Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques leaves the stage after speaking to media July 10, 2019, at the Canadian Space Agency headquarters in St. Hubert, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques leaves the stage after speaking to media July 10, 2019, at the Canadian Space Agency headquarters in St. Hubert, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

NHL’s Sidney Crosby, astronaut David Saint-Jacques among 99 named to Order of Canada

Hollywood impressionist Rich Little, esteemed Quebec actor Michel Côté also on the prestigious list

David Saint-Jacques says he has always been “obsessed” with the notion of perspective — from the physical, like understanding where we are in space and what’s beyond the clouds, to the philosophical.

The Canadian astronaut and physician has had more opportunities than most to explore all the meanings of that word. He orbited Earth for 240 days and saw “just how exposed we are in the cosmos.”

Then, less than a year after his stint on the International Space Station, the pandemic hit. And he spent two years working the COVID-19 units at Montreal’s McGill University Health Centre, witnessing heartbreak and solidarity.

If Saint-Jacques has had a lifelong obsession with perspective, it’s perhaps unsurprising that he points to the “many, many, many giants” on whose shoulders he’s been standing — and those who “made it possible for me to come back to Earth alive” — when he is singled out to receive one of the country’s highest honours.

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon announced Thursday that he and 98 others are being appointed to the Order of Canada.

Among the heavy hitters of academia, science, medicine, law and the arts are hockey star Sidney Crosby, currently the captain of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, famed Hollywood impressionist Rich Little and esteemed Quebec actor Michel Côté.

Two existing appointees are being promoted to become companions to the order, the honour roll’s highest status — beloved actor Eugene Levy and Nova Scotia businessman John Bragg.

“It’s very humbling, seriously, to have my name there along people who have accomplished so much on their own steam. I do feel like certainly my accomplishments as an astronaut are really the result of huge teamwork,” Saint-Jacques said.

The astronaut added that the teamwork of the international space program is what gives him hope that humanity can solve its biggest problems. It’s like “a bridge that we built that’s always open,” he said, no matter what is unfolding on the ground.

Another new officer in the order is Harry LaForme, who became Canada’s first Indigenous appellate court judge in 2004.

While serving on the Ontario Superior Court in 2002, LaForme authored an important decision that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ontario, finding that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violated their equality rights. Gay marriage became legal in Ontario a year later.

“It was quite an easy decision for me to make,” he said. “The clarity comes from living a life of being oppressed and being denied rights.”

LaForme spoke about growing up on a First Nation reserve, living through a period when, “You had to get permission to go off the reserve” and speaking to his grandfather, whose life had been overtaken by the department of Indian Affairs, about the erosion of their Indigenous language.

He said he has always remembered what the then-Liberal justice minister, Irwin Cotler, told him upon his appointment to the appeals court.

“I said, ‘Why did you pick me?’ And he said, ‘Well, somebody who knows justice will be somebody who has experienced injustice.’ And that resonated with me.”

When people say that he was ahead of his time on the same-sex marriage decision and on another that paved the way for legal use of cannabis for medical purposes, LaForme disagrees. “I think that was exactly the right time to be doing it.”

LaForme and Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré delivered a report to the federal justice minister in late 2021 that envisions an independent commission to consider wrongful conviction applications. And he is taking on cases related to the over-incarceration of Indigenous Peoples in his role as senior counsel at Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP.

“Anything is better than what we do right now,” he said, urging the government to do better on the issue and follow through on his recommendations. “We’ve got to care about the people that are incarcerated.”

LaForme is not the only Order of Canada appointee who is being recognized for extraordinary achievements but who feels that their work is far from over.

Ronald Deibert, a University of Toronto professor and founder of its unique Citizen Lab, is being recognized “for his leadership and expertise in digital technology, security and human rights, and for his groundbreaking contributions to cybersecurity around the globe.”

No institution houses anything quite like the lab, which combines research from different disciplines to pull back the curtain on cybersecurity. Its reports are informing international policy and global approaches to combating mercenary spyware.

“I wanted to create a counter-intelligence capacity for global civil society, and that’s effectively what we do,” Deibert said. He added that his role is like that of a coach or a general manager on a hockey team, and he feels he is receiving the honour on behalf of the group of professionals who conduct that work.

Deibert, who recently briefed the White House and other high-level audiences about cybersecurity risks, said he’s hoping for more acknowledgment of the problem from the Canadian government. He accused Ottawa of being “asleep at the wheel.”

But he expressed gratitude for being recognized with the accolade, calling it a surreal experience.

“I grew up in a working-class east Vancouver neighbourhood. I didn’t even think I would get much beyond high school, and within my family, I think as far as you can go, I was the only person to go to university,” he said.

“To get this award is just a huge recognition for someone like me and I think others who may be in that position. It just goes to show that … if you care about what you do, you’re passionate and you work hard, it pays off.”

Simon said in a statement that the appointees’ commitment to the betterment of Canada fills her with pride and hope for the future.

“Celebrated trailblazers in their respective fields, they are inspiring, educating and mentoring future generations, creating a foundation of excellence in our country that is respected throughout the world,” her statement said.

The Governor General will offer the awardees their Order of Canada insignia at an investiture ceremony, with the details yet to be announced.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 29, 2022.

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Appointments to the Order of Canada

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon has appointed the following people, who were recommended for appointment by the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada:

Companions

– John Louis Bragg (This is a promotion within the order)

– Eugene Levy (This is a promotion within the order)

Officers

– Gordon John Glenn Asmundson

– Lise Françoise Aubut

– James Ashley Corcoran

– Michel Côté

– Sidney Patrick Crosby

– Eleanor Joanne Daley

– Ronald James Deibert

– Allen Charles Edward Eaves

– Robert Alan Ezrin

– Victor Jay Garber

– André Gaudreault

– Paula Beth Gordon

– Laurence A. Gray

– Eva Grunfeld

– Budd Lionel Hall

– Michael Douglas Hill

– Walter William Jule Jr.

– The Honourable Harry S. LaForme

– Bernard Joseph Lapointe

– Pierre Lassonde

– Andreas Laupacis

– Yves Lenoir

– David Frederick Ley

– Richard Caruthers Little

– Gerald James Lozinski and Joan Mary Lozinski

– Ivar Mendez

– The Honourable Gerald M. Morin

– Eli Rubenstein

– David Saint-Jacques

– Brian Edward Stewart

– Barbara Lewis Zimmerman

Members

– Jean Aitcheson

– Shelley Diane Ambrose

– Ted Barris

– Marie-Dominique Beaulieu

– Stephen Alfred Bell

– John J. M. Bergeron

– Kevin Luke Blackmore

– Sheila Ruth Black

– Bernard Joseph Bocquel

– Louis André Borfiga

– Yvonne Bonnie Bressette

– André H. Caron

– Timothy Allen Caulfield

– The Honourable Maria Emma Chaput

– Wayne Chaulk

– Angela Ella Cooper Brathwaite

– Alan Côté

– Armand Calixte Doucet

– Douglas Allen Dunsmore

– Konrad Eisenbichler

– Carolyn R. Freeman

– Patricia Garel

– Félix Gauthier

– Samuel Gewurz

– Hamlin Washington Grange

– Allan Edward Gross

– Feridun Hamdullahpur

– Lori Haskell

– Raymond John Johnson

– Colleen Patricia Jones

– Martin F. Katz

– Simon Sean Keith

– Warren Charles Seymour Kimel

– Donald Arnold Kossick

– Stéphane Laporte

– Karina Chenelle LeBlanc

– Philippe Lette

– Frederick John Longstaffe

– John Robert Lounds

– Brian Gerald MacKay-Lyons

– Conor Gerard Maguire

– Michael Massey

– Jacqueline Mary Elizabeth Maxwell

– Marc Daniel Mayer

– Heather Mary McGregor

– Roderick McKendrick

– Bill Howard Namagoose

– Patricia Margaret Ningewance

– Michèle Ouimet

– Pitman Benjamin Potter

– Benoît Robert

– Frantz Saintellemy

– Raymond Saint-Pierre

– Victor Sarin

– Michael Schmidt

– Gary S. Segal

– Lorraine P. Segato

– William George Sembo

– Mark Geoffrey Sirett

– Donat Taddeo

– Laurier Thibault

– Mac Van Wielingen

– Stanley Vollant

– The Honourable Konrad Winrich Graf Finck von Finckenstein

– Richard Weisel

Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press

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