Former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall and author Joseph Boyden are among those appointed to the Order of Canada.
Hall was Toronto’s last mayor before amalgamation, serving from 1994 to 1997. Before running for office, she worked as a community activist and a lawyer. She was the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission from 2005 to 2015, and was recently part of a seven-member panel that reviewed operations at the Toronto District School Board.
Nominations for the Order of Canada are reviewed by an independent council chaired by the chief justice of Canada. Individuals are appointed on merit to recognize outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.
Rideau Hall has been actively working to ensure its honours reach more Canadians. Earlier this year, Gov. Gen. David Johnston flagged two areas of particular concern for the Order of Canada: gender and regional representation.
Spokesperson Emily Keogh said females make up 46 per cent of the latest appointees. A previous list released in July had 44 per cent of female appointments — a bump from the average of 31 per cent between 2010 and 2014, she noted, adding there is there is also “great diversity” among the recipients including filmmaker Atom Egoyan and author Rohinton Mistry.
Boyden, an award-winning author whose work vividly documents the complexity of Canada’s indigenous history, was appointed in a year when aboriginal issues have dominated the national agenda.
Boyden’s books include Three Day Road and The Orenda,
In its citation, Rideau Hall said Boyden was being recognized for his contributions to telling stories of “common heritage” and for his social engagement “notably in support of First Nations.”
The novelist, who also served as an honorary witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission studying Canada’s painful residential school legacy, said he believes the arts are a powerful tool to help repair fractured relationships between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.
“I have come to realize that I think art is the way to allow Canadians to begin to understand in a way that is manageable at first for them to understand something of such huge pain,” he said in an interview.
“We can lecture all we want about the ongoing intergenerational trauma but those words sometimes don’t sink in.
“I think stories, I think novels, I think film, I think dance, I think painting, all of this allows Canadians to absorb not just the pain and the anger but the beauty as well.”