Special Olympics Canada Champions Network members Mark Tewksbury, Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue appointed to Order of Canada

Three Special Olympics Canada Champions Network members have been appointed to the Order of Canada – one of the country’s highest honours.

On Friday, the Governor General, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, announced 114 new appointments to the Order of Canada, which included Olympians – and longtime Special Olympics supporters – Mark Tewksbury, Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue. This honour recognizes Canadians with a lifetime of achievement that impacts and shapes our society and nation. The Order of Canada has three levels: Companion, Officer and Member.

Tewksbury, Champions Network founder and Past Chair of Special Olympics Canada, has been appointed as a Companion of the Order of Canada – the highest of the three levels. Tewksbury is joining the Aga Khan, Jean Chretien, Pierre Trudeau, Wayne Gretzky, David Suzuki and other notable figures as a Companion.

Tewksbury is one of only eight people named Companion this year – and there can be no more than 165 living Companions at any time.

Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, Olympic ice dancers and active Champions Network members, are two of only 84 Canadians inducted as Members to the Order of Canada this year.



Mark Tewksbury first came to prominence at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, where he competed as a swimmer. He won gold, silver and bronze medals, while setting seven world records.

In 1998, he became Canada’s first sports hero to openly declare his homosexuality and helped start a national conversation on the taboo subject of being gay in sport. Since then, Mark has been an outspoken advocate for inclusive and safe sport spaces for all – including for those with an intellectual disability.

“I can’t think of someone more worthy to receive this tribute – he is a remarkable Canadian,” said Special Olympics Canada CEO Sharon Bollenbach.

“I can’t think of someone more worthy to receive this tribute – he is a remarkable Canadian,” said Special Olympics Canada CEO Sharon Bollenbach.

Tewksbury was involved with Special Olympics even before his 1992 victory in Barcelona. He started by attending events to give motivational speeches, high fives and hugs. In 2009, he joined the Special Olympics Canada Board of Directors with the goal of getting more Olympic champions and professional athletes involved.

By 2013, he founded the Special Olympics Canada Champions Network: a group of Canadian Olympians, professional athletes, celebrities and sports personalities who volunteer their time to promote the movement at events, through their networks and media. It started out with eight core athlete representatives and has grown to more than 50 members, including Olympic ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and comedian/TV personality Rick Mercer (to name a few).

Tewksbury went on to serve as Chef de Mission for Special Olympics Team Canada 2015, leading the team at the World Summer Games in Los Angeles that year. In this role, he attended training camps where he met with athletes and coaches to share first-hand experiences and advice as an athlete. He also attended the Games in California, where he served as the team’s biggest – and loudest – cheerleader.

From 2017 to 2019 he served as Chair of the Special Olympics Canada Board of Directors. Today, he continues to support the movement as Past Chair.

Whether in the Boardroom, delivering motivational speeches at events, or cheering from the sidelines, Tewksbury has made and continues to make an incredible impact on Special Olympics athletes across Canada.

“He has lived his own transformation through sport and, as a result, understands and supports how being active and included in sport is transforming the lives of our athletes,” said Bollenbach. “He is a true champion of inclusion.”



Olympic ice dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue have been named to the Order of Canada for their “unparalleled excellence in ice dancing and for inspiring the next generation of Canadian figure skaters.”

It’s the latest honour for the pair, who retired from their sport after winning two gold medals at the 2018 Olympics.

Virtue and Moir are longtime Champions Network members. Throughout their impressive career, they always found time to support Special Olympics athletes at events, competitions and through social media.

In 2019, Virtue and Moir went above and beyond for Special Olympics athletes when they invited figure skaters with an intellectual disability to perform with them during their cross-country tour, Rock the Rink. As a result, dozens of Special Olympics figure skaters from across Canada had the chance of a lifetime to perform a solo or duet alongside the star-studded cast.

Most recently, Virtue hosted motionball’s Marathon of Sport – an hour-long virtual workout – that raised more than $1M for Special Olympics across Canada.