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If everyone has a Diamond Jubilee Medal, it’s meaningless

- February 15th, 2013

I’m tempted to say Diamond Jubilee Medals are as common as snowflakes in a blizzard, even though that’s a bit of an exaggeration. The truth is, 60,000 of the trinkets have been handed out in Canada alone — so as clubs go, it’s hardly an exclusive one.

How do the medals, ostensibly given to recognize service to the country in the last 60 years, stack up against other types of prize or achievement? Not very well, I discovered.

Take, for example, the Victoria Cross — the highest honour a member of the Commonwealth can achieve in combat. I contacted the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa and spoke to Yasmine Mingay, the manager of communications there.

She told me the generally accepted tally for Canadians who’ve been awarded the Victoria Cross is 94. That’s the grand total since Queen Victoria established the honour in 1856. Not even 100.

I guess that demonstrates the difference between a medal earned in deadly circumstances versus a medal that at least one city councillor here in London, Denise Brown, felt her own son deserved for 300 hours of volunteer work (neither Brown nor her son wound up with a medal.)

So how about the gold standard for athletic achievement — an Olympic gold medal?

Even there, the number is a tiny one that makes the Diamond Jubilee Medal seem ubiquitous by comparison.

According to a count by Bob Barney, a professor emeritus affiliated with Western University’s International Centre For Olympic Studies, a mere 103 gold medals have been won by Canadians (in both winter and summer games).

It takes an effort of Olympic proportions to be a member of the gold club, it seems.

But if we’re going to talk about sports awards, there’s an indicator that every Canadian can understand: the Stanley Cup. Exactly how many people in this country have won hockey’s highest honour?

Again, it’s a relatively small number that’s a fraction of the 60,000 Diamond Jubilee Medal recipients: Katherine Pearce, an archivist at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, says the best estimate is that 2,267 names appear on Lord Stanley’s Cup.

That statistic includes players and coaches of all nationalities, so the exact tally of Canadians would be much lower. More exclusive again.

There is, however, one award that’s even rarer than all of these examples.

To find it, you have to go outside of the realms of sports and the military and into the arts — to suss out who has sold the most albums.

In our dominion, a gold record is awarded to any artist who sells 25,000 copies of an album; platinum recognizes sales of 100,000 units.

A diamond album, however, goes to anyone who can achieve the astounding feat of selling a million discs.

Only two artists in our nation’s history have achieved double-diamond status — Shania Twain and Alanis Morrisette — making it, by far, the most exclusive form of award in the land, says Jaimie Vernon, author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia.

Now, I realize some of these yardsticks may seem absurd at first blush.

But absent other monarchs who have also reigned for six decades, you’ll never get a one-to-one comparison and besides, the true absurdity is handing out 60,000 medals while expecting them to still stand for something. If everyone has one, then they’re meaningless.

It’s kind of like how kids at hockey and baseball tournaments used to get a trophy for coming in first place. That wasn’t enough, so at some point the big-hearted organizers of such tourneys decided to give every young player who participated a trophy. But kids aren’t stupid; they know the true value of an award that can be found on every mantel.

Even a child can see that flooding the market with 60,000 of an award, any type of award, makes it less prestigious.

If our city council had exercised some restraint, instead of going on an unseemly binge of award-giving, they could have at least spared the recipients of the Diamond Jubilee Medal some of the attendant embarrassment that now goes along with it. Thanks for the badge indeed.

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