The Order of Canada marks its 50th anniversary this year with 99 new appointments on its Canada Day honours list, including renowned figures from the fields of law, government, entertainment and sport, as well as Canadians whose contributions are less widely known.
The list includes soccer star Christine Sinclair, television host Alex Trebek, actor Catherine O’Hara and Globe and Mail editorial cartoonist Brian Gable.
Three people were named to the highest rank, Companion of the Order of Canada: former Supreme Court Justice Marshall Rothstein, National Arts Centre president Peter Herrndorf and The Prince of Wales.
Nineeteen people were named Officers of the Order of Canada, including former spymaster Richard Fadden, hockey player Mark Messier and actor Michael Myers. There were 77 people named as members of the Order, including opera singer Tracy Dahl, historian Bill Waiser, public health nurse Cathy Crowe and Indigenous leader Terrance Paul.
The Order of Canada is considered one of the country’s highest civilian honours. It was created in the centennial year of 1967 to recognize outstanding achievement and service to the community. More than 6,700 people have been named to the Order in its 50 years.
When Yoshua Bengio, now 53, came to Canada from France at age 12, he was fascinated by science fiction and dreamed of an age where robots could actually think for themselves. Now a computer-science professor at the University of Montreal and a world leader in the field of artificial intelligence, he says sci-fi films over the years have always disappointed him.
“I think those movies are trying to reach a very wide audience, catering to our fears rather than being anchored in the science,” Prof. Bengio said. “I still watch all the science-fiction movies, though.”
It’s the possibilities of AI, not the fear of it, which has driven his groundbreaking research into how machines can be made to learn. His work is cited as part of the foundation for the current AI gold rush, and praised for putting Canada in a leadership position as companies pour millions into finding new ways to apply the emerging technology everywhere from smartphone apps to doctor’s offices.
Prof. Bengio did his undergraduate and graduate work at McGill in the 1980s, when “neural networks,” and “deep learning” – attempts to make computers that learn in a way that mimics the human brain – were dismissed as “crazy,” he says, even in AI circles. But he would champion it for his entire career.
Now, in addition to his academic post, he is the head of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, which funds AI research, as well as an adviser to Microsoft and the brains behind a startup called Element AI. But don’t worry, he says, computers are a long way from taking over.
“We are still very far from computers that can think as well as humans or at least understand the world as well as humans,” Prof. Bengio said. “But the progress has passed the point of allowing these systems to have a big impact economically and on the well-being of people.”
- Jeff Gray
A former Toronto poet laureate, Governor-General’s award winner, novelist and political activist, Dionne Brand has built her life and career around thinking and writing about Canada’s relationship with race and immigration.
With rage and sorrow, she has used her own experience as a black woman to question how the country has sidelined voices outside the mainstream.
“If only I had something to tell you, from here, / some good thing that would weather / the atmospheres of the last thirty years,” she wrote in 2010’s Ossuaries, the Griffin Poetry Prize winner that The Globe and Mail reviewer Sonnet L’Abbé described as a “furious dirge.”
“It is an honour to receive [the Order of Canada] with thanks to unknown and unheralded Black Canadians who made/make my art and existence possible,” Ms. Brand wrote in a statement to The Globe and Mail. “I want to highlight here that glowing genealogy: from Marie Joseph Angélique who, in her escape from enslavement, set fire to the city of Montreal in 1734; to the young girl in 1772 whose name was Thursday and who fled from slavery in Nova Scotia; to the young men today in Toronto, whose names are written on cards and held in the police files of the city, apprehended for being human; to all of the people who wake up each day living in spite of racism and who, with conscience, protest on the streets calling for simply living; to all who every day do the groundwork to make Black life meaningful. All these beautiful lives are the reason I write. They make me wake up each morning asking: What poetry must I make to requite their being? What world must I imagine? What words must I write today?”
Living in Toronto – the subject of several of her novels – has made imagining a different future possible, she added in an e-mail interview. “I grew into a writer in the city and the city, with its multiple languages, multiple communities, grew into the place I most want to live. I’ve felt in my work, my poems and novels, the odd sensation of writing the city into being, though that city that I imagine, and that city that is possible, is yet unfinished ….”
- Simona Chiose
(Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, Newfoundland and Labrador)
Joyce Churchill’s son, Stephen, was 21 years old when the province of Newfoundland agreed to provide money for an early intervention program for children with autism. It had taken Ms. Churchill and a support group of parents more than a decade to convince the government that investing in their children was worthwhile.
“As parents we had to fight really hard to get anything at all for our children,” recalled Ms. Churchill, who would go on to co-found and helm the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador. “In the 1970s, children with autism were at the bottom of the barrel. It was a condition that was not well understood. We signed off that our children had mental retardation in order to get support in the schools.”
With the help of other parents, two older daughters and “a good husband and a good father,” Ms. Churchill had managed. But she and other parents also knew early interventions would have made a difference.
In 1998, when they finally won support for a pilot program, the group was elated.
“We came out of the government office with our arms in the air,” she said.
“We had older children then, but we believed and we went to bat for the younger children,” she said. “We knew that if this worked, and we knew that it was going to, we were going to make sure that there will be no taking it away and that’s what happened. The program became part of the fabric of this province.”
After the early intervention program, Ms. Churchill and her group turned to building an education and support centre with help from private donor Elaine Dobbin. Memorial University provided the land for a 100-year lease for $1. Now, children and adults with autism can enroll in research trials at the centre. The centre also has a garden-to-café program staffed by participants.
Demand for help has grown as a result of the success of her group and others across the country, Ms. Churchill said. “There is an increase in understanding and diagnosis, it’s no longer a mystery what this is.”
- Simona Chiose
In 1974, Catherine Latimer took a summer job that would change her life and the course of Canadian justice.
She was 20 years old and had no particular career path in mind, except that she wanted to avoid following her father into law, which she considered “as dull as dishwater.”
That summer, she worked as an assistant juvenile supervisor at Brookside Training School, a vocational school for juvenile delinquents an hour east of Toronto. Under the laws of the time, young offenders were considered a product of a poor upbringing, so the state assumed the role of parent, stripping away many rights.
“It was a very unfair denial of liberty there,” she said. “It buttressed an awareness of the need to have protection of peoples’ rights when they’re facing the state’s criminal law power. That sort of became my motivating force.”
She entered law school at Queen’s University the next year. Within eight years she would be working directly on youth justice legislation with the Department of Solicitor General. And in 1997, she began leading a team of lawyers that would draft entirely new youth justice legislation.
Her motivation to effect change from within government stalled around the time Stephen Harper took control of a majority government. “There were fewer opportunities to promote justice from within,” she said. “Rights were just not that important.”
That year, 2011, she left government work and took the helm of the John Howard Society of Canada, a prisoner advocacy organization as old as Confederation. The work is not so different from what she did as a summer student. She talks with inmates steadily, only now she gets to raise their concerns in corridors of power across the country. Right now, the society is part of a lawsuit aimed at declaring solitary confinement, or administrative segregation, unconstitutional.
“I’m hopeful we’ll see significant improvements in the correctional area in Canada, starting with a different approach to administrative segregation,” she said. “Great things can happen on the corrections front.”
- Patrick White
His courtroom victories in the last four years alone could fill a legal textbook on how to fight for human rights. He was part of a constitutional challenge to the previous government’s health-care cuts for refugees. He represented Zunera Ishaq, a Muslim woman who wished to wear the traditional niqab to a citizenship ceremony. A judge ruled the ban on face-coverings during the oath illegal. He fought a law revoking the citizenship of naturalized citizens without a hearing before an independent decision maker, when the revocation was based on fraud. A judge gave the government two months to fix the law.
And he has represented the Canadian Bar Association at the Supreme Court, intervening in the cases of convicted or suspected terrorists such as Omar Khadr, Adil Charkaoui and Mohamed Harkat. He was also counsel for Hassan Almrei, cleared by the Federal Court after being accused of being connected to Al Qaeda. “The issue in every case is always the extent to which people are entitled to due process in our legal system,” Mr. Waldman says. “These cases are the ones that always challenge the legal system the most. It’s these cases that define more than any other the extent to which we really are a democratic society.”
The 64-year-old says he found his vocation in response to the Jewish experience with anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. Two grandparents came to Canada to escape Russian pogroms in the early 1900s, and dozens of members of his extended family were murdered during the Holocaust. Right out of law school in the 1970s, he went to work as a lawyer representing immigrants and refugees.
“That’s all I’ve done, ever,” says the married father of three, who has a daughter working as a lawyer in his 13-lawyer firm.
“I think the experience that my family had during the Holocaust made me very sensitive to any type of discrimination or racism and made me aware of how important it was to always speak out.”
- Sean Fine
Gloria Cranmer Webster
(Alert Bay, British Columbia)
In 1921, Gloria Cranmer Webster’s father, a hereditary chief of the Kwakwaka’wakw people, hosted what was long considered the last great potlatch, a ceremony banned in Canada from 1884 to 1951. The potlatch, a ceremony of singing, dancing, speech making and elaborate gift giving was an important legal tradition, and was seen as a threat to the government’s attempts to assimilate Indigenous people. Police raided the ceremony, arrested more than 40 Indigenous participants and confiscated masks and ceremonial artifacts, considered treasures by the Kwakwaka’wakw people.
Ms. Webster, 85, left home when she was still young to attend high school in Victoria, and was among the first Indigenous students to graduate from the University of British Columbia, where she studied anthropology. She returned to UBC many years later to work as assistant curator at the Museum of Anthropology and it was there, in the mid-1970s, that she started thinking about “getting our treasures back.”
Ms. Webster eventually succeeded in bringing those treasures home to Alert Bay, in the north of Vancouver Island, where she helped launch a cultural centre.
“It was important to let the world know that what the government did in 1921 was illegal,” Ms. Webster said. The U’mista Cultural Centre opened in the early 1980s to house the artifacts and Ms. Webster played an important role in its design. Her approach differed from what she’d seen in mainstream museums. There are no glass cases – just objects on display without adornment. She labelled them with descriptions that elders had used in their correspondence with the government.
“It was very exciting. Emotional,” she said of the objects’ return. “Our old people had begun to believe they would never see them again.”
- Joe Friesen
The full list
COMPANIONS OF THE ORDER OF CANADA
Peter A. Herrndorf, C.C., O.Ont. (Ottawa, Ontario)
This is a promotion within the Order.
The Honourable Marshall Rothstein, C.C., Q.C. (Ottawa, Ontario)
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, K.G., K.T., G.C.B., O.M., A.K., Q.S.O., C.C., C.D., P.C., A.D.C. (London, United Kingdom)
This is an appointment to the Extraordinary Companion category of the Order of Canada.
OFFICERS OF THE ORDER OF CANADA
Joseph Arvay, O.C. (Victoria, British Columbia)
Yoshua Bengio, O.C. (Montréal, Quebec)
Darleen Bogart, O.C. (Toronto, Ontario)
Abdallah S. Daar, O.C. (Toronto, Ontario)
Denis Daneman, O.C. (Toronto, Ontario)
Mary Anne Eberts, O.C. (Toronto, Ontario)
Richard Brian Marcel Fadden, O.C. (Ottawa, Ontario)
Chad Gaffield, O.C. (Ottawa, Ontario)
Mark Messier, O.C. (Edmonton, Alberta and Andover, Massachusetts, U.S.A.)
Michael John Myers, O.C. (Scarborough, Ontario and New York, New York, U.S.A.)
Catherine O’Hara, O.C. (Toronto, Ontario and Beverly Hills, California, U.S.A.)
William Siebens, O.C. (Calgary, Alberta)
Christine Margaret Sinclair, O.C. (Burnaby, British Columbia and Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.)
Michèle Stanton-Jean, O.C., O.Q. (Outremont, Quebec)
Alex Trebek, O.C. (Sudbury, Ontario and Studio City, California, U.S.A.)
Hieu Cong Truong, O.C. (Ottawa, Ontario)
Jean-Marc Vallée, O.C. (Montréal, Quebec)
Gloria Cranmer Webster, O.C. (Alert Bay, British Columbia)
The Honourable Wayne G. Wouters, P.C., O.C. (Ottawa, Ontario)
MEMBERS OF THE ORDER OF CANADA
Paul Albrechtsen, C.M., O.M. (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Judith G. Bartlett, C.M. (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Rod Beattie, C.M. (Stratford, Ontario)
Ross J. Beaty, C.M. (Vancouver, British Columbia)
René-Luc Blaquière, C.M. (Montréal, Quebec)
René Blouin, C.M. (Montréal, Quebec)
Louise Boisvert, C.M. (Sherbrooke, Quebec)
Denis Boivin, C.M. (Verdun, Quebec)
Edwin Robert Bourget, C.M. (Québec, Quebec)
Pierre Bourgie, C.M., O.Q. (Montréal, Quebec)
Dionne Brand, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Geoffrey Cape, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Chantal Caron, C.M. (Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Quebec)
Graydon Carter, C.M. (Ottawa, Ontario and New York, New York, U.S.A.)
Meredith Chilton, C.M. (Lac-Brome, Quebec)
Joyce Churchill, C.M. (Portugal Cove-St. Philips, Newfoundland and Labrador)
Susan Coyne, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Susan Elizabeth Crocker, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Cathy Crowe, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Tracy Dahl, C.M. (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Michel Dallaire, C.M., C.Q. (Québec, Quebec)
Peter B. Dent, C.M. (Hamilton, Ontario)
Alan Doyle, C.M. (St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador)
Nady A. el-Guebaly, C.M. (Calgary, Alberta)
The Honourable Liza Frulla, P.C., C.M., O.Q. (Sutton, Quebec)
Brian F. Gable, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Lise Gaboury-Diallo, C.M. (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Emmanuelle Gattuso, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Douglas Maitland Gibson, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Sibylla Hesse, C.M. and François Godbout, C.M. (Dunham and Montréal, Quebec)
Rick Green, C.M., O.Ont. (Waterdown, Ontario)
Diane Proulx-Guerrera, C.M. and Salvatore Guerrera, C.M. (Rosemère, Quebec)
Ellen Hamilton, C.M. (Iqaluit, Nunavut)
Robert Keith Harman, C.M. (Almonte, Ontario)
Christopher House, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Mi’sel Joe, C.M. (Conne River, Newfoundland and Labrador)
Roxanne Joyal, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Daniel Kandelman, C.M. (Montréal, Quebec)
Margo Kane, C.M. (Vancouver, British Columbia)
Gregory S. Kealey, C.M. (Fredericton, New Brunswick)
François Mario Labbé, C.M., C.Q. (Montréal, Quebec)
Daniel Roland Lanois, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Catherine Latimer, C.M. (Kingston, Ontario)
Sylvia L’Écuyer, C.M. (Delta, British Columbia)
Garry M. Lindberg, C.M. (Ottawa, Ontario)
John Macfarlane, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Pierre Maisonneuve, C.M. (Montréal, Quebec)
Félix Maltais, C.M. (Montréal, Quebec)
Patricia Mandy, C.M. (Dundas, Ontario)
Michael Massie, C.M. (Kippens, Newfoundland and Labrador)
Peter Gould McAuslan, C.M. (Montréal, Quebec)
Kim McConnell, C.M. (Okotoks, Alberta)
Marguerite Mendell, C.M., O.Q. (Montréal, Quebec)
Paul Mills, C.M. (London, Ontario)
Saeed Mirza, C.M. (Verdun, Quebec)
Anita Molzahn, C.M. (Edmonton, Alberta)
George Myhal, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Élise Paré-Tousignant, C.M., O.Q. (Deschambault-Grondines, Quebec)
Terrance Paul, C.M. (Membertou, Nova Scotia)
Jean Perrault, C.M., C.Q. (Sherbrooke, Quebec)
André Perry, C.M. (Saint-Sauveur, Quebec)
Jane Ash Poitras, C.M. (Edmonton, Alberta)
Gail Erlick Robinson, C.M., O.Ont. (Toronto, Ontario)
Judy Rogers, C.M. (Vancouver, British Columbia)
Jacqueline Fanchette Clay Shumiatcher, C.M., S.O.M. (Regina, Saskatchewan)
John H. Sims, C.M. (Ottawa, Ontario)
Gordon J. Smith, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
William Earl Stafford, C.M. (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Bryan W. Tisdall, C.M. (Richmond, British Columbia)
William Waiser, C.M., S.O.M. (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)
Lorne Waldman, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Sharon Lynn Walmsley, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)
Meeka Walsh, C.M. (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Bert Wasmund, C.M. (Milton, Ontario)
William Wilder, C.M. (Toronto, Ontario)