Order of Ontario appoints York-affiliated changemakers

Order of Ontario medal (source: Wikimedia Commons)

A total of four individuals with affiliations to York University are among those invested this year with the province’s highest honour, the Order of Ontario.

Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor The Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell
Lieutenant-governor of Ontario, Elizabeth Dowdeswell

The four were among 26 new appointments announced by Elizabeth Dowdeswell, lieutenant-governor of Ontario and chancellor of the Order of Ontario.

The Order of Ontario recognizes exceptional leaders from all walks of life and diverse fields of endeavour whose impact and lasting legacy have played an important role in building a stronger province, country and world.

“As chancellor of the Order of Ontario, I am proud to recognize the Order’s 2022 appointees. These remarkable Ontarians demonstrate outstanding merit and excellence in many diverse disciplines, including the arts, science, education, sports and human rights,” said Dowdeswell. “In reflecting the best of Ontario, they inspire the best in ourselves. On behalf of a grateful province, I offer my warmest congratulations.”

The incoming lieutenant-governor, Edith Dumont, will bestow the province’s highest honour to the new appointees in a ceremony taking place on Nov. 27.

The 2023 appointees with York affiliations are:

Dyane Adam, donor and former faculty

A former principal of York University’s Glendon College, Dyane Adam became the first woman and Franco-Ontarian to serve as Canadian commissioner of official languages. She did so from 1999 to 2006, protecting and promoting linguistic duality across Canada. Her bold leadership and determination helped her overcome extraordinary challenges to succeed in writing a report, during her tenure as Chair of the French Language University Planning Board, that would serve as the government’s basis for legislating the creation of the Université de l’Ontario Français in 2018. She has also received numerous awards, including being made Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes académiques de la France and Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Pléiade de l’Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, and receiving the Golden Jubilee Medal of the Order of Canada in 2013.

Christina Jennings, alumna

Christina Jennings is the founder, Chair and president of Shaftesbury, one of Canada’s largest production companies, and the nation’s only women-led entertainment company. She has helped the province become an important creative hub for original Canadian content, including the widely popular “Murdoch Mysteries,” which she executive produces. A recognized global leader, Jennings was named Playback Magazine’s Producer of the Decade and one of the 20 Most Powerful Women in Global Entertainment by The Hollywood Reporter. She currently serves as the Chair of the Canadian Film Centre Board of Directors, and was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2019.

Arthur Lockhart, alumnus

As a filmmaker, author, teacher and advocate, Arthur Lockhart has transformed the narrative around childhood sexual abuse for tens of thousands of people, turning trauma into triumph. As a professor in the Faculty of Social & Community Services at Humber College, he saw the need for a facility where victims could share their stories in a space of safety and compassion, which led to the creation of the Gatehouse, an organization that provides a safe environment for those impacted by childhood abuse. The Gatehouse opened its doors in 1998, bringing Lockhart’s vision and action, “hear the child, heal the world,” to life. For his work providing training and organizational transformation consultation on the local, national and international levels, he has received numerous awards, including the City of Toronto Mayor’s Community Safety Award.

Ajay Virmani, government body member and donor

Ajay Virmani is president and CEO of Cargojet, Canada’s largest cargo airline, which he formed in 2002. Starting out as as window washer, he rose to be recognized as a Globe and Mail Report on Business Top CEO and 2020 Strategist of the Year and an Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young, and honoured with a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. In fewer than 20 years, he has overseen the growth of Cargojet, making it the largest overnight air cargo airline servicing both domestic and international markets. Furthermore, he founded the Virmani Family Foundation, which has become one of the most significant charitable organizations in Ontario – a benefactor to multiple women’s shelters, hospitals and health-care initiatives. He has also served on York University’s Board of Governors.