Gov. Gen. Julie Payette has made 103 new appointments to the Order of Canada, a list that includes business leaders, authors, theatre directors, athletes and Indigenous leaders.
Among those named to the level of officer of the Order of Canada (the second of three levels) is actress, author and playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald. She is being recognized not only for her contributions to the arts but also for her advocacy of LGBTQ+ and women’s rights.
MacDonald has written several plays but is perhaps best known for her work as an author. Her 1997 book Fall on Your Knees, following the lives of four sisters from Cape Breton Island, was named to Oprah Winfrey’s book club.
“I am deeply honoured. I feel it is a grave honour,” MacDonald told CBC. “It’s truly a serious honour and I am humbled and I wish my father were alive to see it — he passed away a year ago. He would have loved this, although I actually think he is completely aware of it.”
“It’s actually deeply meaningful to me. I am a thoroughgoing Canadian. My mother’s people were immigrants, my father was Royal Canadian Armed Forces. I’ve grown up benefiting from public support for the arts. I live in a community that is diverse. I am a married lesbian, I’ve got two daughters. I just feel that there are so many things that are very, very right with our country.”
MacDonald said if her award could draw attention to all the things that Canada has going for it in a world that seems to be leaning more and more toward populism and the alt-right, she would be honoured.
Christopher Newton, the longtime artistic director of the Shaw Festival, is also being appointed an officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions to live theatre.
Newton retired as artistic director in 2002 after 23 years, and is credited with helping Shaw secure its place as a world class theatre festival with the clout to attract top talent every year.
Maxine Noel, an Indigenous artist from Stratford, Ont., is being appointed a member of the Order of Canada for her work as a visual artist and for encouraging and promoting creative expression in Indigenous communities.
“My art is the way I offer healing to the worlds around me, worlds sitting so often on the cusp of destruction and brutality,” Noel said in a statement. “These worlds are dangerous and beautiful places, sacred to us all, and so their health and their healing are responsibilities we all must take up, each of us finding the work we need to do, and then doing it well and fully.
“I am honoured by my appointment to the Order of Canada, an honour I share with my people, and with all peoples doing the work of making a better world, with those who came before, and with those still to come.”
Shirley Cheechoo from the M’Chigeeng First Nation in Ontario is being named a member “for her multi-dimensional contributions to Canadian film and her support for emerging Indigenous artists.”
Cheechoo, an award-winning filmmaker, director, writer and actor, was a cast member in the CBC-TV series The Rez. She is also the chancellor of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.
Former Olympic cross-country ski racer Beckie Scott, from Canmore, Alta., is being appointed to the officer level of the Order of Canada for her contributions to sport and her work to eliminate doping from amateur sport.
Scott raced in three Olympics — 1998, 2002 and 2006 — and was the first North American woman to win a medal in cross-country skiing after securing gold in Salt Lake City in 2002.
Scott said she felt tremendously grateful to have been born in Canada and to have opportunities to pursue her hopes and dreams.
“The magnitude of receiving such a distinguished award is almost indescribable, and I could not be more honoured to join the ranks of such accomplished Canadians,” she said in a statement.
“My father was an immigrant to Canada, but without question the proudest Canadian I knew. He would have been profoundly moved to know I was receiving this award, and so I dedicate this to him and his indomitable spirit.”
Dominique Rankin, a residential school survivor from La Conception, Que., is being named to the member level “for his dedication to the preservation of Algonquin culture and for his advocacy of peace as an elder and spiritual leader.”
“I was very surprised. I am very happy and I am very proud of what has happened for me. I have worked very hard in my life,” Rankin said. “This will help me to continue my vision.”
Rankin said that he wants to continue to work toward reconciliation, healing and peace and hopes the profile the honour gives him helps in his mission.
“I want to help reconciliation, I believe in that. We talk often now about residential schools, not to relive the suffering but for healing.
“We have the same colour blood, it’s only outside we appear as another colour, and that is my vision for today.”
Canadian broadcaster Daniel Lessard had a 39-year career at Radio-Canada that saw him serve as a national correspondent on Parliament Hill before being promoted to Ottawa bureau chief. He’s being named to the member level for “his analysis and popularization of Canadian politics and for his literary achievements.”
“It’s a great honour at this stage of my career to find myself amongst people I admire, like Jean Béliveau, Oscar Peterson, Andrée Lachapelle, Marie-Claire Blais and good friends like Chantal Hébert, Bernard Derome and Don Newman,” he told CBC.
Lessard said he hopes the recognition of his work draws attention to the need for news organizations to make politics and political stories as accessible as possible.
“Our political system is not perfect, all politicians are not perfect, but it is a much better system than any other. In this era of so much false news, I also hope that my humble contribution will encourage people to get their news from proven media sources.”
André Simard of Saint-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., who has worked with with Cirque du Soleil since 1987, is being appointed a member “for his expertise in choreographing spectacular acrobatic and aerial acts for the circus arts, both in Canada and on the world stage.”
Simard was also a three-time Canadian men’s all around gymnastic champion who represented Canada at the Munich Olympics before moving into a training role for young gymnasts.
“All my life, I have given the best of myself unconditionally to my athletes, student artists and employers. I am very proud of that,” he said in a statement.
“I would especially like to thank Jean Paul Marcil and Richard Montpetit, who guided me throughout my career as a gymnast, and all those who have accompanied me along the many paths my life has taken. “