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Lester Pearson | Queen Elizabeth, Queen of Canada, Prime Minister of Canada, Centennial 1967

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Order of Canada this site has been launched to provide a portal to the history and development of one of our country’s highest honours and the cornerstone of the modern Canadian honours system. Over the past fifty years nearly seven thousand Canadians have been appointed to the Order of Canada. Those who embody the motto of the Order through their efforts to “Desire a better country,” continue to be recognized by the Crown and their fellow Canadians with the familiar white snowflake insignia.

In 1967 a new Canadian institution was created with the establishment of the Order of Canada. On 17 April 1967 Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson rose in the House of Commons.

To announce that on the recommendation of the government Her Majesty has approved the issue of letters patent constituting the Order of Canada. The government believes that these three awards, ….  will help fill a need in our national life and will enable proper recognition to be given by Canada to its own citizens and to others.

Rt. Hon. Lester B. Pearson, Prime Minister

Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and Her Majesty The Queen. Pearson during the 1967 Centennial celebrations. 

Later that same year, prior to the Order’s inaugural investiture, the Governor General, who was also the Chancellor of the Order and first member, Roland Michener would reflect:

Roland Michener | Governor General of Canada | Chancellor of the Order of Canada | Rideau Hall | Order of Canada

It seems to me that the Order of Canada, which honours distinguished service by Canadians from every region and walk of life, should add to our sense of togetherness by giving recognition and honour to those who have served the whole realm.

Rt. Hon. Roland Michener, Governor General &
First Chancellor of the Order of Canada

Companion of the Order of Canada, Governor General of Canada, Order of Canada, Rideau Hall

As companion pieces to  two publications are being released in 2017. The first, Fifty Years Honouring Canadians: The Order of Canada, 1967-2017, (Dundurn Press) which is a pictorial history of the Order’s establishment and evolution over the past fifty years. While the second, The Order of Canada; Genesis of an Honours System, (University of Toronto Press) is a full length scholarly work that chronicles the development of the Order of Canada and the broader Canadian honours system, harkening back to the debate and controversy surrounding Canadians accepting peerages and knighthoods.


More than half-a-century of bickering over honours had concluded with the creation of the Order of Canada and the broader Canadian honours system. The story of the Order’s establishment involves a wide array of notable Canadians, from the killjoys of honours, William Lyon Mackenzie King and Jack Pickersgill, through to the country’s most persistent and well-placed honours promoter, Vincent Massey, who along with Pearson, Governor General Georges Vanier, Member of Parliament John Matheson and a small cadre of well-placed civil servants, oversaw the birth of one of our nation’s highest honours – the Order of Canada.

This website provides a cursory history of the Order of Canada, its origins, history and development, with a focus on the people who helped to establish the Order, the critical steps taken in 1966 and 1967 to establish the Order as a Canadian Honour, the 1972 restructuring of the Order into its modern format, the symbols associated with the Order and finally an overview of some of the more controversial episodes that have transpired in the life of the Order of Canada. Included in the website on the Did You Know? page, are 50 short vignettes containing interesting facts about the Order and those who have been involved with it. 

Order of Canada | history of the Order of Canada | canadian honours | christopher mccreery | canada honors | jean vanier

This fully illustrated history traces the Order of Canada from its establishment in 1967 to its place today as a national honour. With more than 200 images, many of them never before publicly available, this illustrated history traces the origins of the Order, from the debate surrounding Canadians accepting peerages and knighthoods that took place during the First World War, through to Vincent Massey and Lester Pearson’s great desire to see their fellow citizens recognized with a truly Canadian honour. Details about the design of the insignia, investitures, and prominent members of the Order of Canada are also included. Rich with illustrations and historical vignettes, this book provides an easily accessible window into the fascinating history of our pre-eminent national honour.

Dundurn Press, 2017

168 pages full colour


OC 2nd Edition Cover.jpg

University of Toronto Press, 2018

450 pages, with colour plates

In 1966, a project to create a national honour for Canadians was begun. The order recognizes individuals for their outstanding achievements, dedication, and service to the country. It is a product of national identity, politics, and history, and includes such individuals as Atom Egoyan, Joseph Boyden, and Romeo Dallaire. The second edition of The Order of Canada continues the celebration of the Order.

Christopher McCreery sheds new light on the development of Canadian honours in the early 1930s, the imposed prohibition on honours from 1946 to 1967, and new details on those who have been removed or resigned from the Order. Extensively illustrated, The Order of Canada pays tribute to the individuals who felt the need for a system of recognition for Canadians. Indeed, the Order’s history is as fascinating as the nearly seven thousand Canadians who have received it.


The second edition is significantly expanded over the first, which was released in 2005. With new chapters examining the more controversial episodes in the life of the Order, including terminations and resignations from the Order, the creation of the extraordinary division of the Order, new information about the creation of Canada’s first honour: the RCMP Long Service Medal, and other elements of the history of Canada’s preeminent honour are all covered. 

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