Honorary ranks in the Canadian Forces have been modeled on British traditions. The first honorary appointment was in 1895, and the RMR’s first Honorary Colonel in 1914 was Right Honourable Lord Mount Stephen, with the first appointment of an Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel in 1936 (Lieutenant-Colonel Fisher, VC – the original CO of the 58th Westmount Rifles).
Prior to the mid 1970s, honorary rank in the Reserves was confined to former officers, generally officers of the Regiment. Since then honorary status may also be conferred on distinguished Canadian citizens and the RMR has led the way in maintaining a “balanced approach” to their honorary appointments: One member from a purely civilian background, and the other from a Regimental background.
The Canadian Armed Forces handbook covering honorary appointments lists the following as the principal responsibilities for Militia Honoraries: act as an advisor to the Commanding Officer on all matters pertaining to regimental dress and traditions; provide advice on regimental charities and associations; help to maintain close liaison with allied regiments; encourage the Regiment’s Cadet Corps; attend formal parades and social functions in which the unit is involved; occasionally attend unit training including field training exercises; take an active part in efforts to improve the Militia, and indeed the Canadian Armed Forces; attend the Honorary Colonels’ and Lieutenant-Colonels’ conferences, and generally keep abreast of policy developments affecting the Militia.
The Minister of National Defence is the approving authority for all honorary appointments. Once approved by the Minister the appointment is promulgated in Army Orders, and is signified by the issuance of a Commission Certificate signed by the Governor-General and the Minister of National Defence acknowledging the appointment.
The Honorary Colonel and Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel personalize the institutional structure of the regiment, assist in the promotion of regimental affairs when the attention of the serving officers is normally focused on training and operational matters, and add a further dimension to the concept of the regimental Family. Within the RMR, the Honorary Colonel and Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel serve as President and Vice-President of the RMR Foundation.