Order of Canada

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Seal of the Order of Canada

The Order of Canada is Canada's highest civilian honour, awarded to those who adhere to the Order's motto Desiderantes meliorem patriam meaning "they desire a better country." Created in 1967, it was established to recognize the lifetime contributions made by Canadians who made a major difference to Canada. The Order also recognizes efforts made by non-Canadians who made the world better by their actions. Musicians, politicians, artists, tv stars and benefactors and many more have been accepted into the Order. The Queen of Canada, Queen Elizabeth II, is Sovereign of the Order and the serving Governor-General is its Chancellor and Principal Companion. Since 1967, more than 4,000 people have been appointed to the Order of Canada.



The Order of Canada was instituted on 17 April, 1967 by Prime Minister Lester Pearson. Person created the Order to recognize exemplary achievement to Canadians and to humanity at large. The first members were appointed on 1 July, 1967, the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Dominion of Canada. The creation of the Order was the beginning of the establishment of the Canadian Honours System, a system of awards and decorations to be bestowed onto Canadians and foreigners by the Canadian Government. Upon the creation of the system, it broke off the dependence of the honours system used by the United Kingdom and by some of her former colonies and dominions. The first appointee (selection) and investiture (inducting) was for Roland Michener, the twentieth Governor General of Canada, to the level of Companion. Template:Ref Since the Order was created, Australia has created an award based after the Order of Canada: the Order of Australia. However, the Australian order has been awarded more liberally to foreigners than the Order of Canada. New Zealand has also created a similar order, the Order of New Zealand.


There are three grades (levels) of the Order: Member, Officer and Companion. Companion is the highest degree of the Order. Members may be promoted to Officers, and Officers may be promoted to Companions; however, this is generally done five years or more after the initial appointment. Upon its creation, the Order only had two ranks, Companion and Medal of Courage (now the Cross of Valour). Template:Ref On July 1, 1972, all members were made Officers and the level of Officer and Member were introduced.


Companions of the Order of Canada have demonstrated the highest degree of merit to Canada and humanity, on the national or international scene. Up to 15 Companions are appointed each year, with a limit of 165 living Companions at any given time. The post-nominal letters that the companions receive is C.C. As of 20 June, 2005, there are 163 living Companions of the Order.


Officers of the Order of Canada have demonstrated an outstanding level of talent and service to Canadians. Up to 64 Officers are appointed each year. Post-nominal: O.C. As of 22 June 2005 there are 986 living Officers, although there is no limit to how many may be living at one time.


Member of the Order of 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 and there is no limit on how many Members must be living (As of 22 June 2005 there are 1938 living members). Post-nominal: C.M.

Companion Officer Member
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Ribbon Bar
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Maple Leaf
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The badge of the Order is a white enamelled snowflake design, in gilt for Companions and Officers, and in silver for Members. The central disc bears a maple leaf, in red enamel for Companions, in gold for Officers and in silver for Members, on a white enamel background, surrounded by a red enamel ring (annulus) bearing the motto of the Order, and topped by a crown. The reverse is plain except for the word "Canada". The ribbon consists of white, with red edges. On top of the motto, the crown of St. Edward is present. The ribbon is designed in similar fashion to the Canadian flag. The insignia can be passed down as family heirlooms, but the insignia cannot be sold.

When wearing medals and decorations, the Order of Canada is worn before all national orders and nearly all other Canadian decorations. Only the Victoria Cross and the Cross of Valour is worn before the Order of Canada. The grades of Companion and Officer have their medals worn by a neck ribbon, while the Member grade is displayed on a chest ribbon on the left side of the jacket. Until recently, women appointees had to wear a ribbon bow in order to display the Order, which was positioned to the left. Other than special occasions laid out by the Governor General, women wear their Order by the same means as the men. On the ribbon bar, the same ribbon is worn, except charged with a metallic maple leaf in the centre, with the colour depending on the grade that one was appointed to. The red is for Companion, gold stands for Officer, silver stands for Member. Each appointee is also granted the use of supporters on their personal coat of arms. If such an arms was not created, then one can be created for them. The Order motto (gold lettering, red background) is circled around the shield, while the Order medal is suspended from the base of the shield.

C.C. & O.C. Ribbon C.M. Ribbon Female Bow Coat of Arms Template:Ref
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All living Canadians are eligible for any of the three awards, with the exception of politicians and judges who are holding office. Awards are announced twice annually, on January 1 and July 1 (Canada Day). Appointees who have died before their investiture are still eligible to receieve the Order. Multiple people who have committed the same honourable act or deed are eligible to receive the Order. An example of this is the members of the Canadian band Rush have all been appointed Officers to the Order (Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart).

Citizens of other countries are eligible for honorary appointments at all three levels. The maximum number of honorary appointments per year is five.

Induction ceremonies are generally conducted by the Governor General at Rideau Hall and, on rare occasions when she is in the country, by the Queen herself. The most common reason for the Order not being presented at Rideau Hall is the recipient's inability to come to Ottawa. One such example occurred in 2003 with singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. In 2002 shortly before a concert, Lightfoot suffered a serious abdominal hemmorage which resulted in his being in a coma for a time and months in hospital recovering. On the news of his near death condition Lightfoot was promoted to the rank of Commander. Since his condition left him unable to travel Adrienne Clarkson flew to Toronto and presented him with the insignia in a private ceremony performed in his hospital room. Template:Ref Template:Ref Another example is Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother who was presented with the CC at Clarence House in London with considerations for her 100 years of age. Rather than place the insignia on the elderly woman, who was recovering from a hip replacement, which would have required the Queen to stand, Clarkson handed the very frail woman the medallion. She made a point of wearing it around her neck at a special lunch following the private ceremony.

Members can be removed from the Order if the Advisory Council feels their actions have brought it into disrepute. As of 2005, the only person to be stripped of the honour is Alan Eagleson, who was removed from the order after being jailed for fraud in 1998 Template:Ref. David Ahenakew has also faced calls for his removal due to anti-Semitic comments he made in 2002. Template:Ref As of May 2005, Ahenakew is still a member of the Order.

Advisory Council

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Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, C.C.

The task of the Advisory Council is to evaluate the nominations of people to the Order and see if the nominated people are worthy enough to be accepted into the Order. The Governor General of Canada makes the appointments to the Order based on recommendations from the Advisory Council. The Secretary General to the Advisory Council announces the decision of the Advisory Council to the Canada Gazette and to the public about any appointments and dismissals from the Order.

The Advisory Council, which is chaired by the Chief Justice of Canada, includes the Clerk of the Privy Council, the Deputy Minister of the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Chairperson of the Canada Council for the Arts, the President of the Royal Society of Canada, and the Chairperson of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. As well, two members of the Order are part of the Council for a maximum three-year term.

The current members of the Advisory Council are:

  • The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., Chief Justice of Canada (Chair)
    • The Honourable Thomas R. Berger, O.C.
    • Mrs. Ruth Miriam Goldbloom, O.C.
    • Mr. Richard Francis Haskayne, O.C.
    • Mr. Alex Himelfarb, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet
    • Mr. Tom Jackson, O.C.
    • Miss Karen Kain, C.C., Chair, the Canada Council for the Arts
    • Mrs. Judith A. LaRocque, C.V.O., Deputy Minister, Canadian Heritage
    • Mr. Peter MacKinnon, Chairman of the Board, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
    • The Honourable Antonine Maillet, P.C., C.C., O.Q.
    • Mr. Gilles Paquet, C.M., President, the Royal Society of Canada
    • Ms. Barbara Uteck, Secretary to the Governor General (Secretary General)


The following is a sample list of appointments in the various levels of the Order.


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Adrienne Clarkson & John Ralston Saul


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Céline Dion, O.C.


Non-Canadian appointments

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The Aga Khan C.C. in 2005.

There have been only five awards given to non-Canadians, though one appointee has taken up citizenship in another country. So far non-Canadian appointees have always been made Companions. The five appointees that are not Canadian citizens are:

More members can be found in Category:Members of the Order of Canada.

Provincial and territorial orders

Various Canadian provinces and territories have also created orders to award their citizens on great deeds. Each province sets up their own rules on how their orders are presented, though there is no rule stating that the Order of Canada members cannot receive provincial and territorial orders. Limitation placed on the number of provincial orders distributed every year by certain provinces has led to this being more common for people from some provinces than from others. An example would be Gordon Lightfoot being a Companion of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Order of Ontario (O. Ont.). Template:Ref Ontario places no limit on the number that can be distributed (although it is usually around 25). Alberta is limited to 5 inductees each year. One of the few individuals from Alberta to have both is former Prime Minister Joe Clark.

At certain periods of time, holders of the Order were presented with other decorations. These are usually commemorative medals like the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal which were given automatically to every living member of the the Order of Canada or the Canadian Bravery Decorations.


  1. Template:Note http://www.gg.ca/Search/honours_descript_e.asp?type=2&id=1170 Roland Michener's listing on the Order of Canada rolls.
  2. Template:Note http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0005969 The Canadian Encyclopedia entry on the Order.
  3. Template:Note Coat of arms of Adrienne Clarkson, displaying the Order motto and medal.
  4. Template:Note http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2003/12/13/canada/lightfoot_031213 CBC story on Lightfoot's C.C. presentation.
  5. Template:Note http://www.gg.ca/media/doc.asp?lang=e&DocID=4090. Gordon Lightfoot's C.C. Citation.
  6. Template:Note http://archives.cbc.ca/IDCC-1-41-1493-10073/sports/alan_eagleson/ CBC account on the rise and fall of Eagleson.
  7. Template:Note http://montreal.cbc.ca/regional/servlet/View?filename=qc_mosesreax20021217 CBC article on Ahenakew's comments and reactions.
  8. Template:Note http://www.cbc.ca/news/obit/queenmother/timeline.html. Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon received the Order on 31 October 2000.
  9. Template:Note http://www.gg.ca/Search/honours_descript_e.asp?type=2&id=7732. Queen Mum's listing on the Order of Canada rolls.
  10. Template:Note http://www.gg.ca/Search/honours_descript_e.asp?type=2&id=2730. Conrad Black's listing on the Order of Canada rolls.
  11. Template:Note http://www.gg.ca/media/doc.asp?lang=e&DocID=4090. Gordon Lightfoot's C.C. Citation.

External links

fr:Ordre du Canada


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