Removal from the Order of Canada

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Badge for women of the rank of Officer of the Order of Canada

Appointees to the Order of Canada can have their membership revoked if the order's advisory council determines a member's actions have brought dishonour to the order. As of 2016, seven people have been removed from the Order of Canada: Alan Eagleson, David Ahenakew, T. Sher Singh, Steve Fonyo, Garth Drabinsky, Conrad Black, and Ranjit Chandra. Eagleson was removed from the order after being jailed for fraud in 1998;[1] Ahenakew was removed in 2005, after being convicted of promoting anti-Semitic hatred in 2002;[2] Singh was removed after the revocation of his law licence for professional misconduct;[1] Fonyo was removed due to numerous criminal convictions;[2] Drabinky was removed in 2012 after being found guilty of fraud and forgery in Ontario; and Chandra was removed in 2015 for committing research fraud. The formal removal process is performed by the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada, though it can be initiated by any citizen of Canada.


Paragraph 25, section C, of the Constitution of the Order of Canada allows the Governor General of Canada to remove a person from the order by issuing an ordinance based on a decision of the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada. This decision is based on "evidence and guided by the principle of fairness and shall only be made after the Council has ascertained the relevant facts relating to the case under consideration."[3] A member of the order can be removed for being convicted of a crime in Canada or if the conduct of the person has otherwise brought dishonour to the order. A person can also be removed from the order if his or her personal conduct in public departs significantly from recognized standards and is seen as undermining the credibility, integrity, or relevance of the order; if his or her conduct is a departure from what they have accomplished to be appointed to the order; or if they have been subjected to an official sanction by an adjudicating body, professional association, or other organization. Official sanctions can include fines, reprimands, or disbarment (as was the case for Alan Eagleson and T. Sher Singh). However, the only punishment the advisory council can issue is removal from the Order of Canada.


The removal process begins by sending a written petition to the deputy secretary of the chancellery or by the deputy secretary initiating the process himself/herself. If the petition was started by a citizen, the claim could be judged as valid or invalid. If it is invalid, the deputy secretary will consult with the secretary general of the order and a letter will be sent to petitioner explaining their decision. If it is valid, the petition will be sent by the secretary general to the advisory council.

The advisory council now has the decision to either continue or to stop the removal process. If it stops, the secretary general will notify the petitioner. If the council sees reasonable grounds for the process to continue, the removal-nominee will go through the remainder of the removal process.

The secretary general will send a registered letter to the removal-nominee that allegations were filled against them and their status in the Order of Canada is under consideration by the advisory council. The letter also gives the removal-nominee the options of responding to the allegations or to resign from the order.

If the removal-nominee decides to leave the order on their own, they will notify the secretary general of their decision. If the removal-nominee decides to challenge the allegations, either they or their authorized representative will respond to the allegations within the time limit set in the notification letter. Whatever action the removal-nominee takes, the process will be handed back to the advisory council for further consideration. Once the advisory council has made their decision, they will send a report to the governor general explaining their findings and their recommendations. The governor general, following the recommendation of the advisory council, will either notify the person that they will remain in the order in good standing or issue an ordinance terminating a person's membership in the order. Once the ordinance has been published, the person must return all Order insignia to the secretary general of the order and their name will be removed from all records held by the chancellery. The former member also loses the right to use their post-nominal letters in their names and loses the use of the order motto, ribbon, and medal on their personal coat of arms.

When the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador was created in 2001, it included a removal system modelled after that one used by the Order of Canada.

Change in status[edit]

The first person "removed" from the order was more of a transfer of status rather than a removal. In 1981, Zena Sheardown was appointed an honorary member of the Order of Canada. She was the wife of John Sheardown, a staff member at the Canadian embassy in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution. At this time, the new regime did not recognize international laws regarding diplomatic immunity and allowed a group of students to take control of the US embassy and hold its staff members hostage. Several staff were not on site at this time and found refuge with the Canadian diplomatic contingent, the now famous Canadian Caper. At great personal risk, the Sheardowns personally housed four Americans in their home for months until they could be safely removed from the country. At this point, although married to a Canadian, Zena Sheardown was a British subject having been born in Guyana. On the advice of Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Sheardown was appointed the first honorary member of the Order of Canada in 1981. By the time she was to be invested in the order, Sheardown had become a naturalized Canadian. Shortly before her investiture, the Governor General terminated her honorary appointment and immediately authorized a new appointment as a full member.

Individuals removed from the Order[edit]

As of 2014, there have only been six individuals who have been removed from the Order of Canada: Alan Eagleson in 1998, David Ahenakew in 2005, T. Sher Singh in 2008, Steve Fonyo in 2010, Garth Drabinsky in 2012, and Conrad Black in 2014.

Alan Eagleson[edit]

Alan Eagleson was appointed to the rank of Officer of the Order of Canada April 20, 1989, for his work in promoting the sport of ice hockey. While serving as the head of the National Hockey League Players Association, he was accused of defrauding players out of money. Other charges included racketeering, embezzlement, and obstruction of justice with 34 total charges in the United States and 8 in Canada.[4] After pleading guilty, Eagleson was removed from the order by Governor General Roméo LeBlanc in 1998, the first person to be removed from the order. Eagleson also became the first person to voluntarily resign from the Hockey Hall of Fame in addition to being disbarred.[5] Before the official removal from the order, it had been suggested that Eagleson had received membership due to his support of one of the two major political parties.[6] During some of the court procedures before he went to jail, he wore his Order of Canada lapel pin, despite the fact it was already stripped from him.[7]

David Ahenakew[edit]

David Ahenakew was appointed to the grade of Member in 1978 for his longtime "service to Indians and Métis in Saskatchewan culminated in his election as Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, which has revolutionized Indian education in his province."[8] Ahenakew first came under fire in 2002 after giving a profanity-laden speech. In this speech, Ahenakew called Jewish people "a disease".[9] Ahenakew made taped comments to the Saskatoon StarPhoenix a few days after the speech that included "That's how Hitler came in. That he was going to make damn sure that Jews weren't going to take over", and "That's why he fried six million of those guys."[10]

In June 2003, Ahenakew was formally charged by the Saskatchewan justice department with willingly promoting hatred; but his removal from the order was put on hold until the legal dispute was finished.[11] Ahenakew's membership in the order was brought up again by the advisory council on 29 June 2005. At this meeting, with nine members present and one abstention (Beverley McLachlin, the Chief Justice of Canada), it took the council 90 minutes to decide to remove Ahenakew from the order. The Globe and Mail listed the following members of the advisory council that were present and voted to remove Ahenakew from the order: Tom Jackson, Karen Kain, Alex Himelfarb, Antonine Maillet, Ruth Goldbloom, and Gilles Paquet. After the meeting, the council sent Ahenakew a letter to ask him to respond to the council's decision or resign his membership. However, neither Ahenakew nor his lawyer, Doug Christie, responded to the letter by the 9 July deadline set by the advisory council. This led Governor General Adrienne Clarkson to issue an ordinance on 11 July to officially remove Ahenakew from the Order of Canada.

T. Sher Singh[edit]

T. Sher Singh was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2001. His appointment was terminated on December 10, 2008, after the Law Society of Upper Canada found him guilty of professional misconduct and revoked his licence to practise law. Among the allegations against Singh were that he failed to serve clients, mishandled trust funds, misappropriated $2,000 from a client, and continued to practise after being suspended in November 2005. His membership in the order was revoked on December 10, 2008.[1]

Steve Fonyo[edit]

Steve Fonyo was the youngest person ever appointed as an Officer of the order in 1985, but, following his appointment, he developed an addiction to cocaine. The advisory council considered removing him in 1995, following a criminal conviction related to his cocaine use, but did not move to strip him from the order.[3]

In 1996, he pleaded guilty to 16 charges for offences in Edmonton, including assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, fraud for writing bad cheques totalling $10,000 to supermarkets, and possession of a stolen vehicle. He has also been convicted at least five times of impaired driving and seven times of driving without a licence, most recently in the fall of 2008.

On Aug. 13, 2009, Fonyo appeared in Surrey provincial court, charged with one count of assault. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one day in jail, and was also subject to a one-year probation order. Just five days later, the 44-year-old was back in Surrey court, having breached his conditions. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 days in jail.

In a press release dated January 25, 2010, the governor general's office announced that Fonyo had been terminated from the order.[2]

Garth Drabinsky[edit]

Garth Drabinsky was a theatrical production mogul in Canada, responsible for numerous successful productions, most notably the long-running Toronto production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. He was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1995. In 2009, he was found guilty of fraud and forgery in Ontario and has been a fugitive from American law for related crimes.[4] With the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling on March 29, 2012, not to hear his appeal or grant a new trial, Drabinsky has apparently exhausted his opportunities to have his convictions overturned and is serving the balance of his reduced sentence. On November 29, 2012, the Governor General signed an ordinance removing Drabinsky from the order.[5] Drabinsky subsequently filed an application in the Federal Court of Canada to block his removal.[6]

Conrad Black[edit]

Media baron Conrad Black was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1990.[12] After a conflict between he, Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chretien, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair over the appointment in the UK of Black as a life peer, Black surrendered his Canadian citizenship in 2001,[13] though he remained in the Order of Canada. In 2005, he was arrested in the United States on charges of racketeering, obstruction of justice, money laundering, and wire fraud, but, due to lengthy appeals, even as Black was serving a prison sentence, he still remained a member of the Order of Canada. In September 2011, after Black returned to prison due to the failure of his appeal, Rideau Hall confirmed that Black's appointment was under review by the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada, which has the power to recommend “the termination of a person's appointment to the Order of Canada if the person has been convicted of a criminal offence.”[7] Black's requests for an oral hearing were denied by the advisory council and his application to federal court for an oral hearing to be required was dismissed.[8] Black appealed the decision.[9]

In an interview, Black intimated that he would rather resign from the order than be removed. "I would not wait for giving these junior officials the evidently almost aphrodisiacal pleasure of throwing me out. I would withdraw," he told CBC's Susan Ormiston. "In fact, I wouldn't be interested in serving."[10]

On January 31, 2014, Governor General David Johnston announced that he had accepted a recommendation from an advisory council to remove Black from the Order of Canada.[11] On the same day, the Governor General, acting on the recommendation of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, also expelled Black from the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, to which he had been appointed in 1992.[12]

Ranjit Chandra[edit]

Ranjit Chandra was a research scientist and professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1989. A 2006 documentary aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation alleged that Chandra's career was built on lies, and much of the research which formed the basis of his appointment, and for which he has been well remunerated, was completely fabricated. In 2015 a jury trial in which Chandra sued the CBC for libel, found the contents of the documentary to be truthful, and the British Medical Journal retracted one of his landmark studies for being fabricated.

Following the retraction and the results of the jury trial Rideau Hall revoked his appointment in December 2015.

Other ways to leave[edit]


Astronomer René Racine resigned as a member of the Order in 2009. In this photo he is wearing the Order's lapel pin

Resignations from the order can take place only through the prescribed channels, which include the member submitting to the Secretary General of the Order of Canada a letter notifying the chancellery of his or her desire to terminate their membership, and only with the governor general's approval can the resignation take effect.[13] On 1 June 2009, the Governor General accepted the resignations of astronomer and inventor René Racine, pianist Jacqueline Richard, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte;[14][15] on 11 January 2010, did the same for Renato Giuseppe Bosisio, an engineering professor, and Father Lucien Larré;[16] and, on 19 April 2010, for Frank Chauvin, a retired fire-fighter who opened an orphanage in Haiti.[17]

In January 2013, Governor General David Johnston accepted the resignation of historian Camille Limoges.[18]

During the Morgentaler controversy it was reported that other constituents of the Order of Canada had, in reaction to Henry Morgentaler's induction into their ranks, indicated that they would return or had returned their emblems in protest, including former Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick Gilbert Finn, who had been appointed an Officer in 1979.[19][20] The resignations were accepted by the Governor General.[10]

If a member resigns, he or she must return all insignia and lose the use of the order motto, ribbon, and badge on their personal coat of arms.


The Constitution for the Order of Canada also allows for membership in the order to end if a member dies.[21] If a member dies, the post-nominal letters may still be affixed to their name and their family may keep the insignia as family heirlooms.

Organizations such as the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Madonna House Apostolate returned Order of Canada insignias of deceased former members;[19][22] however, since membership terminates with the death of the member, the return of the insignia has no effect on the composition of the order.


  1. ^ a b "Revocation of Order of Canada membership of T. Sher Singh". Governor General of Canada. April 6, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Revocation of the Order of Canada Membership of Stephen Fonyo, Jr. Governor General of Canada Press Office, January 25, 2010.
  3. ^ McCreery, Christopher (2005). The Order of Canada: Its Origins, History, and Development. University of Toronto Press, pp. 213. ISBN 0-8020-3940-5.
  4. ^ "Livent co-founders Drabinsky, Gottlieb convicted of fraud and forgery". CBC News. March 25, 2009. 
  5. ^ Hasham, Alyshah (February 27, 2013). "Garth Drabinsky stripped of Order of Canada". Toronto Star. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  6. ^ McGregor, Glen (February 27, 2013). "Theatre fraudster Garth Drabinsky fights Order of Canada removal". National Post. Retrieved March 10, 2013. 
  7. ^ Campion-Smith, Bruce (September 14, 2011). "Conrad Black could be stripped of Order of Canada". Toronto Star. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  8. ^ Wallace, Kenyon (October 25, 2012). "Conrad Black loses Order of Canada hearing bid". Toronto Star. Retrieved October 25, 2012. 
  9. ^ Jones, Allison (November 2, 2012). "Conrad Black keeps fighting to make personal plea to keep Order of Canada". Toronto Star. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Pagliaro, Jennifer (October 26, 2012). "Conrad Black will resign Order of Canada rather than have it terminated". Toronto Star. Retrieved October 26, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Termination of Apppointment to the Order of Canada". Retrieved January 31, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Conrad Black stripped of Order of Canada". CBC News. January 31, 2014. Retrieved January 31, 2014. 
  13. ^ constitution of the Order of Canada, as revised 2013, 25(b)
  14. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada (1 June 2009), Media > News Releases and Messages > Resignations from the Order of Canada, Queen's Printer for Canada, retrieved 1 June 2009 
  15. ^ Public Works and Government Services Canada (30 May 2009), "Government House > Terminations of Appointment to the Order of Canada" (PDF), Canada Gazette, Queen's Printer for Canada, 143 (22): 1574, retrieved 6 November 2009 
  16. ^ Resignations from the Order of Canada, Queen's Printer for Canada, 11 January 2010, retrieved 11 January 2010 
  17. ^ "Resignation from the Order of Canada" (Press release). Queen's Printer for Canada. 19 April 2010. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  18. ^ "Resignation from the Order of Canada" (Press release). Queen's Printer for Canada. January 26, 2013. Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Catholic group handing in Order of Canada over Morgentaler, CBC, 8 July 2008, retrieved 8 July 2008 
  20. ^ Former lieutenant-governor returns Order of Canada in protest, CBC, 9 July 2008, retrieved 9 July 2008 
  21. ^ constitution of the Order of Canada, 25(a)
  22. ^ Chin, Joseph (8 December 2008), Church returns Order of Canada medals, Mississauga, retrieved 13 April 2009 

Old format[edit]

  1. ^ CBC account on the rise and fall of Eagleson.
  2. ^ CBC article on Ahenakew's comments and reactions.
  3. ^ Paragraph 2 of the Policy and Procedure for Termination of Appointment to the Order Of Canada Policy.
  4. ^ Listing of some of Eagleson's charges and legal issues.
  5. ^ CBC video of Eagleson leaving the Hockey Hall of Fame.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Ahenakew's citation (deleted after he was removed).
  9. ^ Canadian Press article on Ahenakew's possible removal from the Order
  10. ^ CBC article on his speech and his comments to the reporter
  11. ^ 8 May 2003 statement from the Advisory Council on Ahenakew's membership in the Order
  12. ^ Globe and Mail's article on the process of removing Ahenakew from the Order.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Conrad Black's Order of Canada Citation.
  17. ^ CBC news article about Black renouncing his citizenship.
  18. ^ Dr. Ranjit Chandra's Order of Canada citation.
  19. ^ [14], [15], [16], [17], [18], [19], [20] Several articles related to the charges against Dr. Ranjit Chandra.
  20. ^ [21] Ben Johnson Order of Canada citation

External links[edit]