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National Honours

Operational Service Medal – Sierra Leone (OSM-SL)


This general service award has been created as a means to recognize in a timelier manner those who serve in or provide support to overseas operations and for which no other medals, such as United Nations or NATO medals, are available. Rather than creating a new honour for each new Canadian Forces operation as it arises, the Operational Service Medal - with its theatre or task specific

ribbons - can be awarded in future to honour participation in any operation that meets the criteria.

Eligibility and criteria

The Operational Service Medal (OSM) is awarded to:

  • members of the CF;
  • members of allied forces serving with the CF;
  • members of recognized Canadian police forces and allied police officers working with them; and
  • Canadian citizens other than members of the CF or sworn police officers working with the CF or with Canadian police forces;

who served in a theatre of operations, provided direct support on a full-time basis to operations conducted in such a theatre or served under dangerous circumstances outside Canada.

The OSM is always issued with a ribbon specific to the theatre or type of service being recognized, and each ribbon has its own criteria.

The OSM with SIERRA LEONE ribbon is awarded to eligible persons who served in Sierra Leone or provided direct support to operations conducted in that country from outside Canada for at least 30 cumulative days commencing on July 31, 2002, provided the said service has not been otherwise recognized by a service medal other than the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal where applicable.

This currently includes those who served in Sierra Leone as part of the British-led International Military Advisory and Training Team (IMATT) following the signature of the Lomé Peace Agreement on 31 July 2002 (Operation SCULPTURE). Those who served before that date are not eligible for this medal as they received the British Operational Service Medal for Sierra Leone.

Also eligible are the Canadian police officers working for the Special Court in Sierra Leone from 31 July 2002 onwards.

Other eligible service may be added to the eligibility list for the ribbon by the Chief of the Defence Staff in consultation with Armed Forces Council and on the recommendation of the Canadian Forces Honours Committee provided the service in question meets the basic criteria and intent of the medal as described in the regulations.

Service with the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (Operation CROCODILE) is not eligible for this medal as it is recognized by the award of the UNOMSIL/UNAMSIL Medal.

The only civilians eligible are Members of the Public Service or Canadian civilians under contract serving under the authority of the CF or Canadian Police Forces in the theatre and at the dates indicated. Foreign civilians are not eligible for the OSM.

The only members of allied forces eligible are those who serve in theatre on behalf of Canada. They are usually foreign exchange personnel who deploy with our units or personnel seconded to the CF specifically to serve in our mission. In all cases, they must be on the CFTPO filling a Canadian position and they are usually assigned a CF service number. Foreign personnel working in concert with the CF or reporting to a Canadian superior in an international context are not eligible for Canadian service medals.

Aircrew flying into the theatre accumulate one day of service for the first sortie flown on any day, additional sorties flown on the same day receive no further credit.

The first and last days in theatre count as full days.

To be eligible to be awarded the Medal, service and direct support must be performed under exceptional circumstances and the person must have been deployed specifically to provide that service or support on a full-time basis to the operations. Only when there is a certain level of risk, threat, hardship or operational intensity can the Medal be awarded. Any service or support that is comparable in nature to normal duty or that is performed from the relative safety of a country distant from the theatre or area shall be excluded from eligibility.

Visits and inspections do not constitute qualifying service. Specifically, visits for the purpose of leadership, familiarization, ceremonial, or morale by civilian or military VIPs as well as Staff Assistance Visits (SAVs), Staff Inspection Visits (SIVs), and specialist visits for the conduct of summary/criminal/administrative investigations, courts martial, Boards of Inquiry, trial evaluations, academic studies, surveys, visits by embedded journalists or war artists or other similar activities, do not constitute eligible service.

Any person who dies or is evacuated because of injuries or medical reasons directly attributable to service is deemed to have satisfied the time criteria set out above. Any recipient of the Medal who dies or is evacuated because of injuries or medical reasons directly attributable to service shall be credited the entire period the person would have served should the person have completed their tour of duty for the purpose of calculating eligibility towards Rotation Bars.

The Medal and Rotation Bars shall be awarded for honourable service.

For more details, consult the Eligible service list.


The OSM is a silver-coloured circular medal, 36 mm across bearing on the obverse a contemporary effigy of Her Majesty The Queen wearing a Canadian diadem composed of alternating maple leaves and snowflakes surrounded by the inscriptions “ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA” and “CANADA” separated by small maple leaves. On the reverse of the Medal, from top to bottom, appear the Royal Crown on either side of which are three maples leaves conjoined on one stem, a Goode interrupted homolosine equal-area projection of the globe, and a laurel branch crossed with an oak branch.

The tradition generally followed since the mid-19th century has been to depict who the medal is from on the obverse, what the medal is for on the reverse and who the medal is granted to on the edge. The effigy of Her Majesty and the Crown represent not only The Queen as Canada’s Head of State (highlighted by the word CANADA and the maple leaves on both sides of the medal) but also as the FONS HONORIS (the Fount of All Honours). The Queen is the only person who can create an official honour in Canada and all Canadian Honours are bestowed in Her name. The maple leaves obviously represent Canada with those conjoined on one stem on the reverse coming from the Royal Arms of Canada. The globe represents the spectrum of Canada’s involvement and service throughout the world while the laurel and oak leaves represent honour, strength and victory.

A claw at the top of the medal is attached to a straight slotted bar.

The ribbon is 32 mm wide with a central stripe of light green (22 mm), on either side of which are stripes of white (2.5 mm) and red (2.5 mm). Red and white are the official colours of Canada as appointed by King George V in 1921, and the green comes from the flag of Sierra Leone.

The Rotation Bars for the Medal are silver in colour with a raised edge and bear either one or five maple leaves.



Rotation Bar

Rotation Bars are awarded to recognize a further 180 days of eligible service following qualification for the Medal or the last Rotation Bar the person has earned. One bar bearing five maple leaves is worn in lieu of five bars bearing one maple leaf.


The OSM-SL shall be worn in the sequence prescribed in the Canadian Orders, Decorations and Medals Directive, and in the following manner:

  • On the left breast, suspended from the ribbon described above, between the Operational Service Medal with SOUTH-WEST ASIA ribbon and the Operational Service Medal with HAITI ribbon;
  • One bar is worn centred on the ribbon;
  • If several Rotation Bars have been awarded, they shall be evenly spaced on the ribbon in the order earned, with the first bar earned worn the closest to the Medal; and
  • When the undress ribbon is worn, a silver maple leaf shall be worn centred on the ribbon of the Medal to indicate the award of a Rotation Bar, a gold maple leaf shall be worn to indicate the award of a second Rotation Bar and a red maple leaf shall be worn to indicate the award of a third Rotation Bar. If more than three Rotation Bars have been awarded, those devices shall be worn in combination so as to indicate the total number of Bars awarded.


The use of a post-nominal is not authorized for this medal.

Historical notes

The OSM was created in Toronto by Her Majesty The Queen on 5 July 2010. The inaugural presentation ceremony took place on 6 December 2010 in the Ballroom of Rideau Hall in Ottawa. On this occasion, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, CC, CMM, COM, CD, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, presented the Medal to 50 representative recipients, including five police officers and two civilians. The OSM ribbons were represented as follows at the ceremony: 5 SIERRA LEONE; 20 HAITI; 6 SUDAN; 15 HUMANITAS; and 4 EXPEDITION.

Major Carl Gauthier of the Directorate of Honours & Recognition and Cathy Bursey-Sabourin, Fraser Herald at the Canadian Heraldic Authority at the Chancellery of Honours, Rideau Hall, collaborated to create the design.

The Medal is made of cupro-nickel and lacquered to prevent tarnishing. It is manufactured by the Royal Canadian Mint.

The Medal is engraved on the edge with the service number, abbreviated rank, initials and surname of military and police recipients and with the forenames and name of civilian recipients.

As of 1 June 2012, 106 awards had been made.

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