Over the past decade we have noticed a rampant increase in the number of people who are wearing their orders, decorations and medals incorrectly. The cadre of people who flagrantly violate the official rules on how you are supposed to wear your medals ranges from the average veteran right up to former Governors General. Indeed, there is much evidence to suggest that the higher the rank of the individual the more likely they are to just wear whatever they want, however they want. I like to think of this as “Instant Dictator Syndrome” or self-aggrandizement at its most obvious.

Why do people wear their medals incorrectly? Often it is because they simply do not know any better. If you are one of these people you should consult WEARING ORDERS, DECORATIONS AND MEDALS which is available from the Chancellery of Honours at Rideau Hall. This guide will help you figure out how you are supposed to wear your officially granted orders, decorations and medals.

When it comes to wearing your medals incorrectly the worst offenders tend to be former Governors General, Lieutenant Governors and retired Generals. When these people – all in authority and all surrounded by staff who know better – wear their medals wrong they are obviously suffering from the dreaded Instant Dictator Syndrome. The attitude accompanied with this most severe condition is “the more medals I wear the more important I will look.”

This simple blog is aimed at revealing the myriad of fellow Canadians who cannot seem to wear their medals correctly.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Alberta: Land of Fake Medals GALORE

A number of PPCLI friends posted to Alberta have been calling for a post about all the "funny" medals they see being worn in their adopted province. Each time a Chief of Police of Fire Chief holds a press conference we are treated to a variety of unrecognizable ribbons. Just type "Alberta" and "Medal" into google and marvel at the host of poorly designed, completely unofficial medals that are being conferred upon residents of the province for all manner of government and  protective services. This is a topic briefly we examined in the blog back in May 2016.

It really is the wild west of medal invention and wearing when it comes to Alberta. The protective services seem to be spending a great deal of time fussing over buttons, ribbons and bows. Everyone seems to be getting into the act, not just the provincial government, but municipalities of every size seem to want to become like old European city states and Grand Duchies, conferring baubles on all who render even modest service. None of this would really be worthwhile commenting on if it wasn't for the fact that these popcorn medals are being worn alongside official national and provincial honours -- which is, as we point out with great regularity, a violation of Order-in-Council 1998-591. It is made all the more offensive in that the people who are most frequently doing this are police, fire and peace officers -- people who are supposed to be trained to enforce & follow the laws and regulations of the land. 

The province of Alberta established a pair of medals; "The Alberta Peace Officer Long Service Medal" and the "Alberta Solicitor General Long Service Medal." Never mind that most people who are eligible for these medals are already entitled to the Peace Officer Exemplary Service Medal, which is given out by the Governor General to peace officers across Canada. It seems one medal is not enough for the same sort of service -- and everyone wants to look like a "hero" or worse yet, a dictator from a less developed country. 

Alberta's Special Constable
Long Service Medal
Queen's South Africa Medal.
Aside from the totally uninspired design -- you would think putting the word ALBERTA on the front of a medal once would be sufficient, but, to assure the wearer that they know from which province their popcorn bauble emanated, the name of the province appears twice on the same side -- there is the problem that for the Alberta Peace Officer Long Service Medal, the ribbon is a direct rip-off of the 1899-1901 Queen's South Africa Medal, which was awarded to various British and Commonwealth troops who served in the Boer War. It really is just cheap and cheesy to steal the ribbon from a war medal (about 7,000 Canadians fought in the war and 267 died)

Alberta Emergency Service Medal
But it gets better because there is also the Alberta Emergency Service Medal -- another medal for which the recipient would also be eligible for the Governor General's; Fire Exemplary Service Medal or Emergency Medical Services Exemplary Service Medal or the Peace Officer Exemplary Service Medal. 

Sadly the festival of popcorn medals has trickled down to municipalities and also to individual police forces as well. There is the Lethbridge Regional Police Medal (given for 15 years of service), and a host of baubles from the medals crazed Calgary Police Service, where it seems everyone in uniform has at least two medals -- usually less than half are actual official national or provincial honours that you are permitted to wear (Halloween exempted). You can see the beautiful quality of the Calgary Police Long Service Medal... freshly cast in lead and then wrapped in aluminum foil here on the right.  

A Calgary Police Sergeant,
half of his medals are not authorized for wear.
Calgary Police:
Integrity...except in medal wearing? 
More mystery medals from Alberta, including one of Valour!  We all recognize the Golden Jubilee Medal and Police Exemplary Service Medal, then it appears we have the Alberta Solicitor General's Medal, which is given for having earned the Governor General's Police Exemplary Service Medal?
Then the last medal which is a mystery at the moment.

Lethbridge Regional Police Service Medal -- 
ribbon borrowed from an Austrian medal of course.  

This collage of mysterious municipal medals would not be complete with out the various medals for fires. There is the Town of Slave Lake Medal of Honour, for the 2011 Fire, and then the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Fire Medal for the 2016 Fort MacMurray Wildfire. These are first natural disasters in Canadian history to warrant the creation of a series of municipal honours it would seem.

Not to downplay the significance of the devastation that was suffered, or the exemplary character of those who fought the flames, however, it seems rather grand to be issuing medals for natural disasters. To get the Medal from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo you had to serve 100 hours. You can read all about the "program" and the design on the municipalities website. Thankfully the website notes that the Wood Buffalo Medal is not an official national honour -- but it begs the question, why then put it on a ribbon when you know people are going to mount it alongside their other medals with the help of some overeager medal mounter who wants everyone to look like Idi Amin. 

Town of Slave Lake Medal of Honour (2011 Fire)
Municipality of Wood Buffalo Fire Medal (2016)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

We're Back!

After more than 80 emails over the past year -- half of which have come in since our new Governor General took office -- we will be updating Wearing Your Medals Wrong, over the coming weeks. Don't worry, you will soon be able to feast your eyes upon all manner of medal wearing offences being committed by a host of Police Chiefs, Veterans, and yes even Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, who has an otherworldly approach to wearing orders, decorations and medals.

Thanks to all of our readers for your patience and for sending in so many useful photos. Remember, when in doubt, if it is not included as part of Order-in-Council 1998-591, or the updated list maintained by the Governor General's Office, then you most likely shouldn't be wearing it. While it is a pretty easy rule to follow, it seems the higher the rank, the less likely some are to follow the rules. For wearing insignia there is the Guide for Wearing Orders, Decorations and Medals, which covers all the usual questions. It doesn't matter who you are, how much brass you have on your hat or gold you wear on your cuff, you are supposed to follow these rules too. 

By the end of the month we will also have an updated Vice-Regal Report Card, which we have not done in more than three years. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ministers Behaving Badly: The Hon. Harjit Sajjan, PC, OMM, MSM, CD, MP (wearer of unauthorized gongs)

Having read our recent post about Brigadier-General Rob Roy MacKenzie wearing a popcorn police medal (the Vancouver Police Department 125th Anniversary Commemorative Medal, $29.95 each), one of our eagle eyed readers sent along several pictures of the Minister of National Defence wearing his miniature medals, with a strange addition. This is a first, we have never had cause to go after any Minister of National Defence for medal wearing indiscretions. 

It's bad enough the Minister is wearing his miniatures during the daytime!
It is of course much worse that he is wearing a totally unauthorized medal. 
US Army Commendation Medal
The photos reveal the Honourable Harjjit Sajjan having "enhanced' his group of medals with the US Army Meritorious Service Medal. But what could possibly be wrong with that?? Well a few things. Aside from the generous distribution of this particular award at the direction of all manner of minor commanders and bureaucrats who toil away serving the US Secretary of the Army, no Canadian has ever been permitted to wear this medal, because it does not come from a Head of State. Unlike the US Legion of Merit, the US Army Meritorious Service Medal doesn't come from the President of the USA. It is just a departmental award, so it can't be worn with officially granted honours. 
The Minister's illegal medal group!
A night on the town with fellow veterans (who haven't enhanced their medal groups).
No sign of the unauthorized medal
with his full size group of medals. 
Now it would seem the Minister is aware of this because in photos of him wearing his full size group of medals this particular medal is nowhere to be found. If the Minister thought the medal was approved for wear he would have certainly had it mounted with his full size medals, however he has clearly knowingly engaged in  enhancing his miniature group because he figures the rules don't apply to the miniature medals.

No doubt in addition to wanting to look more important with an extra medal in his rack, the Minister plausibly just figured "oh its ok to wear it with my miniatures, even though it was never approved... because I have to buy the miniatures, the regulations only apply to my full size medals. I earned this medal and I'm going to wear it!"

Well this is patently wrong. Just because you have to purchase your miniature medals doesn't mean you can add in unrecognized and unauthorized gongs. You also have to buy your entire mess dress uniform and you can't fancy it up with a bit of additional gold cording or extra Crowns. What makes all this worse is that it is not a recent affectation, the Minister was doing this when he was still in uniform as shown in this photo below, taken several years before he became Minister. This is in violation of CFP 265, Canadian Forces Dress Instructions, Chapter 4-1 which clearly states "AUTHORIZED honours (orders, decorations, medals and the insignia for mentions-in-dispatches, commendations and citations) may be worn, when appropriate, by entitled personnel." Of course the US Army Commendation Medal is NOT AUTHORIZED and thus cannot be worn by anyone wearing a CF uniform of any type. 

The Minister, before he was Minister, wearing the unauthorized
US Army Commendation Medal...
breaking a few CF Dress Regulations and an Order-in-Council. 
For the civilian version of the Minister (and this is what the CF regulations are derived from), he is in violation of our beloved Order-in-Council 1998-891, section 7, which states, "The insignia of orders, decorations and medals not listed in this Directive, as well as foreign awards, the award of which has been approved by the Government of Canada, SHALL NOT BE MOUNTED OR WORN in conjunction with orders, decorations and medals listed in this Directive." (i.e. all Canadian honours). This applies to both miniature and full size medals. 

Hopefully by the time Remembrance Day rolls around the Minister will have corrected this serious infraction. Having the head of the national police force, Commissioner Bob Paulson parade around wearing a popcorn police medal is bad enough without adding members of the Federal Cabinet to the list of public offenders of the rules they are suppose to uphold. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Bad Brigadier General: Rob Roy MacKenzie

Brigadier General Rob Roy MacKenzie, not wearing his "popcorn"
Vancouver Police Department Medal with his undress ribbons... probably
because the ribbon can't be ordered from Logistic Unicorp. 
A kind reader recently spotted Brigadier General Rob Roy MacKenzie, who is now the Canadian Army's Chief of Staff for Reserves, parading around wearing a phoney medal. While the General demonstrated admirable and lengthy service in Afghanistan, it seems he has felt it necessary to dress up his group with a totally unapproved popcorn medal. Aside from being an Officer of the Order of Military Merit and having earned a slew of honours for service overseas in unpleasant places, the General has "enhanced' his group with the Vancouver Police Department 125th Anniversary Medal. The medal, which cost $20,000 to issue to members of the VPD and others "supporters" was funded through the Vancouver Police Department Foundation... a rather colossal waste of money that could have been used in a more constructive manner than creating another police popcorn medal.

It is more than a little embarrassing to have a General Officer prancing around wearing a popcorn medal that is not authorized at all. Even more so as he stands beside a veteran of the Second World War who served in France & Germany and Italy amongst other places. Of course the Second World War veteran has NOT enhanced his group in any way. Where is an RSM to call the General out on his medal wearing buffoonery?
Brigadier-General Rob Roy MacKenzie taking the salute, while wearing
the Vancouver Police Department 125th Anniversary Medal. Another popcorn police gong, totally unauthorized for wear with anything but a Halloween costume. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Commissioner Paulson: The Habitual Breaker of Regulations... even his own

Several kind readers have sent us recent photos of the Commissioner of the RCMP, Bob Paulson, committing various offences related to medal wearing. Yes he continues to wear the unapproved British Columbia Police Meritorious Service Medal, which we revealed in our post of September 25, 2015. It seems the head of our national police forces remains immune from following the direction of the Government of Canada (a.k.a. his boss) when it comes to wearing orders, decorations and medals. Or perhaps he has a "get out of jail free card" for habitually wearing unrecognized medals.

Cmmr. Paulson: "Why officer, I have this card that allows me to break the rules,
allow me to present it to you... you do know who I am of course. Why would I, head of the
 national police force and enforcer of the laws of the land, have to follows some
regulation that prevents me from wearing whatever crackerjack medals I like!"

Last Friday the Governor General held an investiture for the Order of Merit of the Police Forces. As per tradition a parade of police officers presented themselves to the GG to receive their medals, and as usual, a number of completely phoney and unrecognized medals were worn by the people who are sworn to uphold the law of the land. Now violating a mere Order-in-Council (1998-591), the regulation that outlines what medals a Canadian can wear with other official honours, might seem a minor thing, but having those who have a duty to defend the law breaking these sorts of rules is bothersome. We don't get to pick and choose which regulations and laws we follow... unless it would seem you are certain police officers; then you can just do whatever you like with no fear of sanction -- just the ridicule of a minor blog. 
Exhibit A: Commissioner Paulson with his trumped up medal group. 
Of course our illustrious Commissioner of the RCMP showed up at Rideau Hall again wearing his illegal medal, the British Columbia Police Meritorious Service Medal, yet another one of those provincial cracker jack gongs that duplicate a national honour. 

Exhibit B: The Commissioner on parade... issue that
man with a ticket for wearing an unauthorized gong!

It is more than a bit disturbing to see that the Commissioner is not only suffering from the dreaded Instant Dictator Syndrome, by wearing a phony medal, but that he is now also engaging in Reichsmarshall Herman Goering's favourite wartime hobby of improvising and enhancing his collection of uniforms. Where is the RCMP's buttons, ribbons and bows brigade to correct the wayward Commissioner? 

How precisely has he enhanced his uniforms? Well first off it it a bit bizarre to see the Commissioner wearing RCMP Collar Badges on his Red Serge tunic that have not been authorized for wearing since 1955 (i.e. they have a King's Tudor Crown on them and are silver)... but he can make up the rules, he is after all the  El Supremeo leader of all the men and women in red serge. Somehow I don't think RCMP Constables have the same degree of freedom to improvise what they pin on their uniforms. 

But wait, there is more! He has invented an entirely new order of dress, for "Commissioners Only" it would seem. Recently the Commissioner was spotted, in Ottawa wearing his RCMP Blue Serge tunic with full size medals. Now last we checked in the RCMP Dress Regulations -- and this is confirmed by a few of our enthusiastic readers who are members of the RCMP -- no one is authorized to wear medals with this order of dress (undress ribbons only). It seems likely that the Commissioner didn't want to show up to an Army event wearing Red Serge, sticking out like a carrot in an omelet,  but what to do for an event were everyone else will be wearing medals? I know, just break your own rules and invent a new order of dress! 

Of course it's not a "uniform" if you're the only one wearing it, its just a costume... so Blue Serge with Full Size Medals = The Paulson Costume... several months ahead of Halloween!

RCMP Blue Serge Tunic with medals... that hasn't been in the RCMP regulation for many years.
But hey, the Commissioner can just invent the rules... it worked for various military leaders, most of
whom fought for the Axis powers.

Proper RCMP Officers don't go dressing up their medal groups with crackerjack medals, nor do they enhance the dress regulations.  Commissioner Paulson should follow the sterling example of Sir Sam Steele, an early member of the Force who will be remembered long after Paulson has been pensioned off.
A proper RCMP Officer, Sir Sam Steele.
Steele had no need for fake medals, but then again, of his six gongs, four were for  fighting in actual wars.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Remembrance Day Faux Pas: Mike Blais

We had half a dozen emails about Remembrance Day 2015 and apologies to those who have been patiently awaiting for this post. We always find it amazing that with the prospect of being on national television, some people who attend the service at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, will still "enhance" their group of medals with phoney gongs -- or at least insignia they shouldn't be wearing when they are wearing officially recognized orders, decorations and medals that they have rightfully earned.

Here we have Michael L. Blais, CD, founder of The Canadian Veterans Advocacy wearing his well earned Special Service Medal, Peacekeeping Service Medal, UN Medal for Cyprus and Canadian Forces Decoration. But what is that around his neck? Was Blais awarded Canada's highest decoration for civil bravery the Cross of Valour... which is also worn around the neck on a red ribbon. Is it Imperial Russia's Order of St. Anne for service in the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force (1919-1920), or has Mr. Blais been made a Commander of some fancy South American Order? 

M.L. Blais wearing a mystery medal at the neck -- Prime Minister Trudeau looks on wondering "that looks a bit like the Companion of Honour medal that the Queen gave my dad... how did yo get something like that?"

Is that the Cross of Valour you're wearing Mr. Blais? 
It appears that Mr. Blais is wearing the International Knightly Order of St. George. The Order is a charity of some sort which hands out orders, decorations and medals to donors and do gooders... of course none of these "medals" are officially recognized, and it is against the rules for wearing Canadian Orders, Decorations and Medals, to wear the insignia from this group with any official honours -- not even with miniatures. Below is the insignia of the Order -- displaying the Holy Crown of Hungary at its top. One has to wonder what the Government of the Republic of Hungry thinks of this important part of their Coat of Arms being used by some group in Canada.

The Order of St. George, as worn by former
Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier.
Order of St. George pooh bah, Rick Hillier.
Wearing a dinner jacket and miniatures in the middle of the day...
but that is a whole other issue. We hope the Air Cadet isn't taking pointers on deportment from the retired General.

As we pointed out in our February 4, 2015 posting about another veterans' advocate Sean Bruyea, if you're going to become a champion for the cause of veterans, you had better not go dressing up your group of medals. Wearing fake and unrecognized orders, decorations and medals just drains you of any legitimacy. For the former Chief of the Defence Staff, Rick Hillier to be parading around wearing this bauble is an embarrassment. How long until he tries to wear this along with his OC, CMM and ONL all simultaneously?

Calgary: Crazy About Imaginary Medals

Since Christmas we have had a number of emails asking for a post on this topic. Following an all too common practice amongst a variety of protective services across Canada (QC, NS, BC, MB, SK, AB are all offenders), the Province of Alberta and Calgary Police Force have taken upon themselves to establish a whole range of medals. This wouldn't be a problem if the recipients of these medals chose to either not wear them at all, or to wear them on the righthand side of their uniforms -- sadly the allure of looking like a war hero and dressing up a group of medals has been too much for Calgary's constabulary to resist.

Alberta Law Enforcement
Long Service Medal
There are two medals (so far!); the Alberta Police Long Service Medal and the Calgary Police Long Service Medal -- both are totally unauthorized for wear by Federal authorities, so they are in fact just what many members of the Canadian Armed Forces call "popcorn medals." Other monikers such as "crackerjack awards" or "I want to look way more important than I am medals" are also totally appropriate. Were Alberta or Calgary an independent city state in medieval Europe all this would be fine. The reality is city and its police force are municipal bodies established by the province and neither the city nor the police force have any authority to create "honours." While the province can create honours, if they aren't recognized by the federal government they cannot be worn. At least not without breaking all the rules.
Former Calgary Chief Constable Rick Hanson,
wearing the undress ribbon of 2 unauthorized  "fake" medals. 

Calgary's former Chief Constable Rick Hanson is pictured left, wearing 2 of the imaginary "Alberta/Calgary City State Medals." So along with his Order of Merit of the Police Force, Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee Medal, Police Exemplary Service Medal and the Alberta Centennial Medal, Hanson has 2 mystery medals. The first mystery medal is the Alberta Law Enforcement Long Service Medal. Created by the provincial government it is awarded for 25 years service. I guess the federal Police Exemplary Service Medal which is awarded for 20 years service (then bars at 30 and 40 years) was not sufficient recognition.

The Calgary Police Long Service Medal
The last one is the Calgary Police Long Service Medal -- which I am sure you will be glad to know can be purchased on eBay for under $40.00. The beautiful cast quality of this medal makes it look suitable for conferral by the Head of State of any failed less developed country (TPLAC). Clearly those great minds in the Calgary Police Department felt that having a long service medal from the Government of Canada/Queen of Canada was not sufficient, so they invented their own. For those of you who have a cursory understanding of Canadian honours policy you will know that dual recognition (that is receiving 2 medals for the same thing) is not allowed, at least not when it comes to the creation of new honours. Certainly Calgary must win some prize for allowing its police officers to wear no less than THREE medals for the same long service. The "Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excessive Recognition Medal" would be a nice addition to their homemade honours system.

The problem is all compounded in the photo below of the new Calgary Chief Constable Roger Chaffin, being invested as an Officer of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces by the Governor General -- that stand-in for the fount of honours, the Queen.

Calgary Chief Constable Roger Chaffin with the Governor General.
I guess no one at Rideau Hall noticed all the unauthorized medals on the
Chief Constable's chest? 
Good manners cost nothing, so really, who shows up to the Governor General's house wearing a host of imaginary medals?!! I can hardly wait until every province has established a long service medal for those of its residents who wear a uniform. There are thousands of members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have lived in multiple provinces -- they will look resplendent when (I am making some of these up) the Ontario Uniformed Service Medal, Nova Scotia Protective Services Medal, Alberta Protective Services Medal, Quebec Public Protection Medal and Saskatchewan Protective Services Medal are mounted beside their CD and overseas operations medals.

The Gilbert & Sullivan line out of the Gondoliers, "when everyone is somebody, then no-one's anybody!" holds true with orders, decorations and medals. When everyone is wearing a sea or coloured ribbons and clinking medals, they become meaningless baubles.

Sadly as we have seen in the previous post, our national police force, the RCMP and its Commissioner, Bob Paulson, who has come down with a bad case of the dreaded Instant Dictator Syndrome, no longer feel they should be bound by the rules set out by the Governor General. I guess when it comes to wearing medals the police are above the law -- let us hope this attitude doesn't bleed over into other areas of the policing profession!