Why we honour Ontarians
As the Crown’s representative, the Lieutenant Governor recognizes Ontarians through the honours system. Honours and awards strengthen the fabric of our communities and shape our aspirations. They are a way to formally and publicly acknowledge the excellence, achievements, and contributions of role models from all walks of life.
The Government of Ontario has established several official honours and awards, which are conferred by the Lieutenant Governor on the Government’s formal advice. Members of the public are invited to submit nominations to an advisory council, which provides the Government with recommendations.
During presentation ceremonies throughout the year, the Lieutenant Governor takes great pride recognizing people who have made a difference to their communities.
A legacy of sustainability
In 2015, James Clare Rennie was one of 21 recipients of the Ontario Senior Achievement Awards. Dr. Rennie was in his 80s when he founded a project in Guelph to restore a hundred-acre farm back to natural forest. His vision, the Rotary Forest Project, has since become one of the region’s most significant and successful ecological protection initiatives. When Dr. Rennie died in 2016, his community named a high point of land on the property, Clare’s Lookout, in his honour. Across the province, Ontarians dedicated to environmental stewardship, like James Clare Rennie, have left a legacy of sustainability for the next generation.
A society in which we can all participate
An Ontario award recipient Mark Wafer of Ashburn committed to creating economic opportunities for Ontarians of all levels of ability. He and his wife Valarie opened their first Tim Horton’s franchise in 1995 and decided to hire a young man with down-syndrome. Over the next 22 years of operation, Wafer hired nearly 200 people with disabilities. He also travelled across the country as an advocate for people with disabilities with the inspiring message that inclusion is good for business. In 2016, the province recognized him with the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship and the David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility. Contributions such as Mr. Wafer’s are powerful examples of the pillar of sustainability, inclusive economic prosperity. Recognizing his lifetime of work and success demonstrates to Ontarians the importance of a sustainable and resilient society that we can all participate in.
The province’s highest honour is the Order of Ontario. The award recognizes Ontarians who have shown outstanding qualities of excellence and achievement in their field. In 2016, Beverley Salmon, the first black woman to be elected to city council, was invested into the Order of Ontario. Throughout her trailblazing career as the founding chair of the Toronto Board of Education’s Black Liaison Committee, and through her work the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and the Ontario Status of Women Council, she has championed an inclusionary curriculum and anti-racism training for teachers.
There are many across the province who spent their lives helping to build a more cohesive society, such as the late Gaétan Gervais. He was a pioneering Franco-Ontarian academic and historian who was best known as the co-creator of the distinctive Franco-Ontarian flag. In 2014, Her Honour presented Dr. Gervais with the Order of Canada insignia on behalf of the Governor General. In 2017, Dr. Gervais’ sister recounted this legacy in the 150 Stories publication. The impact of Dr. Gervais’ work on improving the final pillar of sustainability, social cohesion, continues to be felt and appreciated today.
The honours system acknowledges the passionate people in hundreds of Ontario communities who make our province a better place to live. In partnership with successive Lieutenant Governors, the government and some Ontario organizations have created awards to recognize achievements in their specific fields. These include:
- David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility
- James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Awards
- Hilary M. Weston Scholarship
- Lincoln M. Alexander Award
- Pauline McGibbon Award
- Ontario Medals for Police Bravery, Firefighter Bravery, Good Citizenship, and Young Volunteers
- Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award for Students
- Ontario Association of Architects’ Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Architecture
- Ontario Wine Awards’ Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines
- Institute of Public Administration of Canada in Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor’s Medal of Distinction in Public Administration
- Economic Developers Council of Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Marketing
- Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards
These many honours and awards help bring together our diverse province. They celebrate exceptional achievements. And they help inspire the ambitions of hardworking Ontarians, young and old.
Honours reflect back to us what we value, who we are, and who we choose to celebrate.
As the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, I have been privileged with the opportunity to meet these people, to hear their stories and to present honours at awards ceremonies around the province. This experience has offered me a bird’s eye view of who we are as Ontarians.
I think it is telling that when we hear about members of the Order of Ontario or recipients of this province’s many awards in the media, their stories always intersect with the stories of their communities. It should not be lost on us that their receiving these honours is not only meaningful to the individual, but also to those who have supported them over the years, to those who have followed their careers and achievements, and to those who today find themselves growing up in their communities, following in their footsteps.
Honours and awards are a tangible way to recognize people who have made remarkable contributions to our democratic society and who have helped us build a more sustainable and resilient future. What is intangible is the way in which the pride of this recognition is passed down and internalized by a community and province. Everyday actions by one person can shift the habits and identity of an entire neighbourhood, making us more resilient and offering us a real way to live and grow sustainably.
Presenting an honour is a profound moment whether in the Music Room at the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite, on the grand staircase in the Legislative Building, or in gatherings around Ontario. But such moments are the culmination of years of work, thought, and perseverance. In thousands of events across the province, I have seen the seeds of these honours, in the young mother and her baby daughter who spend each summer camping on Lake Ontario beaches and cleaning up the shores, to young leaders in Moose Factory who are teaching their contemporaries their language and the ways of the land. Ontarians do the right thing, whether there is a medal at the end of the journey or not. They inspire me, give me hope, and push me to continue to serve them to the best of my abilities, even when no one is watching.
I encourage members of the public to nominate worthy individuals for the slate of provincial honours we have in Ontario. Nominations details can be found on Government of Ontario’s website. In our democratic society, we all have a role to play in recognizing those who are helping to build a sustainable and resilient province.Stories of Sustainability