Order of Canada
The honour of a nation
Last Updated July 2, 2008
Awarded to Members of the Order Awarded to Officers of the Order Awarded to Companions of the Order
The Order of Canada is awarded to Canadians who have made a recognizable difference to the country. The honour, which is the highest in Canada, was established in 1967 to recognize extraordinary Canadians and their extraordinary achievements. In total, the Order has been presented to more than 5,500 people.
A diverse group of 11 Canadians known as the advisory council selects the recipients twice a year. The council is chaired by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and counts among its members:
- the Privy Council clerk,
- the deputy minister of Canadian Heritage,
- the chair of the Canada Council,
- the president of the Royal Society of Canada,
- the chair of the board of the Association of University and Colleges of Canada,
- and up to five appointees from the Order membership.
The Order of Canada insignia is a stylized snowflake with six points. A red circle at its centre contains a maple leaf and the Order motto: Desiderantes meliorem patriam (They desire a better country). The circle is topped by St. Edward's crown.
The Governor General presents the insignias to honorees during two different ceremonies each year. The insignias vary according to the recipient's level of honour, which from lowest to highest are: Member, Officer and Companion.
Members of the Order have made an exceptional contribution to Canadians at a local or regional level. For instance, Sarah Anala became a member in 1996 for counselling offenders and their families in the Inuit, Mi'kmaq and Maliseet communities. Up to 136 members may be appointed each year.
Officers of the Order have shown an outstanding level of talent and service to Canadians. Rex Harrington became an officer in 2000 for his extensive contribution as a principal dancer of the National Ballet of Canada. Up to 64 officers may be appointed each year.
Companions of the Order have shown Canada the most exceptional achievements of national or international significance. In 1987, Rick Hansen became a companion of the Order for his world tour, in which he raised funds for people with disabilities. Up to 15 companions may be appointed each year.
Losing the honour
Under the order's constitution, a recipient can be stripped of the honour for:
- A criminal conviction.
- Conduct considered to be "a significant departure from generally recognized standards of public behaviour."
- Being officially sanctioned by an adjudicating body, professional association or other organization.
The termination process usually starts with a letter to the deputy secretary of the Chancellor of Honours. Any Canadian can write to request a recipient be removed.
When a request has been made, the deputy secretary determines whether there's justification for a review by the advisory council. If, after studying the case, the council decides there are grounds for termination, the secretary general will send a registered letter advising the recipient that the honour is under consideration and outlining the facts.
The person can either resign or make a representation to the secretary general, who will send it to the council for review.
If the council rules to remove the honour, or the recipient resigns, the governor general will sign an order terminating the appointment.
Of the more than 5,500 Canadians awarded the order, only two have lost it:
- In 1998, Alan Eagleson, a former head of the NHL Players Association, lost his Order of Canada after a conviction for defrauding players he represented.
- In 2005, former Assembly of First Nations chief David Ahenakew had his honour terminated after a Saskatoon court found him guilty of promoting hatred with anti-Semitic remarks.