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 who are taking part in activities and operations under exceptional circumstances.

Eligibility and criteria

The Special Service Medal (SSM) recognizes members of the Canadian Forces (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 medals is always issued with a bar that specifies the special service being recognized, each bar having its own criteria.


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.


Rotation Bar

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)

A minimum of 90 days service with the Mine Awareness and Clearance Training Program in Pakistan, during the period beginning on March 15, 1989 and ending on July 29, 1990, under the auspices of the United Nations.

NOTE: This bar is no longer issued. The recipients of this bar can, if they wish to do so, exchange it for the United Nations Special Service Medal (UNSSM).


(Authorized by PC 1995-2003)

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 01 September 1958 and still continuing. Units deployed at CFS Alert include such detachments as aircrew flying into the station for re-supply missions.


(Authorized by PC 1995-2004)

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 (internal link).

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 2018-123, 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 04 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 mission provided the service in question is not recognized by another medal.  See link to eligibility list above.

Service in NATO transformation establishments, schools and colleges, NATO training, exercises and conferences, as well as 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 (internal link).


(Authorized by PC 1997-124)

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, 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 theEligible Service List (internal link).

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


(Authorized by PC 2017-1738)

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 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 2018-124, 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 (internal link).


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 Bruce Beatty.

As of 1 June 2012, 76 749 awards had been made.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: