Canadian heraldry: Wikis


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Canadian heraldry
Coat of Arms of Canada (1923).jpg
The Coat of Arms of Canada as first proclaimed in 1921
Tradition Gallo-British
Governance Canadian Heraldic Authority
Chief Officer Claire Boudreau, Chief Herald of Canada
En-wikipedia arms 9.svg Heraldry portal

Canadian heraldry refers to the cultural tradition and style of coats of arms and other heraldic achievements in modern and historic Canada, including national, provincial, and civic arms, noble and personal arms, ecclesiastical heraldry, heraldic displays as corporate logos, and Canadian heraldic descriptions.

Canadian heraldry derives mainly from heraldic traditions in France and the United Kingdom while adding distinctly Canadian symbols, especially those which reference the First Nations and other aboriginal peoples of Canada. Canadian heraldry has a unique system of cadency for daughters inheriting arms, and a special symbol for United Empire Loyalists. Since 1988, both personal and corporate heraldry in Canada has been officially governed by the Canadian Heraldic Authority, which reviews all applications for arms.



The Royal Arms of France

The history of heraldry in Canada began with the raising of the Royal Arms of France by Jacques Cartier in 1534, when he landed on Canadian soil at what is now known as the Gaspé Peninsula.[1] From the beginning of the settlement of Canada until the Treaty of Paris in 1763, armorial bearings were either brought from France or awarded by the French crown. Upon ratification of the Treaty, the British Crown confirmed the French awards of arms.[1]

Between 1763 and 1867, the year of Canadian Confederation, there is little evidence of much heraldic activity.[1] After Confederation, however, heraldry in Canada became more widespread, including grants of arms to the provinces, various educational institutions, municipalities, and individuals.[1] From the beginning of this period until 1988, heraldry in Canada was under the authority of the College of Arms in London and the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. In the late 1980s, the Queen issued Letters Patent creating the Canadian Heraldic Authority.[1][2]

Modern heraldry



Now know Ye that We, by and with the advice of our Privy Council of Canada, do by these presents authorize and empower Our Governor General of Canada to exercise or provide for the exercise of all power and authorities lawfully belonging to Us as Queen of Canada in respect of the granting of armorial bearings in Canada.

—From the Royal Warrant[2][3]

Before the creation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, Canadians wishing to obtain a legally granted coat of arms had to apply to one of the two heraldic offices in the United Kingdom: either the College of Arms in London or, if of Scottish descent, the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh.[2] This process was quite lengthy—and costly. In addition, the heralds in Britain could sometimes be unfamiliar with Canadian history and symbols.[4] In time, many Canadians with an interest in heraldry began calling for an office which would offer armorial bearings designed by and for Canadians.[3]

As early as 1967, plans were reportedly in the works to transfer overview of heraldry from the College of Arms in the UK to Canada.[5] The push for a wholly-Canadian heraldic system came largely from the Heraldry Society of Canada (now the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada[6]) almost from its inception,[7] though it was not seen as a priority by successive national governments.[3] In 1986, Vicki Huntington, a politician from British Columbia, forwarded a brief written by the RHSC calling for the creation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority to a staff member in then-Secretary of State David Crombie's office.[3] Mr. Crombie had his department organise a meeting in Ottawa the following year, to which many national and international heraldic experts were invited. The meeting concluded with "a strong recommendation to government that an Authority be created."[3]

Two years later, on 4 June 1988, then-Governor General Jeanne Sauvé authorized the creation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, made possible by Letters Patent, signed by the Queen on the advice of her Canadian Privy Council, and presented by Prince Edward.[2][3] As a result Canada became the first Commonwealth realm outside the United Kingdom to have its own heraldic authority.[2][3] Canada also provides full equality to women in terms of inheriting and transmitting arms.[3] Additionally, all armigers within Canada may file for trademark protection of their grant of arms under the Trade-Marks Act.[8]

State and national

The Arms of Canada (also known as the Royal Arms of Canada[9] or the Arms of Her Majesty in Right of Canada[10]) has been, since 1921, the official coat of arms of the Canadian monarch, and thus also of Canada. It is derived from the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom,[11] with distinctive Canadian elements – the maple leaves and the reference to the French Royal Arms in the fourth quarter,[12] – replacing or added to those derived from the British.[11]

The arms are used as a mark of authority by various government agencies and representatives, including the Prime Minister[13] and Cabinet,[14] the Speaker of the House of Commons,[15] Parliament[16] and most courts, including the Supreme Court.[17] It is also present on all denominations of Canadian paper currency (the way the Arms are printed on each bill is a security feature),[18] and on the cover of Canadian passports.[19] Since 1962, a banner of the arms, defaced with a variant of the Queen's cypher, has formed the Royal Standard of Canada, for use by the sovereign in her capacity as monarch of Canada.[20] The personal flag of the Governor General has, since 1981, featured the crest of the arms of Canada on a blue background.[21][22]

In June 2008, MP Pat Martin introduced a motion into the House of Commons calling on the government to amend the coat of arms to incorporate symbols representing Canada's First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.[23]


The coat of arms of Québec including fleurs-de-lis from France, the lion from England, and the Canadian maple leaf

In much the same way that there is a national coat of arms, each province and territory possesses its own unique arms;[24] Saskatchewan's is known formally as Her Majesty's Arms in Right Of Saskatchewan.[25] The year after Confederation, Queen Victoria issued Royal Warrants assigning arms to Canada's original four provinces: Québec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.[10]

Each provincial coat of arms includes specific local symbolism;[24] most also include symbolism derived from the coats of arms of the United Kingdom, France, or both. Since 1868, each province and territory within Canada has been granted arms through warrants either from the monarch directly or from the Governor General, or has assumed them through other means.[10]

Apart from Newfoundland and Labrador,[26] each province and territory bears at least some elements from its coat of arms upon its flag. The flags of British Columbia,[27] New Brunswick,[28] Nova Scotia,[29] and Prince Edward Island[30] are banners of the provincial arms, while Alberta,[31] Manitoba,[32] Ontario,[33] Saskatchewan,[34] the Northwest Territories,[35] and the Yukon[36] each have the shield of the local coat of arms on their flags, with other design elements. The flag of Nunavut[37] uses some elements from its coat of arms along with other symbols and colours.

The shield of the arms of each province, on a blue background and circled with ten gold maple leaves, the whole surmounted by a crown, forms the main element of the flag of the Lieutenant-Governor of that province. The exceptions are Nova Scotia, which uses the Union Flag defaced with the shield of Nova Scotia, surrounded by green maple leaves, and Quebec, which uses the shield on a white circle with the provincial motto inscribed below.[38]


The use of armorial bearings amongst Canadian cities is inconsistent, because the arms of many Canadian cities have been assumed and brought into force by local governmental authorities, as opposed to being granted from the Crown.[39] Many municipal coats of arms either awarded or confirmed by the Canadian Heraldic Authority may be found within the Public Register of Arms, though the online version of the Register is not complete.[40]


In Canada, every citizen has the right to petition the Crown for a grant of arms.[41] Canadians who have been appointed to the Order of Canada are automatically entitled to receive an award of arms including the ribbon of the Order, or should they already be armigerous, to encircle their extant arms with the ribbon.[42] The following are entitled to supporters in their arms:

Unique Canadian elements and practices

Aboriginal and First Nations symbolism

Due to the history of Canada, heraldry in the country has incorporated symbols and elements from aboriginal and First Nations people.[44] The coat of arms of Nunavut,[37] for example, includes elements such as an inukshuk, a qulliq, and an igloo, all of which are references to the Inuit peoples who live in the area,[45][46] while the arms of the Canadian Heraldic Authority include ravens, a First Nations symbol of creation and transformation.[41]


In most systems of heraldry, each unique coat of arms is restricted to a single person. To differentiate identical arms, a system known as cadency was developed, possibly by John Writhe in 1500,[47] which adds a mark known as a brisure to the plain coat of arms.[48] Most nations have cadences defined (either officially or through convention) only for male children who inherit otherwise identical arms; Canada has a unique series of cadences for use by female children who inherit arms. As in other heraldic systems, these cadency marks are not always used,[43] though when they are used, the cadences of the heir (in Canada, the first child, whether male or female, according to strict primogeniture) are removed once the holder dies and the plain coat of arms is inherited.[49]

Brisures[N 1]
First Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh Eighth Ninth
Fourrure héraldique Hermine.svg
Heraldic fir twig.png
Heraldic chess rook.png
Héraldique meuble Coquille.svg
Heraldic harp black.png
Heraldic buckle.png
Heraldic clarion.png
ermine spot
a fir twig
chess rook
Croissant d or.svg
Heraldic mullet-sable.png
Meuble héraldique - Merlette.svg
Cercle noir 100%.svg
Rose BVA.svg
Heraldic double quatrefoil octofoil.png
label of three points
cross moline
double quatrefoil[N 2]

Status of women

In both the English[47] and the Scottish[49] systems of heraldry, from which the Canadian draws many of its practices,[3] a woman does not inherit or transmit arms unless she is an heraldic heiress,[50] that is, a daughter of an armiger who has no sons. In Canadian heraldry, by contrast, women may inherit arms on an equal basis with their brothers (if any).[3] Women in Canada may also transmit their arms to their heirs, regardless of gender.[3] This system of equality for men and women is a result of provisions in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms[3] which guarantee, amongst other things, freedom from discrimination under the law on the basis of sex.[51]

United Empire Loyalists

LoyalistCivilCoronet.svg LoyalistMilitaryCoronet.svg
The Civil (left) and Military (right) coronets

Those who are descended from the citizens loyal to the British Crown who fled the United States during and shortly after the revolution are known in Canada as United Empire Loyalists,[52] and are entitled to the use of special coronets within their arms, if arms are granted to them.[53] There are two versions of the Loyalist coronet: the civil, which is made up of alternating oak and maple leaves, and the military, made up of maple leaves alternating with crossed swords.[53] Proof of Loyalist heritage must be provided to the Canadian Heraldic Authority before permission is granted to use the coronet in arms.[43]

Obtaining arms

All citizens of Canada, as well as corporate bodies, may petition the Crown for an award of arms.[41] The process for non-armigerous people to obtain arms is relatively simple. For an individual to obtain a grant of arms, a petition must be sent to the Chief Herald, providing a biography, references, and completed application forms. Upon approval of the grant, the individual then consults with heralds from the Authority to work out the design of their award. Upon completion of this process, the grant documents, in the form of letters patent, are created and provided to the grantee. The entire process is subject to certain fees required by the Government of Canada to cover costs of research and artwork; the fees are not to 'purchase' the grant of arms. For corporations and institutions the process is similar.[41]

Those individuals and institutions who already possess awards of arms may apply to the Canadian Heraldic Authority to have their arms registered. There is no cost associated with application for registration, and it takes less time, approximately three months,[54] than application for a new award of arms, which takes approximately twelve to fourteen months.[41]

See also


  1. ^ Images are provided as a general example only, and are not necessarily in perfect accord with rules of Canadian heraldry.
  2. ^ Also known as an octofoil[43]


  1. ^ a b c d e "The History of Heraldry in Canada". Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. 28 April 2004. Retrieved 2008-08-21.  
  2. ^ a b c d e "The Canadian Heraldic Authority". Canadian Heraldic Authority. 2005-09-27; updated 2006-06-14. Retrieved 2008-09-02.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Watt, Robert D. (Summer 2004). "A Bold, Successful National Cultural Experiment". Canadian Monarchist News (The Monarchist League of Canada). Retrieved 2008-11-04.  
  4. ^ "Royal Heraldry Society of Canada - Obtaining a Grant of Arms". RHSC. 2005-10-23. Retrieved 2008-11-06.  
  5. ^ Oxom, Harry; Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (1995). SOGC: The First Fifty Years 1944-1994. Taylor & Francis. p. 279. ISBN 1850705623.  
  6. ^ "Part 1" (). Canada Gazette (Ottawa: Government of Canada) 137 (#27): 7. 5 July 2003.  
  7. ^ "About the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada". RHSC. 2008-09-29. Retrieved 2008-11-06.  
  8. ^ "More Information About Heraldry". Canadian Heraldic Authority. Retrieved 2008-08-23.  
  9. ^ MacLeod, Kevin S; Jackson, Dr. D Michael and Monet, Fr. Jacques (2008). "A Crown of Maples - Introduction". Department of Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2009-07-01.  
  10. ^ a b c "Royal Heraldry Society of Canada: The Coat of Arms of Canada". Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. 2007-02-05. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  11. ^ a b "The Arms of Canada - Description". Retrieved 2008-10-24.  
  12. ^ "Symbols of Canada". Canadian Heritage. 2008. p. 6. Retrieved 2009-07-01.  
  13. ^ "Prime Minister of Canada / Premier ministre du Canada". Office of the Prime Minister. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  14. ^ "Prime Minister of Canada: The Ministry". Office of the Prime Minister. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  15. ^ "The Speaker - House of Commons Canada - Welcome". Parliament of Canada. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  16. ^ "Library of Parliament - Canadian Symbols at Parliamen". Parliament of Canada. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  17. ^ "Supreme Court of Canada - Welcome Page". Supreme Court of Canada. 2008-09-04. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  18. ^ "Check to Protect". Bank of Canada / Banque du Canada. Retrieved 2009-07-01.  
  19. ^ "Passport Canada: Features of the Passport". Passport Canada. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  20. ^ Fraser, Alistair B (1998-01-30). "Chapter II, Canada's Head of State". The Flags of Canada. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  21. ^ "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - Personal Flags and Standards". Minister of Public Works and Government Services. Retrieved 2008-09-04.  
  22. ^ "Symbols of the Governor General". Rideau Hall. Retrieved 2008-09-04.  
  23. ^ "Coat of arms ignores aboriginal people, MP says". CBC News. 20 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-20.  
  24. ^ a b "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2009-07-01.  
  25. ^ "Saskatchewan Coat of Arms - Office of the Provincial Secretary - Government of Saskatchewan". Retrieved 2008-10-29.  
  26. ^ "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - Newfoundland and Labrador". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  
  27. ^ "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - British Columbia". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  
  28. ^ "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - New Brunswick". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  
  29. ^ "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - Nova Scotia". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  
  30. ^ "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - Prince Edward Island". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  
  31. ^ "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - Alberta". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  
  32. ^ "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - Manitoba". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  
  33. ^ "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - Ontario". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  
  34. ^ "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - Saskatchewan". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  
  35. ^ "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - Northwest Territories". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  
  36. ^ "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - Yukon Territory". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  
  37. ^ a b "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - Nunavut". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  
  38. ^ "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion - Personal Flags and Standards". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 2008-09-04.  
  39. ^ "Common Misconceptions". Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. Retrieved 2008-08-23.  
  40. ^ "The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada Frequently Asked Questions". Canadian Heraldic Authority. 2007-03-26. Retrieved 2008-09-02.  
  41. ^ a b c d e "Granting Armorial Bearings in Canada Coats of Arms, Flags and Badges". Canadian Heraldic Authority. Retrieved 2008-08-23.  
  42. ^ a b "The Constitution of the Order of Canada". Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 2008-08-23.  
  43. ^ a b c d "Heraldry Examination". Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. Retrieved 2008-08-30.  
  44. ^ "CHA - Teacher's Kit (Heraldry in Canada)". Canadian Heraldic Authority. p. 20. Retrieved 2008-08-23.  
  45. ^ "Symbols of Nunavut". Government of Nunavut. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  46. ^ "Creation of the Coat of Arms and Flag of Nunavut". Governor-General of Canada. 2005-12-06. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  47. ^ a b "The Law of Arms: The descent of arms". College of Arms. 2004-04-10. Retrieved 2008-10-02.  
  48. ^ Parker, James (1894, published online 2000, updated 2004). "A Glossary of Terms used in Heraldry". Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  49. ^ a b "Beginners Heraldry, The Heraldry Society of Scotland - UK Heraldry". Retrieved 2008-11-06.  
  50. ^ Currer-Briggs, Noel (1982). "Appendix A.". Worldwide Family History. Routledge. p. 211. ISBN 0710009348. OCLC 9780710009340.,M1. Retrieved 2008-11-06.  
  51. ^ "Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Equality Rights". Retrieved 2008-11-06.  
  52. ^ "Loyalists". Retrieved 2008-11-04.  
  53. ^ a b Ruch, John E., UE Hon.FHSC (Fall 1990). "The Canadian Heraldic Authority and the Loyalists". The Loyalist Gazette XXVIII (2). Retrieved 2008-11-04.  
  54. ^ "FAQ". Canadian Heraldic Authority. Retrieved 2008-08-23.  

External links


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