The recent announcement that Henry Morgentaler was to be honored with the Order of Canada allows us the opportunity to discuss this little understood award. The Order of Canada began in 1967. The motto is “desiderantes meliorem patriam” which translates to “those who desire a better country.” According to the web site of the Governor General: “any person or group is welcome to nominate a deserving individual as candidate for appointment to the Order of Canada. Nominations should be accompanied by biographical notes detailing the career and achievements of the nominee.”
Nominations go to an independent advisory council, chaired by the Chief Justice of Canada, whose make-up reflects the diversity and excellence in Canadian society. The council then makes their recommendation to the Governor General. There are 165 members of the Order at any one time. They separate into levels as listed below:
Companion – Recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement and merit of the highest degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large.
Officer – Recognizes a lifetime of achievement and merit of a high degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large.
Member – Recognizes a lifetime of distinguished service in or to a particular community, group or field of activity.
From the GGs web site: “All Canadians are eligible for the Order of Canada, with the exception of federal and provincial politicians and judges while in office. There are no posthumous appointments. Officers and Members may be elevated within the Order in recognition of further achievement, based on continued exceptional or extraordinary service to Canada. Usually, promotions are considered five years after the first appointment.”
The Order’s constitution permits non-Canadians to be considered for honorary appointments. They may be considered for outstanding achievement that reflects honor on Canada and/or lifetime contributions to humanity at large.
When you listen to the rhetoric over the announcement of the Order of Canada honor given to Montrealer and Canadian Henry Morgentaler, bear in mind the actual honor, and make up your own mind if he deserves it.