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October 20, 2009

Chrétien receives Order of Merit

CANADA - Jean Chrétien has joined the ranks of Nelson Mandela, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and former U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower today when he was appointed to the prestigious Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in Britain.

Jean Chrétien was Prime Minister of Canada from 1993 and 2003, during which time he served as leader of the Liberal Party. He has served Canada in politics for over 40 years, including 30 years as a cabinet minister, leader of the opposition or as Prime Minister. Chrétien also played an enormous role overseas, helping countries to work together and brokering both peace and trade deals.

Chrétien has been meeting the Queen since 1967. Some of their notable meetings were in the Northwest Territories, at the Olympics in Montreal in 1976 and at numerous Commonwealth conferences. Chrétien also traveled to London to brief the Queen on the repatriation of the Canadian constitution in 1982 and met her on numerous occasions while Prime Minister for a decade.

"I think, of Canadians, I'm probably one of the public officials that has seen her majesty more often than any others," said Chretien afterwards. He is only the 4th Canadian to receive the Order of Merit. Former prime ministers William Lyon Mackenzie King and Lester Pearson and Dr. Wilder Penfield have been previously honoured.

Asked why he was appointed, Chrétien said: "They said they were impressed by the fact that I served Canada for 40 years, with 30 years as a cabinet minister, leader of the opposition or prime minister." and "She thought that I merited the Order of Merit," he chuckled.

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