Submitted by Brian Roulston

This year National Flag Day of Canada has an even more significant meaning to Canadians as we celebrate Canada’s 150TH birthday. It is not a holiday in Canada but it is celebrated annually on February 15th by flying our flag ans with many speeches from all levels of government. This day was made official in 1996 by proclamation by then Prime Minister Jean Chretian.

The Canadian Flag is one of the most easily recognizable and respected flags in the world. A powerful symbol of our Canadian identity which promotes peace, freedom, respect, justice and tolerance.

Under leadership of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, resolutions recommending this new flag were passed by the House of Commons in a unanimous vote of 14-0 after lengthy and sometimes heated debates on December 15, 1964.

Then on January 28, 1965, Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed the Maple Leaf as Canada’s national flag. At 12 noon on February 15, 1965 the red and white Maple Leaf replaced the Canadian Red Ensign which had been based on the ensign flown by British merchant ships sine 1707. Within colonial Canada there were variations of the ensign that included the letters HBC (Hudson Bay Company) ans NWCo (North West Company) that were used as symbol of royal authority. They were flown from forts and fur trading canoes. Since confederation in 1968 the Canadian ensign went through various alterations. It was never formally adopted as the national flag but represented Canada as a nation in various manners until its retirement in 1965.

In 1964 there were over 5000 designs submitted and looked at, some of these designs were still preserved at the Library and Archives of Canada as well as the Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivist. Many of these designs featured multiple maple leafs, the Northern Lights, beavers, geese. Some looked very similar to the American flag.

The winning Maple Leaf was designed by Col. George Stanley (1907-2002) who was born in Calgary Alberta. He became the 25th Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick from 1981-1987. George Stanley was also a soldier, a Canadian historian, an author and a teacher.

The Canadian flag is red and white, the official colours of Canada as appointed by King George V in 1921. The red bars on both ends of our flag are said to symbolize the Canadian lives that were sacrificed during the two world wars. The flag’s white space denotes Canada’s peace and tranquility, as well as its neutrality and impartiality among the nationsĀ  of the world.

Did you know the Canadian flag was first launched into space aboard the Challenger space shuttle (STS-41G) in 1984 along with Canada’s first astronaut Marc Garneau and that many of the flags flown on Parliament Hill are given away for free. There is a 40 to 60 year waiting list.