Honours and Salutes

Definition

Honours and salutes contain three elements: a guard of honour, a musical salute and a gun salute. Honours and salutes vary according to the dignitaries being honoured, more specifically as to the strength of a guard of honour, the musical tune being played and the number of rounds fired.

Background

Salutes have been fired for many centuries, as a gesture of friendship and to honour certain dignitaries. Firing a gun salute was also a way to mark such festive occasions, coronations, royal anniversaries and jubilees.

Tradition and custom have established that a royal salute consists of 21 rounds; kings and queens have traditionally accorded to members of their immediate family the same honours paid/given the Sovereign, and as nations evolved from monarchies to republics or other forms of government, the custom has developed to accord the same salute to all heads of state.

Who is entitled

The current Canadian practice is to be found in the Canadian Forces Administration Orders (CFAO 61-8, mod 8/84).

Honours and salutes are accorded to the following dignitaries:

  • Heads of state;
  • The Queen's representatives in Canada;
  • Members of reigning royal families;
  • Heads of governments;
  • Ambassadors and high commissioners accredited to Canada; and
  • Ministers of National Defence.

When are they accorded

The current practice is for full military honours and salutes to be accorded as follows:

  • Canadian dignitaries:

    1. The Queen: a 21 gun salute is fired upon arrival in Canada; upon arrival in a province; and at an official ceremony (should one be organized) marking the departure from Canada;

    2. The Governor General: a 21 gun salute is fired on his/her taking the oaths of office; full honours are given on his/her leaving the Parliament buildings after the installation ceremonies; full honours are given on arrival on Parliament Hill for Canada Day ceremonies and for the opening or proroguing of a session of Parliament; full honours are given on occasions when a guard of honour is warranted; a 21 gun salute is fired when visiting a saluting station not more than once a year; full honours are given on his/her official departure from Ottawa on leaving office;

    3. Lieutenant Governor: a 15 gun salute is fired on his/her taking the oaths of office; full honours are given on his/her leaving the Legislative Building (or other site) after the installation ceremonies; full honours are given on arrival at the Legislative Building for the opening or proroguing of a session of the Legislature; a gun salute is fired when visiting a saluting station within his/her province (not more than once a year); full honours are given on occasions when the mounting of a guard of honour is justified; full honours are given on his/her official departure from the provincial capital on leaving office.

      It is to be noted that Lieutenant Governors are not given military honours outside the province of their jurisdiction as they do not have extra-territoriality.

  • The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence: a 19 rounds gun salute is fired for the Prime Minister and 17 for the Minister of National Defence when visiting a saluting station (but not more than once a year); full honours are given on occasions when the mounting of a guard of honour is warranted.

  • Members of the Royal Family: for official visits to Canada, a 21 gun salute is fired upon arrival in Canada and upon arrival in a province.

  • Foreign dignitaries:

    1. Foreign heads of state and members of foreign reigning royal families: a 21 rounds gun salute upon arrival in Canada for an official visit;
    2. Foreign heads of government, the Vice-President of the United States, ministers of National Defence: a 17 rounds gun salute upon arrival in Canada for an official visit;
    3. Heads of Mission accredited to Canada: a 19 rounds gun salute upon arrival in Canada to take over as heads of mission.

Guard of honour

In Canada, guards of honour, mounted on occasions when full military honours are accorded, vary in strength according to the dignitaries being honoured. As a rule:

  • a 100 person guard is mounted for heads of state, The Queen's representatives in Canada, governors general of Commonwealth countries, members of reigning royal families;
  • a 50 person guard is mounted for heads of Government (including the Vice President of the United States), ministers of National Defence, heads of Mission accredited to Canada;
  • 16 person departure guards are also mounted for the departure from Canada of members of the Royal Family, on occasions when it is desired to involve members of a Regiment with which the Royal Visitor is associated.

Musical salute

Two musical salutes are played in connection with full military honours, the initial one after the dignitaries have stepped unto the dais, the final one after the completion of the inspection of the guard of honour upon returning to the dais.

The final salute always consists in the full rendition of Canada's national anthem, except for The Queen's representatives in Canada, where the Vice Regal Salute is played.

The initial salute varies according to the dignitaries:

  1. The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh : "God Save The Queen" (in full);
  2. Other members of the Royal Family: the first six bars of "God Save The Queen";
  3. The Governor General and the Lieutenant Governors: the Vice Regal Salute (composed by the first six bars of "God Save The Queen" immediately followed by the first four and last four bars of "O Canada");
  4. The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence of Canada: the national anthem (in full);
  5. Foreign heads of state, foreign heads of Government, members of foreign royal families, foreign ministers of National Defence, heads of Mission accredited to Canada: the national anthem of the country of origin.

For a Pipe Band, a special music is played ("Mallorca" or a combination of "Mallorca" and "O Canada" for the Vice Regal Salute).

The first round of a gun salute should be fired as the Guard Commander orders the second "Shoulder arms".

Military salute

When in uniform, the Governor General, the Lieutenant Governor or a member of the Royal Family will salute during the playing of the Salute as well as when the national or royal anthems are played.

Officers immediately in waiting will not salute during the playing of the Salute. They will salute, however, when the national or royal anthems are played.

Salute to the Governor General / Lieutenant Governor

culture Vice-Regal Salute in MP3 format

Note: To listen to the MP3 file, simply left-click on the link. To download the file, simply right-click, select "save target as", and choose a location to save the file.

Salute to the Governor General / Lieutenant Governor
(commonly referred to as Vice Regal Salute), arranged by MWO E.J. Ford

  1. Before the entry of the Vice-Regal party, the guests should be asked to stand when the party enters and to remain standing until the Vice-Regal Salute is concluded. They should be advised NOT to sing during the playing of the Salute.
  2. The Vice-Regal Salute should NOT be played until all members of the party have reached their places on the dais or at the table and are standing at their chairs.