Canadian Flag: Symbol of a Nation Since 1965


Today is National Flag Day in Canada, in honor of the adoption of The Maple Leaf flag on this date in 1965.

Here are some things you may not have known about the Canadian flag.

The first recorded flag to fly over Canada was the St. George’s Cross flag of England, which is a red cross on a white background. It first appeared in Canada in 1497 carried by John Cabot. Less than a century later, Jacques Cartier would fly a French royal flag in what was then called New France. Both flags flew over Canada until 1763 and the end of the Seven Years’ War, when France ceded its Canadian territories to the British.

The Union Jack was Canada’s primary flag until the 1867 Confederation of Canada, when the Red Ensign became the de facto flag. The Red Ensign had the Union Jack in the upper left corner and the Canadian coat of arms on a red field.

In 1931, Canada was granted legislative independence from the United Kingdom, but retained the Red Ensign as its de facto national flag. Following World War II, a committee was formed by the Canadian Parliament to recommend which flag to officially adopt. More than 2,000 designs from the public were received and a red ensign with a gold maple leaf was the committee’s ultimate recommendation. The presence of the Union Jack on the flag was not well-received by French-Canadians in Quebec, however, and the older flag remained in place.

In the 1960s under Prime Minister Lester Pearson, the issue of the flag was again brought to Parliament. Pearson, who had won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work ending the Suez Crisis in Egypt, had been dismayed over the Egyptians’ opposition to the presence of Canadian peacekeepers because their flag included that of the United Kingdom, one of the countries the Egyptians were fighting against. In Pearson’s mind, this required Canada to create a flag that was unmistakably Canadian. The first result was a blue flag with a white center panel and three red maple leafs. The idea was not well-received by the public.

A new committee was formed in 1964. After a six-week study, the committee voted unanimously for a flag that closely resembles the current flag. The original idea, conceived of by George Stanley, had a 13-pointed maple leaf on the flag. After testing and deliberation, an 11-pointed flag was eventually adopted. On December 15, 1964, the House of Commons overwhelmingly approved the new flag. The Senate followed with approval two days later.

Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed the new flag on January 28, 1965, and it was used for the first time on February 15. The Union Jack, known in Canada as the Royal Union Flag, remains an official flag of Canada. It is flown beside the Maple Leaf Flag on Commonwealth Day, Victoria Day, and the anniversary of the Statute of Westminster, which gave Canada its legislative independence.

Since 1996, February 15 has been observed as National Flag Day.

Our question: Who is the head of state of Canada?

Today is Presidents Day in the United States, which is officially known as Washington’s Birthday by the U.S. federal government. It’s the birthday of astronomer Galileo, American women’s suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony and explorer Ernest Shackleton.

On the date the Canadian Maple Leaf Flag debuted, the top song in the U.S. was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by The Righteous Brothers; the No. 1 movie was “My Fair Lady,” while the novel “Herzog” by Saul Bellow topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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