The Canadian Heraldic Authority (CHA; French: L'Autorité héraldique du Canada) is part of the Canadian honours system under the Canadian monarch, whose authority is exercised by 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, government agencies, municipal, civic and other 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, the Court of the Lord Lyon in Scotland, and the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland in the Republic of Ireland and is well known for its innovative designs, many incorporating First Nations symbolism.
|“||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 Letters Patent,1988 |
Prior to 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 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.
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. The push for a wholly Canadian heraldic system came largely from the Heraldry Society of Canada (now the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada) almost from its inception, though it was not seen as a priority by successive national governments. 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. 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."
Two years later, Queen Elizabeth II issued the 1988 letters patent authorising the governor general "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". These letters patent were presented by Prince Edward to the governor general on behalf of the Crown. Subsequently, the Governor General, Jeanne Sauvé, authorised the creation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority on June 4, 1988. As a result, Canada became the first Commonwealth realm outside the United Kingdom to have its own heraldic authority. Canada also provides full equality to women in terms of inheriting and transmitting arms. Additionally, all armigers within Canada may file for trademark protection of their grant of arms under the Trade-Marks Act.
Queen of Canada
|Secretary to the GG
Office of the Governor General
(Deputy Herald Chancellor)
Chancellery of Honours
Canadian Heraldic Authority
The authority is located at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the monarch and the governor general. The governor general, as the personal representative of the Canadian monarch, is 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 CHA 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, whose job is to oversee and direct all operations of the CHA, bears the main responsibility of granting arms, though the governor general has the authority to grant arms directly. The position of chief herald was inaugurated by Robert Watt at the inception of the CHA in 1988 and held by him until his retirement in 2007. Since June 26, 2007, the office of chief herald has been held by Claire Boudreau, formerly Saint-Laurent Herald.
Below the chief herald are the Heralds of Arms, full-time workers at the CHA 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||Registrar of the authority, 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.||Bruce Patterson
|Fraser||The principal artist of the authority, responsible for overseeing the artwork produced for each grant of arms.||Cathy Bursey-Sabourin
|Saguenay||the assistant registrar of the authority. Both Saguenay and Saint-Laurent are responsible for the grant and registration documents in both English and French.||Samy Khalid
|Assiniboine||duties unclear||Darrel Kennedy
|Miramichi||duties unclear||Manon Labelle
|Coppermine||Assistant artist, supporting Fraser Herald.||Catherine Fitzpatrick
|Athabaska||Responsible for policy issues.||This post has been vacant since 2001.|
The authority also allows for two types of honorary positions: Heralds Emeritus and Heralds Extraordinary. The emeritus title is reserved for Canadian heralds who have retired; the title of extraordinary is an honorary position for those who have made notable contributions to heraldry. Honorary heralds can be enlisted by the CHA to perform work for them. Each honorary position grants the individual a badge and a title also based on a Canadian river.
|1995||Dauphin Herald Extraordinary||Robert Pichette|
|1999||Niagara Herald Extraordinary||Gordon Macpherson|
|2000||Outaouais Herald Emeritus||Auguste Vachon|
|2006||Albion Herald Extraordinary||Ralph Spence|
|2006||Rouge Herald Extraordinary||Roger Lindsay|
|2007||Rideau Herald Emeritus||Robert Watt|
|Cowichan Herald Extraordinary||Graham Anderson (1999–2012)|
|Capilano Herald Extraordinary||Helen Mussallem (2006–2012)|
Any Canadian citizen or corporate body can petition for a grant of new arms or registration of existing arms. 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.
In order to request either a coat of arms, flag, 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" and include proof of Canadian citizenship or permanent residence as well as a biography or curriculum vitae of the petitioner. Corporate petitions must include a brief history of the company, proof of incorporation in Canada, financial reports, and a copy of the corporation's governing body resolution seeking a grant of arms.
The Chief Herald of Canada can approve or reject the petition. 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. The authorisation is then sent to one of the heralds, and the process begins. The granting of arms is regarded as an honour from the monarch, via the governor general, and thus are bestowed only on those whom the Chief Herald has deemed individuals worthy of receiving a grant of arms.
First, the assigned herald develops a written description based on consultation with the petitioner. The petitioner then signs a contract with an artist at the authority to create the design. The Fraser Herald, serving as the CHA's principal artist, must review the design. At all stages the documents must be approved by both the petitioner and the Chief Herald. The final step is to prepare the letters patent, the official notice of an award of arms, which includes a drawing of the armorial bearings and the accompanying legal text and explanation of the symbolism of the bearings. Under Canadian bilingualism laws, letters patent are written in both English and French, though the petitioner may choose which language will be placed in the left column of the document.
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 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 CAD$435 (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. In Canada, 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 needed to complete a grant is about 12 to 14 months, though it can take longer for particularly detailed or intricate arms.
Those individuals and institutions who already possess legitimate 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, than application for a new award of arms.
The current arms of the authority were confirmed in a warrant by the Governor General on 15 January 1994, in honour of the authority's fifth anniversary, which was celebrated the previous year. The full armorial bearings of the Canadian Heraldic Authority incorporate aboriginal symbolism, as seen in the mythical raven-bears, as well as the national symbol of the maple leaf and the traditional Canadian colours of red and white, which were made official by King George V in 1921.
The crest is a modification of the Royal Crest of Canada: a lion wearing a crown and bearing a maple leaf. The crest of the authority features the same lion, instead holding a white shield containing a red maple leaf, symbolising the governor general's authority under the Crown to grant armorial bearings to Canadians.
The shield itself is white with a red maple leaf, similar to the middle portion of the Canadian flag. The white shield upon the leaf represents "a sign of heraldry to be created and recorded for Canadians."
The raven-bears, a new heraldic beast which combined several creatures that are important to aboriginal symbolism, were proposed by the heralds in honour of the United Nations' 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 is Latin for Let us honour those who honour our country.
The shield and crest alone comprise the Badge of the CHA, which is used on the seal of the Authority and on the letters patent that grant and register armorial bearings. A wreath behind the arms is composed of red maple leaves bound with gold straps.