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Black hockey star Willie O'Ree honored

Dec. 30, 2008 at 9:49 PM

OTTAWA, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Willie O'Ree, the first black player in the National Hockey League, was honored Tuesday with admission to the Order of Canada.

Celine Dion, who rose from poverty in Quebec to international stardom in the music world, was promoted to the highest level in the order, a companion, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The Order of Canada was founded in 1967. It is the highest honor the country can give one of its own citizens and has been awarded to 5,500 people.

The order has three levels, member, officer and companion.

In addition to Dion, Ben Heppner, a tenor who has starred as Tristan, Otello and other leading opera roles around the world, investment expert Stephen Jarislowsky and Peter Munk, founder of the Barrick Gold mining company, were promoted to companion.

O'Ree and the other new members will be honored at a ceremony at Rideau Hall, the governor-general's official residence. The date has not yet been set.

New officers include former Sen. Allan J. MacEachen of Cape Breton, aboriginal land rights activist Nellie Cournoyea, cardiovascular surgeon Arvind Koshal, modern dancer Louise Lecavalier and Barry Strayer, a former Federal Court Judge. The new members, in addition to O'Ree, are Brian Paisley, founder of the Edmonton International Fringe Festival, poet Don McKay, Suzanne Lapointe, a TV personality in Quebec, and publisher James Douglas.

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