5 contributors to U.S. society with ties to Canada

Jennifer Granholm gesturing while speaking into microphone (© Andrew Harnik/AP Images)
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was born in Vancouver. (© Andrew Harnik/AP Images)

People with Canadian roots have long contributed to American culture, society, sport and government.

Take James Naismith, the physical education teacher born and raised in Almonte, Ontario, who invented the game of basketball more than 100 years ago in Springfield, Massachusetts. Or Alex Trebek, the late beloved television game show host. Before his time hosting the American quiz show Jeopardy!, Trebek attended the University of Ottawa, just a short walk from the U.S. Embassy in Canada’s capital.

Contributors in the scientific realm include Canadian-American Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone, and Roger Tomlinson, who invented geographic information systems to help people visualize mapping data.

After Vice President Harris was born and spent her formative years in California, she lived for several of her teenage years in Montreal, where she graduated from Westmount High School. And Steph Curry, who lived in Toronto as a boy, has lit up the National Basketball Association, winning three NBA championships with the Golden State Warriors.

The United States is the most popular destination for Canadian emigrants, with 60% of them coming to the U.S., according to the Migration Policy Institute. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey reports 797,158 people in the U.S. were born in Canada.

In honor of Canada Day on July 1, ShareAmerica highlights five people with Canadian heritage making outsized contributions in the U.S.

Jennifer Granholm

Born in Vancouver, Granholm (photo above) serves the American people as the U.S. Secretary of Energy. She leads a department that reduces the threat of nuclear proliferation, oversees the United States’ energy supply, carries out environmental cleanups and more. Before joining the president’s Cabinet, Granholm made history as the first woman to serve as governor of Michigan. During her two terms as governor, the dual citizen saw that state through an economic crisis, working to preserve manufacturing, including the auto industry, while encouraging new sectors such as clean energy. Earlier, she was Michigan’s attorney general and assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox smiling (© Greg Allen/Invision/AP Images)
Michael J. Fox (© Greg Allen/Invision/AP Images)

The former teen heartthrob rose to prominence in the 1980s and has starred in roles in the iconic Back to the Future movies and television situational comedies Family Ties and Spin City. Since then, Fox, who hails from Alberta and became a dual Canadian-American citizen in 2000, has used his voice to advocate for those with Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosed himself in 1991, Fox formed the Michael J. Fox Foundation nine years later to fund research for a cure. Declining health prompted him to retire from acting, a career that garnered him numerous awards, including four Golden Globes and five Primetime Emmys. His foundation, meanwhile, has donated more than $1 billion toward health research.

Sydney Leroux

Two women running toward soccer ball (© Gary McCullough/AP Images)
Orlando Pride forward Sydney Leroux (left) and NJ/NY Gotham FC goalkeeper DiDi Haracic race for the ball during a match in 2021 in Orlando, Florida. (© Gary McCullough/AP Images)

She’s got game! Leroux’s talents on the pitch helped the women’s U.S. national soccer team win the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, the country of her birth, and a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Having played professional soccer since 2013, the British Columbia native recently signed a three-year contract renewing her place on the Orlando Pride, her professional team since 2018. She holds dual citizenship in Canada and the United States.

Ryan Reynolds

Ryan Reynolds smiling (© Charles Sykes/Invision/AP Images)
Ryan Reynolds (© Charles Sykes/Invision/AP Images)

Reynolds made history in 2010, when he became the first Canadian named by People magazine as “Sexiest Man Alive.” Much earlier, the Vancouver-born actor, film producer and entrepreneur starred in Hillside, a 1990s Canadian teen soap opera. He has starred in numerous films, including the American superhero movies Deadpool and Deadpool 2. He is well known for his charity work in both countries and as half of Hollywood’s “Canadian Ryans” (the other half is Ontario native Ryan Gosling). Reynolds recently became a U.S. citizen and voted in his first presidential election.

Jason Wu

Jason Wu on runway (© Richard Drew/AP Images)
Designer Jason Wu walks the runway. (© Richard Drew/AP Images)

Wu famously designed dresses for former first lady Michelle Obama, including the gowns she wore at both of President Barack Obama’s inaugurations. Before he launched his own clothing line, Wu trained under American designer Narciso Rodriguez, who also designed dresses for Michelle Obama. Besides clothing, Wu has designed fashion dolls for RuPaul and launched nail polish colors in collaboration with Creative Nail Design. Wu was born in Taiwan, raised in Vancouver and lives in New York City.