Fifty-five years ago today, the Canadian flag was flown for first time in Canada, on Parliament Hill, and at diplomatic missions around the world.
“Today, on National Flag of Canada Day, we celebrate both the anniversary of the Maple Leaf and the story it tells of our wonderful country,” said Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today on National Flag of Canada Day.
“In times of uncertainty, the flag reaffirms that the common values that unite us – openness, generosity, peace, and freedom – are stronger than our differences.
“Over the decades, the Maple Leaf has been a symbol in Canadian art, medals, badges, and coats of arms,” he added. “It has travelled to the highest peaks on Mount Everest, into space with the first Canadian astronaut, and around the world on the arms of Canadian Armed Forces members. This summer, Canadian athletes will wear it with pride at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“Today, I invite Canadians from coast to coast to coast to reflect on our flag and what it means to each of us – a symbol of our rich history, and a promise of the bright future we are building together.”
After considering a few thousand designs submitted by Canadians, the flag committee shortlisted 3 finalists:
On October 22, 1964, the committee voted in favour of Stanley’s single-leaf design. Two months later the House of Commons approved, followed shortly after by the Senate.
The persuasive leadership of John Matheson, M.P., one of the flag committee’s pre-eminent members, is often credited with achieving consensus within the committee and helping to end the Great Flag Debate in Parliament.
The new maple leaf flag was made official by a proclamation from Queen Elizabeth II on January 28, 1965. On February 15 of that year, it was inaugurated in a public ceremony on Parliament Hill. Thousands of Canadians gathered as the Canadian Red Ensign was lowered and, at the stroke of noon, the new National Flag of Canada was hoisted. Prime Minister Pearson’s words on the occasion resound with hope and determination: “May the land over which this new flag flies remain united in freedom and justice … sensitive, tolerant and compassionate towards all.”
In the words of John Matheson, the new flag “was the handiwork of many loving hands, extended over a long period of Canada’s history.” This collaborative effort created an elegant new emblem, instantly recognizable as the foremost symbol of Canada, its values, and the millions of citizens who make up the Canadian family.
In 1967, the year of Canada’s 100th birthday, our new flag was showcased to the world at Expo ‘67.
–Marsel Elia photo