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Order of Canada

Order of Canada
Insignia of a Member of the Order of Canada
Awarded by the

monarch of Canada
Type National order
Motto Desiderantes meliorem patriam
Eligibility All living Canadians, except federal and provincial politicians and judges while holding office.
Awarded for The highest degree of merit, an outstanding level of talent and service, or an exceptional contribution to Canada and humanity.
Status Currently constituted
Sovereign Queen Elizabeth II
Chancellor Governor General David Johnston
Grades (w/ post-nominals) Companion (CC)
Officer (OC)
Member (CM)
Former grades Medal of Service
Medal of Courage
Established 17 April 1967
First induction 1 July 1967
Total inductees 6,431 (as of February 2015)[1]
Next (higher) Member of the Order of Merit
Next (lower) Commander of the Order of Military Merit

The Order of Canada (French: Ordre du Canada) is a Canadian national order, admission into which is the second highest honour for merit in the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada. It comes second only to membership in the Order of Merit, which is within the personal gift of Canada's monarch.

To coincide with the centennial of Canadian Confederation, the three-tiered order was established in 1967 as a fellowship that recognizes the outstanding merit or distinguished service of Canadians who make a major difference to Canada through lifelong contributions in every field of endeavour, as well as the efforts by non-Canadians who have made the world better by their actions. Membership is accorded to those who exemplify the order's Latin motto, desiderantes meliorem patriam, meaning "they desire a better country", a phrase taken from Hebrews 11:16.[2] The three tiers of the order are Companion, Officer, and Member; specific individuals may be given extraordinary membership and deserving non-Canadians may receive honorary appointment into each grade.

The monarch—at present Elizabeth II—is Sovereign of the order and the serving governor general, currently David Lloyd Johnston, is its Chancellor and Principal Companion and administers the order on behalf of the reigning king or queen.[3] Appointees to the order are recommended by an advisory board and formally inducted by the governor general or the sovereign. As of October 2014, 6,339 people have been appointed to the Order of Canada,[1] including scientists, musicians, politicians, artists, athletes, business people, television and film stars, benefactors, and others. Some have later resigned or have been removed from the order, while other appointments have been controversial. Appointees receive badges and the right to armorial bearings.


  • Creation 1
  • Grades 2
  • Insignia 3
    • Possession and sale 3.1
  • Eligibility and appointment 4
    • Advisory Council 4.1
    • Refusal 4.2
    • Resignation and removal 4.3
    • Controversial appointments 4.4
  • Proposed amendments 5
  • Additional honours 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • Citations 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


The process of founding the Order of Canada began in early 1966 and came to a conclusion on 17 April 1967,[4] when the organization was instituted by Queen Elizabeth II, on the advice of the Canadian prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, who was assisted with the establishment of the order by John Matheson. The association was officially launched on 1 July 1967, the 100th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, with Governor General Roland Michener being the first inductee to the order—to the level of Companion[5]—and on 7 July of the same year, 90 more people were appointed, including Vincent Massey, Louis St. Laurent, Hugh MacLennan, David Bauer, Gabrielle Roy, Donald Creighton, Thérèse Casgrain, Wilder Penfield, Arthur Lismer, M. J. Coldwell, Edwin Baker, Alex Colville, and Maurice Richard.[6] During a visit to London, United Kingdom, later in 1967, Michener presented the Queen with her Sovereign's badge for the Order of Canada, which she first wore during a banquet in Yellowknife in July 1970.[7]

From the Order of Canada grew a larger Canadian honours system, thereby reducing the use of British honours (i.e. those administered by the Queen in her British privy council).[8] Among the civilian awards of the Canadian honours system, the Order of Canada comes third, after the Cross of Valour and membership in the Order of Merit,[9] which is within the personal gift of Canada's monarch. By the 1980s, Canada's provinces began to develop their own distinct honours and decorations.[10]


The Canadian monarch, seen as the fount of honour,[11] is at the apex of the Order of Canada as its Sovereign,[n 1][13] followed by the governor general, who serves as the fellowship's Chancellor.[14] Thereafter follow three grades, which are, in order of precedence: Companion, Officer, and Member, each having accordant post-nominal letters that members are entitled to use;[15] each incumbent governor general is also installed as the Principal Companion for the duration of his or her time in the viceregal post.[16] Additionally, any governor general, viceregal consort, former governor general, former viceregal consort, or member of the Canadian Royal Family may be appointed as an extraordinary Companion, Officer, or Member.[17] Promotions in grade are possible,[18] though this is ordinarily not done within five years of the initial appointment,[n 2][20] and a maximum of five honorary appointments into either of the three grades may be made by the governor general each year.[21] As of October 2014, there have been twenty honorary appointments.[22][23]

Governor General Michaëlle Jean, then Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, poses with a full group of Order of Canada appointees at the 101st investiture ceremony banquet in the Tent Room of Rideau Hall, 11 April 2008

There were originally, in effect, only two ranks to the Order of Canada: Companion and the Medal of Service. There was, however, also a third award, the Medal of Courage, meant to recognize acts of gallantry. This latter decoration fell in rank between the other two levels, but was anomalous within the Order of Canada, being a separate award of a different nature rather than a middle grade of the order. Without ever having been awarded, the Medal of Courage was on 1 July 1972 replaced by the autonomous Cross of Valour and, at the same time, the levels of Officer and Member were introduced, with all existing holders of the Medal of Service created as Officers. Lester Pearson's vision of a three-tiered structure to the order was thus fulfilled.[24][25]

Companions of the Order of Canada (post-nominals: CC, in French: Compagnon de l'ordre du Canada) have demonstrated the highest degree of merit to Canada and humanity, on either the national or international scene. Up to 15 Companions are appointed annually, with an imposed limit of 165 living Companions at any given time,[26] not including those appointed as extraordinary Companions or in an honorary capacity.[27] As of October 2014, there are 145 living Companions,[28] none being honorary.[29] Since 1994,[30] substantive members are the only regular citizens who are empowered to administer the Canadian Oath of Citizenship.[31]

Officers of the Order of Canada (post-nominals: OC, in French: Officier de l'ordre du Canada) have demonstrated an outstanding level of talent and service to Canadians, and up to 64 may be appointed each year, not including those inducted as extraordinary Officers or in an honorary capacity, with no limit to how many may be living at one time.[32] As of October 2014, there were 1,139 living Officers,[33] none being honorary.[34]

Members of the Order of Canada (post-nominals: CM, in French: Membre de l'ordre du Canada) have made an exceptional contribution to Canada or Canadians at a local or regional level, group, field or activity. As many as 136 Members may be appointed annually, not including extraordinary Members and those inducted on an honorary basis, and there is no limit on how many Members may be living at one time.[35] As of October 2014, there were 2,121 living Members,[36] none being honorary.[37]


Ribbon bar
Companion Officer Member
Lorne Michaels wearing a Member's lapel pin during a formal event

Upon admission into the Order of Canada, members are given various insignia of the organization, all designed by Bruce W. Beatty, who "broke new ground in the design of insignia of Orders within The Queen's realms" and was himself made a member of the order in 1990;[38][39] Beatty attended every investiture ceremony between 1967 and early 2010.[40] The badge belonging to the Sovereign consists of a jewelled, 18-carat gold crown of rubies, emeralds, and sapphires,[38] from which is suspended a white, enamelled, hexagonal snowflake design, with six equal leaves and diamonds between each. At the centre is a disc bearing a maple leaf in pavé-laid rubies on a white enamel background, surrounded at its edge by a red enamel ring (annulus) bearing the motto of the order.[41] The Chancellor wears the badge of a Companion and is, upon installation as governor general, granted a livery collar for wear at Order of Canada investiture ceremonies.[42]

Chancellor's livery collar of the Order of Canada

The badges for inductees are of a similar design to the sovereign's badge, though without precious stones, and slight differences for each grade. For Companions, the emblem is gilt with a red enamel maple leaf in the central disk; for Officers, it is gilt with a gold maple leaf; and for Members, both the badge itself and the maple leaf are silver. All are topped by a St. Edward's Crown, symbolizing that the order is headed by the sovereign, and the reverse is plain except for the word CANADA.[43]

The ribbon is white and bordered in red stripes, similar to the Canadian national flag; the chest ribbon is the same for each grade, save for a metallic maple leaf in the centre, the colour of which matches that on the badge of the grade that the wearer was appointed to. For civilian wear, a lapel pin is worn on the jacket, which is designed as a miniature of the medallion.

Wear of the insignia is according to guidelines issued by the Chancellery of Honours, which stipulate that the badges be worn before most other national orders—that is, at the end of an individual's medal bar closest to the centre of the chest or at the wearer's neck—with only the Victoria Cross, the Cross of Valour, and the badge of the Order of Merit permitted to be worn before the badges of the Order of Canada.[9][44] Those in the grades of Companion or Officer may wear their badges on a neck ribbon, while those in the Member group display their insignia suspended by a ribbon from a medal bar on the left chest. Protocol originally followed the British tradition, wherein female appointees wore their Order of Canada emblem on a ribbon bow positioned on the left shoulder. These regulations were altered in 1997, and women may wear their insignia in either the traditional manner or in the same fashion as the men.[45]

The coat of arms of David Johnston, Governor General of Canada and Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, displaying the order's motto and insignia

With the patriation in 1988 of oversight of arms to Canada through the Canadian Heraldic Authority,[46] the constitution of the Order of Canada was amended to include the entitlement of all inductees to petition the Chief Herald of Canada for personal armorial bearings,[47] should they not already possess any. Companions may receive supporters, and all members may have the escutcheon (shield) of their arms encircled with a red ribbon bearing the order's motto in gold, and from which is suspended a rendition of the holder's Order of Canada badge.[48] The Queen, Sovereign of the Order of Canada, approved the augmentation of her royal arms for Canada with the order's ribbon in 1987.[49]

Possession and sale

The constitution of the Order of Canada states that the insignia remain property of the Crown,[50] and requires any member of the order to return to the chancellery their original emblem should they be upgraded within the order to a higher rank.[51] Thus, while badges may be passed down as family heirlooms, or loaned or donated for display in museums, they cannot be sold by any individual other than the monarch with the proper advice and consent of her ministers. Over the decades, however, a number of Order of Canada insignia have been put up for sale, the first being the Companion's badge of Major Coldwell, who was appointed in 1967; his badge was sold at auction in 1981, an act that received criticism from government officials.[52]

In 2007, it was revealed that one of the first ever issued insignia of the Order of Canada, a Medal of Service awarded originally to Quebec historian Gustave Lanctot, was put up for sale via e-mail. Originally, the anonymous auctioneer, who had purchased the decoration for $45 at an estate sale in Montreal, attempted to sell the insignia on eBay; however, after the bidding reached $15,000, eBay removed the item, citing its policy against the sale of government property, including "any die, seal or stamp provided by, belonging to, or used by a government department, diplomatic or military authority appointed by or acting under the authority of Her Majesty." Rideau Hall stated that selling medals was "highly discouraged", however the owner continued efforts to sell the insignia via the internet.[53] Five years later, a miniature insignia presented to Tommy Douglas was put on auction in Ontario as part of a larger collection of Douglas artifacts.[54] Douglas's daughter, Shirley Douglas, purchased the set for $20,000.[55]

Eligibility and appointment

Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada and Sovereign of the Order of Canada, invests Jules Léger as a Companion of the order at Rideau Hall, August 1973

Any of the three levels of the Order of Canada are open to all living Canadian citizens,[56] except all federal and provincial politicians and judges while they hold office. The order recognizes the achievement of outstanding merit or distinguished service by Ted Rogers, Order of Canada instalment ceremonies have been broadcast on various television channels and the Internet; recipients are given a complimentary video recording of their investiture ceremony from Rogers Cable.[58]

Advisory Council

The task of the Advisory Council is to evaluate the nominations of potential inductees, decide if the candidates are worthy enough to be accepted into the order, and make recommendations to the governor general, who appoints the new members. The council is chaired by the Chief Justice of Canada, and includes the Clerk of the Queen's Privy Council, the Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, the President of the Royal Society of Canada, the Chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, and five members of the order who sit on the council for a three-year period. If a nomination involves a non-Canadian citizen, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs is invited by the Advisory Council to offer evaluation.[59] Decisions of the council and new appointments to and dismissals from the Order of Canada are announced to the Canada Gazette.[60]

As of October 2015, the members of the Advisory Council are:[59]


Few have declined entry into the Order of Canada; As of 1997, 1.5 percent of offered appointments to the order had been refused.[61] The identities of those individuals who have declined induction since the 1970s are kept confidential, so the full list is not publicly known. Some, however, have spoken openly about their decisions, including Robert Weaver, who stated that he was critical of the "three-tier" nature of the order;[62] Claude Ryan and Morley Callaghan, who both declined the honour in 1967; Mordecai Richler, who twice declined; and Marcel Dubé, Roger Lemelin, and Glenn Gould, who all declined in 1970.[63] However, all the above individuals, save for Gould and Weaver, later did accept appointment into the order. Others have rejected appointment on the basis of being supporters of the Quebec sovereignty movement—such as Luc-André Godbout, Rina Lasnier, and Geneviève Bujold[63]—while Alice Parizeau, another supporter of Quebec sovereignty, was criticized for accepting entry into the order despite her beliefs.[64]

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, wearing at the neck the insignia of a Companion of the Order of Canada. Philip originally declined an honorary appointment to the Order of Canada, feeling the offer implied he was a foreigner to Canada. In April 2013, he accepted appointment as the first extraordinary Companion.

Victoria Cross recipient Cecil Meritt cited the fact that he already held Canada's highest decoration as a reason not to be admitted to the Order of Canada.[63] Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was in 1982 offered appointment to the order as an honorary Companion; however, he refused on the grounds that, as the consort of the Queen, he was a Canadian and thus entitled to a substantive appointment.[65][66] In 1993, the Advisory Council proposed an amendment to the constitution of the Order of Canada, making the sovereign's spouse automatically a Companion, but Prince Philip again refused, stating that if he was to be appointed, it should be on his merits.[67] Congruent with these arguments, he in 1988 accepted without issue a substantive induction as a Companion of the Order of Australia. In 2013, the constitution of the Order of Canada was amended in a way that permitted the substantive appointment of Royal Family members and Prince Philip accepted induction as the first extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada on 26 April 2013.[68] Former Premier of Newfoundland Joey Smallwood declined appointment as a Companion because he felt that, as a self-proclaimed Father of Confederation, he deserved a knighthood.[63] Smallwood was never knighted and later accepted induction as a Companion.[69]

Resignation and removal

Resignations from the order can take place only through the prescribed channels, which include the member submitting to the Secretary General of the Order of Canada a letter notifying the chancellery of his or her desire to terminate their membership, and only with the governor general's approval can the resignation take effect.[70] On 1 June 2009, the governor general accepted the resignations of astronomer and inventor Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Madonna House Apostolate doing so on behalf of deceased former members.[75][77]

Members may be removed from the order if the Advisory Council feels their actions have brought the society into disrepute. In order for this to be done, the council must agree to take action and then send a letter to the person both telling of the group's decision and requesting a response. Anyone removed from the order is required to return their insignia. As of October 2014, six people have been removed from the Order of Canada:

resigned or returned their insignia.

One former police detective, Frank Chauvin, along with a Catholic anti-abortion activist, filed suit against the Order of Canada Advisory Council, demanding that the minutes of the meeting relating to Morgentaler be made public.[92] The appointment of Morgentaler prompted former

  • Governor General's Order of Canada site
  • Canadian Orders, Decorations and Military Honours

External links

Further reading


  1. ^ a b Office of the Governor General of Canada 2014
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Department of National Defence 2009, p. 1
  4. ^ McCreery 2005, p. xiii
  5. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada 2014, Roland Michener, P.C., C.C., C.M.M., C.D., LL.D.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ McCreery 2005, p. 228
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Elizabeth II 2004
  15. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 21.1.d
  16. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 12.1
  17. ^ Elizabeth II 2013, 9.2
  18. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 24.2
  19. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada 2014, Georges-Henri Denys Arcand, C.C., C.Q.
  20. ^ Department of National Defence 2009, p. 2C-2
  21. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 10.2
  22. ^
  23. ^ McCreery 2005, pp. 223–224
  24. ^
  25. ^ McCreery 2005, pp. 126, 149, 166
  26. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 16
  27. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 13
  28. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada 2014, Honour Received: Companion (CC), Field: Living
  29. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada 2014, Honour Received: Companion (CC) Honorary, Field: Living
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 17
  33. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada 2014, Honour Received: Officer (OC), Field: Living
  34. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada 2014, Honour Received: Officer (OC) Honorary, Field: Living
  35. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 19
  36. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada 2014, Honour Received: Member (CM), Field: Living
  37. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada 2014, Honour Received: Member (CM) Honorary, Field: Living
  38. ^ a b
  39. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada 2014, Bruce W. Beatty, C.M., C.D.
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^ Chancellery of Honours 2005, p. 7
  45. ^ Chancellery of Honours 2005, p. 2
  46. ^
  47. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 21.1.b
  48. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 21.1.c
  49. ^
  50. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 23.1
  51. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 24.3.b
  52. ^ McCreery 2005, p. 197
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 9.1
  57. ^ a b c d e f
  58. ^
  59. ^ a b
  60. ^ a b McCreery 2010, p. 6
  61. ^ McCreery 2005, p. 209
  62. ^
  63. ^ a b c d McCreery 2005, p. 210
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^ a b McCreery 2010, p. 5
  67. ^
  68. ^
  69. ^ McCreery 2005, p. 168
  70. ^ Elizabeth II 2004, 25.b
  71. ^
  72. ^
  73. ^
  74. ^
  75. ^ a b
  76. ^
  77. ^
  78. ^
  79. ^
  80. ^
  81. ^
  82. ^
  83. ^
  84. ^
  85. ^
  86. ^
  87. ^
  88. ^
  89. ^
  90. ^
  91. ^
  92. ^
  93. ^
  94. ^ a b
  95. ^
  96. ^
  97. ^


  1. ^ In royal proclamations issued by the Queen or in her name, the order is thus referred to as "Our Order of Canada".[12]
  2. ^ For example, Denys Arcand was created as an Officer of the Order of Canada on 29 December 1986 and was promoted to Companion on 29 October 2004.[19]
  3. ^ The [89]


At certain periods, holders of the order were presented with other awards, usually commemorative medals. Thus far, two commemoratives have been given automatically to every living member of the Order of Canada: the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977[96] and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.[97]

Additional honours

In June 2010, McCreery suggested reforms to the Order of Canada that would avert the awkwardness around appointing those in Canada's royal family as full members of the order: He theorized that the Queen, as the order's Sovereign, could simply appoint, on ministerial advice, anyone as an extra member, or the monarch could issue an ordinance allowing for her relations to be made regular members when approved. Similarly, McCreery proposed that a new division of the order could be established specifically for governors general, their spouses, and members of the Royal Family,[66] a version of which was adopted in 2013.

At a 2006 conference on Commonwealth honours, Christopher McCreery, an expert on Canada's honours, raised the concern that the three grades of the Order of Canada were insufficient to recognize the nation's very best; one suggestion was to add two more levels to the order, equivalent to knighthoods in Australian and British orders. The order of precedence also came under scrutiny, particularly the anomaly that all three grades of the Order of Canada supersede the top levels of each of the other orders (except the Order of Merit), contrary to international practice.[95]

Proposed amendments


The advisory board attempts to remain apolitical and pragmatic in its approach to selecting new members of the Order of Canada, generally operating without input from safe sex alongside abstinence.[88] Similarly, the acceptance of birth control advocate Elizabeth Bagshaw and gay rights campaigner Brent Hawkes also incited debate.[57]

Controversial appointments

[87][86] In 2013, Norman Barwin resigned from the order as a result of the Advisory Council moving forward with his pending removal due to his being found guilty of professional misconduct.[85], who was convicted in the United States in 2007 of fraud and obstruction of justice.Lord Black of Crossharbour and [84][83]

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