The story behind the Canadian flag

It took many years for Canada’s national flag to reach that status

Canada has an extensive history with its national flags. While the widely recognized maple leaf flag is a universally recognized symbol of Canada in the 21st century, it took many years for Canada’s national flag to reach that status.

Nearly 400 years passed before Canada officially adopted the Canadian Flag or Maple Leaf Flag (l’Unifolié).

This flag consists of a red field with a white square (Canadian pale) in the center, upon which an 11-pointed red maple leaf sits.

Although Canada was first explored in the 15th century, and declared a self-governing entity in 1867, the famed maple leaf didn’t come into existence until 1965.

Through the years, various flags were raised above Canadian soil.

The first flag used was the St. George’s Cross. This was flown when explorer John Cabot landed in Newfoundland. At the time, the cross was representative of England. When Canada was settled as part of France and dubbed “New France,” two flags gained national status. One was the Royal Banner of France. This featured a blue background with three gold fleurs-de-lis. A white flag of the French Royal Navy was also flown from ships and forts and sometimes flown at land-claiming ceremonies.

Through the 18th and early 19th centuries, while under British rule, Canada went through a series of flags that bore the British ensign — the Union Jack.  The “Red Ensign” and the “Royal Union Flag” were flown in various locations.

By 1921, a “Canadian Red Ensign,” featuring the Union Jack and a shield of arms granted to Canada, was authorized to fly on federal buildings in Canada and abroad until Canada adopted its own national flag.

In 1925 and then again 20 years later, committees were appointed to resolve the national flag issue. People didn’t want to offend Britain with the removal of the Union Jack. A flag consisting of the British Union Flag in the upper left corner with a gold maple leaf in the bottom right corner was suggested in 1945. However, legislators could not commit, and many


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