by John J. Kennedy

Associate member of the Académie internationale d'héraldique
Can the Canadian Heraldic Authority refuse to Grant Arms to a petitioner? If so, on what basis? Or, is it true that anyone who applies for arms must be granted them by the CHA? If this latter option is true, then is not the "honour from the Crown" somehow cheapened?

There must be some criterion upon which arms are granted. In England it is only to "worthy and deserving persons", and in Canada something like worthiness is also used at least verbally when phrases such as "having made some worthwhile contribution to Canadian society" are used. Worthiness is not just a subjective self-regard but a publicly demonstrable attribute widely recognized and acknowledged.

Let us suppose that Madame X, a bordello operator who has legally incorporated her business as a private escort service, wants to obtain a coat of arms and applies to the CHA. Would she be granted a Coat of Arms as an honour from the Crown? Now some wags might argue that she was providing a worthy service and she would certainly argue that as a legally incorporated entity she was entitled to have arms for her business. Would the CHA grant arms to her business?

I raise such theoretical questions because recently the CHA granted arms to an historically invalid Order of St. John in British Columbia. This was very curious indeed. The granting officer was a member of the Venerable Order of St. John forming the so-called Alliance, which have uniformly and consistently denounced this particular organization. It appears convenient, but not morally convincing, to plead that the historically invalid Order was legally incorporated and thus must be granted arms. But, the Queen of Canada is the sovereign of the Venerable Order and presumably agrees in Her Order's denunciation of this very historically invalid Order. So, is legal incorporation the sole criterion of who is granted or not granted arms? Or must there be some other criterion of who is and who is not worthy?

Reference: Heraldry in Canada/L'Héraldique au Canada, Vol. XXXIV, No.3, September 2000, p.1.

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