OTTAWA — As Canada enters a year marked by national birthday celebrations and the beginnings of an inquiry into the country’s past, sordid treatment of its indigenous peoples, Nunavut-based throat singer Tanya Tagaq Gillis hopes her music will open minds and lead to change.
So far, though, she’s been confronted by some closed ones — people who send her hate mail over how her art form breaks from tradition.
At home in the North, Tagaq Gillis, who was among the 100 Canadians to be awarded the Order of Canada Friday, sees herself just like anyone else.
“I’m a very peaceful, lasagna, Betty Crocker mom when I’m not on stage,” Tagaq Gillis said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
But in the spotlight, her persona can be dark and her music an intense ballet, often with psychedelic undertones and animalistic fury, that she admits may rub some people the wrong way.
“I’m not into happy, pretty, sweet art that I can eat with a spoon,” said the 41-year-old mother from Cambridge Bay.
Sometimes her art comes in the form of a statement of outrage over things like the sexual abuse that has permeated some indigenous communities and society’s worship of oil and material wealth, such as in her music video, Retribution.
“There’s a correlation between the sounds that I am making that are ‘strange or ugly’ and rampant child abuse in Nunavut,” said Tagaq Gillis, who said she gets much inspiration from other contemporary artists. She mentions entertainer Britney Spears and conceptual portrait photographer Cindy Sherman.
“You have to be able to put those two things together,” she said.
“I’m trying to bring awareness to certain situations without lending ourselves to objectification.”
While she has a hard time accepting criticism of her art for not being traditional enough, Tagaq Gillis said her critics will have to change — not her — because throat singing, which she said was almost lost under the overpowering influence of religion and colonial rule, is making a resurgence in indigenous communities where young people are embracing it, and mixing it with beat-box and hip hop.
PostmediaNunavut throat-singer Tagaq Gillis was among the 100 Canadians to be awarded the Order of Canada on Friday.
“A lot of people are unwilling to accept that as an authentic, indigenous form of art,” she said.
“But I’m not trying to make something that is pretty or palatable. It’s a commentary. And while it’s not ‘comfortable,’ it’s through discomfort that change happens.”
Tagaq Gillis equates her music about child abuse to the fight for gay rights in the North that began in the 1980s.
Jan Andrews, who was also named Friday as a member of the Order of Canada, expresses herself differently, more quietly.
But the storyteller and author of a number of children’s books, including Rude Stories, is just as passionate in describing how Canada’s evolving diversity has allowed her to open up about her own life.
Known widely for leaving audiences quietly spell bound by her storytelling performances, Andrews’ most recent recorded work is “Written in the Body,” a story about gender confusion and something that is part of her own life story.
“I grew up in a time when lesbians just didn’t exist,” said Andrews, who was born in 1942.
“I remember, growing up as a kid, what I wanted more than anything else was to be a boy,” she said in an interview from her home, where she is nursing an arm broken while skiing over the holidays.
Andrews, who emigrated to Canada from England when she was 21, first living in Saskatoon before settling in Lanark, Ont., said she cherishes Canada’s cultural diversity, and sees her work as a blend of traditional stories with some that compel her audiences to think about bigger issues.
“I delight in the landscape and ’feeling’ of our living wherever I go,” she said on her website.
Canadians can be “inspired” by the latest recipients of the Order of Canada, Gov. Gen. David Johnston said Friday in announcing the appointments, comprised of 75 members, 22 officers and three companions — the highest elevation of the title.
The list also includes former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Morris Fish, former federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and former Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley.
The inductees are to receive their insignias at a later date as part of ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the Order of Canada, as well as Canada’s 150th birthday.
“Let’s be inspired by the examples set by these remarkable Canadians and use this occasion to build a smarter and more caring country,” Johnston said in a written statement accompanying the list.
The Order of Canada is considered one of the country’s highest civilian honours.
Recipients are named twice each year around Canada Day and New Years.
FULL LIST OF RECIPIENTS:
COMPANIONS OF THE ORDER OF CANADA
The Honourable Morris Jacob Fish, C.C., Q.C., Montreal, Quebec.
For his eminent service as a jurist, notably as a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Victoria M. Kaspi, C.C., Montreal, Quebec.
For her global renown as an astrophysicist and for her celebrated insight into the behaviour of neutron stars.
Michael Ondaatje, C.C., Toronto, Ontario.
For his enduring contributions to Canadian literature as one of Canada’s most acclaimed writers of fiction and poetry. This is a promotion within the Order.
OFFICERS OF THE ORDER OF CANADA
John William Bandler, O.C., Dundas, Ontario
For his scientific contributions that have helped to position Canada at the forefront of microwave engineering.
David G. Barber, O.C., Winnipeg, Manitoba
For his leadership in environmental science and for his contributions to the study of arctic sea ice processes.
Russell Braun, O.C., Georgetown, Ontario
For his accomplishments as an internationally renowned opera singer and cultural ambassador for our country.
Michel Dallaire, O.C., O.Q., Montreal, Quebec
For his contributions as a leader in industrial design, shaping the character of our public spaces with his creations. This is a promotion within the Order.
John Haig de Beque Farris, O.C., Bowen Island, British Columbia
For his contributions to the development of the venture capital industry and the technology sector in western Canada.
Norman Foster, O.C., Fredericton, New Brunswick
For his extensive body of work as a playwright, which has enriched the Canadian theatre canon.
Anne Giardini, O.C., Vancouver, British Columbia
For her varied contributions to our nation’s forestry sector, to higher education and to the literary community.
William Rodney Graham, O.C., Vancouver, British Columbia
For his multi-faceted contributions to contemporary visual arts in Canada, notably in photography, film and installation art.
Lewis Edward Kay, O.C., Toronto, Ontario
For his pioneering research in biochemistry and medical imaging science which explores the structure and behaviour of proteins.
Bryan Kolb, O.C., Lethbridge, Alberta
For his leadership and for his contributions to our scientific understanding of brain function and development.
Richard Borshay Lee, O.C., Toronto, Ontario
For his contributions to anthropology as a scholar and mentor, particularly for advancing our understanding of hunter-gatherer cultures.
Peter G. Martin, O.C., Toronto, Ontario
For his innovative research on interstellar matter and for establishing two world-renowned institutes of astronomy and astrophysics.
Craig McClure, O.C., Toronto, Ontario
For his international leadership on HIV/AIDS, notably for his efforts to increase the availability of treatment options in the developing world.
The Honourable Ellen Irene Picard, O.C., Edmonton, Alberta
For her contributions as a jurist and legal scholar who helped establish the field of health law in Canada.
Michael J. Sabia, O.C., Montreal, Quebec
For his entrepreneurial leadership of and contributions to the rejuvenation and transformation of several iconic Canadian companies.
Michael Schade, O.C., Oakville, Ontario
For his achievements as a renowned tenor and for his contributions to the world of opera. This is an honorary appointment.
The Honourable Hugh Segal, O.C., O.Ont., Toronto, Ontario
For his commitment to public service and to effective public policy as a scholar and senator. This is a promotion within the Order.
Howard Leslie Shore, O.C., New York, New York, United States of America and Toronto, Ontario
For his contributions to the film music industry as an internationally celebrated composer and conductor.
Donald T. Stuss, O.C., O.Ont., Toronto, Ontario
For his contributions as an internationally respected neuropsychologist who has expanded scientific understanding of brain function, injury and rehabilitation.
Charles Haskell Tator, O.C., Toronto, Ontario
For his advocacy as a world-renowned authority on concussions and for promoting increased safety in sports. This is a promotion within the Order.
Lorne Trottier, O.C., Beaconsfield, Quebec
For his generosity as one of Canada’s leading supporters of research and education in the sciences. This is a promotion within the Order.
Paul Cronin Weiler, O.C., Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America and Vancouver, British Columbia
For his contributions to reforming labour and employment standards as one of North America’s foremost legal scholars.
MEMBERS OF THE ORDER OF CANADA
Michael Adams, C.M., Toronto, Ontario
For his leadership in public opinion research and for his insights into Canadian values and identity.
Howard Adelman, C.M., Toronto, Ontario
For his pioneering work on refugee sponsorship and for his contributions to the establishment of refugee studies as an academic discipline.
Marguerite Andersen, C.M., Toronto, Ontario
For her role as a pioneer in women’s studies in Canada and for her contributions to francophone literature reflecting the Canadian woman’s experience.
Jan Andrews, C.M., Lanark, Ontario
For her contributions to Canadian culture as a children’s book author and as a pioneer of Canada’s storytelling movement.
Wesley Armour, C.M., Moncton, New Brunswick
For his leadership as an entrepreneur and for his dedication to the well-being of his community.
H. Anthony Arrell, C.M., Toronto, Ontario
For his achievements in the investment industry and for his contributions to strengthening public institutions in his community.
Manon Barbeau, C.M., O.Q., Montreal, Quebec
For her achievements in film production and for her dedication to First Nations youth.
Leonard A. Bateman, C.M., O.M., Winnipeg, Manitoba
For his contributions to advancing the development and distribution of hydroelectric power, notably as the former head of Manitoba Hydro.
Donna June Bennett, C.M., and Brian Leslie Finley, C.M., Campbellford, Ontario
For their dedication to fostering the performing arts, musical education and community building in rural Ontario.
Paul Michael Boothe, C.M., London, Ontario
For his contributions to shaping federal and provincial economic and fiscal policy as an academic and as a senior public servant.
Pierre-Michel Bouchard, C.M., Quebec, Quebec
For his dedication to promoting culture and sport and for his civic engagement with the City of Quebec.
Andre Bourbeau, C.M., C.Q., Dunham, Quebec
For his contributions to the development of Canada’s music and opera scene and for his dedication to the next generation of musicians.
Bonnie Brooks, C.M., Toronto, Ontario
For her transformative leadership in Canada’s retail industry and for her extensive civic engagement.
Linda Cardinal, C.M., Ottawa, Ontario
For her research and contributions to public policy development and to the advancement of language rights.
Katherine Carleton, C.M., Peterborough, Ontario
For her efforts to promote a thriving arts and culture sector in Canada as an advocate and voice for Canadian orchestras.
Elaine Carty, C.M., Vancouver, British Columbia
For her contributions to advancing women’s health care options, particularly for her instrumental role in establishing professional midwifery care in British Columbia.
Louise Champoux-Paille, C.M., C.Q., Montreal, Quebec
For her contributions as an administrator and for her commitment to promoting women in governance.
Harold Everett Chapman, C.M., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
For his seven decades of leadership in the co-operative movement.
Jan Christilaw, C.M., Vancouver, British Columbia
For her national leadership in obstetrical care, and for her efforts to improve maternal health in developing countries.
Ruth Collins-Nakai, C.M., Calgary, Alberta
For her contributions as a physician leader, particularly in the field of cardiology.
Peter Dalglish, C.M., Toronto, Ontario
For his efforts to alleviate child poverty worldwide, notably by establishing and leading Street Kids International.
Michael David Dan, C.M., O.Ont., Toronto, Ontario
For his contributions as a philanthropist, notably for his partnerships with Indigenous people.
Ronald J. Daniels, C.M., Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America and Toronto, Ontario
For his contributions as a university administrator and for his achievements as a champion of community engagement.
Libby Davies, C.M., Vancouver, British Columbia
For her long-standing commitment to helping marginalized people and for her ardent defence of social justice.
Rayleen V. De Luca, C.M., O.M., Toronto, Ontario
For her contributions as a clinical child psychologist and for her dedication to improving the lives of vulnerable Canadian children and families
William Arthur Downe, C.M., Toronto, Ontario
For his commitment to enhancing diversity and inclusion in the financial industry and for his generosity in support of education and health care initiatives.
Irene Dube, C.M., S.O.M., and Leslie Dube, C.M., S.O.M., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
For their philanthropic leadership, which has strengthened health, education and community organizations across Saskatchewan.
Janet Ecker, C.M., Ajax, Ontario
For her contributions to provincial politics in Ontario and to Canada’s financial services industry.
Deborah Ellis, C.M., O.Ont., Simcoe, Ontario
For her acclaimed work as a young adult author and for her philanthropic support of many humanitarian causes.
William MacDonald Evans, C.M., Ottawa, Ontario
For his sustained leadership of Canada’s space program as president of the Canadian Space Agency.
James Bruce Falls, C.M., Don Mills, Ontario
For his development of ground breaking research techniques in ornithology and for his lifelong leadership in nature conservation.
John Foerster, C.M., Winnipeg, Manitoba
For his contributions to health care administration, notably for developing a renowned teaching hospital and health research centre in Manitoba.
Chen Fong, C.M., Calgary, Alberta
For his influential philanthropy in the field of healthcare and for fostering the development of companies which produce medical devices.
Richard French, C.M., Chelsea, Quebec
For his contributions to enhancing public institutions and for his efforts to bridge the public sector and the business world.
Jacqueline Guest, C.M., Calgary, Alberta
For her contributions as a children’s book author who promotes multiculturalism, youth literacy and Indigenous culture.
Gloria Margaret Gutman, C.M., O.B.C., Vancouver, British Columbia
For her research and leadership in the field of gerontology and for her advocacy against elder abuse.
George Norman Hillmer, C.M., Ottawa, Ontario
For his contributions to the study of Canada’s foreign policy and international relations in the 20th century.
Robin Hopper, C.M., Victoria, British Columbia
For his contributions as a ceramist who has advanced the discipline by introducing a number of innovative techniques.
Anne-Marie Hubert, C.M., Montreal, Quebec
For her commitment to parity and inclusion in business and for her skill in corporate governance.
Benoit Huot, C.M., Saint-Lambert, Quebec
For his contributions as a parasport ambassador and inspiration to youth and for his excellence as a Paralympic swimmer.
Michael Ignatieff, P.C., C.M., Budapest, Hungary and Toronto, Ontario
For his contributions to the advancement of knowledge as a human rights scholar and reporter.
Liz Ingram, C.M., Edmonton, Alberta
For her contributions to the visual arts community through a variety of media including printmaking and digital media, and for cultivating emerging talent as an educator and mentor.
Ignat Kaneff, C.M., O.Ont., Mississauga, Ontario
For his contributions as a home builder and developer, and for his generosity in support of numerous education, health and social service initiatives.
Rudy Koehler, C.M., North York, Ontario
For his contributions as a business executive and for his philanthropy, notably directed at helping youth overcome adversity.
France Labelle, C.M., Montreal, Quebec
For her dedication to championing the rights of those most in need and to combating poverty and homelessness.
Patricia Anne Lang, C.M., Thunder Bay, Ontario
For her commitment to the growth and development of Ontario’s colleges as a long-time academic administrator.
Oryssia Lennie, C.M., Edmonton, Alberta
For her contributions to provincial politics in Alberta and to the improvement of federal-provincial relations.
Janice (Kahehti:io) Longboat, C.M., Six Nations Reserve, Ontario
For her efforts to preserve and disseminate knowledge of Indigenous medicine and culture.
Clarence Louie, C.M., Osoyoos, British Columbia
For his innovative contributions to increasing economic opportunities for Indigenous communities.
Robert Marleau, C.M., Ottawa, Ontario
For his public service and for his efforts to maintain the integrity of our national institutions.
Marie-Lucie Morin, C.M., Ottawa, Ontario
For her contributions to advancing Canada’s place in the world and for her professional mentorship.
Pierre Morrissette, C.M., Oakville, Ontario
For his business leadership as head of The Weather Network/MeteoMedia, which provides weather information to millions of Canadians.
Reza Nasseri, C.M., A.O.E., Edmonton, Alberta
For his innovative leadership in the construction industry and for his sustained commitment to charitable and community initiatives.
Mathew Nuqingaq, C.M., Iqaluit, Nunavut
For his artistic contributions as a jewellery designer and drum dancer, and for his leadership in Nunavut’s arts community.
The Honourable David Onley, C.M., O.Ont., Toronto, Ontario
For tirelessly advancing the rights of people with disabilities, notably during his tenure as lieutenant governor of Ontario.
John Parisella, C.M., O.Q., Montreal, Quebec
For his social, political, diplomatic and academic engagement and for his dedication to major governance issues.
Benoit Pelletier, C.M., O.Q., Gatineau, Ontario
For his efforts to bring about interprovincial-territorial co-operation and for his advocacy on behalf of Francophone communities.
Gerald Pond, C.M., O.N.B., Rothesay, New Brunswick
For his contributions to information technology in Atlantic Canada and for his dedication to mentoring entrepreneurs.
Alfred H. E. Popp, C.M., Ottawa, Ontario
For his contributions to maritime law as a lawyer, policy expert and administrator.
Ash K. Prakash, C.M., Toronto, Ontario
For his contributions to promoting Canadian modern art as an author, collector and philanthropist.
Strinivasan Reddy, C.M., O.M., Winnipeg, Manitoba
For his engagement in community causes as an advocate for social justice, racial understanding, literacy and poverty reduction.
Richard J. Renaud, C.M., Montreal, Quebec
For his philanthropic generosity as founder of the Roasters Foundation and for his leadership within a number of charitable organizations in the Montreal community.
Jean-Lucien Rouleau, C.M., Montreal, Quebec
For his contributions to developing the field of cardiology as a researcher, clinician and university administrator.
Diane Sasson, C.M., Mount Royal, Quebec
For her commitment to eradicating domestic violence and for her advocacy in support of legal changes that would better protect victims.
Isaac Schiff, C.M., Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America and Montreal, Quebec
For his groundbreaking contributions as a doctor and administrator who has advanced women’s health, notably in the areas of infertility and menopause.
Annabel Slaight, C.M., O.Ont., Roche’s Point, Ontario
For nurturing a passion for science and nature among generations of Canadian children.
Julian Smith, C.M., Niagara on the Lake, Ontario
For his contributions to preserving cultural and historic sites in Canada and abroad.
David Steinberg, C.M., Bel-Air, California, United States of America and Winnipeg, Manitoba
For his achievements over five decades as a comedian, mentor and director in the entertainment industry.
Tanya Tagaq Gillis, C.M., Cambridge Bay, Nunavut
For her contributions to Canadian culture through her avant-garde Inuit throat singing.
Real Tanguay, C.M., Kitchener, Ontario
For his contributions to strengthening and promoting the automobile manufacturing sector in Canada.
Michael Tymianski, C.M., Toronto, Ontario
For his contributions to neuroscience, particularly through his leadership in investigating new mechanisms to protect the brain following a stroke.
Andre Vanasse, C.M., Outremont, Quebec
For his profound impact on Quebec literature and for his efforts to promote the literary arts.
Ellen White, C.M., O.B.C., Nanaimo, British Columbia
For her work as an Elder and community leader, and for her efforts to preserve the Hul’qumi’num language.