Special Service Medal (SSM)

The official description, eligibility, criteria, and history of the Special Service Medal (SSM).

Special Service Medal (SSM)


The Special Service Medal (SSM) was created to recognize members of the Canadian Forces (CF) who are taking part in activities and operations under exceptional circumstances.

Eligibility and criteria

The Special Service Medal (SSM) recognizes members of the CF who have performed a service determined to be under exceptional circumstances, in a clearly defined locality for a specified duration. The SSM recognizes approved activities underway on 11 June 1984 or subsequently established. This medal is always issued with a bar that specifies the special service being recognized (there are no rotation bars to the SSM), each bar having its own criteria.

The SSM has been amended to expand eligibility to Canadian civilians and members of allied forces working under the authority of the CF from 29 April 2014 onwards to align this medal with other modern service medals which allow recognition of all members of the Defense Team who play a key role in the success of our operations.


The Medal shall be circular in form, of copper and zinc alloy, 36 mm in diameter, bearing:

  • on the obverse, a maple leaf surrounded by a laurel wreath;
  • on the reverse the inscription "SPECIAL SERVICE SPÉCIAL" ensigned with the Royal Crown and Cypher.

A single-toe claw attached to the top of the medal and to the centre of a straight, slotted bar.

The ribbon is 32 mm wide with a dark green centre (12 mm) flanked with white stripes (5mm) and edged with red (5 mm). The dark green is similar to the "unification green" of the uniform worn when the medal was approved in 1984. Red and white are the official colours of Canada as appointed by King George V in 1921.

The bars are silver in colour with a raised edge and bear the title of the bar on a pebbled background.


The medal is issued only with a bar representing the particular special service. The bars awarded to date are:

1. PAKISTAN 1989 - 90
(Authorized by PC 1991-1061, 6 JUN 1991)

For of 90 days service with the Mine Awareness and Clearance Training Program in Pakistan, between 15 March 1989 and 29 July 1990, under the auspices of the UN. This bar is no longer issued and may be exchanged for the UN Special Service Medal.

(Amended by PC 1995-2003, 28 NOV 1995)

An aggregate of 180 days of honourable service on the posted strength of Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert, or of honourable service with a military force operationally deployed to or at CFS Alert, since it began its operation on 1 September 1958 and is still continuing. Units deployed at CFS Alert include such detachments as aircrew flying into the station for re-supply missions.

(Amended by PC 2017-1742, 19 DEC 2017)

An aggregate of 180 days of honourable service in peacekeeping operations, from November 1947 (the beginning of international peacekeeping operations) to 21 June 2001. It was issued for service which had not been recognized by any other award in, or accepted into, the Canadian Honours system at the time.

For more details, consult the Eligible Service List (accessible only on the Government of Canada network).

NOTE: Since 21 June 2001, no further missions are approved for this bar. Peacekeeping service eligibility is now counted towards the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal (CPSM).

(Amended by PC 2018-124, 9 FEB 2018)

NATO service between 1951 and 2004:

An aggregate of 180 days of honourable service within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) area of responsibility between 1 January 1951 and 19 October 2004. Qualifying service is service while posted to a NATO unit, or to a Canadian Forces or allied formation or unit outside territorial limits of Canada under the operational control of a NATO headquarters, or in Canada on an operational staff directly participating in the operational control of such formations and units. In the latter case, only those staff personnel serving in an operations room directly participating in the control of ships and aircraft in NATO operations and exercises qualify for this service. Persons in eligible positions or operations on 19 October 2004 continue to count their time under this criteria until the end of that posting or deployment. Not all time served in Europe nor at sea can be counted towards this bar.

NATO service since 2004 to Present:

An aggregate of 45 days of honourable service performed in approved locations or tasks outside Canada beginning on or after 20 October 2004 as part or in direct support of NATO operations or missions, provided the service in question is not counted towards another medal.  For more details, consult the Eligible Service List (accessible only on the Government of Canada network).

Service in NATO transformation establishments, schools and colleges, NATO training, exercises, conferences, and other similar service not in direct support of NATO Ops remains excluded from eligibility.

Personnel who have eligible service under the 1951–2004 criteria but did not meet the 180 day criteria, and also have eligible service under the 2004-onward criteria, shall be allowed to combine all the eligible days of service towards the minimum of 45 cumulative days of eligible service criteria.

Multiplying factors no longer exist.

For more details, consult the Eligible Service List (accessible only on the Government of Canada network).

(Amended by PC 2017-1741, 19 DEC 2017)

An aggregate of 30 days of honourable service performed outside Canada from 11 June 1984 to 31 July 2009 in support of any humanitarian operation conducted in response to a disaster or human conflict, set out in the schedule, including rescue, relief, and reconstruction operations, and provided the service has not been acknowledged by the award of any other honour that is part of or is recognized by the Canadian Honours System.

For more details, consult the Eligible Service List (accessible only on the Government of Canada network).

NOTE: Since 31 July 2009 no further missions are approved. Humanitarian service eligibility is now counted towards the Operational Service Medal with HUMANITAS ribbon (OSM-HUM).

(Amended by PC 2017-1738, 19 DEC 2017)

An aggregate of four years of honourable service as a Canadian Ranger or as a Canadian Ranger instructor, performing the duties of providing a military presence in support of Canadian sovereignty including reporting unusual activities; collecting local data of significance to support military operations; providing local expertise, assistance, and advice as guide and advisor; in search and rescue activities; and with the completion of a minimum of three Ranger Patrol Exercises within Canada or its territorial and adjacent waters since 1947.

The Canadian Ranger patrol type matrix clarifies which types of Ranger Patrols qualify towards the RANGER Bar:

  • Types 1 and 2 patrols do not qualify, and
  • Types 3, 4, 5 and 6 patrols do qualify.

(Amended by PC 2018-123, 9 Feb 2018)

An aggregate of 45 days of honourable service performed outside Canada beginning July 1, 2007, while deployed to participate in or provide direct support on a full-time basis to approved operations, provided the said service is not counted towards any other Canadian or foreign service medal. In this context, “deployed” means sent outside of Canada temporarily, without family and effects, for the specific purpose of serving in or supporting approved operations. Postings to permanent positions outside of Canada are excluded from eligibility.

For more details, consult the Eligible Service List (accessible only on the Government of Canada network).


The SSM shall be worn in sequence prescribed in the Canadian Orders, Decorations and Medals Directive, and in the following manner:

  • on the left breast, suspended from the ribbon described above, between the Operational Service Medal and the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal (CPSM);
  • one bar is worn centred on the ribbon; if multiple bars have been awarded, they shall be evenly spaced on the ribbon in the order earned, with the first bar earned worn the closest to the medal; and
  • where the undress ribbon is worn, a silver, gold, or red maple leaf is worn to denote respectively a second bar, third bar, or fourth or subsequent bar.


The use of a post-nominal is not authorized for this medal.

Historical notes

The medal was designed by Captain Bruce Wilbur Beatty, CM, SOM, CD (Retired).

As of 31 December 2022, 98,765 awards have been made.

The following is a list of Canadian Forces members who have died while performing service eligible for the SSM-NATO since 19 October 2004:

Cousins, M.A. MCpl
Cowbrough, A.L. SLt
Hagen, K.M. Capt
MacDonald, B.I. Capt
Miron-Morin, M. Capt
Pyke, M.K. SLt

Page details

Date modified: