Yann Martel, Murray Sinclair top list of those named to Order of Canada for extraordinary contributions
CBC News | December 29, 2021
This year's list also includes Canada's 1st woman national airline pilot and a compassionate restaurateur
Former senator Murray Sinclair and novelist Yann Martel are among the 135 appointees to the Order of Canada, announced Wednesday by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon.
This year's list also includes the first Canadian woman hired as a national airline pilot, public health and equity advocates, a CBC investigative journalist and a business owner who donated thousands of meals to frontline workers during the pandemic, even as his own restaurants lost income.
Considered one of Canada's highest civilian honours, the Order of Canada is meant to recognize people who make "extraordinary contributions to the nation," according to the Governor General of Canada website.
Martel and Sinclair were both named as companions, the highest of the honour's three levels, which also include the level of officer and member. There can be no more than 165 living companions at any time.
Martel, best known for his 2001 novel Life of Pi, said he loved getting awards for his books, but felt "embarrassed" by having the award attached to him personally. His citation noted his contributions to literature as well as philanthropy.
'So many other people who I can think of'
"My first thought was, there were so many other people who I can think of — lesser-known groups, volunteers, [and people] who have had incredibly difficult lives," he said. "Surely they deserve it, too."
He said he'd like to see others rewarded, rather than "another overprivileged white male," but that he plans to use the attention to highlight causes he supports in Saskatoon.
Martel attributed his success as a novelist to a great deal of good luck, along with hard work.
"It all comes down to luck, so I don't think luck should necessarily be rewarded," he said. "But for my books, I'm happy."
Sinclair recognized for reconciliation efforts
Sinclair, who is also the former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is recognized for his "commitment to the representation of Indigenous legal issues and his dedication to reconciliation" between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, according to Wednesday's statement.
The TRC released 94 calls to action in 2015 in its report that found 4,100 named and unnamed students died in residential schools across Canada.
This past spring, after hundreds of potential unmarked graves were found at the sites of several former residential schools across Canada, the federal government unanimously passed legislation in May to create the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
CBC reached out to Sinclair to request an interview for this story but he was not available.
Several other honourees, including former national chief Ovide William Mercredi, were also recognized for work in advocacy around Indigenous rights and reconciliation.
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