The Canadian Heraldic Authority
Historically, within the Commonwealth armorial bearings are granted or confirmed by the Sovereign or by one of the royal officers of arms delegated to exercise this power.
Until heraldry was patriated to Canada, Canadians who wished to acquire arms from a lawfully established authority under the Crown were obliged to apply to one of Her Majesty's two heraldic offices in the United Kingdom: the College of Arms in London or the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh.
For many years, Canadians with a particular interest in heraldry had advocated for the creation of an office to exercise the heraldic powers of the Crown in Canada. The officers of such an institution would be intimately aware of Canadian history, traditions, society, and symbolism, and grants of arms would be the work of Canadian artists. As envisaged, this Authority would be most appropriately situated in the Chancellery of Honours within the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General.
In 1947, the Letters Patent defining the authority of the Governor General expressly authorized the Governor General to exercise all the prerogatives, powers and authorities that His Majesty George VI held as King of Canada. Since then, the Crown in Right of Canada has proclaimed a national flag, created a system of Canadian honours and patriated the Constitution.
Clearly, it was time to create an indigenous Canadian mechanism for granting arms to Canadians and for promoting Canadian heraldic symbols. On June 4, 1988, then Governor General Jeanne Sauvé authorized the creation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority. This was made possible by new Letters Patent, signed by Her Majesty on the advice of Her Canadian Privy Council, which authorized and empowered "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". With these brief historic notes, Canada became the first Commonwealth country to patriate the practice of this ancient authority.
On June 4, 1988, Prince Edward presented the Letters Patent of
The Authority's principal objective is to ensure that all Canadians who wish to use heraldry will have access to it. It also encourages good heraldic practice in Canada by working to the highest standards of the art form and by developing research and registration procedures that are consistent with an international level of excellence.
The Authority's major activities include: granting of new armorial bearings (arms, flags and badges) and native symbols; registration of recognized existing arms, flags and badges; approval of military badges, flags and other insignia of the Canadian Forces; registration of genealogical information related to the inheritance of arms; provision of information on correct heraldic practices; provision of information on heraldic artists who work in various media; and development of, and involvement in, national and regional heraldic ceremonies. These ceremonies, incidentally, may involve the Governor General, who may personally present the new coat of arms and sign the grant document. With few exceptions, only documents the Governor General has personally presented to corporate bodies bear her signature; others are signed by officers of the Canadian Heraldic Authority.
The Canadian Heraldic Authority is headed by Her Excellency the Governor General and administered by several officers: the Herald Chancellor (who is the Secretary to the Governor General), the Deputy Herald Chancellor (who is the Deputy Secretary, Chancellery of Honours), and the Chief Herald of Canada (Director of Heraldry and the senior heraldic professional). They are supported by other officers: Saint-Laurent Herald (Registrar and custodian of the Authority's seal), Fraser Herald (the Authority's principal artist), and the other Heralds. For more information, see Officers and Heralds of Arms.
Requests for new arms or registrations of existing arms take the form of a "petition" addressed to the Chief Herald of Canada, who must assess and approve the request before a warrant for the grant can be signed by the Herald Chancellor or the Deputy Herald Chancellor. A herald then works with the petitioner to create a design, which is then rendered artistically, in two separate stages, by an artist assigned by the Authority. Completed grant or registration documents are recorded in the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada, and the notice of the grant or registration is published in the Canada Gazette.