Research regarding the collecting of Canadian federal penitentiary insignia is generally uncharted territory. To our knowledge, no references dealing specifically with this area of collecting have been published to date. It is our intention to provide information for collectors and researchers regarding the various official forms of insignia that have been used in our penitentiaries. Research is ongoing. As specific details regarding changes to our badges, buttons and cloth emblems come to light we will add them here. With few exemptions, we will not reference the countless 'unofficial' items that are so prevalent throughout the Service (i.e. athletic wear; customized ball caps bearing the CSC crest; items created for special events etc.).
In order to provide some background regarding this field of collecting, we will endeavour to provide a brief timeline of the development of Canada's Penitentiary Service here. We will also mention some of the known idiosyncrasies that contribute to the confusion regarding periods of use etc.
Prior to the Confederation of Canada, and the establishment of the federal government in 1867, there were three penitentiaries operating in British North-America. These were referred to as "Provincial Penitentiaries", but not in the modern sense of the word. The first was the "Provincial Penitentiary of the Province of Upper Canada" (opened 1835 - now "Kingston Penitentiary"). Next came the "Provincial Penitentiary of the Province of New Brunswick" (opened c.1842 - a.k.a. "Saint John Penitentiary") followed by "Provincial Penitentiary of the Province of Nova Scotia" (opened 1844 - a.k.a. "Halifax Penitentiary"). At Confederation, these three facilities were designated as the first federal penitentiaries. Although the earliest references to staff uniforms date from c.1860, to our knowledge, no insignia from this period has surfaced. It is assumed that tunic buttons were most likely of a generic pattern, possibly simply depicting a Crown, but this has not yet been confirmed.
Currently, the earliest known identifiable penitentiary insignia appears to date from circa 1868. These items reference "Dominion Penitentiaries" and/or "Penitentiaries Canada". They consist primarily of Shako plates and smaller cap badges. In fact the Shako Plates are identical to those issued to the Dominion Police with the exception of the title. Examples are shown within this section of the website.
In 1974, the Solicitor General of Canada Warren Allmand, announced a project to work towards the creation of a single correctional agency for Canada through the merger of the 'Canadian Penitentiary Service' and the 'National Parole Service'. The "Penitentiaries Canada" name (a.k.a. the "Canadian Penitentiary Service" or CPS) continued in use until c.1978, when for a very brief time, the new department was referred to as the "Canadian Correctional Service". Finally, in 1979 the government officially unveiled the new "Correctional Service of Canada" (CSC) complete with new symbols of identification.
Despite this major milestone in our history, the CSC re-issued old stock beyond the time when it should have been phased out. By military convention, the change in crown from "King's crown" (i.e. Tudor Crown) to "Queen's crown" (i.e. St. Edward's Crown) or vice versa should coincide with the change of Monarch. Following that system, the Queen's crown should have been introduced in 1953. In reality, perhaps due to cost and or supply issues, the Canadian Penitentiary Service continued to issue the King's crown badges well into the 1960s or perhaps even later in tandem with Queen's crown versions of the same badge. Similarly, photographic evidence indicates that the penitentiary Service issued the Victorian crown badge to new officers as late as 1934. This should have been replaced after the passing of Queen Victoria in 1901! Formal research is continuing in order to confirm the actual dates of introduction for each "version" of badge.
In reference to the brass "Penitentiaries Canada" tunic buttons, depicting the King's crown, these were temporarily phased out from c1963 to c1978. During this period, the uniform of federal penitentiary officers switched to a "more civilian" Air Force Blue version incorporating a plain, unmarked, blue plastic button. When the uniform was redesigned as part of the reconfiguration of the Service into the current "Correctional Service of Canada" in 1978-79, the earlier "Penitentiaries Canada" brass buttons, showing the King's crown, were re-issued on the new Tan and Khaki uniforms for a period of time. Hence the confusion!
Research in this area is ongoing at the museum. If you know of a version that isn't included here, we would be very interested to hear from you!