The Ceremonial and Protocol Handbook by the Department of Canadian Heritage

A Review of the Contents

The Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH) created the Ceremonial and Protocol Handbook in the 1990s as a semi-official reference for use within the Government of Canada. I obtained the document through an ATIP to PCH; you can download it complete and unabridged as a PDF from the above hyperlink. Judging from some of the references in this edition, PCH compiled it circa 1998, though some of the material has been updated as recently as 2010. (The Handbook appears to be a completed and more thorough version of PCH’s website on “Protocol” and a document called “Ceremonial Procedures,” from the Department of Public Works).

The handbook contains eleven chapters and covers the following topics, providing historical background and descriptions of current practice of Canada and all ten provinces:

  • Organization of events;
  • Canadian emblems;
  • Heraldry;
  • Holidays;
  • Orders, Decorations, and Medals;
  • The Royal Family;
  • The Governor General;
  • Prime Ministers;
  • Lieutenant Governors; and
  • Other provincial matters.

The Handbook contains the Order of Precedence for the Government of Canada, as well as those of all the provinces and of the Yukon Territory. It also describes the correct manner of address for members of the Royal Family, a list of all Royal Visits since 1952, and how the Government of Canada plans such visits.

Guidelines Open to Evolution

The authors describe this Handbook as unofficial and affirmed that “There is no official manual of protocol or ceremonial published by the government of Canada.” They added, “Protocol, by definition, has to be flexible and adapt to the various actors on the political or social stage.”[1] In light of this declared purpose, this handbook could perhaps be more accurately referred to as guidelines, which may in turn be designed to transfer knowledge between practitioners and within the Government of Canada. However, this guide would not necessarily prevent changes in procedures from occurring: guidelines are not laws; they would retain the possibility of innovation and evolution of protocol over time and where necessary. Protocol for unprecedented ceremonies still derive from the underlying principles that inform standard protocol and existing precedents. Written guidelines would not prelude negotiation and agreement to change or modify protocol as required, because those principles still inform decision-makers how to act.

I hope that PCH updates this excellent resource as needed.

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[1] Canada. Department of Canadian Heritage. Ceremonial and Protocol Handbook. (Ottawa: Government of Canada, c. 1998): A.1-1.


About J.W.J. Bowden

My area of academic expertise lies in Canadian political institutions, especially the Crown, political executive, and conventions of Responsible Government; since 2011, I have made a valuable contribution to the scholarship by having been published and cited extensively. I’m also a contributing editor to the Dorchester Review and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law.
This entry was posted in Constitutional Conventions, Officialization of Convention and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Ceremonial and Protocol Handbook by the Department of Canadian Heritage

  1. Ronald moorhead says:

    What events does your office hold to celebrate Queen Victoria?
    Ron Moorhead


  2. Carmen Pierce says:

    I notice at some events that when O Canada is sung the last note (thee) is sung higher. Is this an offical change? I am responsable in my organization (The Easterm Star) to see all ceramonys i.e flag presentation , are done correctly. Thank you for your consideration of this query.
    Take Care
    Carmen Pierce


  3. Pingback: Jack Layton and the Prime Minister’s Prerogative to Offer State Funerals | James W.J. Bowden's Blog

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