Today, on July 1st, we celebrate Canada Day, the national holiday marking the anniversary of Confederation in 1867, when the British North America Act came into effect. It was originally known as Dominion Day until it was renamed in 1982. You will surely see many Canadian flags around town today, as flags on buildings, pins on jackets or elsewhere. It may surprise you to learn that our flag is relatively young and that it has an eventful history.
The History of the Canadian Flag
Several attempts were made throughout the centuries and decades to consider possible designs for a national flag, however the projects were always shelved for various reasons. As a compromise, the Canadian government chose to keep the Union Jack (see picture) as the national flag and to fly the Canadian Red Ensign from government buildings.
In the 1960s, Lester B. Pearson, was motivated to find a flag design that Canada could really call its own. He began by proposing a design featuring a sprig of 3 red maple leaves. After considering a few thousand designs, the responsible committee voted for the design that we know today, the single maple leaf on a white square on a red background, which was then made official by a proclamation from Queen Elizabeth II on January 28, 1965.
Why the Maple Leaf?
The Indigenous people have always valued the maple tree for its sweet sap and the goods derived from it. Also, early settlers were enthused with this remarkable tree. It was in the 19th century, that the maple leaf itself emerged as a symbol of national identity. From that time onwards, the leaf appeared more and more frequently and was to be found everywhere in popular culture: books, songs, coins, badges, banners, and many other items. It became the well-loved symbol of Canada, which it is today.