Winnipeg’s outgoing Archbishop James Weisgerber was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada by Governor General David Johnston Monday.
"It was a very big surprise," Archbishop Emeritus Weisgerber said Monday from his new home in Regina. "It’s very humbling," said the 75-year-old who spent 13 years as spiritual leader for the 155,000 Roman Catholics in Winnipeg.
"This is a great honour to be recognized at the end of my career."
He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada "for his work as a champion of reconciliation and social justice promoting deeper understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people," Monday’s announcement said.
Weisgerber helped to organize an apology in Rome from Pope Benedict to Canada’s Indian Residential School survivors and was later "adopted" by Aboriginal people at a ceremony in Winnipeg. Both were major events for Weisgerber.
"I’m not sure which was the highlight," he said. His successor, Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon, will be installed Friday, he said.
Other Winnipeg appointments to the Order of Canada announced Monday include:
• Winnipeg businessman and philanthropist Hartley Richardson, who was promoted to Officer of the Order of Canada "for his unwavering civic engagement, and for his contributions as a business and community leader," Monday’s announcement said.
• Former Manitoba Lieutenant-Governor Yvon Dumont was appointed a member of the Order of Canada "for his commitment to advancing the rights of Aboriginal and Metis people."
• J. Derek Riley was appointed a member of the Order of Canada for his contributions to the community as a businessman, athlete and philanthropist." Riley was a champion in and for the sport of rowing for over six decades and was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 as an athlete for rowing.
He’s the grandson of the late Robert Thomas Riley, one of the founders of Great-West Life Assurance Company. The family gave $1.5 million to the Assiniboine Park Conservancy last year, and the park’s duck pond was officially named the Riley Family Duck Pond.
The Order of Canada recipients will receive their insignia at a ceremony in Ottawa in the new year.
The Order of Canada is one of the highest civilian honours available in this country. It was established in 1967 to recognize the lifetime achievements, dedication to community and service to the country of great Canadians. More than 5,000 people have been invested to the Order to date.
Between 400 and 600 nominations are considered each year and about 150 new awards given.