Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Your Majesty, these were given out like candy!"

Good Day Readers:

Weren't these to be given only to citizens who'd demonstrated outstanding service to their community and brought credit to it? All Senators and Members of Parliament automatically got one. In that case, shouldn't every Canadian judge and lawyer each be given 5? And while you're at it what about all federal prisoners?

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
Top Harper advisors included a list of Diamond Jubilee recipients

Bruce McGregor
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Laureen Harper, shown talking to a crowd before the unveiling of a plaque at Rideau Hall for a new portion of the Trans Canada trail, was awarded a Diamond Jubilee medal "for her community work with various charities." (Jean Levac/Ottawa Citizen)

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s wife and several of his top advisors last year received Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medals intended to recognize important contributions to Canada.

A database of recipients of the medal that was published this week lists Laureen Harper among the approximately 60,000 Canadians honoured for their contributions to the country.

Rideau Hall, which administers the award, refuses to say who gave medals to whom, but the Prime Minister’s office says Harper received her medal from Governor General David Johnston, “for her community work with various charities.”

Like all MPs, Harper’s husband also received a Diamond Jubilee medal commemorating the Queen’s 60 years on the throne.

Ray Novak, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, and two of his predecessors in the top advisory job, Guy Giorno and Ian Brodie, also numbered among the recipients.

Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s former Press Secretary and Director of Communications, received a medal, too. Soudas left the PMO in 2011 and became Communications Director for the Canadian Olympic Committee.

The Citizen could find no examples of senior employees of the Liberal or NDP leaders’ offices receiving Diamond Jubilee medals.

To qualify for the medal, a recipient must have “made a significant contribution to Canada or to a particular province, territory, region or community, or has made an achievement abroad that brings credit to Canada.”

Giorno, who served as the PM’s top advisor from 2008 to the end of 2010, co-managed the Conservatives’ 2011 election campaign, along with Jenni Byrne, who also received the medal.

Giorno now practices public law with the firm Fasken Martineau. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Brodie served as chief of staff in the PMO from 2006 to 2008. He said in an email that he was chosen for the award by the Conference of Defence Associations, one of the “partner organizations” selected by the Department of Canadian Heritage to hand out 10,000 of the Diamond Jubilee medals to recipients they chose.

Brodie sits on the association’s Board of Directors.

Byrne was director of political operations for the Conservatives when she received the medal and recently moved to the PMO to become Deputy Chief of staff. News of Byrne’s Diamond Jubilee medal first surfaced last year, when a Conservative Party staff member posted a photograph of the certificate that accompanied it on Twitter. At the time, Byrne did not respond to a request for more information.

The medals were automatically awarded to all MPs, senators, and members of the Queen’s Privy Council, which includes many former Liberal cabinet ministers and prime ministers.

Current parliamentarians were each allotted 30 medals to hand out to whomever they chose. But because Rideau Hall won’t say who gave their medals to whom, these details are disclosed only voluntarily by the donors.

Last year, the Citizen asked all MPs for lists of people they gave medals. Many refused to provide them, referring inquiries back to the governor general’s office.

One Conservative MP, Maurice Vellacott, angered some last year when he gave two of his medals to two anti-abortion activists who had been criminally convicted for protesting outside Toronto abortion clinics. One was in jail at the time Vellacott sent her the award.

The data released this week show that abortion doctor Henry Morgentaler also received a medal from an unidentified nominator, before he died in May.

Other honours handed out by the governor general, such as the Order of Canada, are carefully screened by a selection committee, which weighs hundreds of nominations each year.

But the nominations for Diamond Jubilee medals were subject only to cursory vetting by Rideau Hall, to avoid duplication and ensure recipients were eligible — they must have been Canadian citizens or permanent residents and alive on February 6, 2012, the anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne.

The list of partner organizations includes industry lobby groups and even some politically active organizations, such as the socially-conservative REAL Women of Canada, which recently denounced Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird for speaking out against Russia’s retrograde law limiting the rights of gays and lesbians.

REAL Women declined to provide its list of medal recipients when the Citizen asked last year.

The database of recipients includes many public figures from the world of arts, sports, and broadcast media, including CBC newscaster Peter Mansbridge, author Margaret Atwood, and hockey players Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky’s father Walter, and disgraced Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson are also on the list.

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