6 northerners appointed to Order of Canada

Six northerners have been appointed to the Order of Canada, which recognizes Canadians for their dedication to serving their communities and country.

Three were appointed officers of the Order of Canada, which honours national service or achievement, and another three were inducted as members, which recognizes "outstanding contributions at the local or regional level" in a specific field. 

This year's honourees were announced in this Saturday's Canada Gazette, which was made available online on Friday. 

Jane Sponagle/CBC

Officers of the Order of Canada

John Amagoalik of Iqaluit — referred to by many as the "Father of Nunavut" — has been honoured for his leadership, and particularly for his "integral role in the creation of Nunavut," reads a press release from the office of the secretary to the Governor General.

Amagoalik was calling for an Inuit homeland called Nunavut in the 1970s, decades before the territory separated from the Northwest Territories in 1999.

François Paulette of Fort Smith, N.W.T., and Fort Fitzgerald, Alta., has been recognized for his contributions to treaty rights and for his promotion of circumpolar health research.

In 1973, Paulette and several chiefs from the Mackenzie Valley filed for legal standing in a case over the proposed Mackenzie Valley Gas Pipeline over concerns for their resource rights. They argued the Dene had legal title over Crown lands in the Mackenzie Valley in what would come to be known as the "Paulette Caveat." The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, where it was overturned on a technicality.

Joseph Svoboda of Toronto and Baker Lake, Nunavut, was inducted for his "pioneering research" on tundra ecosystems and his longtime mentorship of scientists researching the Arctic. 

Pat Kane/CBC

Members of the Order of Canada

Johnny Issaluk, a.k.a. "Mr. Awesome," of Igluligaarjuk, Nunavut, and Iqaluit has been recognized for his contributions in many areas — as an athlete, actor, educator and as an Arctic ambassador who "increased the visibility of northern and Inuit culture," says the news release.

People may know Issaluk's face from Clint Eastwood's Indian Horse, or from the Murdoch Mysteries TV series.

I never even dreamt of something like that. - Johnny Issaluk

Ben Powless/ Canadian Geographic

"I am still blown away by it, when I see my friends and family getting these awards I'm very proud and honoured to know these people that are well deserved and I never even dreamt of something like that," Issaluk told CBC.

Pita Aatami of Kuujjuaq, Que., is being inducted to the order for his contributions to the social, political and economic development of the Nunavik region.

Paul Nicklen of Victoria, B.C., and Kimmirut, Nunavut, is a nature photojournalist being honoured for raising awareness of environmental issues. 

A video clip of an emaciated polar bear, shot by Nicklen for his conservation organization SeaLegacy, went viral in 2017 with SeaLegacy suspecting that climate change was possibly a factor in the bear's condition. Commenters from Nunavut cautioned against jumping to conclusions, saying the bear may have simply been injured or sick and unable to hunt.

In response to the backlash, SeaLegacy's co-founder, Cristina Mittermeier, said that regardless of what caused this particular bear to starve, climate change will result in polar bears going hungry.