Women, visible minorities and Indigenous people accounted for a larger share of the latest Order of Canada appointments than in recent years — a sign that Rideau Hall’s quest to diversify one of the country’s highest civilian honours is making progress.
Of the 135 people recently inducted into the Order of Canada, 40.7 per cent (55) are women, 12.6 per cent (17) are visible minority and just over eight per cent (11) are Indigenous.
The numbers are higher in all three categories than in the previous three years. Last year, most of the inductees were white men, and in 2019 well under a third were women.
Retired public servant Andrew Griffith, who served as Canada’s director general of citizenship and multiculturalism, said that while the numbers represent a “significant improvement,” it’s too soon to say whether it’s a trend.
“I’m always wary of claiming victory on the basis of one year,” he said. “So what I look at, whether I’m looking at these kind of numbers or other diversity numbers, is are you seeing a sustained change, a sustained increase.
“What I would like to see is two to three years from now comparing, let’s say, the previous three year period to the next three year period, and see if the needle has been moved.”
The Governor General makes appointments based on recommendations from the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada, which advises her based on nominations suggested by members of the general public.
Griffith said this process means Rideau Hall doesn’t have as many options to diversify the Order of Canada as other institutions.
The newest appointees include entreprenuer and philanthropist Mohamad Fakih and former senator Murray Sinclair, who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Office of the Governor General has not yet responded to a request for comment from CBC News.
Sarah Kaplan, director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, said the numbers show improvement but still don’t reflect Canada’s demographics.
“It seems to me that if your population is made up of about half women, or people of diverse genders, and you’re not representing that same proportion in the country’s most prestigious honours, then you are doing a disservice to the community,” she said.
She said she’d like to see Rideau Hall and the advisory council reach out to communities for suggestions rather than rely solely on nominations.
“Who’s going to know about that process and figure out how to navigate the nomination system?” she said. “It’s going to be people who are already in the centre of power, and that’s a pretty closed set of folks in the Canadian context.”
She also said the Office of the Governor General must keep pushing to make the Order of Canada better reflect Canadian society.
“The thing about improving representation in a society that has historically privileged just one group of people is that you have to be perpetually vigilant,” she said.
“And so one year’s progress does not mean that we have now fixed the problem, and that it will naturally trend upwards in subsequent years.”