Modern Business America
Modern Business America

Elora’s Order of Canada recipient calls the honour ‘humbling’


An Elora native was one of the 78 new Order of Canada recipients announced by Governor General Mary Simon.

John Hirdes is a professor at the University of Waterloo in the school of public health sciences.

“It’s a wonderful award to receive and a wonderful recognition,” Hirdes said. “It is also very humbling to get this type of recognition that I made a meaningful contribution to my country.”

Hirdes was born to a Dutch family that had lived in South West Africa (now Namibia) during the height of apartheid. He, along with his family, immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands around 1966 when he was five years old.

Hirdes moved to Elora in the mid-1980s and has been an active member of the community. He currently lives in nearby Salem.

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“The notion that I was able to make a contribution to the betterment of the country that adopted my family and me many, many years ago is a wonderful thing,” he said. “It is great to be able to give back and make the meaningful contributions to this country that I love.”

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Hirdes was named as a member to the order for his contributions to evidence-based health care practice and policy, notably through the research and development of standardized assessments and decision support tools. He is the lead Canadian researcher of interRAI, a scientific network of about 140 researchers in 40 countries. Most recently, Hirdes and his team have developed clinical assessment tools for long-term care facilities.

“We’re able to understand the health needs of people in nursing homes prior to COVID, but also to evaluate the effects of COVID on the physical and mental health needs of residents in long-term care settings,” Hirdes said.

Others named to the 2023 order include pollster Nik Nanos, businessman Lino Saputo, and CBC personality George Stroumboulopoulos. Last year, Guelph businessman John Sleeman was named to the Order of Canada along with former CTV journalist Lisa Laflamme and Olympic gold medalist Mark Tewksbury.

Hirdes said it is great to be a member of the Order of Canada alongside so many people who have made positive contributions to Canada.

“As an immigrant, you always wonder ‘Well, am I part of the society? Am I accepted?’” Hirdes said. “I know that I’ve always been accepted in a Canadian context but this certainly something that you would aspire to be part of a larger society that means so much.”

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