Canadian Heraldic Authority

Canadian Heraldic Authority

The Canadian Heraldic Authority ( _fr. Autorité héraldique du Canada) is part of the Canadian honours system under the Governor General of Canada. The Authority is responsible for the creation and granting of new coats of arms (armorial bearings), flags and badges for Canadian citizens, permanent residents and corporate bodies. The Authority also registers existing armorial bearings granted by other recognized heraldic authorities, approves military badges, flags and other insignia of the Canadian Forces, and provides information on heraldic practices.

The CHA is the Canadian counterpart of the College of Arms in London and the Court of the Lord Lyon in Scotland and is well-known for its innovative designs, many incorporating First Nations symbolism, and (along with the Bureau of Heraldry in South Africa) for modernizing heraldic practices concerning women.


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, to the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. This process was quite lengthy—and costly. In addition, the heralds of the College of Arms and the Court of the Lord Lyon could sometimes be unfamiliar with Canadian history and symbols. In time, many Canadians with an interest in heraldry began calling for an office which would offer armorial bearings designed by and for Canadians.

On June 4, 1988, then Governor General Jeanne Sauvé authorized the creation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority. This was made possible by Letters Patent, signed by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of her Canadian Privy Council, and presented by HRH The Prince Edward, which authorized "the Governor General of Canada to exercise or provide for the exercise of all powers and authorities lawfully belonging to Us as Queen of Canada in respect of the granting of armorial bearings in Canada". As a result Canada became the first Commonwealth realm, outside the United Kingdom, to have its own heraldic office. ref|history


The Authority is located at Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor General. The Governor General, since he or she is the personal representative of the Canadian monarch, is considered the highest authority in Canadian heraldry. Below the Governor General is the Herald Chancellor, a position held by the Secretary of the Governor General. The Authority is currently organized in an office called the Chancellery of Honours, the same office that issues Canadian orders and decorations, such as the Order of Canada. The Deputy Secretary that administers the Chancellery of Honours is also the Deputy Herald Chancellor. The Chief Herald of Canada is the Director of Heraldry and the senior heraldic professional inside the Authority.

The Authority itself is headed by the Chief Herald of Canada, a position that was held by Robert D. Watt from its inception in 1988 until his retirement in 2007. From 26 June 2007, the office of Chief Herald has been held by Claire Boudreau, formerly Saint-Laurent Herald. The Chief Herald's job is to oversee and direct the operations of the CHA and is the main official to grant arms. However, the Governor General has the authority to grant arms directly.

Below the Chief Herald are the Heralds of Arms, full time workers at the Authority and considered part of the Public Service of Canada. The names of the various offices were taken from significant Canadian rivers. Though the titles are territorial designations, as per heraldic tradition, each herald serves the entire country. Each is assigned a badge of office. The Heralds of Arms are:

*Saint-Laurent Herald who is the Registrar of the Authority and deals mainly with records, such as the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada. This herald is also the custodian of the Authority's seal. This position, currently vacant, was held by Claire Boudreau from 2000 until her elevation to Chief Herald in 2007.

*Fraser Herald who is the Principal Artist of the Authority, responsible for overseeing the artwork produced for each grant of arms. Since 1989, Cathy Bursey-Sabourin has held this title.

*Saguenay Herald who is the Assistant Registrar of the Authority, works with Saint-Laurent Herald, the Registrar of the Authority. Both Saguenay and Saint-Laurent heralds have specific tasks to do, such as making the grant and registration documents in both English and French. Since 2000, the title has been held by Bruce Patterson.

*Assiniboine Herald and Miramichi Herald, which are titles currently held by Darrel Kennedy and Karine Constantineau respectively.

*Coppermine Herald, who is the Assistant Artist and works with Fraser Herald. The title is currently held by Catherine Fitzpatrick.

*Athabaska Herald, who is responsible for policy issues. This post is currently vacant.

Badges of office of the Officers and Heralds of Arms

Honorary positions

The Authority also allows for two types of honorary positions: Heralds Emeritus and Heralds Extraordinary. The Emeritus title is reserved for heralds who have retired, but have made a significant contribution to heraldry. A Herald Extraordinary is an honorary position for those who made notable contributions to heraldry. Both Emerituses and Extraordinares can be enlisted by the Authority to perform work for them. Each honorary position grants the individual a badge and a title also based on a Canadian river. As of 2005, there is one Herald Emeritus, the Outaouais Herald Emeritus (Auguste Vachon) and three Heralds Extraordinary: Dauphin Herald Extraordinary (Robert Pichette), Niagara Herald Extraordinary (Gordon Macpherson) and Cowichan Herald Extraordinary (Graham Anderson). ref|CHAofficers

Grant process

In order to request either a coat of arms, flags and or badges, a letter must be addressed to the Chief Herald of Canada. The letter must clearly ask "to receive armorial bearings from the Canadian Crown under the powers exercised by the Governor General." If an individual is filing the request, called a petition, he or she must include information about their background. This includes proof of Canadian citizenship or permanent residence and a biographical sketch that details employment, education and any volunteer or community service. References and a form will also be included. All information received would be kept in accordance to the Privacy Act. If a corporation is filing the request, a brief history of the company and proof of their incorporation in Canada is included. Financial reports and a copy of the corporation's governing body resolution seeking a grant of arms will also be included in the request. Examples of corporations are municipalities, societies, associations and institutions.

The Chief Herald of Canada can approve or reject the petition. Unlike decisions of the Lord Lyon in Scotland, which can be appealed to a higher court, there is no mechanism at the CHA to appeal the decision of the Chief Herald. If the petition is approved, the authority to make the grant is given through a Warrant signed by the Herald Chancellor or the Deputy Herald Chancellor. A petition is then sent to one of the heralds, and the process of the creation of a written description, the first step of three to granting arms, begins. The herald will work with the petitioner to discuss the elements that will be included in the coat of arms; however, the elements must follow the rules of heraldry. The Chief Herald will approve the written description, after which the petitioner must also approve it. The second step of the process is to create a preliminary design. The petitioner will sign a contract with an artist at the Authority, and the artist in turn will create the design. The Fraser Herald, serving as the Authority's principal artist, will review the design and if approved, will send it to the Chief Herald. Upon the approval of the Chief Herald, the design will be sent to the petitioner for his or her approval. The final step is to prepare the grant document, called letters patent. The petitioner will decide on the format of the letters patent, which includes a drawing of the armorial bearings and the accompanying legal text and explanation of the symbolism of the bearings. While the text will be in both English and French, the petitioner has the option to decide which text will be placed on the left side of the letters patent.

Completed grant documents are recorded in the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada, and the notice of the grant is published in the "Canada Gazette", Part I, under the section "Government House." The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada is divided up in volumes, with each volume being reserved for each serving Governor General since 1988. Volume I, from 1988 to 1990, is for arms granted during the term of Jeanne Sauvé, Volume II, from 1990 to 1995, is reserved for Ramon Hnatyshyn, Volume III is reserved for Roméo LeBlanc, who served from 1995 to 1999, and Volume IV is reserved for Adrienne Clarkson, 1999-2005. The current Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, has her grants entered into Volume V. ref|register Requests for registrations of existing arms also take the form of a "petition", as described above. The CHA will normally only register existing arms if the petitioner was unable to petition for a Canadian grant at the time the existing arms were granted, i.e., the arms of immigrants or arms granted to Canadians before the creation of the CHA in 1988. In addition, the existing arms must normally come from a source recognized by the Chief Herald (e.g. the Chief Herald of Ireland, College of Arms, Lord Lyon, South African Bureau of Heraldry, etc.). Registration documents are recorded in the Public Register, and the notice of the registration is published in the "Gazette". If the petitioner so desires, their design can be published in the "Trade Marks Journal." That can be arranged through the offices of the Authority, but a separate fee is required which is paid to the Registrar of Trade Marks.

In general, eligibility for a grant of arms is based on an individual's contributions to the community, although the exact criteria for grants or registrations have not been published. A number of grants have been made to people who have already been recognized with state honours for their notable achievements, such as through admission to the Order of Canada, and who are accordingly entitled to a grant of arms. Those who are Companions of the Order may also request the Chief Herald to grant them supporters.ref|OrderofCanada Any Canadian citizen or corporation can petition for a grant of new arms or registration of existing arms, but such a petition may be rejected if it does not meet the standards set by the Chief Herald.

The Government of Canada requires that the above processes be financed by the petitioner, that is the person requesting the grant or registration of arms, who pays the fees associated with the request and grant/registration. The processing fee for all petitioners is $435 CAD (plus GST), with the cost of one preliminary design ranging from $200 to $1,000. The cost of the final design, as illustrated on the letters patent, ranges from $900 to $3,500. It should be noted that the petitioner does not "buy" a coat of arms: the arms themselves are freely given to qualified individuals, but fees must be paid to the heralds and artists for the services rendered.

The average time that is required to complete a grant is about 12 to 14 months. If the discussion about the designs continue for a long period of time or Authority cannot spare the resources due to the number of petitions received, the process can take longer.


The Chief Herald of Canada is the sole arbiter of whether any given Canadian is "worthy" of receiving a grant of arms. [] This is explained as being consistent with the concept of arms being an honour from the Queen of Canada, through her representative, the Governor General. Although a registration of existing arms is technically not an honour, the Chief Herald will also not register the arms of any Canadian whom (s)he does not view as meeting the standards for registration that (s)he herself/himself has set. Although the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Act prohibit discriminatory practices by government departments and agencies, the Canadian Heraldic Authority claims immunity from these federal acts, while at the same time claiming compliance with the requirements of the Privacy Act. The concept of immunity from the laws of Canada by the Canadian Heraldic Authority has not been tested in court.

The Authority's armorial bearings

The full armorial bearings, or the complete coat of arms, of the Canadian Heraldic Authority incorporate aboriginal symbolism, as seen in the mythical raven-bears, as well as traditional Canadian colours of red and white, which were made official by King George V in 1921. ref|colors

The current arms were confirmed in a warrant by the Governor General on January 15 1994. This was done in honour of the Authority's fifth anniversary, which was celebrated in 1993. The raven-bears, a new heraldic beast which combined several creatures that are important to the aboriginal symbolism, were proposed by the heralds in honour of the United Nation's International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, also occurring in 1993. The raven-bears are standing on an outcrop of what is known as the Canadian Shield, a geological formation which the Authority foundation is based on. The Canadian Shield is formed by rocks, which are covered in red coloured maple leaves and by golden maple seeds. The motto that was chosen, HONORENTUR PATRIAM HONORANTES, is Latin for "“Let those honouring the country be honoured.”" This was chosen since Canadian arms are an honour granted by the Crown. ref|CHAbearings

The "blazon", or technical description in heraldic language, of the full armorial bearings is:

*Arms: Argent on a maple leaf Gules an escutcheon Argent;
*Crest: Upon a helmet mantled Gules doubled Argent within a wreath of these colours a lion passant guardant Or Royally Crowned Proper its dexter forepaw resting on an escutcheon Argent charged with a maple leaf Gules;
*Supporters: On a representation of an outcrop of the Canadian Shield proper strewn with maple leaves Gules and maple seeds Or two raven-bears Gules over Argent wings elevated Gules beaked and armed Or.

The Arms and Crest alone are used on the seal of the Authority and on the letters patent that grant and register armorial bearings. The arms and crest combine reference to heraldry in Canada with symbols of the Vice-Regal office. The crest is a modification of the Royal Crest of Canada: it has lion, wearing a crown, holding a white shield containing a red maple leaf. This is supposed to symbolize the Governor General's power to grant armorial bearings to Canadians. In the Royal Crest of Canada, the lion is holding a maple leaf. The shield is white, containing a red maple, with a small white shield in the middle of the maple leaf. This is showing the Authority's work to promote the creation and recording of armorial bearings for Canadians. A wreath behind the arms is composed of red maple leaves bound with gold straps.

ee also

* Canadian heraldry
* Heraldry
* Bureau of Heraldry (South Africa)
* College of Arms (England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and the remainder of the Commonwealth)
* Court of the Lord Lyon (Scotland)
* Flemish Heraldic Council
* Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland
* Royal Heraldry Society of Canada


# [ History of the Authority]
# [ Officers of the Authority]
# [ Description of the Public Register of Arms]
# [ Order of Canada Constitution (English)]
# [ Canadian Heritage Department]
# [ Armorial Bearings of the Authority]

External links

* [ Canadian Heraldic Authority]
* [ The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada]
* [ Royal Heraldry Society of Canada]

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