Chapter 6 – Commonwealth and foreign honours to Canadians

  1. Canadian honours policy requires Government approval before a Commonwealth or foreign order, decoration or medal can be awarded to one of its citizens. Otherwise, Canada will not recognize the honour, and it cannot be worn with national honours or on a CF uniform. The Chancellery of Honours is responsible for the approval process.
  2. The policy has been described to all missions accredited to Canada (Global Affairs Canada (GAC) Circular Note No. XDC-0675, 4 February 1988), and is reprinted in Figure 6-1.
  3. Although the policy requires approval before an award is presented, requests after the fact, which explain the presentation circumstances, may be considered.
  4. The Sovereign is the fount of all Canadian honours. To be recognized, Commonwealth and foreign honours must emanate from a similar level of authority (i.e. they have been created by or are awarded on behalf of a head of state). Examples of such honours are the British Order of the British Empire, Military Cross or General Service Medal (GSM), the American Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal or Meritorious Service Medal (MSM), the French Légion d'honneur or Ordre national du Mérite. Awards emanating from other, lower authorities are regarded as private honours and shall be accepted as private mementos only. Except for courtesy reasons at the moment of presentation, they cannot be worn by Canadians with national honours or on a CF uniform and there is, therefore, no requirement to request approval for these awards.
  5. Canada will only approve honours that recognize meritorious activity. Canada does not engage in exchanges of honours, nor give or receive honours based solely on an individual's status, as it is not in keeping with the principle of merit.
  6. Canadian protocol differentiates between orders and decorations (which recognize individual meritorious activity), and campaign and service medals (which recognize honourable participation in some collective activity).
  7. Canada does not approve Commonwealth or foreign orders and decorations for the normal performance of paid government duty. Requests to award Commonwealth or foreign honours to public employees, military or civilian, must explain why the activity to be recognized was outside the paid duties or beyond the norm expected of the individual's rank and experience. Each request is assessed individually.
  8. A request for the award of a Commonwealth or foreign campaign or service medal is assessed on a group basis for all who qualify for the honour. The dual recognition principle applies for Commonwealth and foreign campaign or service medals. If Canada has provided recognition for a service (e.g. the Gulf and Kuwait Medal), it will not authorize the issue of a foreign medal for the same service. This is why, for example, the South-Korean Syngman Rhee War Service Medal, the Saudi Arabian Liberation of Kuwait Medal and the NATO medal for the International Security and Assistance Force (NATO-ISAF) are not approved for wear.
  9. When a unit or individual is approached by a representative of a Commonwealth or foreign country with respect to a Commonwealth or foreign award, the representative shall be tactfully informed that approval from the Canadian Government for the award should be sought through normal diplomatic channels: the donor country (unit) should submit the request to their own embassy/mission in Canada. The request is then submitted by the embassy/ mission to Global Affairs Canada (GAC).
    1. Foreign representatives may obtain further information from:
      • Global Affairs Canada
      • Deputy Chief of Protocol and Director, Diplomatic Corps Services
      • Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2
      • Phone: 343-203-3015
      • Fax: 613-943-1075
    2. or, for national honours policy, from:
      • The Chancellery of Honours
      • Rideau Hall
      • 1 Sussex Drive
      • Ottawa, ON K1A 0A1
      • Toll Free Number 1-800-465-6890
      • Email
  10. CF members may obtain information from the DND, DH&R, through their chain of command.
  11. Each request is adjudicated by the Government Honours Policy Sub-Committee. If approval is granted, the Commonwealth country or foreign power may directly notify the individual or unit concerned of presentation arrangements. DH&R ensures that the MPRRs are updated. The approval of Commonwealth and foreign honours to Canadians is also published in the Canada Gazette and in a CANFORGEN.
  12. If a Commonwealth or foreign government presents a CF member with an order, decoration or medal at an official function without obtaining prior Canadian government approval, the member cannot. diplomatically refuse the award. However, until Government approval is given, the award can only be worn at the time of presentation for courtesy reasons. The member shall then tactfully inform the awarding unit of the process required by Canada as noted in paragraph 9. The originating government forwards a request to their embassy/mission in Canada who, in turn, attaches a diplomatic note and sends it to GAC. GAC submits the request to the Chancellery of Honours for tabling at a Government Honours Policy Sub-Committee. Once the Sub-Committee approves, GAC informs the originating government of acceptance. Approximately four months after Sub-Committee approval, the award is published in the Canada Gazette and the individual receives a letter from the Chancellery of Honours officially informing them that they can accept and wear the honour.
  13. If a foreign award is directly sent to the CF member or the CF member's unit without formal presentation by the donor country, the medal in question should be forwarded to DH&R for safekeeping. Once the required diplomatic approval is confirmed, DH&R will make the necessary arrangements with the CF member's CO or Command to have the medal officially presented. There are no central funds to cover travel costs for recipients to attend the presentation of Commonwealth and foreign honours. DH&R will therefore not cover any costs, however the recipients’ unit may authorize temporary duty in certain circumstances based on current travel regulations, in which case funding is a unit responsibility.
  14. Nothing in this policy applies to foreign honours properly presented to a country's own citizens. However, after immigration, a Canadian citizen can only wear Commonwealth and foreign honours in accordance with Canadian protocol (i.e., honours must emanate from a head of state or government).
  15. A member who was awarded an order, decoration or medal by a Commonwealth country or foreign power prior to enrolment in the CF may be granted approval to wear the insignia and ribbon while in uniform. These awards shall be worn according to the Canadian order of precedence (i.e., after all Canadian insignia). To obtain approval the member shall submit a written request to their CO, accompanied by documentary proof of the award. The CO shall forward the request with a photocopy of the documentary proof, through normal channels, to NDHQ/DH&R who will request Government approval through the Chancellery of Honours. Once approval is received, the unit will be informed and requested to inform the member, and DH&R will record the award(s) in the member's MPRR.
Figure 6-1 Policy respecting the awarding of an order, decoration or medal by a Commonwealth or foreign government

(Reference to the GAC updated version of (2015-10-13)

  1. Any Commonwealth or foreign government desiring to award an order, decoration or medal to a Canadian citizen shall obtain the prior approval of the Government of Canada.
  2. Commonwealth and foreign governments desiring to award orders, decorations or medals to Canadian citizens shall submit their proposals to the Government of Canada through their diplomatic missions in Canada.
  3. The Government of Canada will consider granting the approval referred to in section 1 for the awarding of an order, decoration or medal offered in recognition of:
    1. an extraordinary service to mankind;
    2. conspicuous bravery in saving or attempting to save life;
    3. any exceptional service rendered to the country desiring to make the award; or
    4. any substantial act or acts contributing to better relations between Canada and the country desiring to make the award.
  4. The Government of Canada SHALL NOT grant the approval referred to in section 1 for an award:
    1. that is at variance with Canadian policy or the public interests;
    2. that carries with it an honorary title or confers any precedence or privilege;
    3. that is conferred otherwise than by a Head of State or a government recognized as such by Canada;
    4. that is conferred in recognition of services by an individual in the employ of Her Majesty in Right of Canada or of a province in the normal performance of official duties; or
    5. that is in respect of events occurring more than five years before the offer of the award.
  5. The Honours Policy Committee may advise and recommend on the interpretation and application of this policy and on the disposition of cases arising therefrom.

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