OTD: Canada unveils new military honour

On today’s date in 2008, former Governor General Michaëlle Jean announced the creation of the Sacrifice Medal.

Awarded to military personnel, members of allied forces or Canadian civilians working under the authority of the Canadian Forces who suffered wounds or death caused by hostile action since Oct. 7, 2001, the circular silver medal measures 36 millimetres across. Its claw – St. Edward’s Crown – is attached to a straight slotted bar. For potential honorees, a commanding officer will submit an application through the usual military chain of command for eligible members of their unit.

“Our soldiers deserve our utmost respect and deepest gratitude,” said Jean, on Aug. 28, 2008.

“This medal recognizes the valued contribution of those who sacrificed their health or their lives while serving Canada.”


The Sacrifice Medal, among other honours, is managed by the Directorate of Honours and Recognition (DHR) at the Department of National Defence. The Chancellery of Honours, on behalf of the Governor-General, is responsible for the administration of the award of all Canadian honours, but for many military service medals, this responsibility has been delegated to the DHR, which processes nominations for these medals, according to the Government of Canada website.


The Sacrifice Medal’s claw, St. Edward’s Crown, symbolizes the Canadian monarch’s role as the fount of honour.

The medal’s obverse depicts an effigy of the reigning sovereign and commander-in-chief of the Canadian Forces, Queen Elizabeth II, who’s shown wearing a diadem of maple leaves and snowflakes surrounded by the inscription “ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA CANADA.”

On the reverse, the word “SACRIFICE” is engraved alongside a depiction of the statue Mother Canada, one of the allegorical figures adorning the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. Inscribed around the medal’s edge are the recipient’s name, rank and service number, if applicable.

The medal is worn on the left side and suspended on a 31.8-millimetre-wide ribbon coloured with vertical stripes in a sombre red (symbolizing spilled blood), black (symbolizing grief and loss), and white (symbolizing hope and peace).

If someone who has already been awarded a Sacrifice Medal is awarded again for subsequent injuries, he or she is granted an additional silver bar with raised edges a maple leaf design.


Replacing the “Wound Stripe” honour, the Sacrifice Medal was first awarded to 46 people – with 21 given posthumously –in honour of soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan.

The ceremony took place at Rideau Hall.

“You have made unimaginable sacrifices in the name of justice and freedom. Your families have done the same,” said Jean on Nov. 9, 2009, when the medal was first awarded. “Many of you have shared your pain with me. Time eases the pain, but it never goes away. You are not alone. Those of you who are wounded also are not alone. We know the price you have paid. Know that Canadians share this pain and pride with you.”


The design for the medal and its brightly coloured ribbon was a collaborative effort between Captain Carl Gauthier, of the DHR, and Cathy Bursey-Sabourin, Fraser Herald at the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

The medal is produced at the Royal Canadian Mint’s Ottawa facility.

In 2017, the Mint also issued a one-ounce pure silver commemorative coin featuring a faithful reproduction of the Sacrifice Medal.

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