Governor General inducts 27 York alumni and faculty into The Order of Canada

(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Induction into the Order of Canada reflects a recipient’s life-long commitment to improving the world around them through their work. Appointees are bestowed with the white enamel snowflake that features a gold Maple Leaf in the centre, an insignia of the Order, with the motto that reads: Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam, “They desire a better country”.

The Order of Canada is one of the highest civilian honours, recognizing extraordinary contributions in a range of sectors, including literature, arts, global and community leadership, technology, medicine, law, and more. 

In December 2021, Governor General Mary Simon announced the list of 135 new appointments into the Order, twenty-seven of whom are York alumni or current faculty, including the Honourable Sandra Chapnik, former Superior Court Justice, and Janet Walker, distinguished research professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, whose work have improved the lives of others within their communities and abroad. 

Susana Gajic-Bruyea, vice president, Advancement, comments, “York alumni are creating positive change, not only in Canada, but around the world. The remarkable leaders included in this year’s Order of Canada announcement exemplify the York motto, ‘Tentanda Via, the way must be tried.’ Their accomplishments are truly inspiring and are an example to our students of the many paths that are possible with a York degree.”

Chapnik, C.M., O.Ont., former teacher, lawyer, judge for the Superior Court of Justice, Osgoode Hall alumnus, and more, is honoured by the future investiture into the Order of Canada. 

“I must say that I am touched and humbled by the receipt of this distinguished honour. When I entered Osgoode Hall Law School in 1973, I had four young children aged nine, seven, four, and three. It is largely due to them and to my husband, Dr. Jerry Chapnik, that I am where I am today. This prestigious award must be shared with them, and with our 10 wonderful grandchildren. It forms a significant part of my overall legacy.”

Chapnik has been a champion of gender equality throughout her remarkable career that began at Osgoode Hall in its first class of mature students. There, she was engaged in and passionate about legal and political activism, including gender equality and anti-apartheid efforts. As an executive member of the Ontario and Canadian Bar Associations, Sandra was front-and-centre in projects that increased representation of women in law.

While serving on the Superior Court bench for 24 years, Chapnik was pivotal to the establishment of best practices in the field. Her decisions have set precedents that continue to be cited in legal disputes and studied in law schools across Canada. 

When asked about which of these achievements she is most proud of, Justice Chapnik points to those that reflect her overall commitment to women’s equality, human rights, and education, which she has fostered from the outset of her career.

“As a teacher, lawyer and judge, bencher, executive member of the Ontario and Canadian law Associations, president of the Women’s Law Association of Ontario, president of the Osgoode Hall Alumni Association, and more, I was uniquely poised to champion issues in those areas,” says Chapnik.

Distinguished Research Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, Janet Walker C.M., C.D., receives the honour for her expert legal authority in commercial arbitration and conflict of laws. Despite her work being internationally regarded, Walker relates that the unique importance of The Order of Canada honour rests in its unification of exemplary Canadians.

“It is humbling to be included among those who have accomplished so much, but wonderful to know that it is the desire for a better country that unites us.

“It is particularly meaningful to me to be recognized as an alumna and member of the faculty at York. From the time I arrived as an undergraduate 45 years ago until now, York has been a professional home and a community that has inspired and supported me,” Walker continues.

The Order of Canada honours work that impacts appointees’ fields and reflects their ongoing commitments to positive change in all areas of society.  

Walker remarks, “I hope that those who learn of this honour will see it as I do: as recognition for the value of the efforts that we have all made together to make things better.”

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By Maria Foggia


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