Award-winning novelist Austin Clarke, singer/songwriter Molly Johnson and Ontario Fairness Commissioner Jean Augustine have all had close encounters with royalty in the last two decades.
Johnson regaled Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana during a private command performance on the Royal Yacht Britannia during their 1991 tour of the city while Clarke had a private audience with Queen Elizabeth II nine years ago in honour of the Commonwealth Prize for his novel, The Polished Hoe.
Augustine – in her capacity as a federal cabinet minister – attended a banquet in honour of the Queen’s visit to Canada in 1997.
The members of the Order of Canada established by the Queen in 1967 were last Monday presented with Diamond Jubilee medals to mark the ascension to the throne 60 years ago on Feb 6, 1952 of the second longest-serving monarch in British history.
Johnson, who made history at the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival in 2004 becoming the first Canadian female vocalist in the festival’s history to sell out a show on the main stage, vividly recalls her evening with royalty.
“Princess Di wanted to meet with some young people, so we were invited to the yacht where we had a lovely dinner before we were moved to a room like a salon where there was a piano,” she recounted. “Tomson Highway(the celebrated Canadian Cree playwright) was tinkling on the piano and I started to tinkle with him. Before we knew it, Diana was singing with us. We had a wonderful evening.”
Johnson, who arrived a few minutes after the official ceremony started at Queen’s Park, said she was honoured to be among the inaugural group of Canadians presented with the medal.
“My youngest son turned 12 today and I was at his school delivering cupcakes for the teachers and his classmates before I came here for this special recognition,” said the mother of two.
Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor David Onley presented the medals to the distinguished group of Canadians that included former Ontario Chief Justice and Canadian diplomat, Roy McMurtry, ex-Canadian heavyweight boxing champion, George Chuvalo and Ryerson University Distinguished Visiting Professor Stephen Lewis and his wife, Michele Landsberg.
“You represent Ontarians with exceptional contributions to our society,” Onley told the recipients. “Each of you in your own way has contributed to Canada by helping lead our culture in this rapidly changing world, exercising your innate talents while holding fast to those common values and virtues that define us as a people. You epitomise the pioneer spirit ofCanada.
“We celebrate this unique occasion by honouring citizens who exemplify the energy, talent and diversity our province contributes to this great nation of ours.”
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston presented medals at Rideau Hall in Ottawa to 60 recipients, including Guyanese-born cardiologist and India Heritage Foundation president, Dr. Budhendranauth Doobay, who founded the Voice of the Vedas Cultural Sabha Inc. inRichmond Hillin 1977.
The commemoration medal will be presented throughout the year to 60,000 deserving Canadians to celebrate significant contributions and achievements.
By RON FANFAIR