Canada's 'Purple Heart' will be given to more soldiers

The Canadian Sacrifice Medal, created 14 months ago, is perhaps best compared to the US Purple Heart. It is awarded to those who have been wounded or killed in combat, and was introduced in 2008 by Elizabeth II to replace the Wound Stripe.

So far, no one has been awarded the Sacrifice Medal, largely due to disputes over the circumstances in which someone is eligible.

Now the Canadian defence minister, Peter McKay, has clarified - or extended - the criteria. The medal can now be awarded to those hurt on peacekeeping missions as well as combat missions. It may also be given to those who suffer from accidents or illnesses resulting from these missions.

Perhaps most significantly, the medal is now also available to mental illnesses "directly attributable" to missions - something armed forces are not always keen to do. Of course, it remains to be seen whether any medals will actually be awarded on this basis.

Canadian Sacrifice Medal
Canadian Sacrifice Medal
One key criterion which remains the same: the medal cannot be awarded for actions and events before 2001.

Some expect the criteria to continue expanding, as the Purple Heart has (eg in acknowledging terrorist attacks against the US, or peacekeeping missions outside it), although the Medal is already more liberal in accepting accidents and mental illness.

The frequency with which a medal is awarded obviously affects its value as a collectible item. But of course the story associated with the piece is at least as important for the value of valour and similar medals, which are in a sense all unique.

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