Paragraph nine of the Constitution of the Order of Canada lists the criteria for appointment to the order. All living Canadians are eligible for any of the three levels of the order, except federal and provincial politicians and judges while they are holding office. Multiple people who have committed the same honourable act or deed are also eligible for induction; for example, all three members of the band Rush (Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart) have been appointed as Officers of the order, the first time a group, rather than an individual, was appointed to the Order of Canada. All three members of the children's group Sharon, Lois & Bram (Sharon Trostin Hampson, Lois Lilienstein, and Bramwell Morrison) have also been made members of the order – although, since Lilienstein is an American citizen, she was made an honorary member.
A new member whose appointment is approved during their lifetime but who dies prior to either the announcement of that appointment or their investiture, may be invested posthumously. The 2005 appointment of journalist Peter Jennings was announced under these circumstances; his daughter, Elizabeth Jennings, accepted the insignia on her father's behalf in October, 2006. The oldest person ever to be invested into the order was Cornelius Wiebe, who was 106 years old at the time of his investiture in 1999.
Commonly, influential political leaders, such as former prime ministers, will be appointed after they leave office. John Diefenbaker was the only living former prime minister not to be appointed to the Order of Canada; after losing the prime ministership to Lester B. Pearson in 1963, Diefenbaker remained a sitting member of parliament and died while still in office in 1979, never becoming eligible. Others, such as former New Democratic Party leader Ed Broadbent and former Prime Minister Joe Clark, were appointed after exiting politics, only to later return to elected office. There have also been several senators who were appointed to the order prior to taking office; as of 2011 there are 15 senators who belong to the order: Tommy Banks, Roméo Dallaire, Trevor Eyton, Irving Gerstein, Nancy Greene, Serge Joyal, Wilbert Keon, Jean Lapointe, Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, Frank Mahovlich, Donald Oliver, Kelvin Ogilvie, Nancy Ruth, Hugh Segal and Pamela Wallin. Further, in the same vein as prime ministers being appointed after leaving office, every Chief Justice of Canada from Robert Taschereau onward has been made a Companion. Individuals who hold a ceremonial political office (for example a Sergeant-at-arms) are considered public servants and therefore can be invested while serving in that office. There is no rule that Order of Canada members cannot be inducted to any of the Canadian provincial or territorial orders. For example, Gordon Lightfoot is both a Companion of the Order of Canada and member of the Order of Ontario, and Oscar Peterson, who was born in Montreal but resided in Ontario during his later years, was simultaneously a Companion of the Order of Canada, Knight of the National Order of Quebec, and a member of the Order of Ontario.
Media magnate Conrad Black, Baron Black of Crossharbour, is the only non-honorary member of the Order of Canada who also does not hold Canadian citizenship. Black was appointed as an Officer of the order in 1990, and surrendered his Canadian citizenship in 2001 to overcome political hurdles preventing his appointment to the House of Lords. Black was convicted of mail fraud in 2007; a council will meet to decide if he will remain a member of the order.
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