Author Joseph Boyden among those appointed to the Order of Canada
Joseph Boyden holds the Giller Prize after winning it in Toronto on Tuesday, Nov.11, 2008. Boyden, the award-winning author whose work vividly documents the complexity of Canada's indigenous history, is among the latest appointments to the Order of Canada in a year when aboriginal issues have dominated the national agenda. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Frank Gunn)
Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, December 30, 2015 4:24PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 30, 2015 5:38PM EST
OTTAWA -- Joseph Boyden, the award-winning author whose work vividly documents the complexity of Canada's indigenous history, is among the latest appointments to the Order of Canada in a year when aboriginal issues have dominated the national agenda.
Boyden, whose novels include Three Day Road and The Orenda, joined 68 other people recognized Wednesday by the Governor General with one of the country's highest civilian honours.
In its citation, Rideau Hall said Boyden was being recognized for his contributions to telling stories of "common heritage" and for his social engagement "notably in support of First Nations."
The novelist, who also served as an honorary witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission studying Canada's painful residential school legacy, said he believes the arts are a powerful tool to help repair fractured relationships between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.
"I have come to realize that I think art is the way to allow Canadians to begin to understand in a way that is manageable at first for them to understand something of such huge pain," he said in an interview.
"We can lecture all we want about the ongoing intergenerational trauma but those words sometimes don't sink in.
"I think stories, I think novels, I think film, I think dance, I think painting, all of this allows Canadians to absorb not just the pain and the anger but the beauty as well."
Several other members of Canada's arts community were honoured Wednesday, including Noreen Taylor, who founded one of Canada's major literary prizes, Winnipeg painter and sculptor Ivan Eyre, Quebec musician Diane Dufresne and Antoni Cimolino, the artistic director of the Stratford Festival.
Other recipients include former Prince Edward Island premier and senator Catherine Callbeck, former privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart and House of Commons clerk Audrey O'Brien.
Nominations for the Order of Canada are reviewed by an independent council chaired by the chief justice of Canada. Individuals are appointed on merit to recognize outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.
Rideau Hall has been actively working to ensure its honours reach more Canadians. Earlier this year, Gov. Gen. David Johnston flagged two areas of particular concern for the Order of Canada: gender and regional representation.
Spokesperson Emily Keogh said females make up 46 per cent of the latest appointees. A previous list released in July had 44 per cent of female appointments -- a bump from the average of 31 per cent between 2010 and 2014, she noted, adding there is there is also "great diversity" among the recipients including filmmaker Atom Egoyan and author Rohinton Mistry.
The honour still hasn't sunk in for Boyden.
"It is something you hear about all your life as one of the great gifts given to Canadians of note," he said.
"I guess I have to now consider myself a Canadian of at least some little note."
Here is the full list:
COMPANIONS OF THE ORDER OF CANADA
Brenda Andrews of Toronto
Lloyd Axworthy of Winnipeg (This is a promotion within the Order.)
Atom Egoyan of Toronto (This is a promotion within the Order.)
Angela Hewitt of London, U.K. and Ottawa (This is a promotion within the Order.)
Margaret MacMillan of Oxford, U.K. and Toronto (This is a promotion within the Order.)
Arthur B. McDonald of Kingston, Ont. (This is a promotion within the Order.)
OFFICERS OF THE ORDER OF CANADA
Marcel Boyer of Montreal
Julie Dickson of Ottawa
Nassif Ghoussoub of Vancouver
Magella Gros-Louis of Wendake, Que.
Dany Laferriere of Montreal
Guy Latraverse of Montreal
Brian M. Levitt of Montreal
Richard H. McLaren of London, Ont.
Daniel Poliquin of Ottawa (This is a promotion within the Order.)
Richard Scott of Winnipeg
Frances Alice Shepherd of Toronto
Jennifer Anne Stoddart of Montreal
Donald John Taylor of Calgary (This is a promotion within the Order.)
Mary Anne White of Halifax
MEMBERS OF THE ORDER OF CANADA
George Baird of Toronto
Bernard Belanger of La Pocatiere, Que.
David Bissett of Calgary
Denise Bombardier of Montreal
Joseph Boyden of New Orleans and Ahmic Harbour, Ont.
Laura Brandon of Ottawa
Sophie Brochu of Bromont, Que.
Phyllis Bruce of Toronto
Rudy Buttignol of Vancouver
Barbara Byers of Ottawa
Catherine Callbeck of Central Bedeque, P.E.I.
Robert Campbell of Sackville, N.B.
Susan M.W. Cartwright of Ottawa
Antoni Cimolino of Stratford, Ont.
Jack Lynn Cockwell of Toronto
Patricia Cranton of Lakeville Corner, N.B.
Joseph Z. Daigle of Dieppe, N.B.
Wade Davis of Bowen Island, B.C.
Rollande Desbois of Montreal
Diane Dufresne of Montreal
Ivan Kenneth Eyre of Winnipeg
Meric Gertler of Toronto
Ted Grant of Victoria
Barbara Hall of Toronto
Odette Heyn of Winnipeg
Jean-Marc Lalonde of Rockland, Ont.
Pierre H. Lessard of Montreal
Peter S. Li of Richmond, B.C.
Rohinton Mistry of Toronto
John Mulvihill of Toronto
Marie-Jose Nadeau of Montreal
Audrey O'Brien of Ottawa
Sandra Paikowsky of Montreal
Erna Paris of Toronto
Helen Fogwill Porter of Paradise, N.L.
Placide Poulin of Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce, Que.
Louise Richer of Montreal
Kent Roach of Toronto
Cathy Roozen of Edmonton
Morris Rosenberg of Ottawa
Fiona Amaryllis Sampson of Toronto
P. Kim Sturgess of Calgary
Noreen Taylor of Toronto
Faye Thomson of Winnipeg
Peter Valentine of Calgary
Helen Vari of Toronto
Douglas Ward of Ottawa
Richard Weber of Alcove, Que.
Frederic Wien of Halifax