A national flag imagined differently

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On Canada Day, enthusiastic flag-wavers revel in the Maple Leaf’s nationalist and unifying energy. It is also a celebration of multiculturalism, which makes our differences form the basis of a unified country.

Proclaimed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on January 28, 1965 and raised for the first time on February 15, 1965, it’s now well over 50 years since the red-and-white Maple Leaf became the country’s official flag. Widely embraced now, it is easy to forget that it was not, at first, a well-loved symbol of the country.

When Prime Minister Pearson announced his intention to select an official flag, many in the country were unhappy. In Parliament, emotions were high—it was a contentious issue. To be acceptable to the country at large, any decision would have to be embraced by all Canadians, regardless of politics. For this reason, an all-party committee was struck with members from all political parties and from both the House of Commons and the Senate. All Canadians were invited to participate by sending the committee their own ideas for a national flag.

Canadians responded, sending hundreds of drawings, paintings, descriptions, and full-sized flags to Ottawa. We have many of the proposed flags in the archival collection of Library and Archives Canada. In the past year, while working through unprocessed material, we discovered a few more.

Other related links :

History of the National flag of Canada

Flickr set featuring images of flag designs, submitted to replace the British Ensign that Canada used until February 15, 1965.

Conserving the Proclamation of the Canadian Flag

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