Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Top Policy Guidance Issues

1. Rules on the use of logos

Treasury Board policy prohibits departments that are subject to the Federal Identity Program Policy from adopting identifying logos without the prior approval of the Treasury Board. This applies to identifying logos for a department's programs, services, assets, products, and internal and external activities.

The following practices are not permitted:

  • Displaying external logos or marks such as awards, certifications, memberships, and symbols for processes, services or technical formats.
  • Acknowledging an external sponsor of a Government activity beyond the simple inclusion of its corporate identifier, i.e. promotional text or other proprietary imagery is prohibited because it could potentially be perceived as an endorsement.
  • Inserting a text credit or external identifier on Government communications about the products or services procured under contract. Note: This does not pertain to the standards manufacturer's mark on commercial supplies and equipment procured by the Government or the corporate identification of a consultant, unless specified in the applicable contract.

What is a logo?

For the purposes of the Federal Identity Program Policy, the term logo is understood to mean a logotype, mark, symbol, emblem, icon, ideogram, brand identifier or stylized letterform. A logo is identified as any consistently used graphic element that is likely to be perceived by the public as representing a department, program or service. A logo interferes with the primacy of the official symbols of the Government of Canada.  

In contrast, a creative approach is not considered a logo, but rather a visual style, motif or theme that employs graphic elements to convey general or contextual information. A creative approach can incorporate common elements, such as colour, form, typography, abstract imagery or photography, and may be applied to a variety of communications products. In contrast to a logo, a creative approach does not dominate or compete with the official symbols of the Government, and its elements may be replaced or eliminated without losing the general intent or context.

Symbols for Government-wide use 

Occasionally, Treasury Board ministers may approve special symbols for Government-wide use, namely for high-priority initiatives of broad public interest. For example, the use of the Vancouver 2010 Host Country logo required Treasury Board approval prior to its use within the Government. Canadian Heritage was given the responsibility to ensure that the use of the symbol within the Government was in accordance with the specific approval granted. The symbol for Canada's Economic Action Plan, another example of a special symbol for Government-wide use, was granted approval for use up to the end of March 2015. In all cases, a Treasury Board submission is required, complete with the information set out in Question 2.

2. Approvals to seek special authorities regarding the Federal Identity Program 

The following authorities and activities require Treasury Board approval:

  • an exemption from the Federal Identity Program Policy;
  • exceptions to portions of the policy or its standards;
  • the use or adoption of a special logo Government-wide or by a single department; and
  • amendments to authorities or uses previously approved by the Treasury Board.

Requests for approval must take the form of a Treasury Board submission and may be included as part of a submission seeking other authorities or approvals. While Federal Identity Program officials are involved in many stages of the submission process, the principal contact for the department remains its Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat program sector analyst.

The information detailed below is essential to aid Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat analysts in a) assessing when a submission is sufficiently complete to proceed to Treasury Board for decision and b) evaluating the proposal and preparing advice and recommendations for the Treasury Board.

In addition to the guidance on submission requirements provided in the Guide to Preparing Treasury Board Submissions, the submission should include the following detailed information:

  • a clearly articulated proposal that specifies the authority and activity for which approval is being sought;
  • a compelling justification for the proposal, i.e. how it serves the public interest;
  • the impact on the Government of Canada's established visual identity;
  • the impact on service to the public;
  • an assessment of potential liability or legal risks;
  • how the proposal meets legislative and policy requirements related to official languages;
  • the costs of developing, testing and implementing the proposal and the projected annual costs related to management and oversight;
  • how the department will monitor the implementation and management of the proposal (in order to report to Treasury Board or Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat when required);
  • a comprehensive guide demonstrating all fields of corporate identity application (as an appendix to the submission); and
  • any other information that may be requested, on a case-by-case basis, to support the proposal (i.e. research and analysis of alternatives to the proposal).

3. Use of the Arms of Canada

The Arms of Canada is Her Majesty's Arms in Right of Canada. It is the identifying symbol of Parliament, the Federal Judiciary, Cabinet ministers, Commissions established under the Inquiries Act and countless quasi-judicial public service institutions. The Arms of Canada represents the country's diplomatic presence around the world and is used on international treaties, Canadian passports and currency.

In light of the meaning, importance and significance of the Arms of Canada, its use should be limited to those institutions for which it has been designated as an identifying symbol and those institutions responsible for its application, as described above.

While the Federal Identity Program Policy technically permits limited decorative use of the Arms of Canada (on a certificate for example), the Federal Identity Program policy centre's advice and direction is to limit its use to those institutions and documents for which it is required and to curtail other decorative uses altogether.

The Arms of Canada was created and exists as a full-colour rendering. However, a modified black and white rendering of the Arms is used in the identification of institutions and offices subject to the Federal Identity Program Policy.

4. Complaints regarding unauthorized use of Government of Canada symbols

The official symbols of the Government of Canada are the Canada Wordmark and corporate signatures that incorporate the flag symbol or the Arms of Canada.  

Illustration of the three official symbols of the Government of Canada: Arms of Canada, Government of Canada signature, Canada wordmark

Within the Government, use of the symbols is governed by the Federal Identity Program Policy and its related standards. The Arms of Canada is also used by institutions not subject to the policy, including Parliament and the Federal Judiciary.

The official symbols of the Government of Canada are protected against unauthorized use in Canada under the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act. The symbols are protected internationally under the provisions of Article 6ter of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, which is managed by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Any use of the official symbols by individuals, organizations or enterprises that are not part of the Government of Canada must be authorized. Departments manage this authorization when the use of the official symbols is in connection with copyright requests and the visual acknowledgement of Government of Canada contributions in the context of sponsorships, partnering agreements and collaborative arrangements.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Federal Identity Program has an oversight role related to external use of the official symbols. It provides policy advice and interpretation to departments, and review Treasury Board Submissions as part of the Secretariat’s central agency role. Departments manage complaints regarding the unauthorized use of the official symbols of the Government of Canada. However, such complaints are brought to the attention of the Federal Identity Program.

The general measure of what specifically constitutes a trademark or copyright infringement is whether the design is so similar to an official symbol that it could be confused with that symbol by a typical person with average recall. Federal Identity Program officials involve other Government of Canada organizations, such as the Competition Bureau, Department of Justice Canada, and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, when appropriate.

Requests or complaints that pertain specifically to the National Flag of Canada or the 11-point maple leaf are to be forwarded to Canadian Heritage, State Ceremonial and Corporate Events Directorate.

Malicious websites or electronic activity that could pose a threat to departmental services or infrastructure should be reported to the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre.

Related information:

5. Federal Identity Program Policy requirements when partnering with an external organization

Collaborative arrangements with other levels of government and the private sector comply with Federal Identity Program Policy requirements. In brief, this means that departments are responsible for ensuring that the Government of Canada receives fair and visible acknowledgement for its contributions of public funds and that all partners are fairly acknowledged in partnering and collaborative arrangements.

Treasury Board submissions pertaining to such activities must assure ministers that the Government program or activity complies with Federal Identity Program Policy requirements and that the Government contribution will be clearly visible in all communications with the public.

The terms and conditions of agreements must provide for the visual acknowledgement of the Government of Canada. The following standard clause contains all of the required visual acknowledgement elements for such agreements: 

[The recipient] shall, in all public communications (including but not limited to websites, publications, news releases, presentations, reports, advertising, paid announcements, expositions and project signage), acknowledge the financial contribution of the Government of Canada.

 [The recipient] shall consent to a form of acknowledgement that has been approved by the Minister or his/her representatives and that may include text and official Government symbol(s). [The recipient] shall consent to limit the acknowledgement to applications agreed upon and remove the acknowledgement upon the request of the Minister or his/her representatives.

 [The recipient] shall cease acknowledging the Government of Canada, including all uses of official Government symbols, upon the expiration of this agreement, unless otherwise specified.

It is the department's responsibility to provide the approved form of acknowledgement and to ensure it is used according to the terms of the agreement. The department's Federal Identity Program Coordinator or Communications Branch should be consulted to ensure the correct graphic files are provided.

6. Visual acknowledgement for a Government of Canada contribution or partnering arrangement 

Despite the fact that every department has two official symbols (a signature and the Canada Wordmark), federal institutions observe the general principle of "one logo per partner" when providing an approved copy of an official symbol for inclusion in a funding recipient's public communications or as part of a joint initiative with other partners.

Choice of symbol

As figures 1 to 3 illustrate, there are three general options for presenting a visual acknowledgement. The Canada Wordmark is the preferred option since it can be displayed larger than either the signature of the Government of Canada or of a department. The Wordmark is also highly recognized by the Canadian public as a symbol of the Government of Canada.

Because multiple signatures cannot be used in the same application, for visual acknowledgement of two or more federal institutions, either the Canada Wordmark or the Government of Canada signature is used. For international applications, the Government of Canada signature is the preferred option.

1) Preferred Symbol for Any External Acknowledgment of the Government of Canada 2) Preferred Symbol for any Acknowledgment Internationally 3) Where warranted, participation of a single institution may be acknowledged as shown

Displaying a Government symbol with other identifiers

There is no rule regarding the order of identifiers in a multi-party acknowledgement; however, the Government symbol is typically displayed first or last. When the size of the federal contribution warrants a more prominent acknowledgement than the other partners, the attributes of size and position should be negotiated to ensure its prominence. In these instances, a department may negotiate the use of both a signature and the Canada Wordmark.

Institutions exempted from the Federal Identity Program Policy have greater latitude in selecting an identifying symbol; however, these institutions are strongly encouraged to follow the above approach when participating in an initiative with federal institutions that are fully subject to the Federal Identity Program Policy.

Composing a text credit

Text credits should be brief and to the point. As illustrated in Figure 4, there is no rule for the inclusion of a text credit; however, a text credit is recommended when the Government is the sole contributor or where the symbol would otherwise be displayed by itself. Communications or official languages advisors should be consulted about the language requirements and wording of the text credit, if necessary.

4) Examples of displaying a text credit together with an official symbol

7. Endorsements

For the purposes of the Federal Identity Program, an endorsement is defined as the inference, expression or declaration of a preference, sanction, or favour for any private sector enterprise, organization, activity or product. An endorsement or what could be perceived by the public as an endorsement may be created, either by a department or an individual, through written text, public statements, or the use of names, logos and proprietary imagery.

Endorsements are commonplace in the private sector because they have commercial value and can provide a competitive advantage. For the Government of Canada, however, providing an advantage to one interest is unfair to all others. It directly conflicts with requirements in the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and its principle of treating all members of the public with fairness, impartiality and objectivity. Unchecked, the practice can undermine public confidence in the sound administration of federal institutions.

An endorsement should not be confused with the fair, objective and equitable acknowledgement of sponsors, partners and institutions participating in a joint initiative. Nor should it be confused with providing factual public information or data pertaining to contracts or contractors.

8. Creating or changing titles

Legislation and orders in council that create departments and agencies are typically the first instance where a legal entity is referred to by a name. That name is the institution's legal title.

Before a name can be used in the form of a signature to identify the institution, it must be registered as an applied title under the Federal Identity Program. Registration of the title provides an opportunity to scrutinize its content (wording) and ensure that the title is brief, clear and has meaning for the general public and that both official languages are equal in treatment and quality.

The creation and adoption of an applied title is mandatory under the Federal Identity Program Policy. Registration of an applied title requires the minister responsible to write to the President of the Treasury Board with a proposed title in both official languages. When the two ministers agree, the applied title is entered into the Registry of Applied Titles. To ensure the approval process is efficient, it is recommended that officials consult with the Federal Identity Program on proposals prior to advising ministers and preparing correspondence. Federal Identity Program officials examine the proposed applied title based on a set of common policy criteria.

Registering an applied title should be undertaken immediately when a new department or agency is created. When its creation or coming into force is a certainty, the registration of an applied title may be undertaken in advance. 

The same process detailed above is to be followed when proposing a change to an existing title. Such proposals should take into consideration the costs of the proposed change and strategies to mitigate cost, waste and duplication.

Government institutions subject to the Federal Identity Program Policy that have not registered an applied title must use the Government of Canada signature until an applied title has been approved. The legal title of the institution may appear under the Government signature as an interim solution.

Applied titles can be created for a departmental branch that is not a separate legal entity if the ministers agree that the branch should be identified as a separate entity. In addition, there are a few instances when a high-profile program managed jointly by several departments has been granted its own applied title. However, the Federal Identity Program Policy requirements to register an applied title do not apply to titles of departmental programs, services or products.

9. Policy on using official symbols on promotional merchandise 

The application of official symbols of the Government of Canada is generally restricted to corporate identification, i.e. for purposes of corporate branding. Mementos, promotional items and giveaways are not appropriate fields of application, and caution should be exercised when considering applying an official symbol on such items.

The Federal Identity Program has been discouraging departments from broadly applying official symbols to novelty items, items for personal use, such as apparel, and other merchandise, such as brand name items already bearing a manufacturer's mark.

The Federal Identity Program highly recommends the approach taken by some departments to have the director or the head of communications sign off on an overall plan for the department or individual items, when warranted.

In addition, there may be sound justification for departments to stock a few carefully selected and tasteful items to serve as mementos for visiting dignitaries, and official symbols could certainly be applied.

The overall recommendation of the Federal Identity Program, however, is to restrict usage of the official symbols of the Government of Canada to Government communications and information about programs and services. 

There are cases when departments partner in initiatives that involve the distribution of such material, such as awareness or promotional campaigns. The Federal Identity Program's preference is always to prioritize partner acknowledgement on information about programs and services and to be cautious (or not participate, depending on the circumstance) when it involves distributing merchandise.

10. Ordering or updating a sign for a building

The Government of Canada signage system covers virtually every type of sign needed for federal facilities and services. This signage system is key to ensuring that the public can recognize federal facilities and access Government services and that both the public and employees are well served with clear directions and warning signs.

One of the responsibilities of facilities management is to ensure that all signs are well maintained and their messages are up to date, accurate and bilingual. While Public Works and Government Services Canada is the largest custodian of federal office space, there are many departments and contractors with custodial responsibilities for structures and spaces owned or occupied by the Government.

To ensure quality manufacturing, durability and consistent application of the mandatory Government standards, a National Master Standing Offer for Government Signage has been in place for more than a decade. The services provided through the standing offer are available in all regions of the country and include site assessments, design and layout, manufacturing, shipping and installation. Standard signs are kept in stock, whereas signs with variable messaging require time to design and manufacture. Signage services also include decals for motor vehicles and specialty signs that are created in consultation with the Federal Identity Program.

The standing offer is managed by Public Works and Government Services Canada. All institutions are strongly encouraged to make use of this service to ensure the quality, consistency and durability of Government signage as well as its compliance with policy. Public Works and Government Services Canada provides advice on and support in using the standing offer. Enquiries may be directed to Contact Public Works and Government Services Canada by email: signage@pwgsc.gc.ca.