The Coat of Arms of Canada (also known as the Royal Arms of Canada or, more properly, the Arms of His/Her Majesty in Right of Canada) is, since 1921, the official coat of arms of the Canadian monarch, and thus also of Canada. It is closely modelled after the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom particularly those of the Jacobean era though with distinctive Canadian elements replacing or added to those derived from the British.
The maple leaves in the shield, originally green, were redrawn gules (red) in 1957, and a circlet of the Order of Canada was added to the arms for limited use in 1987. The shield design forms the Royal Standard of Canada, and the shield is found on the Canadian Red Ensign. The Flag of the Governor General of Canada, which formerly used the shield over the Union Jack, now uses the crest of the arms on a blue field.
The new layout closely reflected the arms of the United Kingdom—except for the fleurs-de-lis in the fourth quarter and the sprig of maple leaves in the base—and was adopted in 1921, when it was proclaimed by King George V as the Arms or Ensigns Armorial of the Dominion of Canada, on November 21. By 1957, the arms were redrawn by Alan Beddoe so as to have red leaves, and to change the royal crown from one of a Tudor design to one more resembling the St. Edward's Crown, as preferred by Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1994, the Queen approved a new design for general use (already in limited use from 1987) for the arms by Cathy Bursey-Sabourin, which had added to it an annulus behind the shield with the motto of the Order of Canada. It was soon adopted as the version used by the federal government within the Federal Identity Program.
In June 2008 MP Pat Martin introduced a motion into the House Of Commons calling on the government to amend the coat of arms to incorporate symbols representing Canada's First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
The shield is divided into five sections:
The first division at the viewer's top left contains the three golden lions that have been a symbol of England since at least the reign of King Richard I. The second quarter bears the red lion rampant of Scotland in a double tressure border with fleurs-de-lis, used as a symbol of Scotland since at least the reign of William I. The third quarter shows the Irish harp of Tara. Legend states that this golden harp with silver strings was used in royal banquets at Tara, a capital of ancient Ireland, and was later given to Henry VIII by the pope during his attempt to succeed to the Irish throne. The gold fleurs-de-lis of royal France, the first post-medieval European emblem raised in Canada by Jacques Cartier, during his landing at Gaspé, fill the fourth quarter.The tinctures of the quarters are Gules (red), Or (gold), Azure (blue), Azure and Argent (silver) respectively.
The fifth charge, a sprig of red maple leaves at the bottom is a distinctly Canadian symbol that became gradually identified with the country throughout the 19th century. They were first proposed as a symbol in 1834, were established in 1868 on the arms of Quebec and Ontario and officially became the national emblem in 1965, with the proclamation of the Flag of Canada. Initially, the leaves were depicted as coloured green on the coat of arms because it was thought to represent youth, as opposed to the red colour of dying leaves in autumn (however, they are blazoned as "proper," so could be shown as either red or green, and it is the blazon, rather than any depiction, which is regarded as authoritative). The leaves were later redrawn in official depictions in 1957 with the current colour to be in line with the official colours of Canada. The shield forms the basis of the royal standard of Canada.
The ribbon is marked desiderantes meliorem patriam, meaning "desiring a better country." It is the motto of the Order of Canada. This component was added, by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, to the arms used to represent the Queen in 1987, after a new Canadian "law of arms" was created, which included the rule that the motto of the Order of Canada would be included around the personal coat of arms of any Canadian who received an appointment to the Order, while the arms used by government ministers and departments remained without the ribbon. Since 1994 the arms used by government ministers and institutions now reflect the personal arms of the Queen.
The arms show a royal helmet, which is a barred helm of gold looking outward, and draped in a mantle of white and red which are the official colours of Canada. The golden helmet facing the viewer symbolizes Canada's sovereignty.
The crest is based on the Royal Crest of England but differenced by the addition of a maple leaf, and appears on the Governor General's blue flag denoting that the Governor General is a representative of the Sovereign.
It consists of a crowned gold lion standing on a twisted wreath of red and white silk and holding a maple leaf in its right paw. Above the crest is St Edward's Crown, the style preferred by the Queen. (See the article on the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom for a discussion of different styles of crown historically used in the Commonwealth.)
The 1921 design was a Tudor crown, and the style was modernized to its current form in 1957 by the Canadian government, although the Queen had indicated her preference in May 1952, shortly after ascending the throne in February 1952.
The motto of Canada is in Latin a mari usque ad mare (From sea to sea), a part of Psalm 72:8. This phrase was first suggested by Samuel Leonard Tilley, a Father of Confederation. The motto appears at the base of the arms. The motto was originally used in 1906 on the head of the mace of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. It was included in the Arms of Canada in 1921.
In March 2006, the premiers of Canada's three territories called for the amendment of the motto to better reflect the vast geographic nature of Canada's territory—Canada has three coastlines on the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans. Two suggestions for a new motto are A mari ad mare ad mare (from sea to sea to sea) and A mari usque ad maria (from the sea to the other seas). The motto remains unchanged.
Supporting the shield on either side are the English lion and Scottish unicorn, which are also the supporters of the UK coat of arms. The lion stands on the viewer's left and holds a gold-pointed silver lance flying the Union Flag. The unicorn has a gold horn, a gold mane, gold hooves, and around its neck a gold, chained coronet of crosses and fleurs-de-lis; it holds a lance flying the three gold fleurs-de-lis of royal France on a blue background. Unlike the British version, the lion is not crowned, nor is it facing the viewer. Supporters holding lances displaying flags are elements adopted from the Royal coat of arms of Scotland.
Tierced in fesse the first and second divisions containing the quarterly coat following, namely, 1st Gules three lions passant guardant in pale or, 2nd, Or a lion rampant within a double tressure flory-counter-flory gules, 3rd, Azure a harp or stringed argent, 4th, Azure, three fleurs-de-lis or, and the third division Argent three maple leaves conjoined on one stem proper. And upon a Royal helmet mantled argent doubled gules the Crest, that is to say, On a wreath of the colours argent and gules a lion passant guardant or imperially crowned proper and holding in the dexter paw a maple leaf gules. And for Supporters On the dexter a lion rampant or holding a lance argent, point or, flying therefrom to the dexter the Union Flag, and on the sinister A unicorn argent armed crined and unguled or, gorged with a coronet composed of crosses-patée and fleurs-de-lis a chain affixed thereto reflexed of the last, and holding a like lance flying therefrom to the sinister a banner azure charged with three fleurs-de-lis or; the whole ensigned with the Imperial Crown proper and below the shield upon a wreath composed of roses, thistles, shamrocks and lillies a scroll azure inscribed with the motto A mari usque ad mare.
The circlet of the Order of Canada was added around the shield for limited use in 1987, and for general use in 1994.
The coat of arms is also found on the 50 cent coin, a coin that is rarely used, but in circulation.