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 current and 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. We 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, September 16, 2013

The Problem with Honoraries

A survey of the online world reveals that many of those who hold honorary appointments in the Canadian Forces are rather clueless about how to wear their medals.  Sonja Bata who has served as an Honorary Captain in the Canadian Navy for many years is pictured here wearing her full size medals on mess dress. 
Honorary Captain (N) Bata

This photo explains well why we have miniature medals – full size medals look ridiculous on mess dress and are never to be worn in this fashion. It would have been much better if  Bata had decided just to wear her Officer of the Order of Canada. On the bright side at least she knew to wear her OC on a miniature ribbon. Given the good work Bata has done for the CF I feel a bit reluctant to post this, nevertheless it is a significant error and dress faux pas. 

Below is the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David Onley who serves as honorary Colonel for a number of regiments. What's wrong with this photo? He isn't wearing any ribbons or any of his full size insignia. He is a Knight of the Order of St. John, Chancellor of the Order of Ontario and has the Canada 125 Medal and the Diamond Jubilee Medal, but for whatever reason he has decided not to wear any of them, despite the dress regulations. Here we see a CF DEU treated as just a business suit that you can pin stuff on if you want, or leave it empty. Onley features prominently in our upcoming Vice-Regal Report Card as he has thrown the wearing guide out the window. 
The Hon. David Onley,
Honorary Colonel of 25 Field Ambulance

In this next photo we find an Honorary Naval Captain, Myra Freeman wearing an unofficial Commissionaires ribbon  at the very end of her undress ribbons and on her Order of Canada ribbon she is wearing a RED maple leaf signifying that she is a COMPANION  of the Order of Canada (the highest level of the Order), when in fact she should be wearing a SILVER maple leaf as a MEMBER of the Order of Canada (most junior level of the Order). The Governor General's website confirms she is indeed a Member and not a Companion. Not a bad self inflicted promotion! The same issue appears in an earlier photo found on the web. This honorary Captain (N) was featured in one of our first posts on October 9, 2010 with a variety of issues. 
Honorary Captain Myra Freeman

Freeman's Undress Ribbons

To be fair, here is an RCAF Honorary Colonel for 439 Squadron from about a decade ago. This Honorary is well turned out aside from wearing two completely unofficial, unauthorized decoration of unknown origin. Interestingly the Honorary Colonel this offender took over from also had several green ribbons at the end of his medal group. 
Our token RCAF Honorary Colonel Offender, Ross Gaudreault
There are some honoraries who wear thier uniforms and medals correctly. Not surprisingly, as one recent commentator on this Blog noted, most of them tend to be retired members of the military. 

All this highlights a serious problem with the Honorary Captains(N) / Honorary Colonels program run by the Canadian Forces. So many of these dress-up officers have no clue how to wear a CF uniform and the accompanying insignia that they are entitled to. It is difficult to understand why no one has nicely corrected them in their various errors. It would save the regiment(s) embarrassment and set a good example for the regular and reserve members of the CF. 


  1. I could be wrong but one of them looks like the Order of St Joachim.

  2. Nope - both are Order of St Lazarus. St Joachim does not have a full-sized cross except as a neck order.