Celebrating Our Canadian Flag

Raised for the first time on February 15, 1965, our national flag is 54 years old.

On July 1st of this year, Canada will celebrate its 152nd birthday.

A discrepancy that can be explained by our history…

For almost 100 years after Confederation, Canada flew the Red Ensign, a design based on the flag used by British naval vessels and Canada’s Coat of Arms.

In the early 1960s, Canadians started to voice their concerns about a flag that didn’t recognize our sovereignty. Aware of the public discontent, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson decided to make the creation of a new Canadian flag a priority.

At the time, I was in elementary school. My teacher—and many other teachers across the country— assigned a “Flag Design” project. While there were several artists in the class (not me), I don’t recall any exceptional sketches. I’ve often wondered if any student sketches were part of the thousands of submissions made to Ottawa.

A fifteen-member bipartisan committee was created to pick the most appropriate design. The submitted designs featured union jacks, Fleur-de-lis, maple leaves, and beavers (the most common element). Almost all of these submissions were eliminated, leaving three possibilities.

Here are the two semi-finals:

The winning design (our present flag) came from Dr. George Stanley, a professor at Royal Military College in Kingston.

10 More Interesting Facts…

1. King George V proclaimed red and white as Canada’s official colors in 1921.

2. The flag is twice as long as it is wide. The white square and its maple leaf make up half of the surface of the flag, equal to the two red bars combined.

3. The French nickname for the flag is L’Unifolié, which means one-leafed.

4. In 1982, Canadian mountaineer Laurie Skreslet brought the flag with him to Mount Everest.

5. In 1984, the flag was launched into space by Marc Garneau, the first Canadian astronaut on the NASA space shuttle Challenger.

6. In 1996, February 15 was declared National Flag of Canada Day.

7. The flag at the Peace Tower (Ottawa) flies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s changed daily, usually early in the morning and by a designated employee who has received training on how to perform the task. Flags on the East and West Block are changed weekly. Once a flag is taken down, it is sent to the Ministry of Public Works and Government Services. Canadians can request these flags by emailing minister@pwgsc.gc.ca or faxing (819) 953-1908.

8. Anyone who wishes to receive a flag that has flown on the Peace Tower will be placed on a 10-year waiting list. The wait is five years for a flag that has flown on the East or West Block.

9. The role of flag-bearer for Canadian teams attending international sporting events is a special honor reserved for outstanding athletes like Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who proudly represented Canada at the PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2018.

10. The largest Canadian flag ever made was unveiled at a football game in Hamilton between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts in 2009. The flag was 38 meters by 76 meters and required at least 80 pairs of hands to carry it on the field. The flag cost $15,000.

Happy National Flag of Canada Day!


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6 responses to “Celebrating Our Canadian Flag

  1. Happy Flag Day. A great design, because it is instantly recognisable and I am very surprised it is so young. So many countries just have stripes and who remembers which colours, which way round etc!

  2. Thanks for all this information about our flag, Joanne. I knew some of the history leading up to the choosing of the flag, but not all of these interesting tidbits.

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