The Tragically Hip's Gord Downie, an advocate for First Nations people, was appointed to the Order of Canada on Monday during a Rideau Hall ceremony honouring leadership in Indigenous issues.
Downie, who announced last year that he had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, has become a strong advocate for Indigenous people.
Striking a unique figure in a denim jacket, jeans, a jaunty hat and boots for Monday's ceremony, Downie rose from his seat slowly and warmly embraced Gov. Gen. David Johnston, who bestowed the Order of Canada insignia on the singer-songwriter.
Along with acknowledgment as a musician, Downie was hailed for his social activism — namely his devotion "to promoting dialogue, raising awareness of the history of residential schools and moving the country along the path to reconcilation."
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Downie's recent solo album and graphic novel Secret Path tells the story of an Ojibwe First Nations boy, Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966 while trying to escape a residential school.
More than 2 dozen honoured at Rideau Hall
Attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and other dignitaries, Monday's ceremony featured performances by Indigenous singers and included a moving speech by Métis actor Tom Jackson, an officer of the Order of Canada.
Downie was among 30 people who received the Order of Canada, the Meritorious Service Decorations (Civil Division), the Polar Medal or the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers for their leadership in supporting Indigenous issues.
Other arts figures honoured included:
- Children's and youth author Jacqueline Guest.
- Actor, activist and former MP Tina Keeper, Royal Winnipeg Ballet artistic director André Lewis and the late Mary Richard for creating the ballet Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation.
- Writer and theatre actress Julie Pellissier-Lush.
- Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, documentary filmmaker and director of Angry Inuk.
Downie's Tragically Hip bandmates Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Paul Langlois and Gord Sinclair — also appointed members of the Order of Canada — will receive the honour at a later date.