CF Traditions, Heritage and Group Identity

Heritage and Traditions

The Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH) develops and manages central policies which mark and reinforce group identity. Importantly, we preserve and interpret heritage to members of the Canadian Forces (CF) and the general public.

Tradition is a set of beliefs and attitudes, handed down for posterity, which guide behaviour. Customs are habitual actions or practices. Heritage encompasses both, combined with historical knowledge.

Canadian military tradition -- beliefs and behaviour patterns -- seeks to improve professionalism and effectiveness, guided by the actions of those who went before. Tradition provides one means for past experience to set standards against which to measure future conduct. It has a practical purpose in an armed force: it sustains the will to win.

Traditions and behaviour patterns vary with cultural background, for we are all products of our past. The more we share;  the better will be our appreciation of how we and our comrades will react to the stress of war.

One strong influence on the Canadian Forces is our evolution to independent statehood within the British Commonwealth of Nations. The effects are still obvious in customs and routine, uniforms and drill, organization and many other matters. However, the modern Canadian Forces reflects the Canadian society which it serves, including its linguistic duality (English and French) and multi-cultural nature.

Cultural practices within the military - customs, dress, insignia - reinforce organizational identity to build cohesion within our formations and units, and, thus, increase their operational effectiveness.

Military ethos is the essential character and spirit of the CF and its members. More than a martial spirit, it encompasses the beliefs and qualities against which personal military actions are judged. The fundamental ethical values are captured in a Statement of Defence Ethics. The Statement provides guidance for ethical decisions and conduct.


The Traditions Section of DHH (DHH 3) is responsible for:

  1. providing staff advice to the Inspector of Canadian Forces colours and Badges;
  2. dress and ceremonial equipment (A-AD-265-000/AG-001);
  3. drill and ceremonial (A-AD-201-000/PT-000);
  4. flags (A-AD-200-000/AG-000);
  5. naming of works, buildings and geographical features (A-AD-200-000/AG-000);
  6. badges, mottoes and insignia (A-AD-200-000/AG-000);
  7. anthems, marches and calls (A-AD-200-000/AG-000);
  8. military forms of address (A-AD-200-000/AG-000);
  9. colours (A-AD-200-000/AG-000);
  10. days of commemoration (A-AD-200-000/AG-000); and
  11. alliances and affiliations (A-AD-200-000/AG-000).


The Heritage Section of DHH (DHH 6) is responsible for issues relating to our military past including:

  1. interpreting and disseminating Canadian military heritage to members of the Canadian Forces and the general public;
  2. providing advice on Canadian Forces heritage through the chain of command;
  3. periodically reviewing customary identity practices for equitability;
  4. recommending and staffing policy to preserve military operational honours for succeeding generations through perpetuations;
  5. maintaining the official records of regimental and branch lineages;
  6. maintaining the Order of Precedence; and
  7. maintaining the official records of battle honours, honorary distinctions, perpetuations, alliances, affiliations, Colours, camp flags and mottoes for extant and disbanded regiments and branches.

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