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Manitobans may be much too modest

West shortchanged on Order of Canada list: study

Gov. Gen. David Johnston invests Winnipeg architect Étienne Gaboury into the Order of Canada last November.


Gov. Gen. David Johnston invests Winnipeg architect Étienne Gaboury into the Order of Canada last November.

OTTAWA -- Order of Canada medals have been awarded disproportionately to Atlantic Canadians, while Westerners have been shortchanged on the prestigious civilian decoration, an Ottawa Citizen analysis has found.

Residents of the four Atlantic provinces are nearly twice as likely to be recognized with an Order of Canada on a per capita basis as those who live in the West, the data show.

Alberta alone has a population nearly 50 per cent greater than the four Atlantic provinces combined, but its residents have received 35 per cent fewer total Orders of Canada.

It is unclear exactly why Atlantic Canadians have scooped up more than their proportional share of the medals. It could be people from Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia are more modest about nominating their peers than those from the East. Or, perhaps there's a bias in the award process.

Or, possibly, Atlantic Canadians are simply more accomplished in the fields of endeavour that are traditionally recognized by the Order of Canada advisory committee.

Artists, authors and entertainers make up a steadily increasing share of recipients of the honours, the Ottawa Citizen analysis shows, while the number going to politicians has fallen.

Among the Atlantic Canadians honoured with Companionships -- the highest rank within the Order of Canada -- are artists Christopher Pratt and Alex Colville, former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Joey Smallwood and Willard Boyle, inventor of the CCD sensors used in digital cameras.

Albertans on the list of Companions include former Reform party leader Preston Manning, businessman Ronald Southern and former premier Peter Lougheed.

Even in the highest rank, Atlantic Canadians do proportionately better, too. There's one Companion of the Order of Canada handed out for every 111,000 people in the four Atlantic provinces, but only one for every 161,000 in the West.

The Eastern bias in the awards cannot be blamed on the Governor General who hands them out as anyone can nominate someone for the award. An advisory committee chaired by Supreme Court of Justice Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin reviews the nominations, then forwards recommendations to the Governor General.

Rideau Hall did not offer an explanation for the regional disparity in honours. A spokesperson said only that the advisory committee makes recommendations based "on merit."

The number of orders the Governor General can hand out in any one year is limited to 106 Members, the lowest rank, 52 Officers and 15 Companions. The number of living Companions is further limited to 165.

Whatever the reason, the trend shows no signs of reversing. Since 1967, Atlantic Canadians have taken an increasing share of Orders while the rest of the country has fallen off or remained steady.

The proportion of honours given to Quebec residents each year has declined over the past 44 years, while the share going to Ontario recipients has remained largely the same.

The Ottawa Citizen analyzed more than 5,800 appointments made since the Order of Canada was created in 1967, when former governor general Roland Michener became the first honoree.

The geographic distribution of the recipients shows tiny Prince Edward Island punches well above its weight, with more Orders of Canada per capita than any other province, followed by Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Similarly, the top three cities of residence among recipients are all in Atlantic Canada. There's one of the hexagonal white medals for about every 1,400 people in Charlottetown.

The Companion of the Order of Canada is not actually Canada's top civilian honour. The rarely awarded Order of Merit, handed out by the Queen to distinguished members of the Commonwealth, is the top prize. Former prime minister Jean Chrétien is the only living Canadian so honoured.


-- Postmedia News

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