How Did The National Flag Of Canada Evolve?

A red field with a white square at the centre with a stylized, red, 11-pointed maple leaf charged in the centre represents the national flag of Canada.

The Canadian Flag

The flag of Canada consists of two red blocks on either side of a white square. At the center of the white square is a red maple leaf with 11 points. The Canadian flag was the first national flag to be included in the law for use as a country’s official national flag. George Stanley designed the flag based on the flag that was used by the Royal Military College of Canada and and it was first used officially on February 15, 1965. This day is commemorated in Canada every year as National Flag of Canada Day. The laws of Canada do not dictate how the flag is to be used. However, the display of the flag and its place in the order of superiority of flags is guided by the conventions and protocol. The guidelines indicate where the flag can be placed and how people can honor the flag. The Canadian National Flag can be used on any building operated by the government of Canada and on any day. The flag must not be inferior to any other flag. The national flag of Canada has a significant influence on other flags used by the Canadian officials and the military forces. These other flags also contain the maple leaf in some fashions.

Origin and the Design of the Canadian National Flag

The Canadian flag has a design that is symmetrical. The width of the flag is twice its height while the square white field on the flag is known as the Canadian pale and borders the red fields on both. The red fields are exactly half the size of the white field. The maple leaf has been the Canadian emblem since the 18th century and was used as a national symbol in a drawing on the coat of arms for the provinces of both Quebec and Ontario. The maple leaf was included in the Canadian coat of arms in 1921 and appeared on the country’s coins between 1876 and 1901. The maple leaf was used as a regimental symbol by the Royal Canadian Regiment from as early as 1860. The badges of the Canadian forces during the World War I and II were based on the maple leaf design. Red and white were made Canadian official colors in 1921 through the proclamation of the Royal Arms of Canada by King George V. The red color was influenced by St. George’s Cross while the white color by the French royal emblem. The colors became the national colors of Canada in 1962 upon the declaration of the Royal Standard of Canada. The 11 points of the maple leaf on the Canadian flag do not have specific significance. The points and their arrangement were chosen after series of tests under high wind conditions because the design was least blurry of the other designs. The National Flag Manufacturing Standard Act was passed in 1984 for the purpose of the manufacturing standards for the flags for various uses.

History of Flags in Canada

The first ever flag to be flown in Canada was that of St. George’s Cross which was flown by John Cabot in 1497. A cross bearing the French royal coat of arm was planted in Gaspé by Jacques Carter in 1534. There was a need for a distinctive Canadian flag after the Canadian Confederation in 1867. The flag of the Governor General of Canada became the first flag after the confederation. A red ensign with Canadian composite shield was introduced into the country unofficially in 1870. Several arms were added to the shield as many provinces joined the confederation with the use of the Red Ensign approved in 1892. The shield was replaced by the Canadian court of arm in 1921. In 1925, a committee was established to design a flag that was to be used at home. However, the committee was soon dissolved as the members could not come to a consensus. New designs for the national flag were proposed between 1927 and 1939, but the red ensign was still recognized as the national flag.

The Great Canadian Flag Debate

The discussions on the Canadian national flag gained momentum in the 1960s with the subject generating controversies around the country. A national debate called the Great Flag Debate was initiated by the minority Liberal government in 1963 as a means of adopting an official Canadian flag. In June 1964 the debate officially kicked off, with Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson outlining the need for the flag to the House of Commons. The debate dragged for six months leading to serious divisions. The debate ended in December 1964, resulting in the selection of the Maple Leaf flag as the country’s national flag. The flag was subsequently inaugurated on February 15, 1965. After the new flag was proposed and passed by the two houses of parliament, the proclamation was official with the approval of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Lester Pearson, and Guy Favreau who was the attorney general of Canada at the time.

Promoting the Canadian National Flag

Programs have been sponsored by the Government of Canada to promote the national flag since its adoption in 1965. The Canadian Parliamentary Flag Program aims to increase the exposure of the flag as a symbol of national identity. The members of the House of Commons are allowed to distribute flags to their constituents. The flags are also flown on certain buildings such as the Peace Tower.

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