A very disorderly investiture

…referred to Mr. [Leonard] Cohen as the "Byron of our times…As he accepted his award — the Companion of the Order of Canada — he bowed to the viceregal couple. For five years, Mr. Cohen lived in a Zen monastery on California's Mount Baldy, where he became a monk named Jikan.

The Globe and Mail
October 25, 2003

A very disorderly investiture
A solitary poet, a TV star, a Yiddish shout spice up Order of Canada Ceremony
Jane Taber

Ottawa — Leonard Cohen, blue-suited, shorn of hair and having just turned 69, was there, and he was alone.

Actress and health-care advocate Shirley Douglas was moved to tears when she spoke of her celebrity son, Kiefer Sutherland, who had travelled from Los Angeles for her big day.

And then there was Stephen Lewis's 19-month-old grandson, Zev, who repeatedly and loudly shouted " Zaide" — Yiddish for grandfather — as his granddad and Canada's former ambassador to the United Nations took the stage.

Everyone laughed.

This is all to say that the Order of Canada investiture ceremony yesterday in the ballroom of the venerable Chateau Laurier hotel was anything but ordinary.

It was wild and woolly and so different from the usually staid investiture ceremonies at Rideau Hall.

Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson and her husband, John Ralston Saul, moved the event to the hotel as an experiment, allowing the recipients — and there were 49 of them — to invite family and friends.

Previous recipients were also invited; 400 people attended — none of whom were with Leonard Cohen.

Among yesterday's recipients were children's entertainers Sharon, Lois, and Bram, who took the stage later to sing their trademark song — Skinamarink.

Bopping along were Zev and his grandpa, Mr. Lewis, who had just earned the highest award, the Companion of the Order of Canada.

Among the guests with Ms. Douglas, the daughter of former CCF leader Tommy Douglas, who was named an Officer of the Order, was her famous 36-year-old son who stars in the hit television series 24, which begins its third season next week.

Mr. Sutherland recalled that as a child he helped out on one of Mr. Lewis's campaigns when he was leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, stuffing NDP flyers into mailboxes in Toronto.

Only in Canada.

Arthur Irving, one of the brothers Irving whose private planes have been in the news of late, received the second-highest award, the Officer of the Order of Canada.

But he refused to meet with reporters, who weren't as interested in his award as they were in his planes and the politicians who have flown on them.

Mr. Cohen, the poet, author and songwriter, the man who loved Suzanne and then sang so eloquently about her, also refused to speak to reporters.

He told one of the Governor-General's aides that it was not the appropriate time or occasion.

Yet, a very svelte Ms. Clarkson, who is following a low-carbohydrate diet and aerobics regime, remembered when she first heard Mr. Cohen sing.

It was on her television show, she said, recalling that he was wearing an impeccably cut grey flannel suit.

Yesterday, she wore an elegant black suit and referred to Mr. Cohen as the "Byron of our times." She also noted that he was in blue serge this time.

As he accepted his award — the Companion of the Order of Canada — he bowed to the viceregal couple. For five years, Mr. Cohen lived in a Zen monastery on California's Mount Baldy, where he became a monk named Jikan.

He has spent the past several days in Montreal and Ottawa, and tomorrow will visit his dear friend and fellow poet Irving Layton, who is very frail and in hospital in Montreal.

Mr. Cohen is working on another album and lives in Los Angeles.

Mr. Sutherland lives there, too, and manages to follow Canadian politics with the help of his satellite TV and his mother.

He said he was pleased with the outcome of the Ontario election that resulted in a loss for the Progressive Conservatives.

"When I came back [to Toronto, where he has a home] I was very enthused," he said, noting he had seen a campaign ad by the McGuinty Liberals on television.

"We're going to try to not raise your taxes but we're absolutely not going to cut them and we have responsibilities to health care and education," he recalled it saying.

"It had been certainly a long time since I had heard someone say something like that. So you can see the impact of my mother and all the people that have been fighting to preserve health care and social programs that Canada is known for around the world."

About California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, however, he's not so sure. Mr. Sutherland said he had a "huge problem" with the recall vote, believing it wasn't constitutional.

This was the scene at the Chateau Laurier yesterday; the ceremony and reception lasted for several hours. Last night the recipients dined at Rideau Hall.

Zev, it is hoped, went to bed early.


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