There are just under 7,000 Canadians who have received the award since 1967. Probably only about 2500 of them are still alive. You wonder what you did to receive such an honour. The depiction they read out states:
“Howard Adelman’s work on behalf of refugees embodies the Canadian spirit of inclusivity and generosity. Professor Emeritus at York University, he helped catalyze Canadians to privately sponsor thousands of refugees from Southeast Asia when he founded Operation Lifeline in 1979. From those efforts, he later created the Centre for Refugee Studies, the leading research centre in North America for forced migration studies. In addition, he is also recognized for his writings on the Rwandan genocide.”
itations are, of necessity, simplifications. The above was changed at my suggestion from the original draft citation that I had been sent. In that draft, it said that I laid the groundwork for the private sponsorship of refugees. I did not. As I wrote, “The Liberal and then Tory governments, the civil servants in the Department of Immigration and, in the private sector, the Mennonite Church and the Christian Reformed Church, did that job. They deserve those accolades, not I.” This is not modesty; it is the truth.
I was pleased that the draft had been changed to indicate that I was a symbol of a Canadian trait – the celebration of diversity and inclusivity. I am very proud of that. But there were so many others who worked for years on behalf of refugees, such as the Solgers in Hamilton and Professor Rajagopal. I did serve as a catalyst even though there many far more important players, including many civil servants such as Mike Molloy. I was also sorry that, because of strictures on length, they did not reference my other work on ethnic conflict and early warning.
Below, please find the picture of myself with Julie Payette, the Governor-General.
One does not have to be modest to recognize the illustrious company in which one has been included. The appointees include scientists, musicians, politicians, artists, athletes, business people, film stars, benefactors, and others. For example, Margaret MacMillan, my colleague as a Senior Fellow at Massey College and pictured below, was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in last week’s investiture ceremony. She is a world-renowned modern international historian whose books, like her recent one, The War that Ended the Peace, demonstrated what a turning point in history WWI was. The fact that her histories are readable by the layman is an important bonus.
At dinner, we sat with Marguerite Mendell, an economist at Concordia at the School of Community and Public Affairs who in 2013 was awarded Prix Marie-Andrée-Bertrand. As David Lametti (LaSalle—Émard—Verdun) said in Parliament that morning, Mendell challenged the free market model in favour of a social economy model for economics that tries to reconcile market economic activity with social justice. She has written essays and volumes in the tradition of Albert Hirschman (whom we discussed at length since she knew him and my son, Jeremy, an historian at Princeton University, wrote a biography on him). She is also an expert on Karl Polanyi and co-founded the Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy at Concordia. She has been an activist, not only in the effort to reduce poverty and foster social inclusion through innovative policy tools, but in creating institutions like the Chantier de l’économie sociale Trust. She has also worked tirelessly to free prisoners of conscience, such as Homa Hoodfar who spent over 100 days in solitary confinement in an Iran prison perhaps for having written on sexual diversity in Muslim contexts. My wife sat beside her husband, a very prominent Montreal lawyer in his own right.
Hoodbar had been released in Muscat, Oman. Ironically, our other dinner companions were from Oman. Another Senior Fellow at Massey College, Dr Abdallah Daar, was raised in status to become an Officer of the Order of Canada. Cross appointed in surgery (he noticed the traces of edema in my feet, but he is most famous for his work on organ transplant immunology), he is a Professor of Public Health Sciences at the University of Toronto and researcher at the Toronto General Research Institute. He is also Director of Ethics and Commercialization at the Sandra Rotman Centre of the University Health Network and was the founding Chair of the Board of the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases and an adviser to the UN. Internationally renowned for his promotion of global public health initiatives and research into non-communicable disease, he also played an important role in creating Grand Challenges Canada.
His wife, who sat beside me, was certainly no slouch either. Dr. Shahina Daar is a very accomplished scientist in her own right. She has authored and co-authored numerous scientific papers. When I got home, I read two recent ones, a paper on “Hypogonadism in male thalassemia major patients: Pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment,” that dealt with the failure of pubertal growth, delay or absence of sexual development, infertility and sexual dysfunction due to hypogonadism and defective spermatogenesis. Another dealt with β-thalassemia, a hemoglobinopathy that affect transfusions. She is not just a renowned haematologist. We also had a minor tiff over Kofi Annan. Most importantly, she wore a traditional Omani long dress that was one of the beautiful dresses that I had ever seen.
There were also lighter moments – as when my grandchildren and one of my sons thought this was one of the greatest events they had ever attended, not because of what I received, but because they could take a picture standing next to the NHL legend and all-time hockey great, Mark Messier, who was made an Officer of the Order, not only for his hockey skills, but for his years of charitable work.
There were very much lighter moments, as when Julie Payette spontaneously called up two recipients to perform, Howard Shore, the celebrated composer of concert works and film scores, including the score for Lord of the Rings, and the famous Newfoundlander and folk music populizer, the lead singer of the Great Big Sea, Alan Doyle.
IT WAS A TERRIFIC DAY!