The Book

“A big birthday like Canada’s 150th is the perfect time to bring both national heroes and unexpected guests to the table. I want their personal dramas and brilliant visions to add a sparkle to the sesquicentennial. Given all the fault lines, what holds us together? In an increasingly complex world, this is the moment to recognize who and what gives Canada its cheerful resilience.”

—CHARLOTTE GRAY, on The Promise of Canada

The Promise Of Canada

150 Years—People and Ideas
That Have Shaped Our Country

On the eve of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations comes a richly rewarding new book from acclaimed historian and biographer Charlotte Gray about what it means to be Canadian. In The Promise of Canada, she weaves together masterful portraits of nine influential Canadians, creating a unique history of the country over the past 150 years.

What do these people—from George-Étienne Cartier and Emily Carr to Tommy Douglas, Margaret Atwood, and Elijah Harper—have in common? Each, according to Charlotte Gray, has left an indelible mark on our country. Deliberately avoiding a “top down” approach to our history, Gray has chosen people whose ideas have caught her imagination, ideas that over time have become part of our collective conversation.

Beautifully illustrated with evocative black and white images and colourful artistic visions of our country, The Promise of Canada is a fresh take on our history that offers fascinating insights into how we have matured and yet how—150 years after Confederation and beyond—we are still a people in progress.


Advance Praise for
The Promise of Canada

“Gray has succeeded in giving us a remarkable biography of her adopted country. She now joins the likes of Pierre Berton and
Peter C. Newman as guardian of the national mirror.”
— ROY MACGREGOR, Bestselling author and award-winning journalist

“A masterpiece. This book tells us more about ourselves and our country than any comparable work I know of, accomplishing this with style and wit and unconstrained intelligence all made credible by abundant detail.”
— RICHARD GWYN, Acclaimed author and political columnist
“Charlotte Gray helps us to better understand who we are as an evolving nation—a country for all that will thrive well beyond the next 150 years.”
— NAHEED NENSHI, Mayor of Calgary
“Charlotte Gray writes of Canada with an immigrant’s passion and an insider’s knowledge. With its lively profiles, provocative ideas, and unabashed love of country, The Promise of Canada is a promise kept.”
— CHRISTOPHER MOORE, Award-winning historian and writer
“The Promise of Canada dares to investigate our contradictions and conundrums through the stories of ordinary Canadians who made an extraordinary difference. . . . This book is a triumph and a tour de force.”
— ARITHA VAN HERK, Award-winning author
“If I had to get Canada a gift for its 150th birthday, this book would be at the top of my list. With her richly told stories of these extraordinary Canadians—men and women from all walks of life—Charlotte Gray tells us what’s extraordinary about Canada itself.”
— SUSAN DELACOURT, Award-winning political journalist and author
“I’ve had a literary crush on Charlotte Gray for years. She’s smart, funny, insightful. . . . This fascinating collection of biography as history takes us from West Coast art to strong-jawed Mounties, from Margaret Atwood to Preston Manning, with equal aplomb. Wonderful!”
— WILL FERGUSON, Winner of the 2012 Giller Prize