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Governor-General Julie Payette delivers the Throne Speech in the Senate chamber, Dec. 5, 2019, in Ottawa.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Governor-General is cancelling the next round of appointments for the Order of Canada, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an announcement about a soon-to-be released list of Canadians who have won other awards, the Governor-General’s office also said it would not keep the July 1 tradition of releasing a new list of Order of Canada appointees.

“Due to the global state of affairs, the advisory council was unable to meet,” read the brief press release issued on Monday. Instead of announcing new Order nominees on Canada Day, the office of Governor-General Julie Payette “will publish a list of remarkable Canadians who have learned in recent months” that they have received other awards.

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The change is a break in tradition dating back to at least 2005. Press releases on the Governor-General’s website announcing the appointments do not go back further.

The Order of Canada is one of the country’s highest civilian honours. It is given to people who embody its Latin motto: they desire a better country. Since its creation in 1967, nearly 7,500 people have been invested into the order, according to the Governor-General’s website.

In a subsequent statement, Ms. Payette’s office said the nominations were cancelled because the advisory council’s spring meeting couldn’t take place “in accordance with public health guidelines regarding gatherings.”

The council reviews and votes on all nominations. Each candidate must have a majority of votes to be appointed to the Order of Canada.

“This council is composed of prominent members whose schedule in response to the pandemic offered limited flexibility for rescheduling the meeting in time for the July 1 announcement,” spokeswoman Julie Rocheleau said.

Ms. Payette’s office did not explain why the meeting could not proceed on a video-conferencing platform, use of which has skyrocketed since the novel coronavirus put an end to most in-person gatherings in March.

Efforts to contact the 10 members of the advisory council were unsuccessful on Monday.

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Ms. Rocheleau said the next meeting will be on a pre-set date in November. She did not say whether it would be by teleconference or in person. “The council meets twice a year, bringing together the members to discuss in person and in confidence, the numerous nominations, for a full day,” she said.

The council is chaired by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Richard Wagner.

“The team responsible for the administration of Canadian honours took advantage of this delay to develop new evaluation tools for the advisory council,” Ms. Rocheleau said. She said the office is also looking for technology to process more nominations per year starting in 2021.

The Governor-General’s office did not clarify by deadline whether the cancelled nominations will mean fewer people are awarded the Order of Canada this year.

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