I may be asking for a unicorn here. But is there a plant you can suggest that will grow well in shade ( our backyard is covered in very mature maples) provide privacy year round and look as little like a cedar or another confer as possible. I for instance was looking into ornamental Euonimous.
Thank you for reaching out to Toronto Master Gardeners.
You are not asking for a unicorn at all. In fact Toronto Master Gardeners have produced a very thorough User Guide on ornamental shrubs.
You may wish to reconsider the Euonymus, but there are also many ornamental shrubs that are recommended for shade. Not all are going to provide as much privacy as others. For example the grey dogwood can grow up to 10 feet tall. The common witch hazel may be another good choice. The cut leaf sumac can grow quite large, and can put on quite a show of orange flowers. The spread and size of this plant can be controlled.
As you can see, there are many options. We wish you every success in finding a plant suitable to your taste and location.