Recognition of Outstanding Indigenous Leadership

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June 15, 2017
Updated on June 19, 2017 at 5 p.m.

Governor General to Present Honours in Recognition
of Outstanding Indigenous Leadership

OTTAWA—His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, will present honours in recognition of outstanding Indigenous leadership to 29 recipients during a ceremony on Monday, June 19, 2017, at 11 a.m., at Rideau Hall. The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, will be in attendance, along with other dignitaries and special guests. Recipients will be recognized with one of the following honours: the Order of Canada, the Meritorious Service Decorations (Civil Division), the Polar Medal, or the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

“I am delighted to be honouring some of the country’s most dedicated and talented Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders at this special ceremony at Rideau Hall,” said the Governor General. “These individuals are working in myriad ways to strengthen urban and rural Indigenous communities, to raise awareness of Indigenous histories, cultures, achievements and concerns, and to create an environment in which reconciliation is possible. This ceremony represents one more step toward a more fair, just and dynamic country.”

This is the first of several special presentations that will recognize individuals for their grassroots-level engagement, their contributions to the nation or their work towards achieving reconciliation in communities across the country. Subsequent events will be held by lieutenant governors and territorial commissioners across Canada throughout 2017.

A media schedule for the ceremony, background information on the honours being presented during the ceremony (Annex A), and a list of recipients and their citations (Annex B) are attached.


Media wishing to cover this event are asked to confirm their attendance with the Rideau Hall Press Office, and must arrive at the Princess Anne Entrance no later than 10:45 a.m. on the day of the ceremony. 

Media information:

Marie-Pierre Bélanger
Rideau Hall Press Office
613-998-9166 (office)
613-852-3248 (cell)


Media are asked to observe the following schedule:

10 a.m.:          Media start to arrive at Rideau Hall
11 a.m.:          Ceremony begins
                      The Governor General speaks
                      The Governor General presents the honours
12:30 p.m.:     Interviews with recipients



The Governor General presents honours and awards on behalf of all Canadians to acknowledge our best—those people who have demonstrated excellence, courage or exceptional dedication to service in ways that bring special credit to this country.

About the Order of Canada
Created in 1967, the Order of Canada, one of our country’s highest civilian honours, recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. Close to 7 000 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order in the last 50 years. Their contributions are varied, yet they have all enriched the lives of others and have taken to heart the motto of the Order: DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM (“They desire a better country”). Appointments are made by the governor general on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada. Throughout the year, the Order of Canada’s 50th anniversary will be celebrated through a host of special initiatives and partnerships. For more information, visit 

About the Meritorious Service Decorations
The Meritorious Service Decorations celebrate Canadians who have performed an exceptional deed or activity that brings honour to Canada. The decorations are separated into military and civil divisions, with two levels each: a cross and a medal.

The Civil Division recognizes remarkable contributions in many different fields of endeavour, from advocacy initiatives and health care services, to research and humanitarian efforts. The contributions can be innovative, set an example for others to follow, or improve the quality of life of a community. For more information or to nominate a deserving Canadian, visit

About the Polar Medal
The Polar Medal celebrates Canada’s northern heritage and recognizes persons who render extraordinary services in the polar regions and in Canada’s North. As an official honour created by the Crown, the Polar Medal incorporated and replaced the Governor General’s Northern Medal, created in 2005 by then-Governor General the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson. 

About the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers
The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers recognizes the exceptional volunteer achievements of individuals from across the country in a wide range of fields. As an official Canadian honour, the Medal pays tribute to the dedication and exemplary commitment of volunteers. For more information or to nominate a deserving volunteer, visit




Sylvia Maracle, O.C.
Toronto, Ontario
Officer of the Order of Canada

Sylvia Maracle has been a leader in shaping the urban Indigenous experience in Canada.  As the executive director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, she has transformed the organization from a handful of reception hubs for migrating Indigenous peoples into more than two dozen culturally grounded centres of community building.  An in-demand consultant, speaker, social activist and cultural-based practitioner, she is actively involved in diverse initiatives supporting the well-being of Indigenous peoples across Canada.

Gord Downie, C.M.
Toronto, Ontario
Member of the Order of Canada 

For over 30 years, Gord Downie has been the front man for The Tragically Hip and is considered one of Canada’s most beloved artists. He is renowned for his memorable performances, his songwriting and his lyrical references that create a sense of what it is like to love, and live in, this country. His charitable contributions and social activism continue to have a significant impact. He is devoted to promoting dialogue, raising awareness of the history of residential schools and moving the country along the path to reconciliation.  

The Order of Canada insignia awarded to the other members of  The Tragically Hip (Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Paul Langlois and Gord Sinclair) will be presented to them at a later date.

Jacqueline Guest, C.M.
Bragg Creek, Alberta
Member of the Order of Canada 

Jacqueline Guest has been a staunch advocate of youth and adult literacy in Canada and abroad. An author with strong Métis roots, she has penned numerous novels that have inspired a love of reading among children and teenagers while showcasing Indigenous culture and teaching readers to overcome obstacles. Over the course of her career, she has also served as a guest speaker and educator in Canadian, American and Tanzanian schools and libraries, where she has promoted literacy and emphasized the importance of storytelling in Canadian history.


Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, M.S.C.
Iqaluit, Nunavut
Meritorious Service Cross (Civil Division) 

The founder of Unikkaat Studio Inc., Alethea Arnaquq-Baril inspires Inuit communities to reconnect with their ancestral values and lost traditions through her many films. Considered one of Canada’s top female directors, she uses her films to document the Inuit language and culture in communities throughout Nunavut.

J. Wilton Littlechild, C.M., A.O.E., M.S.C, Q.C.
Hobbema, Alberta
The Honourable Murray Sinclair, M.S.C.
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Marie Wilson, C.M., M.S.C.
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Meritorious Service Cross (Civil Division) 

Justice Murray Sinclair, Chief Wilton Littlechild and Marie Wilson shouldered the responsibility for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada with fortitude, compassion and perseverance. Over six years, they led the examination of the Indian Residential School system, combing through myriad documents and witnessing the courage of survivors who shared their stories. Their final report invites all Canadians to confront the inequities of the past, and calls on governments and individuals alike to move forward, with greater understanding, towards reconciliation.

The Meritorious Service Cross awarded to the Honourable Murray Sinclair will be presented to him at a later date.

Stanley Vollant, C.Q., M.S.C.
Pessamit, Quebec
Meritorious Service Cross (Civil Division) 

To promote Indigenous cultural heritage, Dr. Stanley Vollant set out on the Innu Meshkenu (My Innu Path), a 6 000-km walk that passed through Indigenous communities across eastern Canada. This initiative inspired a multitude of Indigenous and non-Indigenous walkers to join him, but more than that, it encouraged an entire generation of young people to stay in school and pursue their dreams.

Elder John Elliott, M.S.M.
Victoria, British Columbia
Elder Elmer Seniemten George, M.S.M.
Brentwood Bay, British Columbia
Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) 

Elder John Elliott and Elder Elmer Seniemten George translated the Douglas Treaties of the mid-1850s into the Lekwungen and SENCOTEN First Nation languages. Their translation sheds light on the lack of understanding that existed between Colonialists and First Nations when the treaties were first signed. It also provides a foundation for reconciliation and lasting relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians of today.

Hovak Johnston, M.S.M.
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Marjorie Tahbone, M.S.M.
Nome, Alaska, United States of America
Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) 

Hovak Johnston and Marjorie Tahbone created the Inuit Tattoo Revitalization Project to re-establish an Inuit art form that was on the verge of being lost. Traditionally, tattoos were given to women by women as a rite of passage and to represent their family’s heritage. The project’s first six-day event in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, reconnected more than two dozen women with their culture and inspired a new generation to carry on this tradition. 

The Meritorious Service Medal awarded to Marjorie Tahbone will be presented to her at a later date.

Tina Keeper, O.M., M.S.M.
André Lewis, M.S.M.
Mary Richard, O.M., M.S.M. (posthumous)
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) 

Fulfilling the vision of the late Mary Richard, Tina Keeper and André Lewis produced Going Home Star–Truth and Reconciliation. Performed across the country by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, it tells the story of a young Aboriginal couple confronting a painful past. Harnessing a traditional European art form to connect with First Nations’ culture, this emotional production sheds light on the significant impact of residential schools on our history and helps to establish new relationships among Canadians.

The Meritorious Service Medal awarded to the late Mary Richard will be presented to her granddaughter, Ms. Ashley Richard.

William MacLeod, M.S.M.
Mistissini, Quebec
Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) 

William MacLeod is a leader in economic development for northern Quebec. In a single decade, he made the Cree Construction and Development Company one of the top construction companies in Quebec. His economic achievements have since inspired Cree youth, motivating them to take on leadership roles in their communities while remaining true to their roots.

Julie Pellissier-Lush, M.S.M.
Summerside, Prince Edward Island
Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) 

Founding member of the Mi’kmaq Legends theatre troupe, Julie Pellissier-Lush preserves the legends of her ancestors through her work as a writer, actress and mentor to young performers. Dubbed the “Mama Bear” of the group by her fellow cast members, she is the glue that holds them together as they combine drama, storytelling, music and dance to share tales of the past with today’s youth.

Percy Sacobie, M.S.M.
Fredericton, New Brunswick
Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) 

Percy Sacobie built the Take a Break Lodge, a sweat lodge on St. Mary’s First Nation, to help people on their journey to recovery from mental illness and addiction. Having experienced the benefits of the traditional sweat ceremony himself, he wanted to give the greater Fredericton community access to a safe and welcoming place to practice self-reflection, to reconnect spiritually and to recover from their ailments.

Jordin Tootoo, M.S.M.
Coquitlam, British Columbia
Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) 

Jordin Tootoo uses his star power as an NHL hockey player to promote healthy lifestyles in Canada’s North. Through the Team Tootoo Fund, he encourages conversations about addiction and suicide, and inspires youth to stay in school and pursue their dreams.


Ann Maje Raider
Watson Lake, Yukon 

Ann Raider has demonstrated exemplary dedication to community healing and enhanced safety. As the executive director of the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society (LAWS), she was instrumental in the creation of the Together for Justice community safety protocol which, in collaboration with the RCMP, established a framework that profoundly strengthened community-police relations in Watson Lake, Yukon. This protocol has since been adopted by communities throughout northern Canada and has achieved similar successful outcomes.

Darlene Scurvey
Whitehorse, Yukon

As an early childhood educator at the Duska’a Head Start Family Learning Centre, Darlene Scurvey actively promotes the preservation of traditional language and culture. With the assistance of elders, she provides preschool-age children with a range of culturally relevant learning experiences that incorporate social interaction and language instruction.


Barbara Bernard
Scotchfort, Prince Edward Island 

A community builder and organizer, Barbara Bernard has served nearly a decade with the Aboriginal Women’s Association of Prince Edward Island, and has generously shared her knowledge and teachings with young people from across the province.

Pauline Busch
Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan 

President of the Aboriginal Women of Manitoba for 10 years, Pauline Busch championed several important initiatives to eliminate family violence and crimes against Indigenous women and girls. She has also demonstrated a passionate commitment to restorative justice through her involvement with Indian Residential Schools Resolutions Canada. 

Anita Campbell
Thompson, Manitoba 

A dedicated supporter of the Métis people, Anita Campbell has worked with the Manitoba Métis Federation and the Métis Women of Manitoba for several years. She has helped to deliver vital services and programs to members of her community and has inspired others to follow in her footsteps. 

William Cranmer
Alert Bay, British Columbia 

Dedicated to the preservation of Indigenous culture, Chief Bill Cranmer was instrumental in repatriating potlatch artifacts that were confiscated by the Canadian government in the 1920s, and in founding two cultural centres in British Columbia to preserve and exhibit these sacred items. 

Pamela Glode-Desrochers
Halifax, Nova Scotia 

Pamela Glode-Desrochers is the executive director of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre. She has worked for 25 years to reduce poverty and crime, and to promote the personal and community well-being of Halifax’s urban Aboriginal population. 

Daryl Dancing Buffalo Kootenay
Morley, Alberta

Darryl Kootenay has rapidly become a leading force for change in the world through his work with such organizations as Canada World Youth and Canada Bridges. He is also committed to helping youth in his own community, and is noted for founding the first Stoney Nakoda Youth Council.

Jarret Leaman
Toronto, Ontario 

A dynamic volunteer and community leader, Jarret Leaman has generously given of his time to numerous causes in support of Indigenous youth, entrepreneurs and LGBTQ issues.

Opolahsomuwehs Imelda Perley
Fredericton, New Brunswick 

Teacher and Maliseet speaker Imelda Perley has committed much of her time to teaching language, storytelling and other traditions in Indigenous communities. Her efforts have fostered greater understanding and tolerance among the citizens of St. Mary’s, Kingclear and Tobique.

Odelle Pike
Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador 

A prominent advocate for Indigenous women and seniors, Odelle Pike has worked tirelessly to advance the cause of her people through her involvement with numerous provincial organizations, including the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network and the Newfoundland Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.

Marilyn Sark
Lennox Island, Prince Edward Island 

Marilyn Sark has dedicated her life to supporting Indigenous communities in Prince Edward Island by taking on several leadership positions, notably with the Aboriginal Nurses’ Association of Canada and the Aboriginal Women’s Association of PEI. She has also brought essential health services to those in need.