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What is the National Flag of Canada Day?

The iconic, instantly recognizable Canadian flag has been around for less than 60 years. The National Flag of Canada Day is on February 15 and celebrates the first time the maple leaf Canadian flag was flown on Parliament Hill in 1965. National Flag of Canada Day was started on February 15 in 1996.

The Canadian Red Ensign

Until 1965, Canada’s official flag was the British Union Jack and Canada had an unofficial flag - the Canadian Red Ensign. The Canadian Red Ensign had been used since the 1860s and consisted of a red background with the Canadian coat of arms and the Union Jack in the top left corner.

A new Canadian flag

A 1958 poll showed that Canadians wanted a flag that was not based on the British flag. When Lester Pearson ran for Prime Minister in 1963, he promised a new flag but it was unclear what it was to be. Most Canadians wanted a symbol and the fleur-de-lis and Union Jack were considered.

In 1964, George Stanley, a famous Canadian historian, advised his MP John Matheson to use a unifying symbol, not one that would intensify tensions between Quebec and the rest of the country. He suggested the traditional colors of red and white, which were declared Canada’s official colors by King George V in 1921, and the maple leaf because it was already used as a Canadian symbol. He emphasized that the new design should be simple, recognizable, and visible from a distance, unlike the Canadian Red Ensign.

Choosing a design for the new flag

In 1964 the House of Commons set up a committee to decide on a new design for the Canadian Flag. Over 3,500 entries were considered and the matter was settled on October 22 with a unanimous vote for a design by George Stanley – a red and white background with a red maple leaf.

The new flag had a darker shade of red than the Union Jack of Britain and a lighter shade of red than the red of the US flag. A sugar maple leaf has 23 points but the maple leaf on the Canadian flag has only 11 to increase its visibility in high winds.

The Canadian flag is unique not only in its design but also in its dimensions. The long sides are twice the length of the short sides and no other flag uses these dimensions.

The first official national flag

The new flag was proclaimed by Elizabeth II on January 28, 1965 and took effect on February 15. It is the first Canadian flag adopted by both houses of Parliament and proclaimed by the monarch as the official national flag.

On February 15, 1965 the Red Ensign was lowered and the official Canadian flag with its simple, unifying design was raised as thousands cheered at Parliament Hill. It is said that the flag mysteriously disappeared after the ceremony.

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