Amateur radio (also called ham radio) is the use of designated radio frequency spectrum for purposes of private recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, and emergency communication. The term "amateur" is used to specify persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest, and to differentiate it from commercial broadcasting, public safety (such as police and fire), or professional two-way radio services (such as maritime, aviation, taxis, etc.).

Amateur radio operation is coordinated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and licensed by the individual national governments that regulate technical and operational characteristics of transmissions and issue individual stations with an identifying call sign.

Prospective amateur operators in Canada are tested for their understanding of key concepts in electronics and the Canada's government radio regulations. Amateurs use a variety of voice, text, image, and data communications modes and have access to frequency allocations throughout the RF spectrum to enable communication across a city, region, country, continent, the world, or even into space.

An estimated two million people throughout the world are regularly involved with amateur radio.

Here's your invitation to a high-tech hobby that has fun for everyone. Amateur Radio operators are people from all walks of life--no matter what age, gender or physical ability. Getting started in Amateur Radio has never been easier! You can usually find an amateur radio class in your area sponsored by friendly volunteers who will help you learn the ropes.  And, knowledge of the Morse Code is NO LONGER required to get started.

To the government, amateur radio is a Service. The official definition of the term "amateur radio service" is "a radio communication service in which radio apparatus are used for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication or technical investigation by individuals who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.

Industry Canada is the government department responsible for administering amateur radio in Canada. The legislative authority under which amateur radio is administered in Canada includes the Radiocommunication Act and the Radiocommunication Regulations.


Effective April 1, 2000, Canadian radio amateurs are no longer issued a station licence on an annual basis nor are they charged an annual renewal fee. The new Amateur Radio Operator Certificate continues to be provided at no charge and now has three qualification levels, each of which has an associated frequency band, operating mode and transmitter power privileges. (If you live outside Canada, but wish to operate in Canada, click here).

The holder of a Canadian Basic Qualification (which requires no Morse Code examination) receives all amateur radio privileges, except high power transmitter operation, if he or she receives 80% or more on the examination. Operating privileges even extend outside Canada, always subject to the regulations of the host country.

A USA-Canada treaty allows Licensed Canadian radio amateurs to operate within the United States of America, without further US government permission. Operation in many other countries is extended to a Canadian amateur holding an International Amateur Radio Permit or CEPT Permit from RAC.

Morse Code is no longer required. With the Morse Code Qualification added to your Basic Qualification, you receive all privileges on all the Amateur Radio bands below 30 MHz, except high power transmitter operation.

However, either a Morse code qualification or a "Basic with Honours" qualification (awarded to persons who get 80% or higher on the exam), allows access to HF.  Passing a Morse Code test is no longer required in order to operate Amateur Radio equipment capable of world-wide communications.

With the Advanced Qualification added to your Basic Qualification you can build and operate your own transmitting equipment, sponsor a club station, run higher power and operate your own repeater station.


The Certificate of Proficiency in Amateur Radio is accompanied by a call sign used to identify the station.

Canadian call signs normally have a national prefix consisting of two letters and a number, followed by a two- or three-letter suffix e.g. VE1AB, VA3ABC, VO1ZZ or VY2ZZZ. Here in British Columbia the prefix's are VE7 or VA7.

Call signs are allocated with different prefixes depending on the area of the country where the amateur lives when he/she applies for a call sign, or to recognize special events. To obtain a call sign with a new certificate, you require the Basic Qualification.


To earn your certificate with Basic Qualification, you'll need to pass a written exam. This is a 70% pass-grade, 100-question multiple-choice test, covering such topics as radio operating practices, basic electrical theory, and the Radiocommunication regulations that apply to amateur radio. A mark of 80% or more gives the candidate the additional privileges of Basic Qualification with honours.

Candidates for the Morse Code Qualification are required to demonstrate proficiency in Morse Code, by sending and receiving Morse Code at a speed of not less than 5 words per minute for three consecutive minutes. The examination is in plain language text and may include the 26 letters, 10 numerals, comma, period, question mark, dash, fraction bar, Q signals, and emergency signals. The examiner will allow candidates two minutes to review and correct their received copy before it is graded.

Candidates for the Advanced Qualification must pass a 70% pass-grade, 50-question multiple-choice examination covering electrical theory primarily related to the additional privileges granted to holders of the Advanced Qualification.

The examinations may be taken in any order but station operating privileges require a Basic Qualification. Candidates for the examination for Basic, Morse Code or Advanced qualifications are examined by an accredited examiner.

Persons With Disabilities

Examiners may not exempt any candidate for an amateur radio certificate qualification from the requirement for an examination. However, when a candidate has a severe disability that prevents that person from completing a written examination, the examiner may conduct an oral examination by reading each question to the candidate. The candidate must still obtain a pass mark of 70% for Basic Qualification.

In the case of a Morse Code examination, a candidate may have a disability that severely limits or prohibits the ability to either send or receive Morse Code. The sending portion of the Morse Code examination may be conducted by asking the candidate to recite the exam test. For the receiving portion, the examiner may send the required text manually and have the candidate verbalize the characters.

The exam is graded with respect to errors. Code speed is not taken into account in these cases. The examiner may request that a candidate provide medical evidence from a practicing medical physician before such an accommodated examination.

The examiner may request that a candidate provide medical evidence from a practicing medical physician before such an accommodated examination.

Details of the examination process, the Notice to Physicians Certifying to a Disability and the Physician's Certification of Disability form are to be found in RIC-1.