Canadian Amateur Radio
Examinations and Licenses
Industry Canada's Role
Industry Canada is the Canadian government department responsible for all Amateur Radio licensing, certification and examiner accreditation in Canada.
Specifically, Industry Canada's Amateur Radio Service Center is the official focal point for Amateur Radio regulatory and license matters. Their Web site offers clickable downloads of the governing documents for Amateur Radio activities in Canada (called Radio Information Circulars (RICs and Regulation by References (RBRs) as well as examination question banks and exam generation software.
USA-Canada Reciprocal Agreement
For those who already have a USA or Canadian-issued Ham license and call sign, the Industry Canada Web site also contains a wealth of useful information regarding a special Amateur Radio Reciprocal Operating Agreement between the USA and Canada. The agreement specifies a few (very simple!) procedures for currently-licensed Hams from the USA or Canada to follow when visiting each other's country.
However, for those persons who may wish to obtain a definitive Amateur Radio License and Canadian call sign may do so by following the procedures outlined below.
The Canadian Amateur Radio Operator Certificate
Briefly, authority to operate radio apparatus in the Amateur Radio Service in Canada (using a Canadian call sign issued by Industry Canada) is given to holders of an Amateur Radio Operator Certificate with Basic Qualification. Other qualifications available with the Basic Amateur Radio Operator Certificate are the Morse Code and Advanced Qualifications.
Also, because the actual licensing documents are called "Certificates of Proficiency in Amateur Radio", once applicants achieve these various qualifications, they are then "certified" to operate in the Amateur Radio Service in Canada, rather than simply being "licensed". This subtle difference in semantics sets Canadian Amateurs apart from the rest of their "licensed" brethren elsewhere in the world.
Traditionally, Amateur Radio Operators in Canada were issued two separate authorizations; an Amateur Radio Operator Certificate and a radio station license. The Amateur Radio Operator Certificate was issued for life and had no fee associated with it, while the radio station license was issued on a yearly basis and a license renewal fee was charged. However, on April 1, 2000, Industry Canada combined these documents into one authorization, the Amateur Radio Operator Certificate with its various qualifications.
The "new" Amateur Radio Operator Certificate is issued for life and has no fee associated with it. And although it's no longer necessary for Amateurs to renew their Certificates of Proficiency annually, they are still required to inform Industry Canada within 30 days of any change in their postal mailing address.
Essentially, this means that, unlike in years past when successful completion of a Morse examination was absolutely required for access to those coveted High Frequency (HF) radio bands, Industry Canada has now provided applicants with a couple of different ways for them to achieve those same operating privileges while still offering a Morse endorsement as an option.
For example, one can garner (slightly limited) HF operating privileges simply by achieving a higher passing mark (80%) on just the Basic exam alone. Or, one can obtain a minimum (70%) passing mark on that same (Basic) exam PLUS successfully completing the Morse exam to obtain those same privileges. Additionally, one can obtain (full) Amateur privileges by achieving at least a 70% mark on BOTH the Basic written AND Advanced written exams...once again...all without successfully completing the Morse exam.
The bottom line here is that if learning the Morse code
isn't your "thing" at the moment, you can still get in on the
fun of worldwide HF communication via Amateur Radio in Canada simply by
doing a bit more up-front, "book learning" for the Basic
and/or Advanced written exams.
The Basic qualification examination is composed of questions drawn from a question bank (RIC-7) which you can download in its entirety from the Industry Canada Web site. The actual examination that you write consists of 100, multiple choice-type questions drawn in a stratified, random fashion from (and written exactly as they appear in) RIC-7. The minimum passing mark is 70%, and although it does take a bit of studying, people young and old from all backgrounds (not just those who are technically inclined) have successfully passed this exam. You can too!
The Advanced qualification examination is based on a similar (but more technical) question bank (RIC-8) which you can also download in its entirety from the Industry Canada Web site. The actual examination that you write consists of 50, multiple choice-type questions drawn from RIC-8 in the same stratified, random fashion as the Basic exam. The pass mark for this exam is also 70%.
Examination Preparation Courses
As of late, there has not been enough interest shown in the Sarnia, Ontario area to warrant a formal classroom course to prepare candidates for Canadian Amateur Radio Certificate examinations.
However, the London Amateur Radio Club (London, Ontario) often conducts such preparation courses, usually during the Spring and Fall months. Click on the "Education" icon on the right side of their home page for the latest information.
While formal examination preparation is certainly desirable, completion of a formal course of study is absolutely not necessity for someone to obtain their Basic or Advanced Canadian Amateur Radio Certificate. In fact, many people prefer to study on their own time (and in their own way) to prepare for these exams, and have very successfully done so over the years. And there's lots of help available (both online and in book form) to assist you.
For example, a large section of the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) Web site contains detailed information regarding all aspects of Canadian Amateur Radio...including the examination and license process. Click on the "How to Start?" tab off their main page. Their site also includes links to other sources that offer printed self-study guides and commercial (computer-based) examination preparation materials.
The Toronto Emergency Communications Group has also assembled an excellent online (downloadable) Basic Amateur Radio Course that is freely available in multiple .PDF format lessons. The course can be used as a stand-alone document for exam preparation, or as an additional, quick-study guide to supplement more detailed printed works.
In addition, Industry Canada offers a comprehensive practice and test generation software package for both the Basic and Advanced qualification examinations for free download from their Web site. Once installed, the software allows you to take "practice exams" for either or both qualifications on your personal computer. It's a great way to help gauge your readiness for the actual exam.
There is a long-held tradition within Amateur Radio of mentoring newcomers. These mentors (affectionately called "Elmers") are currently licensed Hams who enjoy freely helping newcomers study for and then pass their first examinations, as well as helping them set up their first Ham Radio stations. Several LCRC members have expressed a willingness to help new people prepare for their exams.
Fortunately, you, too, can partake of this long-held tradition...again, totally free of charge...simply by showing up and introducing yourself at one of our upcoming LCRC Sunday morning breakfasts or Wednesday Luncheons. Someone there will almost certainly be glad to help you get started.
So...don't be shy....we're a friendly group who heartily welcome newcomers...and their many questions!
The Application Form
Applicants wishing to be tested for one (or all) of the Canadian qualifications should first download and print out a few copies of this application form (Industry Canada Form IC-2381, Application and Report for Amateur Radio Operator Certificate and Call Sign) from the Industry Canada Web site. Bring these blank copies with you to the examination session. During the examination session, you'll be asked to legibly print the requested personal information (and call sign choices (see below)) in the appropriate blocks on the top of the form.
If you're unsure about what to put in a particular block on the form, (such as what to put in the "Type of Station" and/or "Amateur Radio Certificate Qualifications" blocks) don't worry. Your examiner will make sure your application form is complete and correct prior to submitting that information to Industry Canada following the successful completion your exam.
Also, most applications for a Canadian Certificate of Proficiency in Amateur Radio are now being submitted electronically to Industry Canada by Accredited Examiners. So you will also need to bring along your current e-mail address to share with your examiner. They, in turn, will send that information along to Industry Canada as well once you successfully complete your exam.
Industry Canada, in turn, will contact you directly via that e-mail address to ascertain your choices for an initial call sign prior to issuing one to you.
Requesting a Call Sign
Canada is one of the few industrialized countries in the world that still encourages applicants for an initial Amateur Radio License to request their choice of call sign without additional charge. Candidate call signs can be selected from a list of those available as shown in the Canadian Amateur Radio Available Call Sign Search Engine. At some point, applicants will be asked to indicate their first, second and third choice(s) of call signs to Industry Canada. However, before finally deciding on which call sign(s) to request, applicants should read the entire contents of RIC-9 to insure they are eligible for the call sign(s) they select.
It is also important to remember that just because a requested call sign is shown in the database as being available, there's still no guarantee it will be assigned to you by Industry Canada. Likewise, if no choices are indicated, and a Canadian call sign is not already assigned to the applicant, Industry Canada will assign an appropriate call sign from those currently available.
Taking the Examinations
Once the application form is in hand, applicants then need to decide how and where they wish to take their examination. This can be done in one of two ways.
As a result of changes to the Amateur Radio Service made by the World Administrative Radio Conference in 2003, Amateur Radio licensing in Canada underwent some major changes back in 2005. These changes included the removal of the Morse Code as the sole requirement for High Frequency (HF) operation and increasing the required pass mark(s) on written examinations.
On July 30, 2005, Industry Canada released their Gazette Notice DGRB-003-05, which adopted a number of proposals made by the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) regarding the Morse Code and related matters.
Specifically, HF operation by Radio Amateurs on the bands below 30 MHz was then authorized by Industry Canada for:
Those Amateurs with only the Basic Qualification who were certified after 1 April 2002, but who achieved less than an 80% pass mark, will now either have to qualify in Morse, write (and successfully pass) the Advanced Qualification with a score of 70% or higher, OR re-write the Basic Qualification exam and get a pass mark of 80% or higher in order to now obtain their HF privileges.
Those Amateurs who achieved an 80% score or greater on their Basic Qualification exam and who are not yet coded in Industry Canada's database as having achieved the "Honours" designation will need to manually inform Industry Canada of their Basic Qualification examination marks. Amateurs who need to do so should first contact their Accredited Examiner for a copy of the documentation showing their Basic Qualification examination score and then contact the Amateur Radio Service Center for further guidance. Accredited Examiners are required to retain examination paperwork (including test scores) for at least three years. Most retain this information indefinitely.
Raising the passing score on both the Basic and Advanced exams from 60% to 70% was related to another decision by Industry Canada (in the same Gazette Notice) to help insure candidates are proficient in all areas of each syllabus. Likewise, adding the so-called "Honours" qualification score (80%) to the Basic exam was done to help insure newcomers have a thorough working knowledge of proper HF operation before being allowed access to frequencies capable of world-wide communication.