Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean invested 43 recipients into the Order of Canada on Wednesday, including an Olympic gold medallist, the first black player in the National Hockey League, a former Supreme Court justice, the first aboriginal person in the North to hold a pilot's licence and a contemporary dancer known as "the blond tornado."

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Olympic gold medallist Clara Hughes, left, smiles broadly after being made an officer of the Order of Canada by Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean in Ottawa on Wednesday. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

Clara Hughes, Willie O'Ree, Michel Bastarache, Fred Carmichael and Louise Lecavalier, the founder of dance troupe La La La Human Steps, were among those honoured at a special ceremony at Rideau Hall, the Governor General's official residence in Ottawa.

There were hoots and loud cheers as Hughes, the only Canadian ever to win medals in both Summer and Winter Olympics, stepped forward to receive her insignia. Hughes smiled widely as Jean placed the insignia of officer of the Order of Canada around her neck.

There was great applause for the recipients as they were welcomed into the ballroom for the investiture ceremony. The widow of Douglas Pollard — a champion of northern Ontario's culture and a promoter of native writers — accepted the appointment on behalf of her husband, who died in November.

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Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean smiles as she bestows the honour of companion of the Order of Canada on former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache at a ceremony on Wednesday. ((CBC))

Of the recipients, 31 are members of the Order of Canada, 11 officers and one, former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache, was made a companion.

"It is an honour to welcome to Rideau Hall and to the Order of Canada artists, community leaders, researchers, world leaders in medicine, lawyers, business people, athletes, politicians and people who have dedicated their lives to public service or the well being of their community," Jean said in her welcoming remarks.

"You have each touched many lives. You bring happiness, confidence and comfort to those around you and that is why we would like to express our gratitude to you today.

"May the example you set be a call for commitment, action and solidarity in a world that is in great need of all three."

One by one, the recipients crossed the golden carpet to the front of the light blue ballroom, where they faced their co-honourees to hear their accomplishments and receive their insignia, the six-pointed stylized snowflake with red annulus at its centre.

"It's quite an honour," Hughes said, still smiling, after the ceremony.

Established in 1967, the Order of Canada recognizes Canadians for outstanding lifetime achievements. New appointments are made twice yearly with award ceremonies taking place three times a year.

Over the last 40 years, more than 5,000 people have been invested into the order.