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Extraordinary Honour

Toronto Paramedic Services* was the first paramedic service in Canada to receive Heraldic Grant, Badge and Queen’s Colours

Toronto Paramedic Services  is proud to be the first paramedic service in Canada to be awarded Queen’s Colours. At a ceremony at Toronto Emergency Services Headquarters on December 7, 2004, The Honourable James Bartleman, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, presented the colours to Toronto Emergency Medical Services Chief Bruce Farr on behalf of the Governor General of Canada.

Traditionally reserved for Commonwealth Military Units, the only other non-military unit to receive this honour is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The honour of trooping the colours was bestowed to Toronto EMS in recognition of services rendered to the community.

Among the other dignitaries attending the ceremony were His Worship David Miller, Mayor of Toronto; Major-General Richard Rohmer, Honorary Chief of Toronto EMS; Bruce Patterson, Canadian Heraldic Authority; Toronto Councillors Jane Pitfield and Michael Feldman; and representatives from regional paramedic services all across Ontario, including Durham, Halton, Kitchener, London, Muskoka, Ottawa, Peel, Simcoe, and York.

“Each and every day many lives are touched and positively impacted on the streets of Toronto by EMS staff working in concert with our allied agencies,” said Toronto EMS Chief Bruce Farr. “One common thread binds these people together. Their actions exemplify a gift that they are willing to give freely. This gift is one of compassion, selflessness, personal time, bravery, and often true heroism. It is a tremendous honour to accept these Colours today on behalf of all the staff at Toronto EMS who give so much of themselves every day.”

Toronto EMS Grant

Her Excellency, The Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, honoured Toronto EMS through the awarding of Letters of Patent. The Honourable James Bartleman, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario represented the Governor General for this historic event.

The Letters of Patent, composed of a Grant, Heraldic Badge and Ceremonial Flag (Queen’s Colours), were bestowed upon Toronto Emergency Medical Services through a formal petition process to the Governor General through The Chancellery of Canada. The awarding of Letters of Patent can be traced back to the 12th century times in Great Britain, France, and northern Europe, where the Crown would recognize their armies, and members of nobility. Individual noblemen would be provided with lands and heraldic Armorial Bearings, denoting their standing in medieval society.

As the centuries have passed, the presentations of Letters of Patent have been broadened to include elements of the government, industry and “common” individuals. Unless sought out by The Crown for recognition, each of these recipients have had to follow the established petition process within their nation, providing background information to the “King of Arms” (in Canada known as the Chief Herald). Upon creation in Canada, the Letters of Patent are placed in permanent record in the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada, which is maintained by The Chancellery.

As a result of the amalgamation of the former Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto into the current City of Toronto, there were a number of issues surrounding the creation of insignia that would represent the Emergency Services of the new City. Under the direction and authority of Chief Administrative Officer Michael Garrett, the eight Emergency Services of the former Metro, City and Borough governments were given the opportunity to consult with the Chief Herald of Canada to create Service specific devices that would identify the new City’s Police Services, Emergency Medical Services, and the amalgamation of the six Fire Services into the new Toronto Fire Services.

Toronto EMS commenced the petition process with The Chancellery in 2001, which was officially completed upon presentation by the Lieutenant Governor on 7 December 2004.

The Toronto Emergency Medical Services Badge

The three-year development process of our Letters of Patent has been one of detailed research and collaboration amongst various offices of the City of Toronto and The Chancellery, which was synchronized through staff of the EMS System Design Group. Key to the development of this new heraldic device was the desire to enshrine elements representative of our nation, our province, and the previous municipalities that form the new City of Toronto.

The Badge follows the pattern of those that have been granted to law enforcement agencies, with appropriate alterations. At the centre is a blue “Star of Life”, a familiar symbol of paramedical services, on which is the Rod of Aesculapius, the symbol of medicine. The maple leaf coronets represent the six municipalities within the former Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto: the Cities of Toronto, North York, Scarborough, Etobicoke, and York, and the Borough of East York. These municipalities were amalgamated in 1998 to form the present City of Toronto. The wreath of maple leaves emphasises the Canadian identity of the Services, the trillium flowers are symbolic of Ontario, and the white rose is a symbol of York, the original name of Toronto. The mural crown at the top indicates that Emergency Medical Services, and its blue colour is associated with Toronto. The original concept of the badge was developed by Robert D. Watt, Chief Herald of Canada, and Bruce Patterson, Saguenay Herald, assisted by the Heralds of the Canadian Heraldic Authority. Toronto EMS staffers Rick Adams and Ric Rangel-Bron worked closely with the Herald Authority in developing the crest’s symbols.

Heraldic Crest Annotated

Trooping of the Colours

The presentation ceremony, known as the “Trooping of the Colours” is one that is filled with military precision and splendour. The presentation of one’s Badge and Colours is the foundation of military units throughout the Commonwealth. These devices are representative of “who you are”, which are further embellished with your Regimental/Unit Battle Honours awarded by The Crown for services rendered during battle. The Colours are the centrepieces of the Regiment/Unit, protected by arms, maintained in a place of honour, treated with reverence.

While Toronto Paramedic Services is not part of the Canadian Forces, as with Toronto’s other two municipal emergency services, the parallels between formal military order and function can be traced to each one, providing a comprehensive command structure which enables each service to function as one or independently.

As such, we chose to introduce the honour bestowed upon Toronto EMS by the Governor General in a manner which is both traditional and dignified, with a Trooping of the Colours.


Here is the text of the Governor General of Canada, Her Excellency The Honourable Adrienne Clarkson’s message to Toronto Emergency Medical Services:

This is a particularly momentous occasion as it marks the first time an emergency medical service in Canada has been granted heraldic emblems. It is fitting that the recipient of this grant is the Toronto Emergency Medical Services, the largest such operation in Canada, and the heir to a tradition of services that began in 1883.

Your new badge combines medical and paramedical symbolism with colours and emblems that indicate your identity as a vital municipal service in Toronto, Ontario and Canada. It honours the important lifesaving work that your paramedics and staff perform.

I hope that this badge and ceremonial flag will function as a steadfast and colourful reminder of your work, not only to your organization but to the community you serve.Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada

*Note: While our name is now Toronto Paramedic Services, at the time of the grant, we were known as Toronto Emergency Medical Services. We have used our former name in this article as appropriate for historical accuracy.