OTTAWA, July 13 (UPI) -- British Queen Elizabeth II is honoring former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien with the Order of Merit.
Chretien, 75, a Liberal, was Canada's prime minister from 1993 to 2003.
The royal honor is restricted to 24 living members and only a few non-Britons, WFRA Radio, Ottawa, reported Monday. Previous honorees include Nobel Prize winners Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.
The Order of Merit was created in 1902 by King Edward VII and is given to people "of exceptional distinction in the arts, learning, sciences and other areas such as public service," the radio station said.
Current Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff lauded Chretien's selection by the queen, saying "he has made Canada very proud."
"The Order of Merit -- a special mark of honor on individuals of exceptional distinction in the arts, learning, sciences and other areas such as public service -- represents a fitting tribute to this truly great Canadian," Ignatieff said in a statement posted on the party's Web site. "From his first election to Parliament in 1963 until his retirement from politics in 2003 as one of Canada's longest-serving prime ministers, Mr. Chretien left an unequaled legacy of distinguished public service."