur
Photo, Chris Young/The Canadian Press.
For cementing her place as the poet of the Instagram generation: The Brampton, Ont., native published her second book of poetry, The Sun and Her Flowers, which vaulted to bestseller lists in Canada and the U.S. And while some have dismissed her work as lacking complexity (a type of shade often lobbed at young women), at just 25 years old, she managed to outsell John Grisham, Danielle Steele and Stephen King. —Sadiya Ansari
7. Kylie Masse
Photo, Ian MacNicol/Getty Images.
For backstroking her way to world domination: Sure, Kylie Masse had a good summer in the pool last year — she won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics with a record-breaking time in the 100-metre backstroke. But the best was yet to come for the LaSalle, Ont., native. In July, she became the first Canadian woman swimmer to win a world title, breaking records and blowing minds at the world championships in Budapest. —S.B.
8. Valérie Plante
Photo, André Querry.
For being the first woman mayor of Montreal: Voters in Montreal did a double take this fall when the only woman running for mayor did so under the slogan: “The man for the job.” Valérie Plante grabbed their attention with that phrase, but won their votes with her progressive ideas and approachability in a city eager for change after years of scandal-plagued local government run by incumbent Denis Coderre. —S.B.
9. Eden Robinson
Photo, Mark Raynes Roberts 2016.
For becoming CanLit’s new queen: Considering her recent, Giller-shortlisted novel, Son of A Trickster, took her eight years to write, we’re sure the B.C. author is relishing this year’s many successes. Robinson, a 49-year-old Indigenous author known for her dark fiction, also won this year’s Writers’ Trust fellowship, pretty much solidifying her status as the toast of Canada’s literary circuit. —K.U.
10. Celina Caesar-Chavannes
For rocking braids and bringing the issue of body shaming to parliament: Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who represents Whitby, Ont., made a powerful speech in the House of Commons that went viral in October after the HuffPost, AJ+ and Now This picked it up. She began by bringing attention to her hair, sending a message to Black women and girls. “It has come to my attention that there are young girls here in Canada and other parts of the world who are removed from school, or shamed because of their hairstyle,” she said. “Body shaming of any woman in any form from the top of her head to the soles of her feet is wrong, irrespective of her hairstyle, the size of her thighs, the size of her hips, the size of her baby bump, the size of her breasts or the size of her lips, what makes us different is what makes us unique and beautiful.” Preach! —S.A.
11. Julie McGivery
For running the Boston Marathon — while eight-months pregnant: The Moncton runner trained for more than a decade before she qualified for her ultimate running goal — the Boston Marathon. But then McGivery became pregnant with her second child. Instead of putting her dream on hold, she went for it this April. And, of course, she achieved another pretty big feat in 2017: Her daughter, Indie Boston Freeman, was born a month later. —S.A.
12. Julie Lemieux
Photo, Josiane Farand.
For becoming the first trans mayor in Canadian history: The big election issue in the tiny village of Très-Saint-Redempteur, Que., was whether residents could keep backyard chickens, not whether it mattered that mayoral candidate Julie Lemieux was born female or male. The trans woman, who had been a councillor in the historically Catholic western Quebec municipality since 2013, won with 48 percent of the vote. Then she got down to business, working to ensure that her neighbours will be able to keep their own roosters and hens. —S.B.
13. Alessia Cara
Photo, Lester Cohen/WireImage.
For making room in mainstream music for shy girls: The Brampton, Ont., musician went from a shy amateur posting covers on YouTube to mainstream stardom in 2015 with her single “Here.” But this year, the 21-year-old songstress really hit it big: Her debut album went platinum, she’s had three songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and she earned four Grammy nominations. We’re guessing she’ll be “here” for a while. —S.A.
14. Catherine McKenna
Photo, Tami A Heilemann.
For standing up to sexist trolls: Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change has a lot on her plate — things like the One Planet Summit, or carbon legislation. But you know what she doesn’t have time for? Misogynist idiots who send her dolls in the mail, mocking “Climate Barbie,” a derisive nickname for the mom of two. So when one such doll was sent McKenna’s way in November, she played it classy, announcing via Twitter that she’d be donating the sexist effigy to a charity toy drive. Happy holidays, The Patriarchy! —K.U.
15. Joanna Griffiths
For owning the women’s underwear game, one leak-proof panty at a time: Joanna Griffiths, founder and CEO of Knixwear, is leading the charge for better bras and undies for women of all shapes and sizes. Between surpassing $1 million in sales this spring, selling out of its new V Neck Evolution Bra in three days and becoming the only Canadian company to win the Shopify Build a Bigger Business Award, Knixwear had one hell of a 2017. —S.B.
16. Scaachi Koul
Photo, Barbora Simkova.
17. Caitlin Miron
For being well on her way to curing cancer: What if cancer cells could be “switched off” like a lightbulb? A breakthrough discovery by Queen’s University PhD student Caitlin Morin has made this notion a real possibility. The 28-year-old Ottawa native identified a chemical compound that binds to DNA and keeps cancer cells from moving on to other parts of the body. Cool, right? Miron won the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation, which will help her quest to format the compound for patient consumption: “Like chemo,” she says, “[but] with less side effects.” —S.B.
18. Rachel Homan
For curling towards Olympic glory: Curling skip Rachel Homan has had, by all accounts, a stellar year: She won her third national title and picked up her first international title. And though her team suffered a devastating loss in the 2013 Olympic trials, the Ottawa native’s foursome clinched a big win at December’s Roar of the Rings, qualifying them for an Olympic spot in next year’s PyeongChang Games. Next on her to-do list: a gold medal. —K.U.
19. Christi Belcourt
For reminding us of #Canada150’s dark side: Métis visual artist Christi Belcourt (along with Tanya Kappo, Maria Campbell and Isaac Murdoch) led the #Resistance150 campaign to challenge colonial narratives celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary by highlighting acts of Indigenous resistance throughout the year. She also continued her work as an advocate for families of missing and murdered women, including publishing an open letter to the federal inquiry arguing that the process was in “serious trouble.” —S.A.
20. Kate Ross LeBlanc
For helping Canadians smell well: Women looking for an effective natural deodorant have LeBlanc, co-CEO of Saje Wellness, to thank for her tireless work. The company, which expanded even further into bricks-and-mortar retail this year, ranked a formidable 49th on PROFIT’s 500 fastest-growing Canadian companies in 2017, which we’re sure has her inhaling deep, calming breaths of satisfaction. —K.U.
21. Michelle Murphy
For protecting the world’s climate change data: In a Daily Show episode that aired in March, University of Toronto historian Michelle Murphy is handed a USB stick of important climate data from American “hackers,” as well as other items possibly imperiled during Donald Trump’s administration, including Meryl Streep’s Oscar trophies. But the “guerilla archiving” happening under Murphy’s direction is no joke. Since environmental data started disappearing from government websites after Trump’s election win, her team has been harvesting, copying and filing U.S. government data so researchers on either side of the border can continue working. This fall, her team got funding from the prestigious Connaught Global Challenge Award to keep fighting the good fight. —S.B.
22. Shania Twain
Photo, Mark Horton/Getty Images.
For rightfully reclaiming her throne as the Country Pop Queen: After 15 years of semi-retirement, the Queen of our Canadian country hearts made an epic comeback with her new record, Now. And now, long divorced from her rock producer ex-husband Mutt Lange, Twain is finally getting her critical due for her trailblazing talents and record-breaking sales legacy (she is one of the top selling artists of all time). And that sparkly sled-dog entry at the Grey Cup halftime show? Man, we bet that made her feel like a woman. —S.B.
23. Danielle Martin
Photo, Ed Rek.
For tirelessly championing universal healthcare: Dr. Martin isn’t just Chatelaine’s house doc — she’s a family physician, vice-president of medical affairs and health system solutions at Women’s College Hospital, and an associate professor at the University of Toronto. This year, she continued her work advocating for universal healthcare by lending her voice to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in his bid to expand medicare. She was appointed to co-lead a review of federally-funded health organizations, and, oh yeah, she published a best-selling book, Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians. —S.A.
24. Emily Bitze
Photo, Kelsey Stasiak.
For taking her bartering empire to the big time: Not long ago, Emily Bitze was broke and living off ramen noodles. Now, the bartering community she created in order to eat has become a bona fide business. Bunz Trading Zone, a community in which people post items they no longer want and trade them for items they do, took off internationally in 2017 thanks to a newly designed app and web platform. Now hipsters as far away as Austin, Texas, are hoping to trade house plants ISO (that’s Bunz-speak for “in search of”) cool art and beer. —S.B.
25. Caroline Ouellette
For their epic display of sportsmanship: Fewer news items are more happy-making than a baby announcement, but try this one on for size: Former captain of the Canadian women’s hockey team (Ouellette) has baby with former captain of the U.S. women’s hockey team (Julie Chu). Amazingly cute family photo is posted in October; explodes Instagram, hearts. Little Liv is sure to be a hell of a draft pick one day. —K.U.
26. Lido Pimienta
(Photo, John Paille)
For winning the Polaris Prize: The Colombian-Canadian musician beat out Gord Downie, Leonard Cohen and Feist to claim this year’s Polaris Prize for her deeply political Spanish-language album La Papessa. Pimienta also sparked conversation in October when she asked women of colour at a show in Halifax to move to the front while asking white fans to move back, and a white photographer refused. Pimienta later explained why she does this at shows in a thoughtful Facebook post: “Making space for oppressed people is a tool to level up, or at least try to create a balance or temporary equality.” —S.A.
27. Margaret Atwood
Photo, Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images.
For scaring the hell out of the patriarchy: Ask anyone how similar the plot of Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale mirrors life in 2017 and you’ll get a lot of uncomfortable laughter in response. And the TV adaptation, which hit the small screen in April — and won eight Emmys — wasn’t even Atwood’s only shining moment this year. Sarah Polley directed her own spin on another characteristically dark Atwood work, Alias Grace, which came out in September. Less maudlin, but equally Atwoodian? Wandering Wenda, the author’s newly released children’s cartoon. —K.U.
28. Iqra Khalid
Photo, Irfan Siddiqui.
For bringing Islamophobia to the attention of Canadians: Late last year, Liberal backbencher Iqra Khalid introduced a motion for the House of Commons to condemn Islamophobia and commit to studying systemic racial discrimination. Seems like a no-brainer, but in early 2017, things turned ugly when Conservative MPs said the wording was unclear and would lead to the suppression of free speech. Khalid received vitriol that spanned from racial slurs to death threats, some of which she read in the House — proving her point that Islamophobia does indeed exist in Canada. The Liberal caucus fully supported her motion, which passed in March. —S.A.
29. Bojana Sentaler
For dressing the duchesses, present and future: Every designer knows the surest way to make fashion bank: get your pieces on the backs of Brit royalty. So when Meghan Markle was spotted around Toronto earlier this year sporting coats by Sentaler — a Toronto-based luxury outerwear brand — the creative director could barely hide her excitement. “Canadian fashion has incredible talent, and Meghan Markle’s close connection is helping to put Canadian brands on the international map,” said Bojana Sentaler. Oh, and another blue-blooded super-fan? Kate Middleton. —K.U.
30. Esmahan Razavi
For asking women to run for office: Calgary City Council has long been a boy’s club. Ask Her Calgary, a campaign to get 20 women to run for office in the fall 2017 election, set out to change that. By summer, they’d met their goal. Co-founder Esmahan Razavi even ran for council herself. She didn’t win, but another woman who came in through the Ask Her door did. And the countdown clock to election 2021 is already ticking. —S.B.
31. Marilyn McNeil-Morin
Photo, Barbara Kowalski.
For bringing fashion manufacturing back to Canada: For five years, the Director of the Fashion Exchange at Toronto’s George Brown College advocated for the creation of a space that could serve as both a technical workshop for design students and a working manufacturing facility. The space opened in 2016, offering the only practical fashion-production classes in the country while also offering workshop spaces to community members in Regent Park. And this year, McNeil-Morin’s vision finally came to fruition: The Fashion Exchange signed 30 clients, including local designers Heather Campbell and Garrison Bespoke, and hired nine staff (including two from their community outreach program). —S.A.