Dr. Arshavir Gundjian

Governor General Appoints Gundjian, Sarkissian Members of Order of Canada


OTTAWA — The Office of the Governor General of Canada announced on December 28 that Governor General of Canada Julie Payette this past week made a number of new appointments to the Order of Canada, upon the recommendation of the Advisory Council of the Order, chaired by the Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of Canada.

Among these appointees are scientist and Canadian community leader Dr. Arshavir Gundjian, a well-known senior active member of the Canadian-Armenian community and Armenian Diaspora, founder of the first Canadian Armenian school and several community infrastructures, and Greg Sarkissian, a businessman, and founding member and current president of the Zoryan Institute, which has established the Toronto University Genocide and Human Rights program.

This honor is granted by the governor general of Canada to individuals as a testament to their outstanding achievements and service to the nation. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia “The Order of Canada is the highest level of distinction in the Canadian Honours System. It was established on 1 July 1967, the 100th anniversary of Confederation.”

Biannually, following a meticulous and confidential review, the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada, based on established criteria, makes a selected number of recommendations to the governor general of Canada, who makes the final decision of appointments.

In the past, from 1967 to 2015, only 6,530 people from all walks of life have been appointed to the Order. The official press release that appeared in the Canadian press on December 28 names 120 distinguished recipients who have been appointed or promoted to the different ranks of the Order on this date for their respective exceptional lifetime accomplishments.

Governor General Payette will invest the new recipients at Rideau Hall in Ottawa soon at an official investiture ceremony, where individual official citations will be made for each recipient.

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Since the establishment of the Order of Canada Honours System in 1967, there have been only a handful of recipients of this high honor of Armenian descent. These include Companions of the Order, the late photographer Youssouf Karsh, C.C. (1990) and film director Atom Egoyan, C.C. (2015), and Officer of the Order, the late Charles Aznavour, O.C. (2008).

Kourken Greg Sarkisian

Gundjian provided his reflections upon receiving this distinction:

“The news of this high honor award was conveyed to me first a few weeks back, by a telephone call. I saw on the screen that the call was coming from the office of the gg.ca, the office of the Governor General of Canada. That certainly does not happen often…it looked unusual. As I answered, the person identified herself and added, ‘Dr. Gundjian, I am happy to inform you that you have been recommended to be appointed by the governor general of Canada a Member of the Order of Canada. Do you accept the appointment?’ I was stunned, obviously surprised, and somewhat emotional. I instantly felt profoundly honored and vindicated. This was the country’s highest level of recognition…I immediately replied, ‘Yes, thank you Ma’am very much, I accept!’

“Indeed, the process of selection being highly confidential, I was not ready for such news.

“I was then detailed the consideration of the different components of my five decades activities, professional, but most particularly those related to the Armenian community within Canada and the diaspora which had led the prestigious Advisory Council to make its recommendation.

“The whole 50-year  story often runs, indeed, before my eyes. Our Canadian community has started from a large crowd of many talented newcomers in a state of a very flimsy community infrastructure and it grew very quickly to become one of the best organized vibrant communities in the world. It would be false modesty to deny that my share in that process was truly crucial, often at the expense of my own personal interests.

“With many dedicated members of the community, I indeed had ended up leading the first successful efforts for the realization of Church, school, Diocese, publications and other structures. But then, all of that had to be further developed and maintained over the years. Simultaneously, our community had to become a meaningful component of the entire Armenian world and a useful contributing part of the Diaspora-Armenia network. There are So many issues, so many lines of thoughts, different and competing approaches. All of that has to be dealt with. It is a never-ending process.

“Well, that telephone call from Canada’s Governor General Secretariat was gratifying. I felt indeed vindicated and gratified. I was happy. The meaning of all of the above was, after all, receiving the seal of approval at the highest level of my beautiful country, Canada.”

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