The Victoria Cross, instituted 1856 by Queen Victoria, is the Commonwealth's premier military decoration for gallantry. It is awarded in recognition of the most exceptional bravery displayed in the presence of the enemy, although in rare instances the decoration has been given to mark other courageous acts. The first recipients saw action in the Crimean War. Among them a Canadian lieutenant, Alexander Roberts Dunn, was awarded the VC for heroism during the charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaklava.

Over the years, Canada's recipients (living and posthumous) have totalled 94, including Canadians who were attached to the forces of other Commonwealth countries and some non-Canadians serving in Canadian units. The decoration is in the form of a bronze cross patée bearing the royal crest and the words "For Valour." The ribbon is dark crimson. The awarding of the medal was dropped in 1972 when the Canadian bravery awards were created; however, in April 1987 Brian Mulroney's Conservative government asked the deputy director of the Chancellory of Canadian Orders and Decorations to consider its reinstatement.

As a result, on 2 February 1993 Queen Elizabeth II approved the creation of a Canadian VC. The award has the same criteria as the original British decoration. The Canadian VC resembles the original VC except that the Latin inscription Pro Valore replaces the equivalent English inscription "For Valour." No Canadian VCs have yet been awarded.

See also honours.