THE FIRST INVESTITURE & DINNER
Order of Canada investitures are those happy occasions when each new member of the Order is presented with their insignia. The general flow of events at investitures in Canada has not changed since well before Confederation when Canada used elements of the British Imperial honours system.
While the first investiture in fact took place on 5 July 1967 when Governor General Roland Michener was presented with his Companion's insignia by Her Majesty The Queen at the end of Her 1967 Royal Tour of the country as part of the Centennial Celebrations. The inaugural full investiture for the first members of the Order would take place on 24 November 1967.
One day after Michener’s investiture, at 6 p.m. on Thursday 6 July, the first Order of Canada honours list was released to the press for publication the following day. This list contained the names of ninety Canadians. With the announcement made and the Order’s membership established, the next task was to arrange for an investiture and dinner to properly honour each of the first Companions and recipients of the Medal of Service.
The first formal full investiture ceremony would take place on Friday 24 November 1967 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. In many ways it was the crowning touch to the Centennial celebrations which had opened the year with the lighting of the Centennial flame in front of Parliament on New Year’s eve. The gathering of nearly ninety eminent Canadians who had all contributed in varying ways to the nation’s life and well-being signaled the beginning of the Order of Canada as a fellowship of honour and service. The simplicity of the ceremony did nothing to diminish it; it was a truly Canadian occasion. The affair was formal throughout. The men wore white tie, and the women wore evening dresses. Investees and their spouses were billeted at Ottawa’s recently completed Skyline Hotel.
Ottawa's Skyline Hotel, c. 1967
Investiture Program from 24 November 1967
Click the cover to view the interior.
Recipients arrived at Rideau Hall by five p.m., and each investee and guest was given a cream-coloured program embossed with the insignia of the Order on the cover.
The program listed, in alphabetical order, the names of the first thirty-five Companions and fifty-five recipients of the Medal of Service. Recipients were ushered away to be briefed on how the investiture would unfold. At 5.25 p.m., the recipients were escorted to their assigned places in the ballroom. This was followed by the entrance of the Governor General and his consort. The ceremony was officially opened by Roland Michener, Chancellor of the Order. Each Companion’s name was read by the Secretary General of the Order Esmond Butler; the recipient then approached His Excellency and was presented with the insignia of Companion of the Order of Canada. They were then directed towards a signing table where the Register of the Order was placed ready for each new member of the Order to inscribe their signature. All of this was repeated with the Medal of Service recipients.
Once all of the recipients had been presented with their insignia or medal, Michener gave a brief address on the significance of the occasion;
"All Canadians feel a sense of participation in your achievements. We do not envy your recognition; we envy your attainments. You have been recognized but you are not elevated above us. You personify the ideals of Canada and yet you remain one of us in the strong democratic traditions of this country… the distinguished gathering assembled here tonight truly represents the richness and the vast potential which are offered by our linguistic and cultural duality. It is a richness, it is a potential which has not been fully developed.”
Rt. Hon. Roland Michener
Chancellor of the Order of Canada
Following Michener’s speech ‘O Canada’ was sung and Their Excellencies withdrew from the Ballroom. Guests were then invited to attend a reception in the Tent Room before the formal dinner. Fortunately a portion of the inaugural investiture was filmed in colour by the CBC.
Following the reception, recipients and guests were taken to the Confederation Room (Room 200) in the West Block of Parliament. The great and the good of the land boarded a pair of large silver busses which were chartered for the occasion.
Sadly, Lester Pearson was unable to attend either the investiture or dinner; he was on an official visit to the United Kingdom. The acting Prime Minister, Mitchell Sharp, presided over the dinner on his behalf. Sharp was unsure how best to get the assemblage to take their seats; he was rescued by Father Georges-Henri Lévesque, who said grace. Sharp had at first been opposed to the creation of the Order; however, his views were completely transformed as a result of this first ceremony. He would later write: “It was a brilliant occasion ... Before us was as distinguished a group of Canadians as had ever been assembled in one place.”
The dinner began at eight p.m. At the head table sat Madame Vanier, John Diefenbaker, Louis St-Laurent, Vincent Massey, M.J. Coldwell, Robert Stanfield, the Governor General and Mrs. Michener, and others ranked in the table of precedence.
The Governor General gave the toast to the Queen. After the liqueurs, Sharp said a few words about the new Order and the assembled recipients. According to Michener, Sharp’s speech:
“gave the occasion the significance which we all hoped for.” His brief words “gave a great lift to all who had received the honour and to the standing of the Order itself.”
Confederation Room (Room 200) of the West Block of Parliament where the first Order of Canada Investiture Dinner was held.
Maurice “the Rocket” Richard, being invested with the Medal of Service of the Order of Canada in the Ballroom at Rideau Hall on 24 November 1967 by Governor General Roland Michener, “For his contribution to sports, particularly hockey.” Richard would be made a Companion of the Order in 1998, “A hero in the world of sports, he can still electrify crowds by his mere presence. In the early 1980s he became a special ambassador for the Montreal Canadiens hockey club. This proud, courageous man is typical of his generation of players for whom it was important that hockey be played for honour and for the joy of the fans. His name is known the world over, and thirty-eight years after his retirement he remains one of hockey's most popular figures.”
Investiture Dinner Program from 24 November 1967
Click the cover to view the interior.