The Order in Canada

The French were among the first in Europe to engage in exploration in the New World and with them some members of the Order entered the history of Canada. In 1599 the Grand Master of the Order, Aymard de Clermont de Chastes, was appointed the King's Lieutenant-General of New France [1]. He was responsible for sending Samuel de Champlain to explore the St. Lawrence River. Throughout the history of New France distinguished services were often rewarded with knighthood in the Order.

In 1690, after defeating the English attack on Québec, Gouverneur de Frontenac sent his aide, Baron de Lahontan, to France with news of the victory. King Louis XIV knighted him "Chevalier de Saint-Lazare." With the death of General Montcalm at Québec in 1759 the military command of New France passed to another knight of Saint Lazarus, the Duc de Levis. Almost all of the members of the Order in North America left in 1763 with the fall of New France.

The Order entered Canada in 1962. In that year the Honourable J. Keiller Mackay [2], then Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, arranged for an investiture ceremony to take place in Toronto for twenty knights, dames and commanders. At that ceremony, His Honour was installed as the first Canadian Grand Bailiff of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem

Founder members of the Canadian Jurisdiction: (L-R standing): Cmdr Peter Wilch CLJ (Banner Bearer); Chev. R. Mingo Sweeney KLJ (Referendary); Chev. The Hon. Roland Michener KLJ; Chev. LtCol Douglas B. Weldon KLJ; Chev Jean Lanctot KLJ; Mrs Irene Sweeney CLJ; Chev. O'Neill O'Higgins KLJ; Chev. LtCol Ian Douglas KLJ (Secretary General); Chev. The Hon. Léon Balcer KLJ; Chev. LtCol G. Allan Buron KLJ; Chev. The Hon. Marc R. Drouin KLJ; Chev. Trevor Moore KLJ; F.E. Duder CLJ; Chev. Patrick Nicholson KLJ; Chev. Harolde J. Savoy KLJ; Chev. Jacques Brilliant KLJ; Chev. W.M.V. Ash KLJ; Chev. LtCol Frank F. McEachren KLJ (Vice Chancellor). (L-R seated) Dame J. Keiller Mackay DGCLJ; Chve. LtCol The Hon. J. Keller Mackay GCLJ (Grand Baillif); LtCol Robert Gayre GCLJ (presiding); Chev. LtCol The Hon. J. Pierre Sévigny GCLJ (Chancellor); Mrs Pierre Sévigny DGCLJ. [3]

Canada's importance within the Order grew and this was recognized by its elevation to that of a Grand Priory by magisterial decree in 1970, the Honourable Keiller Mackay being confirmed as the first Grand Prior. The growth in the number of members of the Grand Priory during the early 1970's brought about a greater degree of de-centralization in the organization of the Order in Canada, and the policy of establishing local Commanderies was extended.

By 1974, there were six Commanderies in Canada : one in Atlantic Canada (Acadia), two in Quebec (Quebec and Montreal), two in Ontario (Toronto and Ottawa) and one in Western Canada (Western). At that time, the Canadian Grand Priory was second, in numbers, only to that of France. Later on, four more Commanderies, namely : Edmonton, Calgary, British Columbia, and Western Ontario were created. More recently, the Thunder Bay Commandery and the Provisional Delegation for Newfoundland and Labrador were added. Newfoundland became a commandery in its own right in 2006. In 2010 the Arctic Delegation was proudly established to serve the vast northern regions including the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. Today, the Canadian Grand Priory, with its representation from coast to coast to coast is a significant integral part of the ancient historical and ecumenical Order of Saint Lazarus.

  1. Aymar de Chaste (1514-1603), after agreeing to command an expedition to the Saint Lawrence River with former officers Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, François Gravé Du Pont, and Samuel Champlain, Chaste was appointed Viceroy of Canada by King Henry IV on February 6, 1602. Chaste would preside over New France as lieutenant governor later forming the "Canada and Acadia Trading Company", which would eventually establish French domination of the North American fur trade for more than a decade, overseeing the company until his death in 1603, shortly before this first expedition return to France. Wikipedia, last accessed: July 19, 2015.
  2. Lieutenant Colonel John Keiller MacKay, PC, OC DSO, KStJ, VD, QC (July 11, 1888 – June 12, 1970), served as the 19th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1957 to 1963. source: Wikipedia, John Keiller MacKay. Last accessed: August 22, 2015.
  3. Office of the Grand Archivist & Historian - MHOSLJ. "The Modern Order of Saint Lazarus - A history of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem in the last half century". pp. 3-10. Torri ta' Lanzun, Malta. 2014. Last accessed: July 23, 2015.