Canadians who risked their lives to save others in recent years were recognized for their acts of bravery at Rideau Hall Thursday.

Governor General David Johnston presented three Stars of Courage and 39 Medals of Bravery to police officers, military personnel and civilians at a ceremony held in his official residence.

Created in 1972, the Decorations for Bravery recognize people who risked their lives and “choose to defy their own instinct of survival to save a loved one or a perfect stranger whose life is in immediate danger,” according to Rideau Hall.

The Star of Courage honours acts of conspicuous courage in circumstances of "extreme peril,” while the Medal of Bravery recognizes acts of bravery in “hazardous circumstances.”

The Cross of Valour also falls within this class of Decorations, and is the highest honour available to civilians.

Among the recipients are flight attendants Nicole Louise Foran, of Nova Scotia, and Carolina Santizo Arriola, of Ontario, who on April 19, 2009 helped secure the safe release of passengers after a gunman hijacked a plane at Montego Bay airport in Jamaica. Arriola convinced the gunman to release passengers in exchange for money, and Foran grabbed the gun away from him as authorities stormed the aircraft.

Jakob Merkel, of Manitoba, was posthumously awarded a Medal of Bravery for running into his burning home to retrieve his teenage son from a basement bedroom in November 2010. The two were able to get outside, but Merkel did not survive the fire. Merkel’s medal was received by his wife.

Another Medal of Bravery recipient, Elijah Ashton Rumleski-Boisvert, of Ontario, was only 10 years old when he rescued his uncle from a possible drowning.

Rumleski-Boisvert had been fishing by a river with family when his uncle suffered a dizzy spell, hit his head on rocks and fell face-down into the water before the current carried him away from shore.

Rumleski-Boisevert, who did not know how to swim, waded into the cold water, grabbed his uncle’s hand, and began dragging him out of the water as others arrived to help. His uncle recovered.

Recipients are nominated, but need not be Canadian in order to qualify for the honour. The actions for which the recipient is honoured need not have taken in place in Canada, but Canadians or Canadian interests must be involved.

Star of Courage recipients

Nicole Louise Foran, Eastern Passage, N.S.

Constable Jeff Smiley, Fredericton, N.B.

Master Seaman Jason Cecil Sparkes, Tantallon, N.S.

Medal of Bravery recipients

Sergeant Jeffery Paul Alderdice, Mississauga, Ont.

Christopher Bugelli,Ottawa, Ont.

Sergeant Stephane Lionel Clavette, Lazo, B.C.

Denise Marie Collins, Orillia, Ont.

Sergeant Michael Edgar Cox, Greenwood, N.S.

Bobbi-Jo Dalziel, Sarnia, Ont.

Constable Lane Ashley Douglas-Hunt, Victoria, B.C.

Corporal Dwight Doyle, Killarney, N.B.

Shawn Alexander Doyle, Alliston, Ont.

Warnakulasuriya (Warni) Raja Fernando, Negombo, Sri Lanka and Nanaimo, B.C.

Constable Warren Neil Fo Sing, Markham, Ont.

Constable Joel Edward Fraser, Sarnia, Ont.

Constable Shawn Fraser, Fredericton, N.B.

James Haden, Aurora, Ont.

Alden Yale Henry, West Vancouver, B.C.

Randy Johnson,Tantallon, N.S.

Sergeant John L. Jorginson, Orillia, Ont.

Gregory John Kutney, Hacket's Cove, N.S.

Constable Robert H. Labelle, Sturgeon Falls, Ont.

Len MacIntyre, Sydney Mines, N.S.

Francis J. Marshall, Membertou, N.S.

Constable Samantha McInnis, Fredericton, N.B.

Steven Douglas McLavish, Beaumont, Alta.

Master Corporal Caleb W. McPhail, St. Thomas, Ont.

Jakob Merkel (posthumous), Heidelberg, Germany and La Broquerie, Man.

Constable Michael Alexander Mulville, Ajax, Ont.

Richard S. Munro, Northbrook, Ont.

Alexander Leif Myros, Thunder Bay, Ont.

Leslie Dawn Rakow, Armstrong, B.C.

Alexander C. Robertson, Bracebridge, Ont.

Gerard Denis Robineau, Bowmanville, Ont.

Nicholas Romain, Windsor and London, Ont.

Elijah Ashton Rumleski-Boisvert, Bradford, Ont.

Carolina Aida Santizo Arriola, Mississauga and Bowmanville, Ont.

McCartney Sealey, London, Ont.

Constable John Shean, Sarnia, Ont.

Joseph F. Sylvester, Sydney, N.S.

Claude Veilleux, Saint-Victor-de-Beauce, Que.

Brandon Clifford Wheeler, Cobourg, Ont.