To coincide with the centennial of Canadian Confederation, the three-tiered order was established in 1967 as a fellowship that recognizes the achievement of outstanding merit or distinguished service by Canadians, through lifelong contributions in every field of endeavour, and who made a major difference to Canada, as well as the efforts made by non-Canadians who have made the world better by their actions. Membership is thus accorded to those who exemplify the order's Latin motto, taken from of the Bible, desiderantes meliorem patriam, meaning "they desire a better country." The three tiers of the order are Companion, Officer, and Member.
The order is administered by the Governor General-in-Council, on behalf of the Queen of Canada. The monarch, at present Elizabeth II, is Sovereign of the order and the serving governor general, currently David Lloyd Johnston, is its Chancellor and Principal Companion. Appointees into the order are selected by an advisory board and formally inducted by the governor general or the sovereign; as of February 2011, 5,837 people have been appointed to the Order of Canada, including musicians, politicians, artists, athletes, business people, television and film stars, benefactors, and others. Appointees receive badges and the right to armorial bearings. Since 1994, substantive members are the only regular citizens who are empowered to administer the Canadian Oath of Citizenship.