What is the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers?

The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers recognizes the exceptional volunteer achievements of Canadians from across the country in a wide range of fields.

As an official Canadian honour, the Medal for Volunteers incorporates and replaces the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award, created in 1995, by then-Governor General the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc. The Medal builds on the legacy and spirit of the Caring Canadian Award by honouring the dedication and commitment of volunteers. To learn more about the recent program change, click here.

Who is eligible to be recognized?

Any person who is a Canadian citizen and who has made significant, sustained and unpaid contributions to their community in Canada or abroad is eligible. Candidates must have demonstrated an exemplary commitment through their dedicated volunteerism.

The Medal for Volunteers is awarded to individuals only, not to groups or couples. Non-Canadians are also eligible if their contributions have brought benefit or honour to Canadians or to Canada.

Is the Medal for Volunteers a national honour?

The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers is an official Canadian honour created by the Crown and as such, is part of the Canadian Honours System.

It is listed within the Canadian order of precedence for orders, decorations and medals, but does not confer post-nominals upon its recipients. The medal is worn after the Polar Medal and before any of the Canadian commemorative medals (e.g. the Diamond Jubilee Medal). More information about the order of precedence is available here.

What makes the Medal for Volunteers different from other volunteer awards?

The Medal for Volunteers is an official Canadian honour and the only one for volunteerism given by the governor general of Canada. It incorporates and replaces the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award, created in 1995, by then-Governor General the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc. Thousands of deserving Canadians have been honoured through these programs, reaching the full diversity of volunteerism in our country.

Other awards exist in Canada recognizing volunteerism in various ways. Volunteers lie at the heart of our communities, and it is appropriate that their extraordinary contributions be fully recognized.

How does the nomination process work?

Anyone can nominate a caring volunteer by submitting an online nomination in a few simple steps.

The Chancellery of Honours, part of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, administers the program and receives all nominations. Each one is carefully researched and then reviewed by an independent advisory committee, which makes recommendations to the governor general. The selection process is non-partisan and merit-based.

All nominations are kept confidential to respect privacy and to avoid disappointment if the nominee is not selected. Nominators and others involved are asked to respect this policy.

How can I nominate someone?

To nominate, complete the online nomination form with the following information:

  1. Contact information for you and your candidate.
  2. A short description of your candidate’s contributions. The description should provide details about the type of volunteer work accomplished, the names of any organizations involved, the dates and length of service, and any other relevant biographical information, including the impact their work has had on the community.
  3. A letter of support for your candidate. The letter can be provided by an organization or an individual who supports the nomination and who can provide details about the unpaid volunteer work accomplished by the candidate. We also suggest including the name and contact information of two other individuals who can act as a reference and validate the information provided. This step is not mandatory.
  4. 4. The letter, written by someone other than you, should describe the unpaid volunteer work accomplished by the candidate, the scope and impact of the contribution by answering the following questions:
    1. How do you know the candidate?
    2. What type of volunteer work has the candidate accomplished?
    3. What is it about this person's volunteer work that sets him/her apart from others doing similar work?
    4. How has their contribution improved or impacted the community?

Note: Please include the date and the duration for each volunteer contribution whenever possible.

If I represent an organization, can I also submit a nomination?

Organizations are welcome to nominate exceptional volunteers as candidates for this honour.

If you would like to submit the names of multiple volunteers from your organization, please contact the program manager at You may qualify to become a trusted partner of the program.

Is there a deadline to submit nominations?

There is no deadline for submissions. Nominations are accepted throughout the year on an on-going basis.

When is the medal presented?

Presentation ceremonies are held throughout the year, in communities across Canada. The Chancellery of Honours makes every effort to arrange a presentation ceremony within one calendar year of the date of the award. The award will be sent by mail when a ceremony cannot be held within a calendar year, if the recipient cannot attend a ceremony, or at the request of the recipient.

What do recipients receive?

The Medal for Volunteers is presented by the governor general or by lieutenant governors, territorial commissioners, mayors, members of the Order of Canada, other prominent Canadians or partner organizations. The Medal is accompanied by a lapel pin for everyday wear, a letter and a certificate.

Recipients will be contacted by the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General with details about their presentation.

How should the medal be worn?

The Canadian Honours System has rules in regards to how and when the medal should be worn. The correct placement of the Medal for Volunteers when worn is after the Polar Medal and before any of the Canadian Commemorative Medals (e.g. the Diamond Jubilee Medal).

To learn more on the wearing of the medal and other insignia, please download the Guide for the Wearing of Orders, Decorations and Medals (3,99 Mb – PDF).

Will existing Caring Canadian Award recipients receive the Medal for Volunteers?

With the April 2016 inaugural presentation of the Medal for Volunteers, new recipients will now receive a medal. Existing Caring Canadian Award recipients will subsequently receive a medal to complement their award and to recognize their ongoing commitment to volunteerism. To learn more about the recent program change, click here.

Who is responsible for the administration of the Medal for Volunteers program?

The Chancellery of Honours, part of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, administers the Medal for Volunteers program.

What is the role of the Advisory Committee?

The independent Medal for Volunteers Advisory Committee reviews and assesses nominations and recommends worthy candidates to receive the medal. It is made up of representatives from across the country who have significant experience in the community and volunteerism sectors. Members of the Advisory Committee are appointed by the Governor General.

What does the design of the medal symbolize?

The Medal for Volunteers consists of a silver circular medal that is 36 mm in diameter with a suspension ring. The obverse depicts a contemporary effigy of the Sovereign, circumscribed with the inscription in capital letters of the Canadian Royal Title and the word "CANADA", separated by two maple leaves.

The reverse indicates the ideas of caring and generosity, represented by two interlaced hearts. The sunburst pattern of the rim symbolizes the time that volunteers are giving and their actions. The ribbon uses the viceregal colours of blue and gold. The five gold stripes evoke the fingers of a hand, present in the Caring Canadian Award emblem, while the deep red colour is associated with royalty.

Who designed the medal?

The design of medal was created by the Canadian Heraldic Authority, based on a concept by Darcy DeMarsico of the Chancellery of Honours. The medal is manufactured by the Royal Canadian Mint at its Ottawa facility.