Role of Politicians in Appointment
Prior to the 1970s honorary appointments to the order had to be approved by Cabinet. This bureaucratic hurdle resulted in there being no honorary appointments to the order until the 1980s. In 1972 John Grierson was expected to be authorized as the first honorary companion by Cabinet, and notice of his appointment was prepared in advance of cabinet rubber stamping the nomination. However, Grierson died one day before his appointment could be finalized. This incident was a driving force in devolving this procedure from the entire cabinet, to the minister of foreign affairs.
The appointment process for the Order of Canada is notable for being mostly removed from the active partisan influence normally seen in the British honours system. Unlike in many nations, active federal and provincial politicians cannot be admitted into the order until they exit elected office. Nevertheless there have been some occasions where the House of Commons has felt it necessary to interfere. The most notable (and perhaps most successful) was Zena Sheardown, the first honorary appointment to the Order. Sheardown sheltered four American diplomats in her house for months during the Canadian Caper. While others involved in the scheme were admitted into the order, Sheardown was not. Her appointment was delayed because she was not a Canadian citizen. Flora MacDonald had to ask for, and receive authorization from the House of Commons that Sheardown deserved membership in the order before her appointment was seriously considered.
It is also notable that occasionally sitting members of the House of Commons rise to offer congratulations to people in their districts who have been admitted into the order. Some speakers of the House have discouraged this practice because it blurs the line between partisan politics and the apolitical nature of the order.
On rare occasions, some sitting politicians have been known to comment on controversial appointments to the Order of Canada. When Dr. Henry Morgentaler was appointed a member of the Order of Canada, Maurice Vellacott, a Conservative member of Parliament known for his pro-life views, told the Globe and Mail, "There are so many deserving Canadians, there was no need to choose somebody like Dr. Morgentaler.".
The New Democratic Party called for the Governor-General to remove Conrad Black from the Order following his conviction for obstruction of justice.
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