Former prime minister Jean Chrétien was inducted into the highest rank of the Order of Canada on Friday, receiving his medal at a ceremony in Ottawa.

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Jean Chrétien wears his medal after being made a companion of the Order of Canada on Friday. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

Chrétien, who led his Liberals to victory in 1993 and remained prime minister for 10 years, was made a companion of the order at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General.

He was cited for his 40-year political career, in which he held a dozen cabinet posts, including justice minister during the patriation of the Constitution and the introduction of the Charter of Rights in 1982.

The 74-year-old grinned when the master of ceremonies mentioned his party's three consecutive majority governments.

The order, which recognizes contributions to Canadian culture and society, has three levels: companion (the highest), officer and member. In total, 38 people received their Order of Canada awards: four as companions, 14 as officers and 20 as members.

Along with Chrétien, former Supreme Court judge Charles Gonthier was invested as a companion. Montreal children's filmmaker Rock Demers and former cabinet minister and Katimavik founder Barney Danson were elevated to companions.

Those invested as officers included:

  • Pamela Wallin, Canadian consul general in New York and a former broadcaster.
  • Molly Johnson, a Toronto-based jazz-pop singer.
  • Michael Maclear, a former CBC and CTV foreign correspondent and documentary filmmaker.
  • Gerry Schwartz, the chairman of Onex Corporation.

Rev. Brent Hawkes, who performed the first legal same-sex wedding in Canada in 2001, was one of those made a member of the Order, as was Toronto author Barbara Gowdy.

"You who are receiving the Order of Canada today are a treasure," said Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean, who presided over the ceremony.

Established in 1967, the Order of Canada recognizes Canadians for outstanding lifetime achievements. New appointments are made twice yearly and announced around New Year's Day and Canada Day, with award ceremonies taking place three times a year at Rideau Hall.

Order of Canada members can wear the six-pointed snowflake medal or lapel pin, and may add the initials CC (companion), OC (officer) or CM (member) after their names.

With files from the Canadian Press