Happy New Year…It’s 1956

The Order of Canada appears to be in DISorder, with less than a third of appointments given to women

It’s a national disgrace.

As 2016 folded to a close the Governor General announced 100 new appointments to the Order of Canada.

One hundred citizens were chosen to receive one of the country’s highest civilian honors, recognizing outstanding achievement, dedication to community and service to the nation.

One hundred people.

Sixty-eight of them were men.

That means only thirty-two of them were women.

This week we welcomed the beginning of a new year. Nobody mentioned that year was going to be 1956.

It is wonderful that Canada’s Prime Minister understands the righteousness and wisdom of selecting a cabinet comprised equally of men and women.

It is fitting that six women sit on the 13-member Advisory Council of the Order of Canada, the group that makes recommendations on Order recipients.

It is ridiculous to suggest that of all the contributions made by Canadians to society, less than a third are offered by the country’s women.

It comes down to nominations. All Canadians are eligible for the Order, except for federal and provincial politicians, and judges, while they are in office.

Any individual or group is welcome to nominate a deserving individual as an appointment to the Order of Canada.

That means at the grass-roots level, in the fields and laboratories and classrooms, boardrooms and locker rooms in this country, a woman’s value is assessed differently than a man’s.

Somebody stop the presses.

Female representation at all levels of the Order, Companion, Officer and Member, hovers consistently around the 30 per cent mark.

In a 2013 interview with The Globe and Mail, Governor General David Johnston said he has a “particular concern” about the Order’s gender imbalance. In that same story the director of Orders at Ottawa’s Chancellery of Honors, Darcy DeMarsico, pointed out the council is not tasked to address disparities and instead institutions and Order appointees are encouraged to nominate people from certain categories.

DeMarsico also noted that once a woman is nominated she has a 74 per cent chance of appointment, compared to 60 per cent for men.

She said: “We think that’s because a woman has to be so great to be nominated in the first place.”

An analysis of why individuals are chosen for the Order is also illuminating.

In this last round of back pats 20 recipients were honored for their contributions to law and politics and 20 for their work in science and medicine.

Eighteen men and women well, 15 men and three women to be specific were nominated for business accomplishments.

Women, however, accounted for more than a quarter of those recognized for efforts in arts and culture. Three of the women chosen in this category will receive the Order because they write children’s books.

Four of the seven Canadians being lauded for social justice are women. Imagine the collective surprise these women were selected for promoting parity, justice, safety and freedom from oppression for women, children and minorities.

We look at men and women with different eyes, different expectations, and we reward their achievements sometimes based on backward ideas of traditional roles.

The motto of the Order of Canada is: They desire a better country.

Apparently we are not close to having one.

Every award should be based solely on merit. However in the case of the 50-year-old Order of Canada a revisit to the rules of nomination and acceptance is definitely in order.

Sometimes you have to rip grass roots out with your bare hands, and plant over.

As Justin Trudeau put it, it is 2016. Well, 2017.

Or, it’s 1956.