WINNIPEG — Local human rights lawyer David Matas is among the 60 newest members of the Order of Canada, announced Tuesday by Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean.
The longtime advocate — currently senior legal counsel to B’nai Brith Canada and a former president of the Canadian Council of Refugees — was recognized for his contributions to human rights legislation as well as to immigration and refugee law.
“For me it’s a reinforcement to carry on with the work I’m doing,” said Matas from his office in Winnipeg Tuesday. “Human rights advocacy can sometimes get quite disillusioning because human rights violations keep continuing, they never end. And the perpetrators pay little attention to the advocacy.”
Matas has maintained a private practice in refugee, immigration and human rights law since the late 1970s. He has been involved with a number of international groups promoting human rights and high profile cases before the Supreme Court of Canada.
He has served as a member of delegations to the United Nations General Assembly, the Task Force on Immigration Practices, the UN’s Conference on an International Criminal Court, the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust and the International Centre for Human Rights & Democratic Development.
Recently, he co-authored a report investigating claims the Chinese government has been harvesting organs from imprisoned practitioners of Falun Gong. The report concluded the allegations were true.
A second Winnipeg resident — Ian C.P. Smith, already a member of the Order — was promoted to the station of officer yesterday.
Smith was promoted for his leadership in the advancement, development and commercialization of Canada’s diagnostic technologies, notably magnetic resonance imaging and its applications in the field of health care.
Other notable appointments included pop diva Celine Dion (who was promoted to a companion of the Order) and Willie O’Ree, the first black hockey player in the NHL.
The new recipients will receive their Order insignias at ceremonies to be held at a later date.