Alongside longtime television producer Mark Bulgutch, acclaimed broadcaster Peter Mansbridge brings together a collection of stories featuring extraordinary Canadians who embody the values we hold dear as a nation.
I had the pleasure of sitting in on a conversation last week between Peter Mansbridge and Sarah St. Pierre, senior editor at Simon and Schuster. When asked who his favorite subject was to interview, Mansbridge said it isn’t who you would think. Over his lengthy career, Peter had conducted over twenty thousand interviews – many of which were with greats like President Barack Obama, Beach Boys front man Brian Wilson and the beloved Gord Downie. However, it’s the lesser known people that he loves to chat with the most; the ones who have seldom or never been interviewed.
Following a conversation with noteworthy hockey journalist Bob McKenzie (who wrote his own book about everyday hockey heroes), Peter embarked on a project to spotlight Canadians whom you may never have heard of or who have had extraordinary lives flying under the radar of notoriety.
Given the diversity of our country, Peter made sure to cast as wide a net as possible with his selections. Peter met with Moses Li, a nurse who had spent time in a hospital overseas assisting in war-torn countries, now working in a Vancouver hospital on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. He spent time with Pat Danforth, an advocate for the rights of disabled Canadians. He also spoke with Nadine Caron, the first Canadian female surgeon of first nation’s descent and the opposition she faced in achieving her goals.
Throughout his career, Peter had been trying to interview a member of JTF2 (Joint Task Force 2); a special team within the Canadian armed forces that is used for highly specialized and dangerous missions. Peter came close in August of 2001, but of course 9/11 put that on hold. With this project, Peter finally had the opportunity to sit down with a member of the elite team. The story involved JTF-2 taking out a collection of Taliban bomb makers in 2008. It was presented with surprising detail and was action-packed to say the least.
One of the stories that hit me the hardest was Jessica Grossman’s. Jessica had a harrowing experience with Crohn’s Disease as a child. I found this one the most difficult to read based on the graphic details and the fact that this was happening to a child. I cannot imagine the pain and hardship. Her work to destigmatize living with an ostomy bag should be commended given that she had to go through this in her formative years.
Obviously I can’t mention every single person interviewed in this book in my review, but I believe it is very much worth your time to check this one out. The book is structured in such a way that you could pick up and read each entry one at a time or you could fly through it in only a few short sittings (took me about two days). I expect this will be a big hit come the holiday season.
Extraordinary Canadians: Stories from the Heart of our Nation is set for release on November 10th, 2020