Honours, Symbols and Sports

Canadian Honours

Every country develops ways of paying special respect to people who give extraordinary services to the nation through their hard work, which in turn inspires others to do good, perhaps at a national level such as a former prime minister, perhaps in a niche area of effort such as establishing a women’s shelter or organizing the feeding of homeless people.

This recognition for exceptional service is called “The Honours System”. The establishment of every national Honour along with many provincial Honours is approved by The King, often includes the Crown in its insignia and is given in his name, thus reflecting the tribute of all citizens.

In Canada, Honours exist for every sort of effort you could imagine. For instances, the Royal Victorian Order is given to those who have personally assisted The King. The Order of Canada is intended to recognize those who have improved the life of our nation, while The Order of Military Merit identifies outstanding administrative services in the Canadian Armed Forces

The Honours List of appointments to the Order of Canada is published twice yearly, around New Year’s Day and Canada Day. You can look at a recent list here, and admired the diversity of what some of your fellow Canadians have done to make our lives better. For a full explanation, access this site and admire the many ways Canadians make our country a better place.

Decorations are given for bravery and special service. In the Armed Forces, the highest level of courage is honoured by the Victoria Cross – the internationally-known recognition for selfless gallantry in the face of the enemy. Civilians and first responders are among those receive Bravery Decorations when, for example, someone rushes to save the occupants of a burning house or plunges into icy waters to save canoeists after their craft tipped over.

Medals often identify good achievements at significant in our nation’s history: many thousands of your fellow Canadians recently received in 2012 The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, which recognized our Queen’s life of services to others by honouring good citizenship. In 2022, six Provinces created Jubilee Honours when the federal government refused to do so. Quite possibly you know a family friend or neighbour who received this Honour.

Do you know anyone who has received an Honour, Decorations, or Medal?

Royal Flags

With the Death of Elizabeth II, there will be changes to Flags as with other symbols of the Crown. In time, this section will be revised in time to reflect these changes.

The Queen and the most senior members of the Royal Family each have a personal Canadian flag which may flown on a building or site where they are undertaking an engagement, or on the front of the car in which they are traveling. The flags emphasize in visual terms the fact that they are performing duties as members of the Canadian Royal Family.

The Flag of Canada was proclaimed by The Queen in 1965 after Parliamentary approval. It was raised for the first time on Parliament Hill on February 15 of that year. In 1921, King George V proclaimed Red and White to be Canada’s national colours. The Maple Leaf itself had been an unofficial symbol of Canada for centuries, appearing in 1868 on the Coat of Arms of both Quebec and Ontario, on coinage and on military insignia – as well as in the then much-loved patriotic song The Maple Leaf Forever.

How many of these have you seen? Keep your eye open for them if you travel around Canada!


As the name “coat of arms” suggests, these intricately designed devices come from the ancient era of warfare, where knights wearing armour could most easily be identified by the emblems on their “coat” and so be known as friend or enemy.

In modern times, a grant of Arms is an honour from The King, and can be used on the property, flag, or letterhead of the “armiger” – the name given to the person who receives the Arms. In Canada, these Arms are designed by the Canadian Heraldic Authority. The hand-lettered and painted documents granting the Arms are very beautiful works of art.

In much the same way as your family might have a nameplate on the outside of your home or entrance door to show “we live here” or “we own this house”, the Arms of Canada, which appears on public buildings and official documents, represents authority and “ownership” of The King in his role as head of state.

Arms usually reflect the particular occupation and interests of the armiger. Organizations may also receive Arms: a government body such as the Canadian Border Services Agency; a military unit such as a Regiment, a professional society of doctors or lawyers, a synagogue or other faith centre or a yachting or other private club.

More information on the fascinating art and science of heraldry may be found here.


Stores (often found in locations such as malls and airports) that sell plaques with what is supposed to be “your family’s coat of arms” are not offering “the real thing.” No coat of arms “belongs” to everyone named Lemieux or Gordon any more than you are necessarily related to anyone who happens to share the same family name as you.

These outlets sell nothing more than decorative items which may be pleasantly designed but have nothing to do with an heraldic grant from The Queen.

Royal Stamps and Coins in Canada

Since the Reign of Victoria, who was Queen at the time of Confederation in 1867, Canadian monarchs have appeared on many postage stamps and banknotes, and on all our coins. Look at the back of the change you have in your pocket to see this is true, as well as your wallet or purse if you’re lucky enough to have a $20 bill! Visit a Canada Post outlet, and while of course there are many different stamp designs, each post office is required to offer for sale the “definitive” stamp (a stamp that must always be available to pay for an ordinary letter) of our Monarch.

Of course using the Sovereign’s image on a stamp (the picture is sometimes called an ‘effigy’) is partly to honour the monarch and to celebrate special events in the life of Canada and our Royal Family, such as the 100th birthday of The Queen Mother in 2000, The Queen’s Jubilee in 2012 or the birth of Prince George in 2013. You will find some examples of Canadian Royal stamps here. Additionally you can do a Google search and see many other Royal stamps issued by Canada, by Commonwealth countries and by other countries which are monarchies, such as our friends in Europe: Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden.

In the case of coins’ bearing the monarch’s image, there is a special purpose that goes back many centuries when countries first began to create special dies so that coinsmiths could make a standard pattern of coins which everyone could recognize and rely on, and which the country could guarantee was “the real thing” and not a counterfeit or fake. To demonstrate the coins were truly those of the country, coins bore the King or Queen’s image. Anyone counterfeiting coins was considered to have committed a crime directly against the monarch – and could suffer some pretty horrible punishments!

Here you can see coins with images of Canada’s monarchs as issued by The Royal Canadian Mint . Notice that during a long reign, when the monarch’s appearance changes over the years, the Mint occasionally commissions a new image of the same monarch. This is similar to what might happen at home: your family may have a picture of you as a baby next to another picture of you taken perhaps at your high school graduation.

Other coin designs appear here.

Stamp collecting (called “philately) and coin collecting (called “numismatics”) used to be very popular hobbies – probably not so much now. But one of the greatest stamp collections in the world is that of The Queen, passed down from her grandfather George V. You can read about it here as well as find a lot of other interesting information and stamp designs.

Canadian Sports and the Crown

The Stanley Cup

Originally known as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, the Stanley Cup was purchased by Lord Stanley, the Earl of Preson and the Governor General of Canada in 1892. Lord Stanley was approached by his son to donate the cup after they founded the OHA(Ontario Hockey Association) in 1890.

The first team to win the Stanley Cup was the AAA Montreal Hockey Club in 1893. Lord Stanley never witnessed a presentation of his trophy- due to the death of his brother, Stanley moved back to England in 1893 before the end of the hockey season.

The Grey Cup

The top trophy of the Canadian Football League, the Grey Cup was donated Earl Grey, Governor General of Canada, in 1909. Originally, the Grey Cup was donated to the Rugby Football Championship of Canada until 1954, when it was given to the CFL.

The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy

This trophy was donated by Lady Byng, wife of Canada’s Governor General, in 1925. The award is given to NHL players who demonstrate true sportsmanship, as well as high playing ability. The first trophy was actually given to Frank Boucher of the New York Rangers after he won the award seven times in eight seasons. A new trophy was donated by Lady Byng in 1936.

The Vanier Cup

Created by the Save the Children Fund in 1965, and named afater then-Governor General Georges P. Vanier, for the Canadian College Bowl. General Vanier personally presented the trophy in 1966. The Canadian College Bowl was declared as the National Football Championship in 1967.

The Clarkson Cup

Created in 2006 by former Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson to be awarded to the top women’s hockey club in Canada.

The Prince of Wales Trophy

Donated by Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1924 to the National Hockey League. From 1927-1928 and 1937-38 the trophy was awarded to the top finishing team in the American division of the NHL. Since 1993-1994 the trophy is awarded to the playoff champion in the Eastern Conference.

The Commonwealth Games

As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations (which recognises The Queen as its Head), Canada takes part in the Commonwealth Games. Originally called the British Empire Games, and then the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, the event has always seen Canadians in attendance. The Following Canadian cities have hosted the games: Hamilton (1930), Vancouver (1954), Victoria(1994)