Famous Canadians on beliefs they held that were upended by 2020

Maclean’s asked notable Canadians what this crazy, awful year proved wrong
Clockwise from top left: Aurora Brown (Courtesy of CBC), Annamie Paul (Courtesy of the Green Party of Canada), Alicia Elliott (Cole Burston/CP), David Suzuki (Courtesy of CBC), Priyanka (Courtesy of Jackie Brown/Crave), Kayla Grey (Courtesy of Kayla Grey), Notorious Cree (Courtesy of Norman Wong and Notorios Cree), Theresa Tam (Adrian Wyld/CP)
Clockwise from top left: Aurora Brown (Courtesy of CBC), Annamie Paul (Courtesy of the Green Party of Canada), Alicia Elliott (Cole Burston/CP), David Suzuki (Courtesy of CBC), Priyanka (Courtesy of Jackie Brown/Crave), Kayla Grey (Courtesy of Kayla Grey), Notorious Cree (Courtesy of Norman Wong and Notorios Cree), Theresa Tam (Adrian Wyld/CP)
Annamie Paul. (Courtesy of the Green Party of Canada)
(Courtesy of the Green Party of Canada)

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada

There has been a growing perception that people don’t care about each other, that people could no longer come together, that we were too self-centred and self-involved to support one another. What we saw here and all over the world were people saying the opposite. As soon as the pandemic hit, we looked for ways to support each other, to protect our communities, and we made it very clear to the government that we wanted that to be their number one priority—even if it was going to cost money or inconvenience us or change our lives in very profound ways.

(Courtesy of Kayla Grey)

Kayla Grey, SportsCentre anchor on TSN

That I needed more. Time and time again, I was reminded of how many tools, resources and instincts I already have within me when it comes to setting out to do meaningful work.

(Courtesy of CBC)

Aurora Browne, actor

I used to think that there would be big satisfying endings in life. Now I realize you have to do things today. Waiting for “someday” is pointless.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam takes her seat for a daily news conference, Thursday, May 7, 2020 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/CP)
(Adrian Wyld/CP)

Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada

I didn’t think it was possible to have a pandemic vaccine developed and clinical trials completed within a year. From the start of the pandemic, to the rapid sequencing of the virus, to having phase 3 clinical trials and establishing a rolling submission process for candidate COVID-19 vaccines, there has been an extraordinary feat of international and cross-sectoral collabo­ration. Without cutting any of the crucial steps in the process, this effort has essentially shrunk the time it takes to develop a safe and effective vaccine from 10 years to 10 months!

David Suzuki (Courtesy of CBC)
(Courtesy of CBC)

David Suzuki, environmental activist

The government’s excuse that they don’t have massive amounts of money to put into renewable energy, retrofitting homes, public transit, etc.

Haudenosaunee author Alicia Elliott poses for a portrait at the offices of Penguin Random House Canada, the publisher of her new book 'A Mind Spread Out on the Ground' in Toronto, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (Cole Burston/CP)
(Cole Burston/CP)

Alicia Elliott, Haudenosaunee author

There is this widespread notion that a person’s mental health is a private concern, and therefore the sole responsibility of the individual to understand, treat and overcome. So many of us have used consumerism to distract ourselves from the unsolved problems of late capitalism and neoliberalism—chief among them, the idea that our individual worth is somehow determined by how much and how effectively we contribute to capitalism means we have all had to contend with our own thoughts, fears and repressed traumas, and subsequently, have had to come face to face with the reality that those things are never addressed or solved by the unhealthy lifestyles we now lead.

Priyanka (Courtesy of Jackie Brown/Crave)
(Courtesy of Jackie Brown/Crave)

Priyanka, winner of the first season of Canada’s Drag Race

I always thought I didn’t need alone time, but since the pandemic I have realized that spending time with myself has energized my creativity more than ever.

Notorious Cree (Courtesy of Norman Wong and Notorios Cree)
(Courtesy of Norman Wong and Notorios Cree)

James Jones, a.k.a. Notorious Cree, TikTok star and hoop dance artist

That I don’t need much to find balance in my life. When the pandemic first hit, I thought losing the gyms, pubs, movie theatres, malls, etc. was going to be hard. But I found that all you really need is yourself to find happiness. Enjoying the little things can help so much in a big way.

14 things 2020 proved wrong

‘Democracy is destiny’

The worst system except for all the others has been under attack for years. Trump just made us notice.

‘The future is virtual’

The pandemic has made it clear in more ways than we would have thought to count: you actually need to be there

‘Rich countries can overcome’

The awful response to the pandemic put the final nail in the myth of liberal democracy’s pre-eminence

‘In a crisis, leaders will lead’

The job description is right in their title, but too many simply failed to show up for work

‘Women are winning at work’

The economic crisis spurred by the pandemic has unveiled inequalities and obstacles once thought a thing of the past

‘The individual is supreme’

Our decades-long love affair with rugged independence has suddenly fallen away

‘The stock market has meaning’

Long treated as a key economic indicator by many, it is now completely detached from how the economy is actually doing

‘Climate change can’t be stopped’

After decades of planet-threatening growth, emissions fell off a cliff. Environmentalists sense a turning point.

‘We value our seniors’

Decades of promises to improve the quality of life of elderly Canadians have gone unfulfilled

‘Kids are resilient’

Children’s ability to bounce back has been pushed to a breaking point, and exposed some ugly inequalities

‘Running errands is boring’

Rushing out to get milk was once the height of tedium. Today, it’s an anxiety-inducing thrill ride.

‘We need the gym’

The pandemic shutdown forced a reality check: for many, all that time spent in the gym was more luxury than necessity

‘Bureaucracy is slow’

The pandemic forced a culture shift on government, proving that red tape really can be cut

‘You can ignore racism’

Denying systemic racism is no longer tenable. But will the outrage of the past summer translate to substantive change?