OTTAWA — Wayne Gretzky, arguably Canada’s favourite hockey great, is getting Canada’s highest honour — he’s being made a companion to the Order of Canada.
Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean announced the appointment of Gretzky, a National Hockey League hall of famer and current head coach of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, along with 59 other appointments Wednesday.
These will be added to the 5,600 other recipients of the order since its inception in 1967.
There are three levels of membership in the order, including companion — the highest honour — officer and member.
Gretzky is receiving a promotion to companion from officer for his continued role as a philanthropist, volunteer and role model.
The other recipients range from Michel Bastarache, law professor and judge, for his promotion and protection of linguistic duality and minority rights, to Robert Lepage for his international contributions to the performing arts as an actor, producer and director.
Chantal Petitclerc, the Paralympic champion, will be honoured for her commitment to developing sports for athletes with a disability and Laurence Freeman, spiritual leader and director of the World Community for Christian Meditation, is receiving the order for his promotion of peace and inter-religious dialogue and understanding.
The award is given “to recognize excellence in Canadians,” said spokeswoman Marie-Eve Letourneau. “And if their actions encourage other Canadians to contribute to their country in their own way, then that’s great.”
This year, Sima Samar was made an honourary officer, one of only 14 non-Canadians to receive the honour — and the only one this year. The Afghan champion of human and women’s rights is a medical doctor, who chairs the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Samar held a cabinet post in the Afghan Transitional Administration led by Hamid Karzai until she was forced to resign after she received death threats for questioning conservative Islamic laws.
Anyone can be nominated to the order but final appointments are made by an independent council chaired by the chief justice of Canada.
The order recognizes Canadians and non-Canadians, including leaders and visionaries who excel in the arts, sports, volunteer service, public service and health care.
For the complete list of Order of Canada recipients,
go to http://www.gg.ca/media/doc.asp?lange&DocID5815.
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service