Forty-five people were awarded Meritorious Service Decorations by Governor General David Johnston on Friday. Handed out at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall, the awards honour Canadians making a difference in their communities and around the world.

Seven Vancouver police officers were amongst the recipients for their off-duty work filming drug use, poverty and despair in their city’s troubled east side.

“We were the least likely to be filmmakers,” Const. Alan Arsenault told CTV News.

In 1997, the officers began filming what would become an award-winning documentary called Through a Blue Lens.

“We thought we should make something out of this misery,” Arsenault said. “We can't arrest our way out of this situation -- perhaps we can educate people about drug abuse.”

Under their non-profit production company Odd Squad Productions, the group continues to create documentaries to show high school students the dangerous realities of drug use, a mission that’s all the more pertinent as fentanyl overdoses sweep through the streets they patrol.

“We've had a lot of feedback from parents and even drug addicts themselves saying thanks for humanizing addicts,” Arsenault said.

Others were commended for their work helping youth in crisis.

“So I was doing a lot of drugs, I was doing break-and-enters, just out of anger,” recipient Stephen Leafloor told CTV News.

That changed when Leafloor discovered breakdancing. With his self-destructive path well behind him, today Leafloor uses dance to help struggling youth, working primarily in indigenous communities.

“On the surface it looks like I do a hip-hop program,” Leafloor explains. “Metaphorically, I do a healing program”

With files from CTV News’ Parliament Hill Correspondent Kevin Gallagher