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The Order of Canada ( ) is an honour for merit that is, within the Canadian system of honours, the highest such order administered by the Governor General-in-Council, on behalf of the Queen of Canada. Created in 1967, to coincide with the centennial of Canadian Confederation, the three-tiered order was established as a fellowship that recognizes the achievement of outstanding merit or distinguished service by Canadians, through life-long contributions in every field of endeavour, and who made a major difference to Canada, as well as the efforts made by non-Canadians who have made the world better by their actions. Membership is thus accorded to those who exemplify the order's Latin motto, taken from Hebrews 11:16, desiderantes meliorem patriam, meaning "they desire a better country."

The Canadian monarch, at present Elizabeth II, is Sovereign of the order, and the serving Governor General, currently Michaëlle Jean, is its Chancellor and Principal Companion. Appointees into the order are selected by an advisory board and formally inducted by the Governor General; as of July 2009, 5,657 people have been appointed to the Order of Canada, including musicians, politicians, artists, athletes, businessmen, television and film stars, benefactors, and others. Since 1994, substantive members are the only regular citizens who are empowered to administer the Canadian Oath of Citizenship.


The process of founding the Order of Canada began in early 1966 and came to a conclusion on 17 April 1967, when the organistation was instituted by Queen Elizabeth II, on the advice of her then Canadian Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson, who was assisted with the establishment of the order by John Matheson. The association was then officially launched on 1 July 1967, the 100th anniversary of the formation of Canadian Confederation, with Governor General Roland Michener being the first inductee to the order to the level of Companion 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, and Maurice Richard. During a visit to Londonmarker, United Kingdommarker, later in 1967, Michener presented the Queen with her Sovereign's badge for the Order of Canada, and she first wore it during a banquet in Yellowknifemarker in July 1970.

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), the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George being the main ones used for Canadians. Other non-British Commonwealth realms were soon inspired to follow suit; Jamaicamarker being the first in 1968, and by the 1980s, Canada's provinces began to develop their own distinct honours and decorations.


The Canadian monarch, seen as the fount of honour, is at the apex of the Order of Canada as its Sovereign, followed by the Governor General, who serves as the fellowship's Chancellor. 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; each incumbent Governor General is also installed as the Principal Companion for the duration of their time in the viceregal post. Promotions in grade are possible, though this is ordinarily not done within five years of the initial appointment, and a maximum of five honorary appointments into either of the three grades may be made by the Governor General each year; to date, there have been eighteen honorary appointments to non-Canadian citizens.

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.


Companions of the Order of Canada (post-nominals: CC, in ) 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, save for those appointed in an honorary capacity. The constitution of the Order of Canada also specifies that the reigning monarch, the incumbent Governor General and his or her spouse, and former viceroys and viceregal consorts are to be included as Companions of the order, though these individuals also do not count towards the 165 person maximum. As of July 2009, there were 170 living Companions, including four honorary.


Officers of the Order of Canada (post-nominals: OC, in ) have demonstrated an outstanding level of talent and service to Canadians, and up to 64 may be appointed each year, save for those inducted on an honorary basis, with no limit to how many may be living at one time. As of July 2009, there were 1,012 living Officers, including four honorary.


Members of the Order of Canada (post-nominals: CM, in ) 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, save for those inducted on an honorary basis, and there is no limit on how many Members may be living at one time. As of July 2009, there were 2,037 living Members, including four honorary.


Ribbon bar
Companion Officer Member

Upon admission into the Order of Canada, members are gifted 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 himself was made a member of the order in 1990; as of 2004, Beatty has been in attendance at every investiture ceremony since 1967. The badge belonging to the Sovereign consists of a jewelled, 18kt gold crown of rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, 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. The Chancellor wears the badge of a Companion, though is also, upon installation as Governor General, granted a livery collar for wear at Order of Canada investiture ceremonies; this is composed of an alternating pattern of white, stylized snowflakes and the same central disks from the Companion logo, and supports an enamel rendition of the shield of the Royal Arms of Canada, from which the Governor General's badge is suspended.

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. 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 all those of other national orders that is, at the far right end of an individual's medal bar or at the wearer's neck with only the Victoria Cross and the Cross of Valour permitted to be worn before the badge of the Order of Canada, as well as the insignia of the Order of Merit. 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 were required to wear their Order of Canada emblem on a ribbon bow positioned on the left breast. These regulations were altered in 1997, and, with the exception of certain special occasions, women may wear their insignia in either the traditional method or in the same fashion as the men.

With the patriation in 1988 of oversight of arms to Canada through the Canadian Heraldic Authority, 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, 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. As the Queen is sovereign of the Order of Canada, she in 1987 approved the augmentation of her royal arms for Canada with the order's ribbon.

Possession and sale

The constitution of the Order of Canada states that the insignia remain property of the Crown, 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. Thus, while badges may be passed down as family heirlooms, 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.

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 email. Originally, the auctioneer, who had purchased the decoration for $45 at an estate sale in Montrealmarker, and who remained anonymous, 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. The following year, in June, the badges of a Member (numbered 625) and an Officer (numbered 709) sold at auction in Germany, the former fetching approximately $2,500, while the latter sold for $3,500, and in September, a Member's insignia (numbered 725) was listed on eBay; after 6 days of bidding, the price had risen to $2,000 and the auction was ended by eBay.

Eligibility and appointment

Any of the three levels of the Order of Canada are open to all living Canadian citizens, except all federal and provincial politicians and judges while they hold office. Each of the six to eight hundred nominations submitted each year, by any person or organization, is received by the order's Advisory Council, which, along with the Governor General, makes the final choice of new inductees, typically by consensus rather than a vote; a process that, when conceived, was the first of its kind in the world. Appointees are then accepted into the organization at an investiture ceremony typically conducted by the Governor General at Rideau Hall, though other officials may perform the task and the ceremony may take place in other locations. Since the 1991 investiture of Ted Rogers, Order of Canada installment ceremonies have been broadcast on various television channels and the Internet; recipients are given a complimentary copy of their investiture ceremony from Rogers Cable.

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 chairperson of the Canada Council for the Arts, the president of the Royal Society of Canada, the chairperson 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. Decisions of the council and/or new appointments to and/or dismissals from the Order of Canada are announced to the Canada Gazette and general public by the Advisory Council's Secretary General.

The current members of the Advisory Council are:


While few have declined entry into the Order of Canada, it is not unheard of: as of 1997, 1.5% of offered appointments to the order have been refused. 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 publicly about their decisions, including Robert Weaver, who stated that he was critical of the "three-tier" nature of the order; 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. 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 Genevieve Bujold while Alice Parizeau, another supporter of Quebec sovereignty, was criticized for accepting entry into the order, in spite of her beliefs.

Others decline out of modesty, such as Victoria Cross recipient Cecil Meritt, who cited the fact that he already held Canada's highest decoration as a reason not to be admitted to the Order of Canada. 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. 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. Conversely, he in 1988 accepted without issue a substantive induction as a Companion of the Order of Australia. Former Premier of Newfoundland Joey Smallwood declined appointment as a Companion because he felt that, as a Father of Confederation, he deserved a knighthood. Smallwood was never knighted and later accepted induction as a Companion.

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 quit their membership, and only with the Governor General's approval can the resignation take effect. On 1 June 2009, the Governor General accepted the resignations of René Racine, Jacqueline Richard, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte; no reason was given. It was reported that other constituents of the Order of Canada had, in reaction to Henry Morgentaler's induction into their ranks, indicated that they would return or had returned their emblems in protest, including organizations such as the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Madonna House Apostolatemarker doing so on behalf of deceased former members.

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; while there are no formal rules dictating that the medallion and other paraphernalia must be returned, Christopher McCreery has stated in his book The Order of Canada: Its Origins, History and Development that since the Crown owns the insignia and scrolls, the Royal Canadian Mounted Policemarker can be sent to retrieve the items by force. As of 2009, three people have been removed from the Order of Canada: Alan Eagleson, who was dismissed after being jailed for fraud in 1998; David Ahenakew, who faced calls for his removal due to anti-Semitic comments he made in 2002; and T. Sher Singh, after the Law Society of Upper Canada found him guilty of professional misconduct and revoked his licence to practise law.

Controversial appointments

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 ministers of the Crown; political interference has occurred only once, when in 1978 Paul Desmarais's investiture was delayed for six months by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. However, some of the committee's selections have caused controversy. For instance, the admission in 2001 of sex educator Sue Johanson, host of the long-running Sunday Night Sex Show, as a Member of the order stirred controversy amongst Canada's Christian organizations, as Johanson had taught teenagers the tactics of safe sex alongside abstinence. Similarly, the acceptance of birth control advocate Elizabeth Bagshaw and gay rights campaigner Brent Hawkes also incited debate.

Abortion activist Henry Morgentaler's appointment to the order on 1 July 2008 not only marked the first time the Advisory Council had not been unanimous on its decision, but also proved to be one of the most controversial appointments in the order's history, drawing both praise from abortion rights groups and the ire of Conservative Members of Parliament, anti-abortion groups, and religious leaders. The latter organized protests outside of Rideau Hall on 9 July, while compatriots did the same in front of Government Housemarker in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labradormarker, the official residence of that province's Lieutenant Governor. 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. The appointment of Morgentaler prompted former Liberal Member of Parliament Clifford Lincoln to write that the workings of the Advisory Council were "mysterious", citing what he theorised to be inbuilt partiality and conflict of interest as reason why Margaret Somerville, whom Lincoln had twice nominated to the Advisory Council, was turned down for appointment, yet Morgentaler was accepted. Journalist Henry Aubin in the Montreal Gazette opined that the council's rejection of Somerville, her personal opposition to same-sex marriage, and the acceptance of Brent Hawkes, Jane Vance Rule, and Jean Chrétien, all regarded as supporting same-sex unions, as well as the appointment of a controversial figure such as Morgentaler, was all sign that the Advisory Council operated with partisan bias. Aubin also pointed to the presence on the council of members of the Royal Society of Canada, an organization into which Somerville was received.

Additional decorations

At certain periods, holders of the order were presented with other decorations, usually commemorative medals. Thus far, four commemorative medals have been given automatically to every living member of the Order of Canada: the Canadian Centennial Medal (1967), the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977), the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal (1992), and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002).

See also



Further reading

See also: Orders, decorations, and medals of Canada > Further reading

External links

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