The “red, white, and maple leaf” flag is now recognized around the world as a definitive symbol for Canada. The National Flag of Canada celebrates its 53rd birthday in 2018.
Whenever I’m back in Canada, I always get a warm feeling when I see the English and French signage in our airports or train stations, and the the red, white, and maple-leaf flag flapping in the wind. The sight of the flag tells me I’m home.
I’ve often asked myself: how old is the Canadian flag? Has the flag been around as long as the nation? Does Canada have a day to celebrate the flag?
Since 1996, the National Flag of Canada Day is observed annually on February 15.
One might assume the Canadian flag has been around as long as the nation took shape in confederation, created by the legislation of the “British North America Act” in 1867.
However, the current version of the Canadian flag with its 2-to-1 length-to-height ratio, a red stripe on each side, and a stylized 11-point red maple leaf on top of a white square in the centre made its first official and public appearance at Ottawa’s Parliament Hill on 15 February 1965. As red and white had already been declared the official colours of Canada in 1921, the red stripes reflect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans which border the country at the western and eastern ends, respectively, referring directly to the Latin inscription in the Canadian Royal Coat of Arms, “A Mari Usque Ad Mari” (from sea to sea).
With roots dating back to the British empire and membership in the British Commonwealth since 1931, there was criticism and controversy about eliminating the “Union Jack”, as the Canadian Red Ensign had been in common use for decades. The new design was based on the flag for the Royal Military College in Kingston, and drew in representative elements of the young nation.
Key figures in today’s Canadian flag include then Canadian Prime Minister the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson who wanted a distinctive national flag to promote national unity and risked his political career over strong objections to removing the British red ensign; John Matheson who was a member of a non-partisan parliamentary committee tasked with choosing a new flag; and Dr. George Stanley who was Dean of Arts at Kingston’s Royal Military College and provided the key concepts of the red-white-red design and a central red maple leaf.
In a letter of memorandum dated 23 March 1964, Dr. Stanley wrote to Matheson that the “principles for selecting the new flag” should be:
- easily recognizable;
- traditional colours and emblems; and
- a rallying symbol and unifying force.
Stanley also sketched one of the first appearances of the flag in the memo. The reader can ask themselves whether all of these have been achieved with the modern flag.
Red, White, & Maple Leaf in Vancouver
More: Canada at Noon, Canada Day
• If you’re in the downtown or central business district of Vancouver, 12 noon is marked every day by the first four notes of the Canadian national anthem, booming out from the Heritage Horns on top of Canada Place.
The picture of the Canadian flag at the very top was obtained after a Google search for Creative Commons images. I made the remaining photos on these dates: Brockton Point on 7 January 2011, Beach-Davie-Denman triangle on 5 January 2012, City Hall on 13 February 2012, and the rest on 10 February 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-326.