The Order of Canada was established by Her Majesty The Queen, as Queen of Canada, as part of the creation of a Canadian honours system unique to the country and the reduction of the use of British honours within the realm.
The Order of Canada recognises outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation and recognises all people from all sectors of Canadian society. Since its creation, more than 6,000 people have been invested into the Order.
When established on the 100th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, in 1967, it was awarded in the ranks of Companion and the Medal of Services, which was later altered to consist of three ranks: Member (CM), Officer (OC) and Companion (CC).
Companions, of which there is a maximum of 165 at one time, are appointed “in recognition of their outstanding achievement and merit of the highest degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large”. Officers, limited to 64 appointees per year, are appointed “for achievement and merit of a high degree, especially service to Canada or to humanity at large”. Members, limited to 136 appointees per year, are appointed “for distinguished service in or to a particular community, group or field or activity”.
The Queen of Canada is Sovereign of the Order, with the Governor-General of Canada being the Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order and an extraordinary Companion. The Vice-regal Consort is also an extraordinary Companion. A member of the Canadian Royal Family may be appointed as a Companion, Officer or extraordinary member, and foreign citizens can be appointed as honorary Companions, Officers or Members.
Appointments are made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order, chaired by the Chief Justice of Canada, which meets twice a year to consider nominations made by the public.
Canadian Prime Ministers and Chief Justices of the Supreme Court are generally appointed to the Order as Companions shortly after they leave office.
The motto of the Order of Canada is ‘Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam’ (‘They desire a better country’), coming from Hebrews 11:16.
The insignia of the Order is a stylised six-pointed snowflake, with a centred red annulus bearing a stylised maple leaf and the motto of the Order, surmounted by the Royal Crown. The design dates from 1967 and is credited to Bruce Beatty.
Prominent appointments to the Order of Canada include singer Anne Murray (CC), actor Michael J. Fox (OC) and costume designer François Barbeau (CM), in addition to royal appointments, such as the Prince of Wales (CC) and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (CC).