Canada Day hangover

July 3rd, 2012
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This Canada Day will be remembered for at least one thing in our household, a phenomenal home fireworks display – care of Costco on-line delivery. I highly recommend readers check it out. It was worth every penny.

Waiting for total darkness at these latitudes is a challenge this time of year, especially with a near-full moon shedding light on the subject. But it wasn’t just the late night that had me hacking in my cornflakes yesterday.

I happened to read about the latest group honoured with the Order of Canada. That started something.

I just had to look at the mix of people on the list. The award was founded in 1967 with the intention of honouring “outstanding lifetime achievement in one’s field as well as community service”. Readers can judge whether the following numbers bear this out.

Of the 69-odd recipients, only 10 were employed in the private sector, a couple more if architecture and the “fashion industry” are included. About 15 work in science, whereas 22 or 23 are in the arts (again depending on whether you include the architect).

The distribution by province seems to have received attention from the committee, as the numbers are fairly balanced. However Albertans received 10 awards, and Quebec 19 – both over-represented by percentage of the population.

One may judge the importance of certain fields in the minds of the panel. For example, those involved in health care or the health sciences made up 12 of the 15 scientists. I didn’t include the three “environmentalists” in the latter category. Those very concerned with the environment will no doubt be disappointed by their relatively poor showing.

I was shocked to see a well-known geologist on the list, Paul Hoffman. Not because he doesn’t deserve it, but rather that the field received the attention of the panel. The credit for this goes to Mr. Hoffman. He can, I think, best be described as an iconoclast. I remember seeing him receive a major award once, whereupon he used his acceptance speech to denounce the Geological Survey of Canada and what he termed, if I remember correctly, the misguided mediocrities who ran it.

But which profession makes it most likely for you to win this prestigious award? You guessed it, journalism. Six individuals, almost 10% of the total, have the word “journalism” in their short published bios. And they would make up what percentage of Canadians?

This is apparently nothing new. A prominent journalist of my acquaintance joked to me a few years ago that he was the only senior member of his paper’s Ottawa bureau NOT to have received the Order. Tsk tsk.

Again, readers may judge for themselves. Whether history will judge some of the recipients as favourably as the Order’s panel, or even judge them at all, will some day be evident. It might be judicious for some recipients to enjoy the accolades will they can. As the saying goes, you can’t take it with you.

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By John Weissenberger