MOTTO OF THE ORDER
The motto was proposed by John Matheson, who had in turn first heard the motto during a conference on international affairs in Ottawa where the Reverend Herbert O’Driscoll, then of Ottawa’s St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church had given a speech on desiring a better country using the text of Hebrews 11:16. ‘But now they desire a better country that is heavenly; where for God is not ashamed to be called their God for he hath established for them a city.’ Matheson latched onto the words ‘desire a better country. He proposed that the Latin translation, Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam, become the motto of the Order of Canada. This motto gained early acceptance with Prime Minister Pearson.
The motto of the Order was added to the Royal Arms of Canada (the Canadian Coat of Arms) in 1994. On the left the 1957 Royal Arms of Canada, on the right, the 1994 Royal Arms of Canada with the motto of the Order added around the shield of arms.
The motto of the Order of Canada is the oldest component of the Order by virtue of its origins in the Bible. It is worth noting that most national orders have a motto of some type. Britain’s Order of the Garter has the most notable, Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense (Evil Be to Him Who Evil Thinks). France’s Légion d’honneur has simply Honneur et Patrie (Honour and Fatherland). Typically, a motto is meant to suggest what the particular Order represents; it is part of the necessary apparatus of honours.