Any living person who is a Canadian citizen and who has made significant, sustained and unpaid contributions to their community in Canada or abroad is eligible. Candidates must have demonstrated an exemplary commitment through their dedicated volunteerism. The Medal is awarded to individuals only, not to groups or couples. Living non-Canadians are also eligible if their contributions have brought benefit or honour to Canadians or to Canada. There are no posthumous awards.

The Chancellery of Honours, part of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, administers the program and receives all nominations. Each one is carefully researched and then reviewed by an advisory committee, which makes recommendations to the governor general. The selection process, which may take up to one year, is non-partisan and merit-based. Presentation ceremonies are held throughout the year, in communities across Canada.

There is no deadline for submissions. Nominations are accepted on an ongoing basis throughout the year.