Nunavut educator Edna Agnes Ekhivalak Elias among appointments to Order of Canada

Canadian contemporary war artist Gertrude Kearns, Indigenous language campaigner Edna Agnes Ekhivalak Elias and actor Donald Sutherland are all being named to the Order of Canada. (Photos from left: Iona Kearns, Gov. Gen., Associated Press)
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette has announced the names of 83 new appointments to the Order of Canada, including actor Donald Sutherland, brewer and businessman John Sleeman and Canadian war artist Gertrude Kearns.

Since its founding in 1967, more than 7,500 people from across the country have been named to the Order of Canada, which recognizes Canadians who have distinguished themselves in their fields or contributed to making Canada a better country.

Sutherland, born in Saint John, New Brunswick, is being named a companion of the Order of Canada, the highest of the three levels of the honour — a promotion within the order for him.

Also being promoted within the order is Canadian actor and comedian Martin Short. He now becomes an officer of the order “for his extensive and multi-faceted contributions to the entertainment industry as an acclaimed television, film and stage actor.”

Gertrude Kearns stands next to a painting of retired general Romeo Dallaire in 2002. The painting, Dallaire #6, was part of a series of portraits of Dallaire created to combine significant moments in Canadian military history with Canadian contemporary art. (Isaac Applebaum)

He is being recognized for his “contributions to the motion picture industry before a global audience and for his championing of social issues,” according to a statement issued by Payette’s office.

Kearns, a contemporary Canadian war artist, is being named a member of the Order of Canada — the entry-level honour — for her “contributions to preserving and understanding Canadian war history as a contemporary artist.”

“It feels like an acknowledgement of all the work I have done as a Canadian war artist, so in that regard I am very grateful,” she told CBC News. “I never would have expected it.”

‘The portraits that I do try to consider as much the intellect and humanism of the subjects in tandem with powerful military ethos.”

Kearns studied Roméo Dallaire’s role as commander of the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping force during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda for a series of six large portraits of the retired lieutenant-general she completed in the early 2000s. She said she would like to be associated with a body of work that celebrates the confluence of contemporary art and military history.

“The work is powerful content-wise, it encourages people to think, they are intellectually stimulated by it and it is esthetically satisfying as contemporary art,” she said.

Ontario brewer named for business, community accomplishments

Also joining the ranks as a member of the order is John Sleeman, who founded Sleeman Breweries in 1988 and sold the company to Japan’s Sapporo Brewery in 2006 for $400 million.

Sleeman, from Guelph, Ontario, is being named to the order for his business accomplishments and his community charity work.

“I am stunned. I just never think of myself in that light,” he told CBC News. “I am very happy with what I do for a living. I’m very happy working away, helping people out in the community, and never thought it would come to the attention of anybody, let alone the governor general. So it was a great surprise and a great honour.”

Sleeman said the secret to his success has been to draw in experienced people and convince them to take an interest in working for a company that wants to grow and give back.

John Sleeman, left, and Sapporo Breweries Ltd. Senior Operating Officer Nobuhiro Hashiba in Toronto in 2006, the year Sapporo Breweries Ltd. purchased Sleeman for $400 million. (Aaron Harris/Canadian Press)

“One of the things I’ve always tried to do is recognize that you need to give back to the community where you live and you work,” he said. “And we have hundreds of employees in Guelph, so it just made sense for us to try and give back, initially to the Guelph community.”

Sleeman has donated to hospitals, the University of Guelph and a wide array of local and national charities. And while he’s happy with the recognition, he said he’d like to see others who contributed recognized as well.

Preserving “Nunavut’s linguistic and cultural heritage”

Educator and politician Edna Agnes Ekhivalak Elias of Kugluktuk, Nunavut, has been named a member of the Order of Canada for her political leadership and her efforts to preserve “Nunavut’s linguistic and cultural heritage.”

Elias — who served as the fourth commissioner of Nunavut, the federal government’s representative in the territory, from 2010 to 2015 — was also a councillor and mayor in the hamlet of Kugluktuk.

Educator and politician Edna Agnes Ekhivalak Elias is being named a member of the Order of Canada for her political leadership and work in “preserving Nunavut’s linguistic and cultural heritage.” (Governor General hand out)

She may be best known for her work in preserving and promoting the Inuit language. She served as the director of the Language Bureau of the Department of Culture and Employment for the government of the Northwest Territories and was co-chair of the Northwest Territories Aboriginal Language Task Force.

“I would write to my mom from residential school in Inuinnaqtun because she didn’t speak English. She answered me in Inuinnaqtun. It took me a few days to decipher the letter, but that started the communication. Now I thought, ‘I have to help others,'” she said in a statement.

Musician, entertainer also on the list

Winnipeg blues musician David McLean becomes a member for his “mastery of delta and Chicago blues” and for his role in mentoring Canadian musicians.

“I was quite taken aback by the news. I never thought that would happen in a million years. It is quite an honour,” he told CBC News.

“I’ve always tried to inspire people who have the same passion for the music genre that I do. The blues is something very dear to me and every time I meet younger folks that are trying to learn about it, I just try to share my knowledge, however limited that is.”

Blues musician Dave McLean becomes a member of the Order of Canada for his contribution to music and for his efforts to mentor aspiring musicians. (

Newfoundland and Labrador entertainer Andy Jones also joins the ranks of members of the Order of Canada. Jones is being recognized for his work as a comedian, director and author who has made his province’s culture and traditions central to his work.

“I think I was always fascinated by Newfoundland and its history and culture and language and music and storytelling,” he said.

“I think I was part of a generation of Newfoundlanders that wanted to make sure that Canada knew that we were coming into Confederation with lots of gifts to give Canada, in addition to the fact that Canada was giving us many gifts, of course. Our generation wanted to make sure those gifts got across.”

Jones said that, aside from letting Canadians from other parts of the country know how culturally rich his province is, he wanted to encourage Newfoundlanders themselves to take pride in that heritage.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Former Inuit leader to receive Canada’s highest civilian honour, CBC News

Finland: Budget cuts threaten international Sámi language cooperation, Yle News

Norway: Repressive policy deprived Sámi people of language, culture: Norway’s prime minister, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Indigenous leaders at UN meeting push for decade dedicated to language revitalization, CBC News

Peter Zimonjic, CBC News

For more news from Canada visit CBC News.

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