Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean and Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled the Canadian Victoria Cross at Rideau Hall on Friday. ((Governor General's website))

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean and Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled Canada's own version of the Victoria Cross on Friday, the highest military decoration that can be awarded to a Canadian.

The Canadian Victoria Cross, which recognizes members of the Canadian Forces for the "most conspicuous bravery, a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty, in the presence of the enemy," will be used to honour Canadians instead of the original Victoria Cross, created by Queen Victoria in 1856.

Ninety-four Canadians have been awarded the British Victoria Cross, including 29 who received it posthumously.

"Canada wanted its own Victoria Cross, a cross that would still resemble the British cross but would better reflect who we are," Jean said during the unveiling ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

The bronze cross, suspended from a crimson ribbon, features a lion guardant standing upon the Royal Crown, with a scroll below bearing the Latin inscription pro valore, a slight change from the British cross which reads "for valour."

Harper said Canada changed the inscription to use the ancient language employed by our English and French ancestors "to express the universal ideal they share."

The cross includes metals from three sources: gunmetal used in the production of British Victoria Crosses, a medal minted in 1867 in commemoration of the Confederation of Canada, and metals from all regions of Canada from coast to coast to coast.

"The medal will be a proud reminder of our unity and our heritage and of the sacrifices that have helped keep our true north strong and free," Harper said.

Harper said it's rare that we hear of the heroic acts carried on every day by those in the Armed Forces.

"But some day somewhere, one of those men or women will do something so brave, so gallant, so exceptional, that we will hear about it. And he or she will join the legendary group of Canadian Forces who wear the pride of a nation on their chest."