The Canadian tradition of appointing Honoraries to units originated with the British military but has only been in practice in Canada for a little over a century.
The first Honorary Colonel appointment in Canada was that of Lieutenant-Colonel the Honorable J.M. Gibson, a Provincial Secretary in the Ontario Government. He was appointed as Honorary lieutenant colonel to the 13th Battalion of Infantry in 1895.
There are different types of Honorary appointments in the Canadian Army: Colonel-in-Chief, Colonel of the Regiment, Honorary Colonel and Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel. In the Reserve Army, units usually have two Honorary positions: Honorary Colonel and Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel.
Early in the 20th century in Canada Sir Robert Borden described the practice of appointing Honoraries as “of greatest advantage to the Militia to be able to enlist the interest and sympathy of gentleman of position and wealth by connecting them to Regiments.”
That sentiment remains true today. The Honorary is seen to be the guardian of Regimental traditions and history, promoting the regiment's identity and ethos and being an advisor to the Commanding Officer on virtually all issues excluding operations.
Units select individuals, often former serving members, who they believe will best promote the interests of the unit and request the approval for the Honorary appointment through the chain of command.